How to Relax
The best way to relax the body is to tense it first, and thereby to equalize the flow of tension all over the body. Then, with relaxation, you will find tensions being released that you didn’t even know existed.
This method works also in the case of emotional tension. Often, emotional release comes only after an emotion has reached a peak of intensity. Prior to that intensity, the emotion may not have become clearly enough defined to you for it to be fully understood for what it is.
Psychological flaws, too, are difficult to address as long as they are sustained by one-horsepower energy in the mind. A person may seem quite innocuous, until good health, and a renewal of energy, brings out a mean streak that always lurked inside him.
Spiritual tests and trials are a blessing, in the sense that they help to bring a kind of tension to our flaws, and thereby heighten our awareness of them. The calm acceptance that heralds the passing of a test is often accompanied by a release of the flaw itself.
For physical relaxation, then, necessary as it is for deep meditation, first tense then relax the entire body.
To begin with, take a few slow, deep breaths in order to free the blood stream of any excessive build-up of carbon. If time permits, practice the following exercise:
1) Inhale, counting mentally to 12.
2) Hold the breath, counting to 12.
3) Exhale, again counting to 12.
Repeat this process 6-12 times. Then inhale deeply and tense the whole body, not suddenly, but smoothly: low, medium, high. Tense hard enough to vibrate the body. Then throw the breath out quickly and release the tension all over the body. Repeat this process once or twice more.
From now on, it will be important to keep your body motionless. You may find it difficult to sit perfectly still, at first, accustomed as you may be to moving constantly. The moment you decide to sit still, you may find yourself wanting to fidget! The longer you can hold your body completely still, however, the easier it will be to continue doing so. Your physical restlessness will vanish after five minutes or so. Soon you’ll find yourself enjoying this sense of freedom from body-consciousness.
Remember, to be muscle-bound is to be a slave to the body. Dump the body, mentally, and dwell on the thought of space.
Visualize yourself surrounded by space—space all around you; space slowly entering your body through the pores of your skin like a vapor of pure light; space permeating your body, bringing it total relaxation.
Check yourself mentally every now and then, to make sure your body is still relaxed. If you feel tension anywhere, concentrate there especially, and visualize space, or pure light, in that region. Or, if your body is becoming generally tense, inhale again, tense the whole body, then throw the breath out and relax.
Psychological relaxation too is important. You can't meditate deeply—in fact, you can't really meditate at all—if you are mentally tense. Among the main causes of psychological tension are feelings of hostility and competitive anger, and the desire to exert power in some way over other people or over objective circumstances.
For mental relaxation, focus your attention in the heart. Imagine there a pure, white light. Visualize that light flowing outward in rays of love and harmony to the world around you. The heart is the center of emotional feeling. If the emotions are kept generous and calm, they develop into intuition, bringing an expansion of inner freedom. But if they are selfish or disturbed, they will produce only confusion and a feeling of inner bondage.
For most people, the energy flowing outward from their hearts has the effect of enmeshing them in things, in circumstances, and in the lives of others. Such people are filled with desires and aversions, either clutching at other rays of energy to possess them, or else doing battle with them in the hope of subduing or overwhelming them.
Imagine in your heart, instead, a kindly light. Send that light outward in rays of blessing to all. Mentally bless everyone near you; then, from your heart, send blessings to people in all lands, everywhere. Send rays of love to all creatures, to all things. Bless the rocks, the deserts, the vast oceans and high mountains. Surround the entire world in an aura of light, love, and joy. For everything is alive. All beings, all things manifest consciousness in varying degrees. They are part of the same eternal life that animates you.
You will feel blessed, yourself, and filled with inner peace, the more you offer yourself in service as a channel of peace and blessings to all.
Calmness is perfectly achieved when life’s little wave becomes absorbed into the cosmic sea, in divine ecstasy. In daily life, too, we can achieve calmness to a degree by keeping our awareness focused on the reality of the Spirit underlying all outward circumstances.
Calmness comes with the determination to live ever happily in the present moment, relinquishing the past, and not worrying about the future, but placing our lives firmly in God’s hands, and knowing that He is fully in command. Calmness comes with non-attachment—with knowing that nothing in this world is truly ours.
— From Affirmations for Self-Healing, by Swami Kriyananda