Relax - Create .... a meditation

You will be adding another method you can use at any time to be more relaxed and focused. It's similar to ways you already use when dealing with stressful situations or trying to direct your thoughts.

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Progressive relaxation, mindfulness, yoga, and other stress reduction methods work well, as do traditional methods requiring years of practice. I've borrowed from several of these disciplines and new research in understanding the relationship between stress and our body's defenses to create the process I now share with you.

The Challenge

It's OK to read this section and decide to try the exercises later -- but reading about them as opposed to experiencing them won't work very well. Figuring it out as you go is also doomed because, in spiritual matters, understanding is the booby prize. The solution for both of us is for you to dive in, follow my lead, and experience fully.

The Process

The process you're about to begin is straightforward and relatively simple. So much so that it's hard to imagine anything this easy to do could significantly affect your feelings and perceptions. It is easy. It does work. And there are only four steps. After reading about each step, pause and try it a couple of times.

Get comfortable

How difficult could that be? Many other meditation practices, by comparison, have you sitting like a pretzel for hours. We don't sit up straight, with arms folded, legs folded, ears folded, and stuff like that. We slump.


If you're sitting on a chair, let the chair do the work. Don't cooperate by holding a sitting position, like a mannequin placed on a chair. Sink into the chair.


Your face is probably holding an "expression" that equates to paying attention. Relax and let all your face muscles sag. Nobody is noticing, and nobody cares how you look right now.

Relax something

You may be familiar with various relaxation techniques focusing on different areas. This step is similar but with a significant difference. Don't specify exactly what to relax. Leave out this detail. Your body will automatically select an area under tension and focus there. This action may be subtle and difficult to notice at first.


While giving specific instructions will work, let your body choose where relieving tension will be most helpful. This is more efficient and often includes areas you would not ordinarily be aware of. The selection may occasionally surprise you.

Count four breaths

Just breathe. Don't try to breathe more mindfully, more spiritually, or anything-ly. We're using the breath as a convenient metronome while counting. That's all.


Focusing on counting is quite magical, and it absolutely shuts up the voice in your head. You already know this from experience if you've ever tried counting, making change, or sorting objects into groups while someone is talking to you. You can't count and listen at the same time. The choice is clear; focus on counting and try to ignore what's being said, or attempt to listen and lose the count.


When you focus on counting breaths, the monkey mind voice is automatically shoved into the background. It's as simple as that, and you've hushed thoughts that interfere with meditation.


This reprieve from distractive vocalization only lasts for a short time (four breaths worth), but that's enough to give you the all-important pause that's key to Relax-Create.


After four breaths, stop counting (but continue breathing) and move on to the next step.

Repeat

Relax-Create is not an event; it is a process that repeats as many times as you wish. With each cycle, you'll be slightly more relaxed and focused. We're not looking for or expecting massive change, just a slight movement in a positive direction. But that's enough to create miracles whenever the dominant trend is anything but what we wish.


Reflect a moment on the results just achieved and then continue again from the beginning with Get comfortable.

Try this four-instruction Relax-Create cycle a few times, then practice whenever convenient. If you have a regular meditation or worship practice, you might add this as a warm-up. When becoming slightly upset or facing a specific or difficult task, use this new creative tool to help master the situation. Soon Relax-Create will automatically become a permanent asset.

Help

Most meditation techniques involve some method for focusing the mind and clearing away distracting thoughts. But minds tend to wander all over the place because that's what minds do. It's easy to become discouraged if you suddenly realize you're thinking about making dinner or wondering whether you fed the cat. At this point, you might conclude that meditation isn't working. Or you're not doing it right.

Young,Tired,And,Stressed,Student,At,Home,Working,Late,At

Relax-Create helps you stay focused. With every cycle, the count four breaths step shuts out any jabbering dialog in your head, if only for a few seconds. 


You don't have to do anything special. Just notice if you've stopped counting. If so, your mind is just beginning to wander. This diversion is easily corrected. Count four breaths and then continue the Relax-Create cycle.


There may be times in your life when nothing can relieve your upset, from any meditation method to any flavor of Häagen-Dazs. If that's the case, Relax-Create might not work either. If so, do it anyway and see what hapens.

Nervous system

Your autonomic nervous system's two components work in combination to balance everything from your body temperature to your reactions to external events.

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The sympathetic system activates the familiar fight or flight response, preparing you to confront danger. The parasympathetic system does the opposite, relaxing you when the threat is no longer present.


The parasympathetic system takes instructions literally from the frontal cortex (you) and responds. The relax something step is an instruction that prompts a return to the relaxed state, achieving balance a little more quickly. You perceive this change as becoming more relaxed and focused.


Here are two ways I use Relax-Create to help in stressful situations and to focus my thoughts.

When your Häagen-Dazs is melting...

The grocery store line was backed up halfway down the aisle. The lone cashier was overwhelmed, the line was barely moving, and I was upset. I could sit on the floor in the lotus position and meditate, achieving calmness and serenity. But this technique would definitely not work in Walmart. If I tried it, grocery store clerks would pick me off the floor (still meditating), plop me in the parking lot, and call the cops.

Relax-Create is stealthful and perfect in situations where you can't have privacy. Nobody cares, of course, but with our technique, they don't even know. 


A word of caution: Do not do this or any other meditation while engaged in activities that require your complete attention, such as driving a car, running a chain saw, or doing anything with super glue. Seriously. Take care.

groucho

When your socks don't match...

As I was leaving for a sunrise meditation at Deer Park Monastery, I belatedly remembered: Get gas next time you start the car.


A detour to the nearest gas station would guarantee being late. I chose the riskier option, driving directly to the monastery and hoping I had enough gas to get there. The voice in my head kept up a constant chatter...

You're going to run out of gas. You won't make it. You're running out of gas. You'll be late. You're going to run out of gas. You won't make it.

I did arrive on time. Then, removing my shoes before entering the temple, I had my second surprise: my socks didn't match. Not even close. One grey, one red. The voice in my head changed its tune and still wouldn't shut up...

Your socks don't match. Your socks don't match. Your socks don't match. Your socks don't match.

I remember my grandfather, a Methodist minister, asking: "Is it better to be in church, thinking about fishing, or in a rowboat, thinking about God?" Thinking about socks and gas certainly didn't qualify as being here. But I had a solution. I could stop listening.

Get comfortable 

Relax something 

Count four breaths 

Repeat

Fisherman,And,Fishing,Boat,Floating,In,The,Sea

Finally, my monkey mind stopped chattering, and I finally arrived. I was once again focused and present. The teachings were beautiful once I was present and could hear them.

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