Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Relax?

I have heard "Relax. Calm down. Let go." more often than I can remember. And I dutifully engage my concept of relax to the level I'm capable. But why relax? What's the purpose of relax?

Last night, while standing at my kitchen sink washing vegetables, my mind somehow turned to this question and some answers "just occurred to me". (See Framing Your Zhan Zhuang Practice about asking questions.) Here's the ideas I was tossing around...

At one level, there is the physiological knowledge that too much stress and tension constricts blood flow, pinches nerves, and is generally not good while relaxing allows more free flow and in turn, better health.

At an internal martial art level, one purpose of relax is to allow the weight to be more fully carried in the legs, creating a more stable structure. See Tai chi - Bottom Heavy, Top Light.

And then the insight I had was that as I go deeper into focusing internally on relaxing my musculature, what I'm actually doing is integrating more and more of my mind into my body which yields a different result than "just" relaxing. This led me to the idea that relax can be more than a result. Relax can also be a method.

Then I recalled, "The method is not the truth. Once you get the feeling, get rid of the method." So I wondered, if relax can be a method, and the method is not the truth, then what is the resultant feeling? Maybe relax is the finger pointing at the moon and not the moon itself.

At one level, relax remains a feeling to compare to tense or less relaxed. For example, "My lower back feels more relaxed now."

At another level, and what occurred to me is, the resultant feeling feels more... something. More mind-full? More integrated? More in-my-body feeling? I don't know what words to use to describe this kinesthetic feeling.

And then I thought about the apparent contradiction that relaxing leads to internal strength.

If I frame relax as a limp, mind-less, noodly feeling, then I don't see how this relax leads to internal strength.

But if I frame relax as a method which integrates mind and body and allows the possibility of developing body-mind-full-ness, then maybe there's no contradiction after all. Why relax? Because maybe relax (the method and the feeling) is a key to a door. But how this integration results in such sturdiness is still a mystery to me.

Does this make any sense? How would you describe your experience or practice with relax?

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