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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Relax - Practice

Qi Magazine | Issue 75 | March 2005
by Helen Massy

When we start to relax we notice how tense we are. How and when these tensions crept in is an individual matter – partly hereditary, social conditioning or self-imposed attitudes. All these tensions arise out of a sense of need to protect or defend this ‘island’ that we call ‘me’. Undoing the tensions can feel scary. We may feel vulnerable, off-balance and yet gradually freer and more comfortable with ourselves. The things that upset or disturb us, causing us to become tense or defensive, are good teachers. They show us where our beliefs need reassessing.

There can be a sense of safety in being good at things: survival of the fittest, top of the class, praise, accolade, prestige. Yet what happens when this is threatened, if we become ill or fall out of favour? Can we take it in our stride or do we react with fear, anxiety or anger?

Why not just relax and enjoy life, whatever our level? It is so much more important to feel at ease and comfortable with ourselves and our imperfections. There is no need to strive to be different or better than others, just to be ourselves – natural and at ease. This is possible at times, though for some people these times are rare. Which is why we have developed practices like Qigong, Taiji Quan and meditation to bring our awareness into the present, so that we can appreciate our daily lives and live them to the full.

We can notice our ways, habits, thoughts, preferences and beliefs and see through the illusions that we construct about our lives. Gradually we understand that the defences we hold so close to us actually limit our vision. And there is no way we can speed up the process by more ‘doing’.

I do not advocate that we give up practice or that we practise less often, simply that we watch for those subtle thoughts and tensions that diminish our sense of self and set us on the path of striving. Such thoughts pull us out of the present and relaxed awareness. We know in our hearts when enough is enough and also when we are driven to practice through tension, rather than choosing to practise and develop our skills at a natural pace. Being happy with ourselves as we are (and others too) brings us right into the present. Then we can relax and find inner freedom. This is translated into trust in the moment, where gravity can work with the body to create a sense of buoyancy. There is no need to fight or struggle to hold ourselves upright. Instead, we can yield to the pull of gravity and let the Earth give us support. Then we can open to our surroundings and the Heaven Qi around us. The resultant posture is one of confidence and expanded awareness in the present. In terms of meridians, the Stomach meridian takes energy down to the Earth and the Spleen meridian, in turn, gives lift to the body. We also take in energy through breathing (Lung meridian) and as we breathe out, we can let go of the moment, thoughts, ideas etc (Large Intestine meridian). Other meridians are involved of course, but my studies of Movement Shiatsu with Bill Palmer, interpreting Traditional Chinese Medicine from a Western perspective, show that these are the main ones for the embodiment of grounded confidence and an open mind or radiance. 

It does not matter about the theory as much as practising, to discover for ourselves the benefits of letting go, so that we can be present, relaxed and aware, poised for action. Then our actions reveal more about us as we interact with others and so the process continues. And there is no one way to do this! We each have our own approach to life and so we need to understand how to harmonise and to find inner peace and tranquillity. No one can do it for us. The responsibility is always ours – to see through our beliefs and conditioning and to find real peace and harmony with all life.