Relax an let go
We need to learn how to relax. Many great spiritual teachings and teachers have at some point arrived at a similar insight. At its essence it’s the importance of relaxation and letting go. A Chinese proverb states “Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you are”. We spend an awful lot of time in a state of tension and many believe this to be a productive state, describing it as “good stress”. In reality, tension of the body and mind is a great inhibitor of creative thought and positive emotions.
Recently I underwent a quest of sorts with a good friend of mine in the wilderness of northern Ontario. We were both very lucky to have walked away from that experience with several insights. The most important lesson was that ones true self and ones ability to act with creativity, love and insight is most possible when the mind is able to let go and the body is able to relax.
It is a fact that stress can negatively impact health if left unchecked. Stress affects the body, mood and behavior; it can cause headache, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression and overeating. A Japanese study from 2002 examined 73,000 Japanese men and women, age 40-79, for two years. Men and women who reported a high level of perceived mental stress had between a 1.5 and 2 fold increase in the risk of stroke and congestive heart disease. 
In Kompier and Coopers 1999 publication, “Preventing Stress, increasing productivity: European case studies in the workplace”, the impact of stress related illness in the UK is estimated at an economic cost of 2.5-10 percent of the gross national product, with an estimated 30 million days lost due to stress related illness every year. One can easily see that stress is an impeder rather than a supporter of productivity. Kompier and Coopers publication outlines a very technical analysis of strategies for preventing stress in the workplace; however, as a healthcare practitioner I see and understand the need for a simplified strategy that one can implement anywhere and at anytime.
Thus I return to the idea expressed at the beginning of this article, namely to relax and let go. I can predict that many of you reading this are probably muttering to yourself “easier said than done” or something along that line, and you would be absolutely correct; it is! Experience has taught me that in order for the mantra “relax and let go” to stick it helps to have experienced a prolonged state of mental and physical stillness, awareness, or expanded consciousness. By sampling an elevated state of being one is able to better understand the benefit of a stilled mind and better equipped to return to awareness. Unfortunately it is one of those things that as Morpheus told Neo “you must see… for yourself”.
Many of you that have practiced meditation, living in the moment or even a transcendental occurrence through a near death experience or psychedelics may have a sense of what I am talking about. For the rest, step one is to capture a moment of stillness in order to sew the seed of relaxed awareness. For this I can suggest a few things:
- Go into nature (nature emits a certain vibration that facilitates meditation, or at least filters out the hustle and bustle of modern mechanistic living).
- Practice meditation (for centuries this has been the primary tool used to quiet and focus the mind and body)
- Practice a paradigm shift (try to gain a new perspective on yourself and life by pondering a night sky, life itself and trying to live within the moment).
- Respectfully and responsibly participate in a traditional healing ceremony (A sweat lodge or a ceremony incorporating herbal medicine, often psychedelics, is a centuries old practice traditionally lead through ritual. Psychedelics are traditionally used to promote expansion of consciousness and are gaining favor in modern medicine as possible treatment for PTSD and depression.) http://www.mwikwedong.com/?page_id=131 http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/how-doctors-treat-mental-illness-with-psychedelic-drugs-w470673
In order to train a muscle to act in a certain way you must implement repetition, a process known as muscle memory. It is the same with the mind, in order to train the mind to relax and let go you must repeatedly remind yourself to do this. I want to clarify that it is possible to practice this without prior experience in achieving states of expanded consciousness, it is just more difficult to maintain because you may lack the frame of reference as to what to return to and why to return to it. The persistent reminding of yourself to relax and let go may be facilitated with a strategy such as setting an alert on a phone, calendar or clock every 30 or 60 minutes. Ultimately you will find a method that works best for you.
The take away message from this discussion is that we can all be more productive, better listeners, more creative, more loving and more aware when we relax and let go. The “relax and let go method” is simple and can be practiced anywhere, you just simply have to remind yourself to relax and let go. It helps when you have a frame of reference as to what a truly relaxed state of mind and body is; however, it’s not necessary and with enough practice you will get there. There is no trying with this method, it is in essence the complete opposite of trying, one just has to remember, over and over, to relax and let go, relax and let go. http://www.doctorshawn.ca/about-me/
Originally published August 12, 2002