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Mindfulist 1/8: Relaxation…

is who you are. “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” -Chinese proverb

Seems fairly obvious to me. If you’ve read up on any Zen Buddhism, it’ll make sense. Okay, relaxation and enlightenment are not, by any means, the same thing, but it’s an obvious connection that, if you aren’t worried about all sorts of concepts about what you “should” be, you’re going to be one hell of a lot more relaxed.

It is not necessarily simple to cultivate. It takes time and effort.

This gets interesting when you look at it from the perspective of physical relaxation as a means. It’s pretty difficult to be stressed if you’ve trained yourself to breathe long and slow. And we know that people generally respond better in “stressful” situations if they remain relaxed. Unless it’s literally life or death, that’s a little different.

This connection shows up all over the place.

We see it in Brad Warner’s screed on zazen as a physical practice.

It fits Bruce Lee’s emphasis on physical training and the daily decrease, cutting away the unessential.

And there’s the infamous Gym Jones. Remake Remodel and Inner Conflict are good places to start. While you’re there, you should check out the articles from when the trained the actors of 300. I’ve linked one of three articles.

Ah. I see. We’re talking about relaxation under pressure. Developing the kind of patience that wears mountains into canyons.

It seems that, across a wide range of disciplines, there’s a common experience that training the physical can have drastic improvements on the mental. Now, if you have enough psychological problems, it may be necessary to deal with those before attempting a difficult training regime. Especially if they relate to body image at all.

We know exercise can have powerful effects on depression. Never mind depression, your body gets used to a certain energy level. If you don’t need as much energy, you’ll generally be more tired. Working out raises your energy levels. And hopefully you already know that any discipline, physical or otherwise, that encourages mental toughness is beneficial. Physical disciplines are useful for this since our nervous systems are so well designed to respond to pain; not much else drives the experience home in such a direct way.

It’s probably cheesy as hell, but I’ll leave you with one of the better quotes from the recent Rocky Balboa movie:

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!

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