Today humans are subject to more nervous system stimulation than ever before. You can probably feel that in your own nervous system-perhaps as a slight edginess, uneasiness, or maybe as bouts of full-blown overwhelm.
Whether it's being stuck in more traffic, increasing pressures to get more done in less time, incessant advertising, the drive to be consistently entertained, or the demands on our attention from email, texts, and social media, our attention is bombarded from countless directions with little reply.
It's no wonder we suffer record rates of high-blood pressure, anxiety, and depression, not to mention heart attacks and cancer. As a global culture we are added to excessive external stimulation.
Fortunately, there's much we can do to handle this over-stimulation. Over my 30 years teaching T'ai Chi, Qigong, Reiki, and meditation, I've discovered there are three keys to restoring our natural balance of calm, tension-free energy.
1. Activate Your Body's Natural Relaxation Response
Our bodies are made to function in a natural rhythm between stimulation and relaxation, activity and recovery. We seem to have mastered the first part, and are strictly deficient in valuing and practicing the second.
In fact, we've gone so far off the spectrum on the stimulation side of things that we may not even realize how stressed and over-stimulated we are. Our bodies can be in such a constant state of “shock,” that our finer senses become numb and we only feel intense rushes of adrenalin.
However, at a certain point, our bodies must give in. Inevitably, we crash. And, we start looking for ways to recover.
It's at such moments when we look to activities like yoga, t'ai chi, and meditation to help us regain our balance. These activities activate our bodies natural “Relaxation Response.” This calms our nervous system, brainwaves, heart-rate, and respiration and enables our natural repair mechanisms to come online.
It's absolutely essential for physical and mental-emotional health that you consciously activate your body's natural relaxation response on a daily basis. This is different from just passing out and suffering through a restless sleep.
When you consciously activate your body's Relaxation Response while awake, you begin to change how your nervous system functions. You shift out of perpetual stress mode, into that healthy rhythmic balance.
A simple way to do this is to find a comfortable position in a quiet, private environment, close your eyes to shut out visual stimulation, and focus on sensations inside your body, such as the sensations of your breathing. Doing this for even a few minutes will begin to calm you down.
2. Release Tension Stored in Your Body
Consciously activating the Relaxation Response and calming your nervous system is step one. Yet, it is just the beginning. You see, years of accumulated stress have become stored in your body.
So, once you have focused inside and calmed down a bit, you will likely begin to notice signs of accumulated tension. This could come in the form of busy thoughts, uncomfortable feelings, muscle tightness, or pain.
It's not that these things were not happening before. You were just so focused on the outer world that you did not notice. Once you focus inside, what's happening in your inner world comes to the fore-such as all the tension stored there.
Which brings us to the second key: Releasing the layers of tension from your body.
The secret to doing this is to notice whatever is going on inside with calm, relaxed, non-judicial awareness. See if you can notice thoughts, feelings, and tensions without judging them as “bad,” just “witnessing” and accepting them.
As you practice non-judgeally witnessing what's happening inside, tensions naturally begin to relax and release.
3. Adopt an Attitude that Supports Positive Energy Flow
Once you've calmed down and begin to peel away the layers of tension, you'll begin to feel a little lighter, a little less stressed, and a little more free.
You can build on this feeling and grow it by adopting an attitude that supports positive energy flow. It's really pretty simple.
What if you took a moment to appreciate and be grateful for the fact that you took a break and allowed yourself to relax and let go?
Appreciation and gratitude raise your vibration and allow your energy to flow more sturdy. They shift your inner state so that you welcome the opportunity that is available in the moment, rather than always rushing to get somewhere else. They support you to slow down a bit and notice the good things in life, rather than rushing past them on your quest to get everything done.
How may your life be different if you took a break at least once a day to consciously activate your Relaxation Response, release tension from your mind and body, and adopt an attitude of Appreciation and Gratitude for what you have and what is present right now?
Can you imagine what it would be like to live from such a state of calm, tension-free energy?
For a simple technique to get you started, check out the Resource Box below.
Enjoy your practice!