Copyright (c) 2011 Stephen Lau
Nowadays, relaxation is a luxury. People simply don’t have time to relax, and, worse, they simply don’t know how to relax. But relaxation is a simple matter: you simply relax.
If it were that simple, then how is it that people cannot relax. There is a simple explanation: Modern living is stressful, resulting in all sorts of stress-related health problems, such as anxiety attacks, depression, indigestion, and migraine headaches, among others. Indeed. stress is a complex problem involving the body’s natural response to increased mental tension, which is a by-product of modern living. Knowing how to relax is the only solution to this complex body-mind problem of everyday living.
But “how” to relax?
Going to the gym or jogging for half-an-hour may not de-stress you. Quite the contrary, excess physical exertion may result in undue physical stress on the body and thus the mind as well. It is also a misconception that taking a vacation may relax you. Not necessarily: a vacation may give you different types of hassles, such as hotel booking, traveling, and so on; if it happens to be a busman’s holiday, one in which you have to work on your computer, it is not relaxation by any stretch of imagination. Relaxation has to do with the mind, not the body—and certainly not the location. Irrespective of where you are, you can relax if your mind is relaxed; by the same token, if your mind is ill at ease, a change of enviornment may not relax you. So, it is all in the mind. As the English poet Milton says in Paradise Lost: “you can make heaven of hell, or hell of heaven”—it is in your mind, and it is just that simple..
Let Zen teach you how to relax.
Zen is an ancient Eastern philosophy. Many associate it with Buddhism, and hence the term “Zen Buddhism.” But Zen is not a religion; it is simply a way of life—a way to show you how to relax.
How to relax has to do with having a holistic, practical, and honest approach to living. How to relax involves the physical body, the mind, and the soul. Relaxation is an integral part of life, without which there is no stress relief.
Zen is about learning how to deal with life’s natural flow, and how to go along with it—that is, going around life’s problems, instead of avoiding them or confronting them head on. Zen’s approach to life’s problems is “spontaneity” of living, which is living in the present moment.
Zen is a transcendental mental state that affects the overall physical and mental being of an individual, and therefore conducive to total body-mind relaxation. Zen is living in the present.
How to relax by way of Zen?
Zen is intuitive knowing—that is, naturally knowing the ultimate truth of living. According to Plato, the great philosopher, life is a process of “forgetting” with episodes of experiences and happenings that make you “forget” the ultimate truth of living, which you are supposed to know intuitively. The way of Zen is to re-discover that inherent wisdom of knowing the eternal truth that may have eluded you in the process of stressful living. In other words, Zen living is “self-awakening” to the real meaning of living; once you understand that ultimate truth, you will be liberated from the shackle of memories of the past and worries of the future, and hence you will know intuitively how to relax.
The way of Zen is simple: Life is NEVER a problem. If life is a problem, it is because YOU have created the problem for yourself. If there is no problem, then why do you need a solution? Fixing a non-existing problem in life is only creating more problems for yourself.
Learn how to relax by acquiring the wisdom of neither avoiding problems in life, nor seeking solutions to problems that may not even have existed in the first place.
Contemporary way of life is often an unhealthy lifestyle: it is much like living in a pressure cooker. The endless challenges, demands, and goals continue to churn out stress in every form. That is not the way of Zen; life is not supposed to be like that.
Life may seem stressful to many due to the many problems that may seem to have come with living. However, according to the way of Zen, life is never a problem, and Zen lifestyle is never meant to be stressful. But, unfortunately, it is the mind that has created the problems in the first place, and hence the stress.
Logically, a problem requires a solution. Your thinking mind presents to you a number of options to solve the problem you have created for yourself. Your rational mind then begins to analyze the problem and to choose the possible solutions to the problem; and stress is thus created in the process of analyzing and choosing. In Zen, the rational mind is not a friend, but quite often an enemy.
Your stress is further reinforced if you made the wrong choice: you become ridden with guilt and regret over your wrong choice.
How to relax by way of Zen?
Do not make life into a problem, and there will be no problem. Do not look backward. Do not look forward. Just being present completely and fully; it is just that simple!
Yes, Zen focuses on the present moment—not the past, and surely not the future, which is forever elusive and unpredictable.
Alas, we are living in a goal-setting world in mad pursuit of fame, fortune and success. The way of Zen, on the other hand, accomplishes things without exerting undue efforts.
Lin Yutang, the great contemporary Chinese philosopher, aptly epitomizes the paradox of the wisdom of “accomplishing things without much doing” in his famous quotation: “A wise man is never busy, and a busy man is never wise.”
But the way of Zen is by no means inactive and passive.
Zen focuses only on the present (always the present moment), not the past (dwelling on the past may make you judgmental and remorseful), and surely not the future (expectation of the future may make you anxious and frustrated). In other words, in Zen living, you focus only on the process, not the result, of doing things. Just do what you must do at this very present moment, and do not be anxious of the outcome. Concentrate on the “doing,” and not the “expectation” of the result. This is the essence of how to relax by way of Zen.
The problem with most of us is that we permit our rational mind to be in control. We desperately want to get things done our way, and in doing so, have created undue stress in our lives. Remember, the rational mind is more of an enemy than a friend in the way of Zen.
In addition, life is not a problem but may become a problem when you selectively welcome only good experiences but reject the bad ones. How to relax by way of Zen is to accept and embrace all that life brings you, and live the present moment to the fullest in spite of the bad experiences encountered.
Because if you want only the good experiences in life, you will do anything and everything not only just to repeat those good experiences in the future, but also to avoid the bad experiences encountered in the past. That, unfortunately, is exactly how you have created stress along the way.
Zen teaches us how to relax by going back to the beginning, and be a child again.
According to Plato, life is a process of “forgetting.” Therefore, we need to go back to the beginning with a child-like mentality—children have no past and no future, and everything is present to them. This simple child-like mental state is the way of Zen! It is this mental state of living in the present and being a child that shows you exactly how to relax
In Zen, you remember where you came from, who you are, and where you are heading—the ultimate truth of living. In real life, many rush through their lives without knowing who they are, and where they are going; they pursue one goal after another, and in their pursuit, they lose their true purpose of living—which is appreciating the gift of life and living in the present.
About the Author
The art of living well is to appreciate the gift of life, which is living in the present. The way of Zen shows you how to relax, and how to live a life at peace with yourself without thoughts of the past or the future. For more information about mind over matter, go to Stephen Lau’s blogs: How to Relax, and Increase Mind Power.