Wake-up, go to work, come home, eat, drive.
We are so busy doing many different things in our lives that we forget to relax.
Relaxation, as I understand it, is very different from doing nothing because doing nothing can actually be quite a stressful experience. It normally ends up making the mind and the emotions quite bored, so for me relaxation is not the normal idea of what we perceive to be relaxation, which is a lack of activity, but rather a focused and compassionate understanding of activity and a certain practice of that activity.
Most of us say, “I need to relax, these times has been very difficult for me so I need to go on a holiday somewhere and I don’t want to have to do all the things that stress me in life.”This is a very simplistic and non-effective way of dealing with reality.
Reality is so interesting that you do not need to relax away from it but rather go deeper into the experience of what reality means. You need to go into all of its aspects, but in a different way than what we normally put into practice.
Stress usually happens when the emotions and the mind don’t comprehend what is going on in the experience that you are feeling when you are stressed. The energy of life pushes the limits and boundaries of certain aspects of your being, such as the emotions, to a point where they become dysfunctional. And stress usually leads to dysfunction, not just emotional but also mental dysfunction, meaning that you go around in a circle, dealing with the situation in a very non-effective way.
This is of course another aspect of stress where you create more of the stress that is creating it in the first place. You’re not dealing with the situation at all. Instead, you are trying to manage or organize it in such a way that it doesn’t overwhelm you.
We know that this doesn’t work because when we manage one thing, another thing crops up. It is like energy. You push it on one level and then there is another level where it is pushing more strongly, so for me, effective relaxation is very important and it is easily practiced in activity. If you’re gardening, washing up dishes or doing practical work, it doesn’t mean you have to stop anything to focus on the relaxation.
For the body, the emotions and the mind to understand relaxation, there needs to have a specific format. There are many ways to do this, but for me there is one very simple and easy way, and this is to come back to the breath.
When we are experiencing stress, breathing is the last thing we think about because our whole mind and emotions are focused on something else. They are not focused on the body or its well-being and harmony, but rather on the intensity of that moment. This often leads the body to breathe in a very specific way. This breath pattern is usually the solidification of an old program or of an old karmic situation that you haven’t resolved in the traumatic moment where you were not able to allow the energy to flow in a harmonious way.
The disharmony of the old negative karma, mindsets or emotions come up and they push to be recognized. They push even though they know you are overwhelmed. They push for recognition of their importance in your life and this becomes the stress that then can lead to a state depression, violence, aggression or lack of compassion and lack of love.
When we go somewhere to relax, it often becomes just as stressful as our daily life and there we are, supposedly enjoying our Jacuzzi bath thinking to ourselves, “Isn’t this a wonderful relaxation?” Then we have a wonderful argument with our partner in the Jacuzzi and it is not exactly relaxing.
If we don’t have a partner, we may instead have a very deep sense of regret that we’re alone and that we have to face the stress all by ourselves. Then we create even more stress because we’re alone and we feel sorry for ourselves. The victim aspect of emotions comes up and there goes the circle of dysfunction, leading you from one aspect to another. And we are not focusing on the breath.
The breath is so obvious and easy that our minds think, “It’s not important. We have more important things to deal with than just focusing on the boring breath!”
We have to be disciplined.
This is the thing with stress; it requires a very specific discipline. When anger or whatever emotion in the stressful situation comes up, it is no good saying, “What do I do in this moment?” It is of no use to feel guilty afterwards both because we’ve gone through that emotion and it is dysfunctional. We know it is dysfunctional, but we create more dysfunction by feeling guilty that we’ve had that dysfunction in the first place… None of this actually helps the situation because what is required in that moment for relaxation to happen is discipline.
Discipline is not the old boarding school type discipline where you have to treat yourself in a harsh way. Discipline is being focused so that every time your mind or your emotions wander from one aspect of life to another, you ask and guide your attention to come back to the breath. You do this for at least three minutes.
When you are able to focus on the breath for three minutes and not allow your mind or emotions to carry on in the silly way that they often do, what you do is something that is the pre-requisite of relaxation. All forms of relaxation or techniques that bring relaxation require this. They demand that you bring yourself more to the present moment.
It is impossible not to be present if you are present to your breath because when you are present to it, you are aware of many aspects of your physical being, not the just the body in the sense of having fingers and feet. You become aware of the actual mechanisms behind everything that creates this awareness of the body and when you do that, this replicates the information to many subtle parts of your body that are not exactly in this material form – so not fingers and feet – but that are also part of the energy system that brings you back into this present moment. What I’m speaking about is what some people call life-energy for example, or the chakras or the subtle bodies that are around the physical body and depend on its activity because they are connected to it.
Glands such as the pituitary and the thyroid gland for example, are required in the sense of relaxation. If they are functioning in a disharmonious way, then that affects your mind and your emotions, which affects the stress level. This is why, when the body is breathing in rhythm with your physical breath and you are conscious of that, you are present and you are totally there, allowing it to happen. Then of course what goes on is a marvelous transformation. And you can do this right now.
You can take a few minutes to focus on how wonderful it is to breathe in. As you breathe in, don’t just breathe in like a mechanical robot, but rather breathe in a way where it is like going to a new place, a beautiful beach or mountains that are spectacular. Take a deep breath and feel how wonderful it is for the body to experience the newness of this breath and to be connected to the wisdom that you are breathing in.
We’re not just breathing in a mental mechanical way, but we’re breathing in a complete and unified way, with all breath that is life. When you do this, the life force that is inherent in every particle, in every aspect of nature, whether it is a simple weed in the garden to the majestic trees in the forest, breathes with you. This is what creates deep relaxation.
Your physical rhythm and subtle rhythms are then back in touch with this marvelous rhythm, which is the orchestra of life that is present in all aspects. It is not just present on the physical level of what you see here on earth, such as the trees or the weeds, it is also the movement of the galaxy, the stars within the galaxy and even what makes the stars move within the galaxy. It has an orchestra of beautiful sounds that is inherent in the breath and that is what happens when you are focused on the breath.
What changes is that you don’t just listen to your mind or to your emotions, but you listen to this beautiful divine music that is life. And when you hear this sound, it is almost as if it is a balm to the soul and it reminds you of what it means to be alive as an individual, but also in this sense of harmony and union.
When you remember, you come home back to that aspect of yourself and this remembering creates a totally different interaction with the situations that you’re dealing with. This is what is required, not psychological mumbo-jumbo or intellectual intelligence that confuses our simple perspective of life. It is just a matter of practice.
Anyone can do this. Whether you’re a farmer in the middle of Bolivia or an executive running to the office in New York, it is exactly the same. We are all linked in to this wonderful wisdom. Remember your breath.
After having sought spiritual training with Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi, a renowned Zen Buddhist master, Tony Samara ventured to the jungles and mountains of South America—to the Amazon and to the Andes—where he lived and studied among several communities of traditional Shamans. During these years he was formally initiated in the sacred healing ways of these ancient peoples. At the age of 27, Tony Samara had what he calls a “profound experience of relaxation” that one would qualify as enlightenment or awakening according to classic spiritual literature.
He eventually left South America to teach and share his deep wisdom with the world. He has worked and conducted spiritual discourses (Satsang) throughout Europe and the world for the last twenty years. Thousands of people from all over the world contact him and attend his retreats in order to receive guidance into a deeper experience of life.