Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Frozen. . .

It's interesting.  None of us like to feel frozen.  Whether we are frozen by fear or by cold, we never feel good about being frozen.

And yet, frozen has its advantages.

I am writing this as I wait for the freezing in my mouth to wear off.  It's uncomfortable and unpleasant and soooo much better than the alternatives.  Freezing is less dangerous and intrusive than general anaesthetic and much less unpleasant than enduring dental work without being numb.

The same is true of most kinds of frozen. Frozen is not pleasant, but it is useful.  It saves us from unnecessary pain and reminds us that moving is a pleasure.  

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back after a break

Actually, back after intensive training and then, intensive catching up - at home, at the office and with preparations for the college term about to start.  There is lots to do and lots of different kind of pressure - some of it the kind that holds me up and keeps me together.

The final day of our masters' training was precisely my favourite kind of relaxing: four of us gathered, focused, moving our attention deep and wide, laughing, eating, pondering.  At the end - the end of our ninth consecutive day of training - none of us wanted to break the spell to leave.  None of us wanted to be as tired as we suspected we would be when the relaxation of the day turned into a day without that external pressure to keep us up and keep us moving.

It's been less than a week since we finished, and yet it seems far away, a retreat from multiplicity into shared reflection and the flow of experience.  

Thank you again, masters.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Letting the pieces fall into place

When was the last time you played with a puzzle - a jigsaw or one of those wire twists that ask to be untangled in specific ways? They require some analysis, of course.  There are lots of logical approaches that make it possible to work at a puzzle until it is solved.

I don't think that explains the enduring appeal of puzzles.  I think what we all like when we play with a puzzle is that moment of surprise and delight as something slips into place with unexpected ease.  We don't get to that moment by working for it: we get to that moment while our hands are working and our minds have wandered for a moment.  Suddenly we find that we are holding the piece that we need.  Suddenly, we find that the knot has loosened.

When my sons were younger, they liked to buy the wire puzzles to entertain themselves on car trips.  I remember playing with a new one absent-mindedly, sure that I could not solve it.  Until the pieces slid apart in my hands - and I had to figure out how to restore the know before handing it back to my son!

Puzzles are solved most often by the mind at play.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Relax and get to work

I am blogging - live - from the first morning of a practitioner training.  All around me, people are practicing congruence: the state of attention in which everything is engaged on just one thing.  Often, I can tell that they have chosen a state in which they are getting something done.

The cool part is that when they are really working to get just one thing done, they are completely relaxed.  I can watch as someone's attention allows everything else to slip away except the experience they are recreating in their minds.  As they do, their facial expression loosens, their muscles unwind, and they have the peaceful look of someone in trance.

They look the way they do when they are fully in the moment, fully attentive to just the one thing they are doing or thinking, to just one intention. It is tremendously powerful to let go of everything except the one thing on which you really want to focus.  It is liberating - paradoxically - to let go of everything except the limits of the activity that has the whole of your attention.

Try it.  Be mindful of just one thing that is so compelling, so engaging that it occupies all of your attention - maybe for a moment, maybe for several moments.  Notice as you step into the experience that you are also relaxing into the experience.

Enjoy the moment.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Relaxing in zero gravity

I wonder what it would be like to be relaxed in zero gravity.  It sounds wonderfully stress-free, doesn't it.  To float, gently, without resistance.  Imagine if there were no weight on your shoulders - because there was no longer any weight. Not your weight. Not weight around you or on you.  Weightless.

And still, as you float, you have questions.  Do you feel your muscles tensing? Are they resisting the lack of resistance? Are you trying to get anchored, to get some traction?  How do you move in a gravity-free environment?

If you really want to float free, you have to give up knowing that there are things  you want to stay in place.  You have to give up knowing that it is comfortable to be substantial, to be strong, to be firm.  To float free, you have to allow your mind to be as weightless as your body.

In space, your brain is not heavy or light. In space, your brain is weightless.

Imagine that your thoughts were as weightless as the brain that makes them. Imagine that your thoughts have substance without resistance.  Imagine watching them drift through your mind with appropriate momentum.

Imagine that once you set your direction, nothing would weigh you down. Imagine that just a nudge in the right direction could create all the momentum you need.

Imagine relaxing into zero gravity.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How relaxed can you get while reading this?

As you sit and read this screen, the muscles in your eyes are working; your head is held at an appropriate angle by specific muscle tension in your neck and your shoulders and your back.  You are probably sitting down, which means that a few muscles work appropriately to keep you from falling down.

And as you become aware that each of these muscles is functioning precisely as it needs to function, you can choose to let go of all other tension.   As your awareness moves only to these words and the muscles that allow you to read them, your feet and your legs can drop out of your awareness.  You can choose to notice that you feel curiously and pleasantly light, as though you were floating in place as your eyes move across the screen.

You can choose to relax completely, knowing that the muscles in place will continue to function appropriately and that you will remain seated comfortably, focused only on the screen and your ability to allow your attention to float outside your body, moving over the screen as lightly as the dust from a dandelion moves in the wind.  You can pretend to float behind yourself, reading over your own shoulder and noticing with curiosity the heaviness with which your arms contact the chair or the desk, the looseness between your shoulders, and the slowing of your blink reflex.

Wow, you can say to  yourself as you read these words.  I feel completely relaxed.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Just chillin

Paradoxically, summer is the time when we think most about staying cool - and being cool - and perhaps just chillin' out. That's what my sons like best - just chillin'.

Chillin' is one way to talk about relaxing.  It implies a slightly more social activity than 'progressive relaxation' - which tends to involve lying or sitting very still while you focus on relaxing each group of muscles in turn.  Total relaxation means relaxing all the muscles and all the mental muscles into a sort of 'blissed out' state.

There are other ways to relax.  

There is the kind of relaxation a skier feels at the top of the hill.  There is the kind of relaxation the manager feels as work clicks into place.  There is the kind of relaxation that comes when you are totally engrossed in a new place or a single activity.

Relaxation does not always mean loud or soft, fast or slow, still or moving.

So what does it mean?  What if you could be 'just chillin' while you did your very best work?


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

When the days fly by

This morning I am putting plans in place - for September.

Where did the summer go?  Two weeks in Europe turned into a July spent almost entirely indoors.  The rain was gentle and the training was intense and it was almost all good.  But how did it get to be August so soon?

The way to hold a moment is to live it fully - wide awake and fully engaged.  The more attention we give a moment, the more seems to be happening.  Time slows down so that we can notice how much we are noticing.

There is no way to hold a day or a week or a year.  The big units move relentlessly.  Sometimes they disappear because we are so busy. Sometimes they disappear because we have done almost nothing.  They just keep moving.

So August will inevitably become September, a little more quickly than we would like. A little more quickly than we are ready for.  Let it go.

Just hold on to this moment, and the next, and the one after that.  One moment, fully lived, at a time.