Time To Relax

The tense lady said, “I have no time to relax.” She was thinking in terms of lying down for half an hour to listen to a relaxation tape. She had things to do, crises to try to resolve. She had no half an hour to spare in her day. Her comment brought to mind Mahatma Gandhi, who once said, "I have so much to accomplish today, I will have to meditate two hours instead of one." The time spent in meditation, for Gandhi, was not a deduction from the amount of time he had available to do things. It was an investment in clarity and calm that would allow him to maximize his effectiveness. It was a sly comment, no doubt spoken for effect. With it, Gandhi bypassed the logic of a statement that one is too busy to meditate.

We busy people are probably too busy to exercise too. Who can take an hour and a half out of their day to exercise as some experts recommend? Fortunately, recent health research found that all the little bits of exercise that one might accumulate during the day contribute to fitness. A calorie burned walking up stairs at odd times during the day is as good as a calorie burned at the gym. (We are talking here about activity level contributing to fitness. Aerobic fitness and strength building are separate issues).

When it comes to relaxation and meditative attention, we might take a similar view. Throughout the day there will be opportunities for relaxation. They might not come in long spans of time, but if you are alert to them, they will be there. Whenever you have to wait, you have a moment to relax. Sitting at a red light, waiting for a bus, waiting in line at the store, waiting for a web page to load, each is an opportunity to be more mindful, to release tension, to let go of extraneous mental activity, to breathe consciously. Whenever you can become aware of impatience, you have an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Wherever there are popular magazines lying about to help you pass your time, you can find a place of repose.

There is always time to relax, because relaxation is not the opposite of activity. Ideally, when we act, we do it in a relaxed way. Movement can be quick and powerful and still be relaxed. Pushing open a heavy door, we can throw ourselves against it and wrestle it open, or we can use our bodies in the manner of a Tai Chi practitioner in which the push is a full-body, graceful and relaxed movement, but strong and infused with power. With that relaxed, focused energy the door moves more easily.

How different life can be if we relinquish our addiction to tension and use our opportunities to be relaxed, calm, and alert.

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© 2005 Tom Barrett