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The Discipline of Relaxation, by Serge Kahili King

"Sorry, I can't talk to you now!" "Where's that blasted folder I need for tomorrow's meeting?" "I can't stop thinking about what he/she did to me!" "Good grief! Where did the time go?" Etcera, etcetera...

Many people today are dying or getting physically, emotionally, or mentally sick from being overstressed by work, by problems that they can't or don't know how to deal with, by anger at the past or fear of the future.

Stress is a natural part of life, but only when it is counter-balanced by relaxation. Think of a wave. The rising of the wave is like engaging in activity and the falling of the wave is like relaxing and resting in preparation for new activity. The wave itself exists because of a natural resistance to movement and change - the stress effect - and a natural release of tension to allow more movement and change. In very broad terms it can be compared to the wake/sleep cycle of human beings.

Not all waves are the same, however. Because of a mind-boggling variety of different environmental conditions like wind direction and intensity, temperature differences, earth movement, and others, waves can be smooth, choppy, deep, shallow, crash together, form rogue waves or turn into tsunamis. Likewise, humans enounter a mind-boggling variety of environmental influences that can create the human equivalent of all the varieties of wave patterns.

The most important of all these influences in our human lives comes from our internal environment in the form of the thoughts we think. Going back to our water metaphor, thoughts can be considered as the equivalent of wind, and emotions to the waves. In simple terms, our thoughts are what stimulate our waves of emotion, and our reactions to our emotions are what produce bigger and more dangerous waves, or calm seas.

Fine. We are all pretty much aware of how dangerous excessive stress can be. Strangely enough, though, many people are not aware that excessive stress translates into excessive tension in the body. And even fewer are consciously aware that what you think about and where you place your primary attention are factors that can increase or decrease that tension.

When your mind is racing a mile (1.6 kilometers) a minute, when negative thoughts keep circling around and around, when life's problems seem overwhelming and you feel like either exploding or going into a paralytic coma, then it's a good time to gather all your will-power, determination, desire for healing or a better way to live, and all the useful help you can find to enter THE PRESENT MOMENT.

The Present Moment is a magical place that everyone visits briefly and few ever stay long enough to reap the full benefits. Some try to take up permanent residence there, but they usually end up making their present moment so small that they end up limiting or losing their connections to the larger world. What I'm recommending, then, are extended visits that can range from one consciously focused minute to an hour or more if you can do it.

First, the benefits. When you are fully involved in The Present Moment with your mind focused on what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, and/or doing, your body automatically begins shifting into a relaxation mode. When, by degrees, you can be aware of the pleasure of what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, and/or doing, your body relaxes even more deeply. As that begins to happen, the release of tension allows your body to muster its resources and start healing physical and emotional injuries and the effects of excessive stress. This doesn' always happen instantly, but the more often you stay a while in The Present Moment the more often the healing happens, even without any intentional effort. At the same time as an additional benefit, the whirlwind of negative, conflicting, or confusing thoughts begins to calm down.

Second, the challenges. With physical relaxation and mental calmness there may come awarenesses of sensations and thoughts that you'd rather not be aware of. Sometimes there may be tension reactions in different parts of your body that you didn't notice before, or that make you feel very uncomfortable. Sometimes there may be thoughts of how impossible it is to solve any of your problems. Sometimes it may even seem that givng up is the easiest way out. This is the critical point at which it is entirely up to you to decide to be healed, to succeed, to live... or not. No one else can make this decision for you.

Third, the magic. As your body relaxes and your mind calms down you become more consciously aware of inspirational or intuitive ideas that can give you new points of view or new ways to solve your problems. Sometimes these come as full-blown revelations or plans, but more often they come in quietly over time as a series of useful steps toward positive change or creativity. Another kind of magic often happens as well, in the form of positive changes in the behavior of others in your life, or encounters with new people who can help you in some way.

Fourth, the "how tos." It takes discipline to enter The Present Moment" and stay there for any length of time. This does not mean the use of any kind of forced concentration that causes stress. It does mean having enough desire to make your life better that you are willing to pay attention to something without any thoughts of past, future, or negative stuff that may be going on around you. Some people will not do this, because they are unwilling to experience the initial discomfort of changing a familiar habit, or they are unwilling to give up the payoffs they may get from continuing a life of stress and negativity. Sorry about that. What I'm proposing will only work if you are willing to do it even tnough it might be difficult at first.

So here are a number of techniques for helping you to enter and stay awhile in The Present Moment. All of them are extremely simple, and some will be familiar. It is conscious awareness and intention that makes them so effective.

1. Wherever you are, look at objects close by, listen to sounds around you, and touch a few things within reach. To make it even more interesting for your conscious mind and your body, look at shapes or colors, listen to high and low sounds, and be aware of the texture and temperature of the things you touch. Do this for as long as you can find it interesting.

2. Using a watch or clock with a second hand (or digital readout), count the number of times you breathe naturally in one minute. Then take a moment to pay attention to sight, sound, and touch, and count your natural breaths again. The number will usually be a lot less, indicating a reduction in stress and an increase in relaxation. I just did this while writing this article. My first count was 9 breaths per minute, and after a few seconds of sensory awareness the count was 4. This can be used for a short visit to The Present Moment, or as an introduction to a longer session.

3. Meditate on (pay attention to) something beautiful in your environment. Nature is a natural for this, and walking in nature helps to maintain the focus. Nevertheless, it's possible to find beauty in anything. I once achieved a state of bliss by meditating on the beautiful relationship between two paper cups on a table in a shopping mall.

4. Play a non-competitive game or sport that requires total focus and not a lot of effort. I find that skiing on gentle slopes and kayaking on calm waters works well for me. Actually, any game or sport can work as long as you focus on the pleasure of the playing and not on the winning.

5. Engaging in a handicraft that requires total focus can work very well. Painting, weaving, photography, woodworking, purposeful doodling like Zentangle and many other things that involve mind and body working together are excellent for relieving stress and inducing relaxation. However, be careful of crafts that are so repetitive that the mind can wander out of present moment awareness.

THE PRESENT MOMENT, 99% of the time, is a place of peace and healing. It is an incredibly effective resource available to anyone. You can use it to change your life from despair to hope to joy


Implementing Change, by Astrid Mohr-Kiehn

Change is a funny thing. It is a natural part of life, and yet it can be so difficult sometimes.

Some changes are seemingly forced on us and may be hard to accept or cope with if we do not employ our given adaptation skills and the powers of our minds. One way to make good use of this kind of change is to be open to its powerful aspects and the opportunities it brings into our lives. Opportunities we had not even thought possible. I know that this might not be easy to believe at first when change from the outside is presented to you.

Other changes are created when we consciously decide to manifest them.

Some of the changes that we want to bring into our lives for good reasons, however, can be difficult to manifest. This is the kind of change I want to take a look at today.
Why is it sometimes so difficult to implement change? Well, part of the reason is that old beliefs, habits, and automatic responses are so deeply ingrained in our "way of being" that we accept them as being part of who we are. We consider them such an integral part of ourselves that we don't even see them.

How can we change them when we don't see those beliefs, habits and responses? How do we get from here, a situation we want to change, to there?

You begin by looking at results. Results are the feedback from your life. They are probably what made you want to bring about a change in the first place, right? So, you look a little closer and watch for that particular kind of feedback. What factors led up to the things happening in your life? What was the situation? How did you behave? What did you feel? What are your habitual reactions to that kind of situation? Your feelings and tension in your body are the most accurate feedback tool. Conscious awareness is the key to this first step. From this perspective you are able to get a more accurate picture of what triggered the results you see.

The next step is to start to squeeze in a pause before you respond to these triggers in your life. This gives you time to become aware of your emotions and to decide whether your habitual response will encourage the change you want to implement. If not, you may want to decide to react differently. Decision is the keyword here. To support making this pause, you could use a breathing technique, such as Piko Piko.

When you begin, don't be discouraged if you do not succeed every time right from the start. In fact, it is highly likely that you will initially "fail". However, this is not "failure". It is just your subconscious, your Ku, continuing old habits in an effort to help you through life. At this point, Ku - your body-mind that holds all your memories - is still convinced that this old habit is useful because it has served you all these years, right?

You have to consciously and patiently work with Ku in any way feasible to change those habits by keeping your focus on the change you want to bring about. As a matter of fact, it is your Lono aspect that directs the Ku with its intellect and imaginative thought. Lono takes the decision and directs the focus. So: focus.
To focus effectively, you need to be in the present moment in order to be able to really notice the feedback from your emotions and tensions. If you are past this point with your fears and expectations, you will miss the chance to interrupt the cycle. Presence is key. Rely on your senses to help you stay in the moment because it is only in the present moment that we can make a change.

Don't fall into the trap of self-criticism if at first you do not succeed. Self-criticism will increase your tension and make it even harder to implement new behavior at the next opportunity. Watch yourself lovingly like a child trying out new things. That little child just plays with possibilities and learns from the so-called "failures". Consider how much progress a child makes in this way. Playfully and lovingly.

The only person who can make this change is you. You are the only person that ultimately has the power to do anything, achieve anything in your life. No one else does. No one.

As you go along with this process, you will be able to fine-tune what you do and how you go about it, always keeping an eye on the feedback that life gives you. If the feedback is not what you were aiming at, you can always do it another way. Or another way. OR even another way. Sometimes it even helps to change some habit seemingly unrelated to the intended change.

So, be aware of your behavior, use your power of decision, be present, love yourself and those around you, stay in your own power, and be creative with your solutions. And if you do not lose sight of your goal you will get there.

Give it a try.
Astrid Mohr-Kiehn

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