It is an unfortunate fact that in day-to-day living man does not realize the extraordinary importance of relaxation. The very word brings images of some kind of discipline like yoga or something similar to be done at a particular time of the day. As a matter of fact, relaxation can be of three kinds: physical, mental and transcendental – and none of these would necessarily demand a system as such.
Thus, physical relaxation simply means deliberately, consciously releasing the tension that has somehow crept into the body. For instance, merely sitting in the dentist’s chair causes tension. The dentist, therefore, has to tell the patient to relax. All that is really necessary in such a case is to make oneself consciously relax all the muscles in the body at one time
This is really the basis of the famous shavasana: you lie down and let all the muscles consciously let go of all tension. You are sometimes told to go gradually from one end of the body to the other, relaxing muscles in each part of the body. But it has been the experience of many that one clear command to the muscles in the entire body consciously to let go works very well. “Slack off” was what one dentist had to yell at his patient before the patient did relax.
The real benefit of physical relaxation is found not in doing the shavasana which needs you lying down, but at any time, whatever you are doing, to stop for an instant and consciously relax the whole body and then while you are so relaxed, to continue whatever you were doing. Or, you could take a minute or two between your tasks, and stay consciously relaxed. You will soon find that you get into the practice of doing your normal work without getting into any kind of tension, and only a gentle reminder to relax is all that is necessary.
There is an in-built mechanism for relaxation unique to the human being: the human being is the only animal who laughs and can laugh heartily. Laughter, even deliberately induced laughter, not only provides emotional satisfaction, but also significant physiological benefits and relaxation. The basis of laughter is a deep inhalation followed by rhythmic exhalation, especially using the diaphragm, the large muscle mass in the body that separates the abdominal and chest cavities. This helps equalize the pressures in both the cavities and apart from aiding venous drainage, also causes massage to the internal organs.
There are four types of laughter described by health practitioners that can be beneficial (people with heart or lung problems or high blood pressure should use caution):
a) ‘Etiquette laughter’ starts with a smile and extends to mild laughter, with no special attention to breathing. The tempo gradually builds up.
b) In ‘pigeon laughter’, a deeper inhalation is done and, keeping the mouth shut, you produce laughter making the sounds like hums of pigeons. This is an internal laughter and has its own advantages.
c) ‘Soundless laughter’ is the most difficult to learn, but very effective. Take a very deep in-breath, and then open the mouth and put the tongue out and let laughter out – but without making any sound! Also, after one inhalation you can exhale as long as possible, with rhythmic jerks to the diaphragm; this ‘inner jogging’ is vigorous and exhausting.
d) ‘Belly laughter’ is similar to the soundless laughter, but you let go and laugh loudly – even rolling on the floor or doubling up. Repeated in-breaths are needed and this can last for as long as you like.
Mental relaxation is of an entirely different kind inasmuch as it means, in effect, an absence of thinking, of conscious physical relaxation. Such mental relaxation liberates you from conditioning. You can easily find out for yourself that there is a period of silence between the thoughts that is totally unrelated to the thinking process. In fact, that interval, that period of silence, being not related to time, brings an enormous amount of relaxation whenever you are consciously aware of it. In any position, it is possible to be focused upon these intervals, even for short periods, during one’s day-to-day living. The meditation gurus may resent such focusing on the intervals between thoughts during one’s day-to-day living being called ‘meditation’, but if you are able to do this focusing on the interval between thoughts during your working day, you will suddenly realize that at the end of the day, you are much less tired and that you have considerable amount of energy left for the rest of the evening.
What actually happens in those intervals between thoughts is that the mind has become ‘silent’: the mind has emptied itself of all its contents and is, therefore, ‘vacant’ or silent, intensely aware of What-Is in the moment. This silent mind is not unaware of the stream of thoughts flowing through the conscious mind, but it does not participate in the thinking: it does not discriminate between them, it does not make a judgment between them in terms of right or wrong or importance.
The immediate effect of the silent mind in day-to-day living is that psychological problems do not seem to have any substance and many just evaporate. What could be more important is the fact that the silent mind gives full play to the creative and intuitive faculties, with the result that not only psychological problems disappear but, that even, intellectual problems and even practical problems may find their solutions.
There is another kind of relaxation – neither physical nor mental – which is not to be achieved but which can only happen as a result of the deepest possible understanding that the individual entity as the ‘me’, as opposed to the ‘other’, truly does not exist. It is understood that the billions of human beings have no individual volition or choice of decision and action and that they are only uniquely programmed instruments through which the Source or Primal Energy or Consciousness or God functions and brings about such happenings as are supposed to happen according to what might be called a Natural Law or a Cosmic Law. The total acceptance of this concept, which one can test in the fire of one’s own experience, results in the total acceptance of What-Is as God’s Will, which leads to the real relaxation of the body-mind organism leading to enlightenment or Self-realization: the fictitious ego-entity doer finds himself surrendering to the noumenal Source in its entirety. This is what might be called transcendental relaxation, the sheer Joy of Being.