LITTLE KNOWN KEYS TO RELAXATION
EXPERIENCING HEALING FLOWS OF ENERGY THROUGHOUT YOUR BODY
THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE NEW TIMES, FEBRUARY, 1989. Reprinted: Positive Living, March, 1992.
By Randy Berkman, Ph.D.
Modern medicine and psychology agree concerning the immense emotional and physical benefits of learning to relax. Books on meditation, hypnosis, relaxation and prayer are abundant. However, many people have tried these approaches without noticing significant results.
Some people stop such practices out of frustration, unsure they are really relaxing or obtaining positive effects. Others find such exercises boring or too difficult. While there is no substitute for patient persistence in the learning of relaxation skills, there are a number of little known keys which make the practice more interesting, workable and flowing.
INNER SIGNAL OF RELAXATION
It is not always easy to tell whether you are truly relaxing. There is, however, a little known signal which effectively helps you detemine when relaxation is taking place. That is, when you gently give attention to your fingers and most other bodily areas, you will eventually discover a "tingling flow" sensation in them. This sensation is sometimes described as a "healing current," "flow of life," or "pulsation of sparkling water." It is the body's built-in signal of deepening relaxation. It is "biofeedback," without expensive equipment. When muscle relaxtion deepens, as measured scientifically in muscular biofeedback (EMG) relaxation training, people report a stronger "healing current" sensation in the areas being measured by the muscle tension monitor. As people become adept at overall mental and physical relaxation, they describe the experience in joyful, elative terms such as "I feel rivers of sparkling water pulsating throughout my body."
MOVING ATTENTION OR "ATTENTION MASSAGE"
Moving attention through one's fingers and other bodily areas can be an extremely potent aid to relaxation. To experience this technique, gently, gently give attention to your fingers. Let attention move from one finger to another. Another way to experience moving attention is to follow the flow of blood pulsing from the base of your fingers to their tips. When you become adept at it (which takes regular practice, do not expect immediate results), it feels like being massaged by inner attention. Moving attention helps keep relaxation interesting and flowing. One example: extend, expand or radiate/pulsate your awareness away from your body. Gradually do so from all directions at once.
Find one more that suits you for both comfort and alertness. This could be reclining on your back, side stomach, or sitting in a comfortable chair. Sitting with spine erect can help foster an alert sense of being distant from mental activity.
Relax for increased awareness rather than "feeling better." Treat your body as a lifelong friend whom you are getting to know more deeply. Then, feeling better will become a gradual byproduct of relaxation (letting go) training. Often, you will feel better after relaxation focusing. However, if you don't feel better, it doesn't mean you have failed. Rather, it may mean you are "trying" (faintly squeezing muscles) rather than letting go of them. Not feeling better after a relaxation session might also mean that some old mental-physical tensions are being released. Also, a guilty conscience can "surface," be understood and cleared, aided by relaxation techniques.
Deep relaxation is a cleansing process, a counterforce to whatever tensions we hold in our mind-body. As we grow in relaxation ability, these tensions emerge without effort. Spontaneous body movements such as muscular jerking are expressions of this "unraveling" process. Understanding and allowing that this is sometimes painful is essential for ongoing, effective relaxation practice.
Begin by focusing within your fingers as this is the area in which people generally experience the "healing current" signal of relaxation most readily. Some persons feel a tingling flow in their fingers during their initial focusing while others take much longer to experience it. Notice whatever sensations are present and keep attention gently moving from one finger to another. Each time you are distracted by thoughts or daydreams simply return your attention to gently moving throughout the fingers. Also, be sensitive to the pulsing of blood in your fingers.
When focusing within various bodily areas, let your attention be gentle or delicate. Another way of saying this that you are sending a "be still" or "no activity" message to the muscles upon which are are focusing. Remember to remain alert. If you find yourself falling asleep or lost in daydreams, ou may need to snap your fingers to arouse yourself from your drowsy or dreamy state.
PROCEED TO OTHER LOOSE AREAS
As you get to know your body better, you will discover some areas are habitually tighter than others. Focusing on the loose areas first allows the relaxation to "spill over" to tighter areas. When you feel deeply relaxed in the looser areas, gradually bring attention to the tighter areas. As soon as you are ready, bring attention to the areas of our forehead, eyes and mouth. These areas are important because relaxing them fosters a letting go of distracting mental activity. It is especially important to remain alert during such focus, otherwise you are likely to fall asleep. At times, almost everyone does go to sleep during relaxation exercises. As long as this remains occasional, it shouldn't interfere with ongoing, effective practice.
Healing distance is the sense of one's consciousness that is distant from yet aware of thoughts, feelings, and body. An image that conveys the meaning of healing distance is the light of a movie projector lighting up a movie screen. Your observing consciousness is like the light of the movie projector. It is both distant from yet connected to the thoughts, feelings and body sensations perceived upon "the screen of consciousness."
A written exercise to encourage healing distance is to make a list of thoughts and feelings that counteract relaxation. For example, many people list resentment, worry, hurt, guilt, fear, impatience, hostitlity, and jealousy. Bcome aware of how your body tightens up or self-squeezes when you experience such feelings. During daily activites, look for chances to be aware of these feelings without feeding them.
The more you learn to relax your mind and body, the more aware you become of healing distance.
Deep breathing is a commonly known aid to relaxation and can be quite helpful if not overdone. More deep breathing does not necessarily mean deeper relaxation. Experiment with taking a few deep breaths a minute.
A muscular biofeedback unit (electromyograph) can be a powerful aid to relaxation training. It's like always having an impersonal teacher to tell you how you are doing. It helps you to discover which techniques work best.
The biofeedback unit is attached to the body by means of electrodes. Some units are made so you can simply lie down on a "headband" which has electrodes built into it. The instrument registers the state of muscle relaxation on a numerical meter visible to the person relaxing.
Such instruments have been used in medical research since the 1940's. Originally, these units were non-portable and cost over $10,000. Through technological advances in the last 15 years, they have become availabe to the public in sizes comparable to a pocket radio in the price range of $400.
INTERPERSONAL ASPECT OF RELAXATION
Simply stated, it's the Golden Rule. Treat others with the respect you want for yourself and you will learn to relax more readily and deeply.
COMMITMENT OF TIME
As one experiences the joyful results of relaxation training, it becomes natural and easy to spend at least twice a day practicing the techniques. First thing in the morning and before sleep at night are fruitful times. Length of time per practice is usually 15 minutes to 1/2 hour., though this may be extended or shortened according to individual need.
Randy Berkman, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in San Diego. He uses muscular biofeedback to aid the teaching of relaxation skills. His tape LITTLE KNOWN KEYS TO RELAXATION is available from him for $12.50 postpaid from:
San Diego, CA 92167
Phone: (619) 223-3928
Or order online at the Little Known Keys To Relaxation link below: