When most people think of relaxation, they are underwhelmed. They “know” that it is something they “need” but it sounds like knowing that broccoli is good for you and that you need to add it to your diet. Most people are not impressed. Sadly, they are not motivated to explore the true realm of relaxation.
Relaxation is more than something that is good for our body. Relaxation is the doorway to most of those experiences we consider as making a life worth living. That’s the big view. Relaxation reduces our built-in negativity bias, that is seeing the threats and risks of life around every corner even if there are no threats or risks there. Our long ago ancestors needed this to survive, but we carry too much of this. Relaxation brings ups the powers within us to see with a positivity bias—seeing good, potential, and creativity around most corners. This is not a false vision. Positive stuff is out there and stress has been blinding us.
Think of the time you were last on vacation or at least had the opportunity to take a good break from your normal life. It took a few days to tune down the previous work-a-day focus. By the third day, something was happening to you. You probably found yourself not only more energized, but also curious, more observant, clear-headed, open to helping others, thinking of possibilities, savoring, appreciating, and day-dreaming. You were becoming, without effort, the product of the forces of relaxation and that was changing your mind, heart, and body.
Relaxation pushes us into the positive realm. The positive realm is powerful. It opens us to new ideas, new relationships, and renewed self-promises to follow our dreams. Sounds corny but it is how we are hardwired. Bring down stress enough and by default, we go to the positive realm. No choice, really, that is how we are built.
To get really crazy, at the far end of the positive realm lies deep experiences of flow and mystical experience. Flow is feeling so connected to what you are doing that you feel bonded to it in some mysterious way. Time stops and the center of your focus enlivens. Mystical experience, properly defined, comes in a few different flavors. The most commonly experienced form is feeling part of something much bigger than one’s self and that some how the world is alive. The old mystics (and the new ones) get to these places by turning down stress and turning up openness, curiosity, and generosity—all bi-products of relaxation. You can’t get to these places with a furrowed brow and an anxious mind.
If we stop defining relaxation as something that is good for us like broccoli and flossing and instead learn to jump into the river of relaxation, we will discover a whole, broad, positive world.