It’s about 5 years ago. I’m in my Xin Yi (an internal martial art) class.
We are in the Bow and Arrow Stance which is similar to yoga’s warrior 1 pose – or a modified lunge. The majority of our weight is centered over our front foot.
We’ve been in this stance for 5-10 minutes already, testing our stability and balance with arm circles.
The quadriceps in my front leg are starting to tremble and shake, my shoulder muscles are burning, and sweat is beginning to blur my eyes.
That’s when Harry (the instructor) began talking about Relaxed Suffering.
Now, in Ortho-Bionomy, comfort is one of the fundamental principles.
When we are comfortable, we can relax.
When we are relaxed, tension releases and we are able to return to an enhanced state of wellbeing. There’s a bit more to it, but that’s the general concept.
Basically, this concept of comfort and relaxation leading to healing is pretty ingrained in me.
I’ve seen the application of this principle work time and time again with my clients.
It feels like magic when, as I meet their pain and tension (whether physical or emotional) with comfort and relaxation, their pain melts away.
And, naturally, I’ve extended this concept into my daily life.
If I’m hurting in some way, what can I do to bring in more comfort?
If my low back is hurting, for example, does altering the way I’m sitting relieve the pressure? Would a walk help? Perhaps it’s time to do some self-care or get some bodywork.
In short, Ortho-Bionomy has taught me a lot about how to find comfort (and how to relax) when I’m in pain.
Further, I’ve come to understand that tension and pain are simply messengers.
Messengers that show me exactly where I’m out of alignment in my body and in my life.
Which is exactly what I was discovering in my Xin Yi class.
My shaking quads, my burning shoulders, the intense torquing sensation at the base of my head, the sensation of my low back being pulled apart – all showing me exactly where the muscles were holding in my body.
Showing me exactly where my structure (my bones and joints) were out of alignment with gravity.
Showing me the parts of my body that were unable to relax, unable to let go, unable to trust my bones to hold me up.
That’s where the suffering comes in.
I was suffering (shaking, burning, sweating) because my muscles were working so hard to keep me in this rather awkward position.
I didn’t know how to relax those muscles and allow the bones of my body to support me.
I wasn’t the only one with trembling, shaking legs and arms.
Harry acknowledged our struggle. He said it was normal for it to feel really difficult at first. That it was normal for us to be trying to use our muscles to keep our bodies in the correct stance.
He said that the most important thing was to just keep focusing on relaxing and sinking into our front foot while simultaneously extending both out the heel of our back foot and out the top of our heads.
“The more you relax and trust your structure, the less suffering you will have to endure and the easier and more natural this stance will become.
Eventually, your muscles will let go and your bones will entirely support you.
Until then, practice Relaxed Suffering.
If you are going to suffer, you might as well relax while you are doing it.”
Practice Relaxed Suffering.
I wonder what might happen if:
- we didn’t try to resist pain so much,
- we were able to accept that pain is simply (sometimes) a part of living a full, engaged life,
- we were able to go ahead and relax into the pain.
I think it is really easy to get into a place where resisting pain ends up simply creating additional suffering.
I see this pattern in myself a lot – wanting certain things to be different than they are.
For instance, I have lost days and days to headaches.
Many of those days were spent being super angry (and/or super depressed) over having a headache.
The anger and depression didn’t help the situation at all. Instead, they added layers and layers of additional suffering and made the headache worse.
On the days when I’ve been able to say ‘hey, I have a headache and that’s just where I am for today,” and relax a bit, my suffering has been much less.
And, interestingly, those have been the days when I’ve been able to learn more about myself and the things that actually help me get through the day with more ease.
Today, I’m starting Week 2 of my 40-Day Challenge.
My overall theme for the 40 days is Relaxation. To practice the Art of Relaxation when I’m:
- in my Xin Yi class (now, it’s about relaxing more versus just relaxing),
- learning something new - like a new Shiva Nata pattern,
- feeling anxious about something – can relaxation hold and cradle the ball of anxiety I feel? Is it possible for the quality of relaxation to transform anxiety into a state of enhanced wellbeing? I’m going to find out!
- in the middle of some conflict with my partner (or anyone). How might relaxing shift how I respond to conflict?
- stuck or unsure of what I want or need.
In short, how might relaxing while I’m in some situation that normally causes suffering or pain shift my experience and thus my response? That is the question I am asking myself.
And, that is my question for you as well.
As always, your comments and thoughts are welcome. :)