The purpose of life is to enjoy it. So says ancient wisdom. And it's hard to argue with this. So why does so much of the world feel set against it?
We are taking relaxation more and more seriously in our work as guides and entrepreneurs. Not just as a way of letting go at the end of the day, or as leisure or luxury, but as a guiding beacon to life. We see relaxation as a fuel inside us; a conduit for relationships; as DNA to how we might live and work.
There is a website that gathers information about how things have accelerated in the world. Since 1950, it is scary how things have increased in speed. Everything from communications, infrastructure, agriculture, economic measures and so on. But contentment is not measured in speed,. Neither is health. Or love. This acceleration of everything is turning us inside out, and while we race around in blind panic we are bringing our own world down.
You can feel it everywhere. We talk about busy-ness everywhere we go. Relationships are commoditised. We are addicted to information on devices. When we are not on our devices we are bombarded with information anyway. All our measures are about speed and growth and strange notions of advancement that are completely at odds with natural cycles of life. There is a constant chase to somewhere else and we never get close to arriving.
Many of us are in a state of denial about it. Many of us go along with a tide of consumption, ownership, status and so on, but we wouldn't dare to say these things are causing us hell. We don't dare to say it out loud because then it would be true, and then what would we do? We could not possibly turn things around now. We could not possibly U-turn a whole life of hard work and trials and milestones to our destinations unknown. But of course, bottling it all up churns us up even more.
Through our work with Way of Nature, a soulful retreats venture, we have trained for some years with a master in relaxation. He exists. He doesn't call himself that - he is actually an ecologist, author, spiritual teacher and more. But he is definitely a master in relaxation. He learnt his trade from Taoist sages in China, Tantra gurus in India, indigenous elders from all over the world and now John P. Milton is one of the coolest elders we have.
John says that the first stage of relaxation is about noticing tensions. Many of us barely touch the tip of this iceberg. We hardly ever stop to sense and feel what is blocked - in us or in people or in structures around us. When we finally do this, then we can learn methods and tools to relax.
But it doesn't stop there. There is a deeper level of relaxation; one where we begin to relax the stuff behind uncomfortable memories and emotions. The stuff that makes us shrivel in certain situations. I've come to believe that nothing in the world has a right to do this to anyone, but still we all carry these things inside us. The more we fight them or hide them, the more they burn inside. But there are ways of releasing them.
And then, there is another level. It's the level of complete surrender. In a world where we have got used to everything on a platter, instantaneously, in any colour form or shape we want, the most miniscule idea of letting go of something is terrifying. But we might never feel freedom without letting go of control.
How would our world look if our structures and policies and decisions were directed are relaxation? What if measures of progress pointed us to balance and integrity and form instead?
Relaxation is not about weakness. The sprinter practices deep calmness in parts of the body in order to exert awesome power directed to the right places. The monks of ancient times practices gentle martial arts in order to direct raw energy to the right places. Each and every system needs space and openness for movement. Every push requires equal pull somewhere long the line.
In a world in which we are still perpetuating violence, inequality and disharmony, we must find new ways of being and growing to nourish a world that can hold all of us. Wisdom points to the fact that this starts with the individual; each person cultivating the right to peace, belonging, kindness, and contentment with life itself. These things are the basis of relaxation and they come freely packaged inside our hearts.
We all have a right to ease and peace in the modern world. Reclaim that right for yourself, and will be armed to take the relaxation revolution out to the world.
This week we are running a Relaxation UnChallenge - a week dedicated it to relaxation. To join, take a look at the Relaxation UnChallenge Facebook group online.
This article was co-written with Andres Robert (@andresroberts) who co-founded Way of Nature UK with Adrian.Suggest a correction