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The Lost Art of Relaxation: The Importance of Skilfully Doing Nothing

30/12/2013 13:09 GMT | Updated 28/02/2014 10:59 GMT

The concept and word for 'boredom' was only coined in the mid-1700s. Was this because none of our ancestors before this time experienced an uneasiness when faced with a few hours of no activity? When did we begin to experience restlessness when taking a break from everyday life?

Since the industrial revolution, when machines began to replace human labour in western society and technological advances created a greater sense of luxury in our lives, we began to look at sitting around doing nothing as idle, unproductive and inefficient. With the onset of continuously increasing choices and over-stimulation, which constantly bombards and overwhelms our senses, relaxation has been seen by many as the privilege of the wealthy who can afford the time to indulge themselves in this 'opulent act'. Today's children, as young as seven years old, are speaking of how stressed and anxious they are as a result of the onslaught of academic and extra-curricular pressures. Have we as a society completely given up on the notion of relaxation as an important facet in our daily lives?

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Consider when the last time was you truly did nothing. Unless you enjoy a regular meditation practice, or make room in your daily life to just doing nothing, you might find the very notion rather pointless. However, there is an ever-growing movement of people who have understand the value and insight which stems from just 'being', surrendering to time and allowing yourself to sit in silence - allowing thoughts to come and go as they please. Buddhists and mindfulness practioners have long appreciated the significance of 'being' rather than 'doing', experiencing it as a way of refuelling the spirit, the body and mind with much needed rest, inspiration and a sense of expansiveness.

The Potency of Relaxation and Presence

There is a real skill in enjoying and resting in the present moment, not remembering a past experience, or envisioning a future scenario. When we do connect with presence and relish our own company, we are nurturing a powerful state of being. In this state time begins to become irrelevant, as do other regular human woes of comparison, envy, angst, fear, and stress. Instead we are treated to a deeply relaxing state where we are content with nothing more than the present moment and all seems as it should.

Making dedicated time in our daily routines to practice relaxation specifically may seem slightly challenging or even trivial to some, however the innumerable benefits that the practice brings means that creating regular time for it should be a 'no brainer' (no pun intended). When we remember to consider time spent in solitude, engaged in a relaxing act, as an investment for our health, longevity and well-being, we begin to unravel the myth of the 'busy' lifestyle as an aspirational one. We are all no doubt well aware that on a daily basis we do too much, which in turn has a detrimental affect on our relationships and perhaps even our outlook on life.

Relaxation Tools

There are a multitude of deeply relaxing techniques and processes which can be enjoyed; the experienced relaxation practioner does not allow their practice to become stale by repeating the same method on too regular a basis. The key to making relaxation a pleasurable activity that you look forward to each day, requires choosing something you can relate and feel drawn to.

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Spending time in nature is one of the most enriching and rejuvenating ways to deeply relax. Whether it's a gentle walk through a forest, quietly sitting by a stream, lying in a meadow of wild flowers, or climbing a tree to sit and listen to the birds - being ensconced in nature has long been spiritually (and more recently scientifically) understood to have a magnificent effect of how relaxed we feel.

Engaging in something you love, whether its painting, making music, writing, reading, cooking or otherwise often transfers us into a state of 'flow', where time becomes meaningless and a sense of connection to an energy larger than ourselves becomes apparent. Any activities that engender that sense of timelessness often has a deeply soothing feeling of letting go, loosening and unwinding associated with it.

Breathing techniques, involving deep regular breaths from our abdomen, are a wonderful way to feel reconnected with our bodies. The feeling of slowing and calming down are regularly connected with breathing methods such as Transformational Breathing, Buteyko or various Taoist breathing exercises.

Meditation and visualisation techniques including body scans are two of the most potent ways to calm ourselves and ease the daily pressures of our lives. A regular meditation practice has been known to help regulate our immune system, support emotional balance and adds a deep sense of calm to how we interact with others.

As we become more conscious beings and realise the importance of regular relaxation in our lives, the significance we place on committing to these practices will change. Looking to the future I envisage 'relaxation boot-camps', where for a week or longer, no mobile phones, internet or entertainment is allowed, and only deeply relaxing activities are pursued. Schools, universities and businesses will have dedicated portions of their days for relaxation, which will specifically promote calm and nurture the 'being' state within us.

In the future, being a deeply relaxed person, who regularly practices techniques to support the further opening of themselves, will eclipse the previous 'busy lifestyle' paradigm. Being a deeply relaxed person may even become the most attractive characteristic in humans when looking for a mate.

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Adrian Kowal is the co-founder of evolve -- a centre of evolution in South Kensington, London (www.evolvewellnesscentre.com). He is a wilderness and Vision Quest guide, and enjoys as much of his time outside as possible. Adrian co-founded Way of Nature UK which runs various wilderness retreats in the UK and abroad (www.wayofnature.co.uk). Adrian is passionate about healthy living, collaboration, ecological education, permaculture, and honouring all beings on our planet. If you would like to get in touch please email: adrian@evolvewellnesscentre.com