How Deep Relaxation Can Transform Your Life

There is a zone of relaxation where the mind is at its most powerful, intuitive and creative. This is the ‘Alpha State’, where the two halves of the brain are in balance. Being able to reach this restful, deeply relaxed state is a life enhancing skill, because the mind works best when you’re cool and calm. And it’s easily learned.

Deep relaxation is a state of calmness which allows the mind to idle and drift. It is a profound state of calmness in which all physical and mental tension is released.

Regular deep relaxation brings about a state of enhanced harmony in your daily life. Benefits include:

Greater peace of mind and mental calm

Improved health, greater vitality

More economical and productive use of energy

Protection against stress and stress related disease

Enhanced intuitive and creative abilities

More rapid healing and pain relief

Improved digestion and lower blood pressure

More refreshing and satisfying sleep

Better concentration

Improved ability to handle important occasions

With daily practice, deep relaxation also improves relationships. It’s easier to get on with others when you are relaxed and it’s easier to get on with yourself too). It also enhances self-awareness and self-esteem.

Young children have no problem relaxing, but it seems that most of us lose this ability as we mature. We become more tense, and tension may disrupt our social and working lives, sexual activity, digestion, sleep and brain-body coordination. It can also result in a variety of fears and phobias.

Deep relaxation can help relieve all these problems. Many people with chronic health problems benefit enormously. For instance, Alain suffered from severe stomach cramps and a nauseous feeling for years. Doctors had no idea what was causing it, but within two weeks of learning and practising deep relaxation twice-daily the pains were much reduced, and after six weeks, they’d gone altogether.

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Practical Ways To Relax

Try this:

Sit up straight in a chair with your back and neck supported. Place both feet on the floor, legs uncrossed, hands resting comfortably in your lap. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Hold it for a moment and let it out slowly.

Take another deep breath. Hold it for a few moments, then slowly exhale. Allow yourself to be completely relaxed and comfortable.

Once more, take a deep breath. Hold it for a moment and slowly let it out. Relax.

Now simply sit in silence, breathing slowly, for five minutes without moving any part of your body. Concentrate on being quiet, still, peaceful and relaxed. Then open your eyes.

Always start by finding a time and place where you will not be disturbed. Don’t attempt it if you  need to pay attention to what you’re doing.

If you want to have music quietly in the background choose something slow and calming, such as gentle classical music or specially composed relaxation music. You’ll find it seems much louder once you’re relaxed.

A relaxation session comprises four stages – induction, deepening, autosuggestion/imagery, and termination. Don’t rush your relaxation sessions, and don’t worry about whether you are succeeding or not; this is counter-productive.

Induction

Start by picking a spot on a wall or ceiling and focusing your gaze on it. When your eyes start to tire, count five deep breaths backwards. When you get to one, your eyes will be closed.

Next, focus on your breathing: allow yourself to relax a little more on each out-breath. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to the breath.

Then select one of the following:

  • Sigh breath: take a very deep breath. Release it suddenly, sounding a prolonged ‘aaah’ as you do so. Allow a wave of relaxation to sweep down your body. This is excellent for relaxing very quickly.
  • Three deep breaths: take a very deep breath. Fill your chest and lungs completely (but not so as it becomes uncomfortable). Hold for a count of four, then slowly release. Do this three times. Think the word ‘calm’ or ‘relax’ as you exhale. Increase the count to six, eight or ten as you become more practised.
  • Imagine a cloud of peace and calmness filling your body as you breathe in. When you breathe out, imagine it taking with it all stress and tension. If you like, imagine the cloud having a soothing colour of your choice.

Deepening the relaxation

Next, take your attention to different parts of the body/groups of muscles in turn and consciously relax them. (This is called ‘progressive’ relaxation.)

Relax your toes and feet

Relax your calves and ankles

Relax your knees and thighs

Relax your buttocks

Relax your stomach muscles and solar plexus

Relax your back and spine

Relax your chest

Relax your neck and shoulders

Relax your upper arms

Relax your lower arms and wrists

Relax your hands and fingers

Relax your eyes and face

Now try one or two of the following techniques. Everyone has their own style of relaxation, so choose those which work best for you:

  • Rag doll: Imagine your body as a rag doll, limp and floppy, muscles soft, loose and without tension.
  • Count down: Slowly count down from ten or twenty to one on each out breath. Imagine yourself descending a flight of steps, a lift or escalator one level at a time, letting go a little more with each step or level.
  • Affirmation: When you are deeply relaxed, slowly repeat the following affirmation:  ‘I relax easily, quickly and deeply. Each time I relax, I go deeper and deeper. I am at peace.’
  • Relaxing place: imagine that you are somewhere tranquil such as a garden, beach or special sanctuary. Images and sounds of water can be very soothing. So can imagining the feeling on the warm sun on your face and body.

Once relaxed, create visual images, sounds and feelings and repeat the affirmations that will help you to get what you want from the session.

Triggers

You can easily create a trigger or ‘anchor’ to help you to relax at will. This is how:

When in deep state, gently put the thumb and fingers of your dominant hand together and whisper the word ‘Alpha’. Then silently affirm, ’Whenever I put my thumb and fingers together and say ‘Alpha’, I will instantly and easily relax deeply.’

Within a few days, with practice, whenever you close your eyes, put your thumb and fingers together and whisper ‘Alpha’, you will feel yourself easily drifting down into relaxation.

My mentor became so proficient at this he was able to go deep into Alpha in seconds while leaning on a traffic barrier in London’s Piccadilly Circus. If it can work there, it can work anywhere!

Termination

To finish, first affirm that beneficial changes have taken place in the unconscious as a result of the session and affirm that you are using your deepest inner resources to bring about the changes in thinking, attitudes and behaviour that you desire.

Then, if you are relaxing during the day, count slowly from one to five and open your eyes. Wiggle your hands, shrug your shoulders and move your feet. Tell yourself you’re fully alert, and when you are ready, resume your normal activities.

Alternatively, if it’s last thing at night and you wish to go to sleep, simply drift off (telling yourself that you will wake refreshed and re-energised in the morning).

Conclusion

Relaxation has many proven benefits – studies carried out by leading doctors and psychologists show that this is not in doubt. It is a skill easily acquired through practice. If you find it hard to begin with, don’t worry, just persist. Most of the early problems you encounter will soon disappear, and you’ll quickly find you feel better, happier, more content and more peaceful.

©David Lawrence Preston, 23.10.2018

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The Benson method of meditation

The late Dr Herbert Benson was an authority on relaxation and meditation. He investigated them from a scientific point of view and recommended their use to his patients with great success.

He developed a method for general use which has no religious connotations:

  1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position in a quiet place and close your eyes.
  2. Relax all your muscles, starting with your feet and moving progressively to your head and face. Keep them relaxed throughout the meditation.
  3. Pay attention to your breathing. Breathe naturally through your nose. As you breathe out, silently and mentally say the word ‘One’. Breathe in. Breathe out – say ‘one’. Breathe in. Breathe out – say ‘one’ – and so on.
  4. If your mind wanders, bring it back; it is not necessary to empty the mind of all thought. Stay centred, calm and peaceful. Don’t worry about whether you are achieving a deep level of relaxation; just maintain a passive attitude and let the release happen at its own pace.
  5. Continue for 20 minutes. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
  6. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes with your eyes closed, then open them and sit for a few minutes more. Take a few deep breaths and resume normal activity.

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 17.11.2016

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Meditate and be mindful and all else will follow

Would you like to be able to withdraw from daily hustle and bustle whenever you choose and return feeling calm, centred and in tune with the universal flow? It’s perfectly possible. Millions do it every day through meditation. Meditation used to be regarded with suspicion in the West, but nowadays people from all walks of life are discovering the benefits for themselves.

What meditation is

Meditation means ‘to focus one’s thoughts’ or ‘engage in contemplation or reflection’. It differs from guided visualisation, in which a group leader suggests thoughts and mental images for others to follow, usually reading from a script.

Sister Jayanti of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, a respected teacher, defines meditation:

‘Meditation is the gathering of self-knowledge, the pathway back to inner peace, the restoration of love for yourself, rediscovering that place of eternal, unchanging stillness within, and reaching the highest level of conscious awareness.’

The purpose of meditation

The purpose of meditation is to cultivate inner peace and find the spiritual guidance available to us from within. You are enriched by the wisdom and power it can bring. The proven benefits of meditation are available to anyone who genuinely practises with an open mind.

  • Rejuvenates the body, releases tension and improves sleep and vitality.
  • Improves concentration.
  • Brings freedom from anxiety, fear, guilt, anger and other harmful emotions.
  • Makes us more accepting, tolerant, forgiving and loving towards others.
  • Puts us in touch with our true purpose.
  • Brings greater awareness of self and others.
  • Heightens intuition and creativity.
  • Keeps us centred in the here and now.
  • Allows us to detach from emotions and thoughts and observe them as if happening to someone else.
  • Brings a feeling of connectedness with all things.

Quite a list, isn’t it?

When to meditate

The best times to meditate are first thing in the morning and in the evening. Start with short periods of 10-15 minutes. Gradually increase this to twenty to thirty minutes per session, or longer if you feel at ease.

Practise daily. If you’re pressed for time, do less rather than none at all. Regular short meditations are more beneficial than infrequent long sessions.

Never meditate if you are tired, hungry or stressed or after a large meal or alcohol.

Where to meditate

With practice, it’s possible to meditate anywhere, but ideally find a place where you will be undisturbed, unplug the telephone, switch off your mobile and ask your friends and family to leave you alone. The fewer distractions, the better.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing sit upright with spine erect.

Choose a method that suits you

There are hundreds of types of meditation. Start with a few that are appeal to you. Once you’ve mastered these, you may like to try others.

The following are the most common:

  • Vipassna: the classic Buddhist mediation. Focus on the breath. Slowly counting down from 10 to 1 with each exhalation or just observe the breath.
  • Mantra meditation: mentally repeat a word or phrase that carries a spiritual idea, such as ‘peace’, ‘one’, ‘calm’, ‘ohm’ and so on. Some schools give (or sell) their students a ‘sacred’ sound, usually a Sanskrit word or phrase.
  • Object meditation: Focus your gaze on an object such as a candle, picture, flower or even a spot on the wall. Alternatively, close your eyes and focus on an imaginary object.

The procedure

  • Affirm that you are relaxed and peaceful, then take your attention to your breathing. Don’t try to change it – just be aware of it. Imagine you are breathing in Creative Intelligence and connecting to your Inner Power.
  • Maintain a passive attitude. Don’t try to stop thinking, just watch your thoughts and stay detached. Whenever your mind wanders off, gently bring it back. Gradually your thoughts will slow down.
  • Follow your chosen method.
  • Finish by opening your eyes and gently bringing your awareness back to your surroundings. When ready, get up and ease yourself back into the business of the day.

The meditation experience

You may find your first few meditations frustrating. The mind is easily distracted, but don’t worry, a wandering mind is part of the process.

At first you will probably experience much the same state of mind in meditation as you do in life generally. If, for example, you are prone to anxiety, your early meditations may not be calm. But keep going -with practice it gets easier.

Don’t expect every meditation to be the same nor progress to be smooth. All meditators, however well-practiced, find that some sessions are better than others.

…………….

The Buddha said, ‘Meditate and be mindful, and all else will follow.’ So take daily time for quiet reflection. Focus on your Inner Power and let it guide you.

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 17.11.2016

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How to meditate

Meditation is highly beneficial and easily learned. I recommend you start with the method developed by the late Dr Herbert Benson – a leading health researcher – and his colleagues.  It is effective and has no religious associations.

  1. First find a quiet place, sit quietly in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Sit in a firm-backed chair with spine erect and hands either on the lap or the arms of the chair; or cross-legged on the floor with hands in lap.
  2. Relax all your muscles in turn, starting with your feet and moving progressively to your head and face. Affirm, ‘I now relax and let go’. Release any tension gently, and turn your thoughts inward.
  3. Pay attention to your breathing. Breathe naturally through your nose. Don’t force it. As you breathe out, silently and mentally say the word ‘One’. Breathe in. Breathe out – say ‘one’. Breathe in. Breathe out – say ‘one’ – and so on. When you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in Universal Consciousness, connecting you to your inner power and integrating it into all aspects of your existence.
  4. If your mind wanders, keep bringing it back; it is not necessary to empty the mind of all thoughts. Stay centred, calm and peaceful.
  5. Just maintain a passive attitude and let it happen at its own pace. If necessary, stretch, or get up and move around and try again.
  6. Don’t worry about achieving a deep level of relaxation. Worry interferes with the process, and in any case the more you practise, the easier it becomes.
  7. Build up slowly. Meditate for 10 minutes at first, then build up slowly to 30 or 40 minutes or even an hour. You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
  8. To finish, sit quietly for several minutes with eyes closed, then open them and sit for a few minutes more. Take a few deep breaths and ease yourself back into normal activity. When finished, get up and go about your usual business.

Meditation is not complicated. Practice, but don’t expect miracles. You may find your first few meditations frustrating, but don’t worry, a wandering mind is part of the process. Some sessions are bound to feel better than others and there will be periods when you seem to be making no progress. This is quite normal.

When you learn to meditate, you take huge strides forward in other areas too:

  • You become more aware and accepting: of yourself, other people and what is going on around you.
  • You are more aware of synchronistic events, and able to make sense of them.
  • You understand that everything and everyone is exactly as they should be. (Before you protest that there are too many injustices in the world to take this view, please appreciate this is not a recipe for inertia and complacency. If you decide change is necessary and resolve to do something about it, this too is exactly as it should be.)
  • You become more forgiving: you gradually cease bearing grudges, clinging to resentment and looking for someone or something to blame.
  • You are in touch with the voice of your inner conscience, and have the courage to act on it.
  • You realise that the only certainty in life is uncertainty: that everything is impermanent and nothing ever stays the same.

When you meditate, you experience a state of inner tranquillity that can carry you through even the most stressful situations. Your inner self assumes a progressively greater role in your life, bringing feelings of happiness and peace previously unimagined. Isn’t that exactly what you want?

You probably won’t have any extraordinary mystical experiences, but this isn’t the point; your life will certainly change for the better!

©David Lawrence Preston, 30.6.2016

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The busy mind is like a muddy pond

Bmth pond

Deep inside us, at our very core, is a place of absolute peace and stillness where we become aware of the loving Presence at the centre of our being. But first we have to clear away the foolish thoughts and emotional fog which obscure it. Thinking too much is like over-eating – it brings a kind of mental indigestion which creates needless anxiety and stress.

The busy mind may be compared to a muddy pond. When agitated, mud rises from the bottom, the water becomes cloudy and light barely penetrates beneath the surface. When the pond is still, the mud settles, the sun shines through and the pond becomes visible right to the bottom.

Similarly, when the mind is still, thoughts settle down and Higher Consciousness lights up every nook and cranny. Then we are receptive to an inflow of spiritual energy which uplifts and inspires.

©David Lawrence Preston, 25.6.2016

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Meditate and be mindful

‘Meditate and be mindful, and all else will follow.’

 The Buddha

Meditation means ‘to focus one’s thoughts’, ‘give attention to’ or ‘engage in contemplation or reflection’. Anyone deep in thought is meditating. Whenever our thoughts are focused on a particular idea we enter a meditative state.

The biggest obstacle to entering this peaceful state is the busy mind, but with practice the mental chatter is subdued and even silenced.

Another obstacle is the intellect – the need to know, to think and to analyse. Meditation is not about getting results, nor is it ‘guided visualisation’. Meditation is simply controlled mental activity which leads to mental stillness.

The power that ultimately shapes and directs our lives is non-physical, i.e. spiritual. Only your spiritual, non-physical, self has the power to really think – not what superficially passes for thought (which is often nothing more than remembering or reacting to habits and old conditioning), but genuine creative and intuitive ‘thought’. This is the only way it can influence you, since it has no physical power. It is the source of your inner power – and meditation helps you make the connection.

Until now, if you are typical of most people, you have probably been so absorbed in your day to day thoughts and activities that you have not given much attention to this inner ‘something’, but if you want to become a fully functioning being and live life to the full, you must be in harmony, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

The Benefits of Meditation

 ‘All of man’s troubles arise from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.’

 Blaise Pascal

In the West, meditation was once believed to be the preserve of gurus and mystics. It conjured up images of shaven-headed monks in brightly coloured robes sitting cross-legged on the floor. However, many people – including many business leaders and TV celebrities – have taken up meditation. They recognise that it’s vitally important for physical and emotional wellbeing to have some quiet time to yourself each day.

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Health benefits

Meditation helps rejuvenate mind, body and spirit, so you can cope better with time pressures, the demands of others, and fatigue.  It puts you in charge of your own mind, frees you from past programming and conditioning, and detaches you from fears about the future.

An undisciplined mind is constantly at work, but its activity is largely aimless and unproductive. Restless thoughts come and go, frittering mental energy.

Using biofeedback and other equipment, Dr Herbert Benson, an American physiologist, found that meditation brings about many beneficial changes. In his book, ‘The Relaxation Response’, he described how he induced Alpha and deep Theta levels in his subjects and observed long-lasting health improvements.

  • Meditation helps to reduce stress-related health conditions, including headaches, gastric problems, muscular aches and pains, back and neck tension and immune system deficiencies such as hay fever and asthma.
  • People who meditate frequently have more energy and need less sleep. They are less prone to insomnia.
  • It relieves depression and helps with other emotional problems. Doctors who teach meditation find they reduce their prescribing of medication.
  • Research has also shown that regular meditation can slow down the aging process. Practitioners look and feel younger.
  • Meditation can also be a powerful tool to combat degenerative illness. E.g. cancer patients have achieved remission, and arthritis sufferers have reduced pain and swelling in their joints.

Revitalise

Performance enhancement

  • Sportsmen and women know the importance of a quiet mind if you want to achieve peak performance.
  • Students meditate to help them learn more efficiently, improve memory and cope better with examination stress.
  • Busy people who stay cool, calm and focussed perform better. Regular meditators can stand back from crises and see the bigger picture. They work better under pressure and find they can think more clearly.
  • Entertainers who meditate, including public speakers, feel more relaxed and at ease when performing.
  • It can also improve creativity by balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Emotional Benefits

With daily practice, meditation can help you to:

  • Become more even tempered, happier, less grumpy, less irritable, and more loving.
  • Build self-confidence and become more outgoing.
  • Discover a sense of freedom from ‘negative’ emotions, e.g. if you’re a parent, you’ll cope better with fractious youngsters and employees become less angry with a difficult boss.
  • Reflect on your experiences, make sense of them, and understand the lessons you need to learn.

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Spiritual benefits

Meditation puts you in touch with your Deepest Self. It helps you to gain self-knowledge, find guidance from within and develop a more harmonious relationship with the world around you. The skills are acquired gradually, but in time, meditation:

  • Brings calmness and stability to the world around you (it rubs off on other people).
  • Puts you in touch with yourself as a being of compassion, peace and love.
  • Brings you into awareness of a powerful inner guidance which helps you to develop your full potential.

Experienced practitioners often report a feeling of connectedness with all things when they meditate, as if all the boundaries which divide people from each other melt away. They feel part of a great universal whole – the ultimate state of bliss. And it is within the reach of everybody.

Whatever you want out of life, meditation can enable you to succeed. And it is not necessary to find a guru or pay huge sums for a mantra. The techniques are easily learned and you can practise in your own living room.

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 20.6.2016

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