Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 3: Does relaxation mean thinking and doing nothing?A: There are many levels of relaxation. The superficial relaxation is the relaxation of the body, whereas deep relaxation is the relaxation of the mind. The body does not become tense by itself; rather, it is the mind that orders it to tense up. Therefore, the body sensations you feel can be said to be a manifestation of the mind.
For example, when an animal encounters danger, it is faced with a choice of fight or flight. In order to save one's life, the body is in a state of being prepared to fight, so an animal's body becomes tense. In our daily life, although there is no threat to our lives, we use our bodies to achieve the results we want, such as completing the report before getting off work, achieving certain levels of performance, etc. This process is no different from that of animals. While animals are struggling for survival, we are expected to meet the requirements and values of the world. The tension and nervousness we feel in the body is only a signal. The real relaxation must start from dealing with the source of stress, and its core consists in our values and attitude towards life.
This is why Buddhist scriptures do not talk about bodily relaxation, but, rather directly start with the "mind". For example, the Great Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness (Maha Satipatthana Sutta, in Pali) talks about the Four Foundations of Mindfulness: body, feelings, mind, and dharmas. The Buddha asked his disciples to be clearly aware of their every move. Just be aware of that they are walking when they walk, and that they are eating when they eat. In the same way, when the body is tight, just be aware that the body is tight. Just be aware of the tightness when the body is tight, and of the looseness when it is loose. There is no need to change or adjust its state of the tightness or looseness. Just like watching a ballgame on the sidelines, be a complete bystander.
However, our minds don't act this way. We always want to transform external phenomena and results into what we want. As a result, we are often vexed by some trivial things, and occasionally a little sickness or discomfort will lead us to rejection and stubbornness. This alone is enough to make the body tense up. The body and mind are mutually influenced, and the more we care about it, the harder it is to relax.
Relaxation and Ease of Mind
Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 1: How do we know that the body is tight and needs to be relaxed?
Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 2: Why is it easy to become drowsy when relaxing?
Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 3: Does relaxation mean thinking and doing nothing?
Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 4: I know I want to relax, but I just can't make it. What should I do?
Q&A about Relaxing the Body and Mind - Question 5: How is relaxation different from letting go and spacing out?
Relaxation for Recovery of Body-mind Balance
Physical and mental relaxation strategies
Resource: Issue 353 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Issue 353 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Translation: James Hsu
Editing: Keith Brown, YKL