Relaxation is found by changing the focus of your concentration. How can we relax the mind? The brain gets tired when it is overused in one area. When we worry too much, or work too hard, the “worry cells”, or the “thinking cells” get exhausted. The typical solution is to become passive (to watch a movie, to lie in the sun, or to go to sleep.) This helps, but only temporarily. The mind usually returns quickly to worrying or thinking about work.
The answer is to give the mind a new activity to concentrate on so it can rest the area of the brain that is over-used. A hobby, a sport, yoga postures, or a change of environment can all give you real and lasting relaxation. But, be sure they are done as a means of relaxation. If you want to use tennis to relax, then play tennis, don’t work on your tennis game.
For me, [Jyotish] my newly acquired activity of painting has been a wonderful gift. It relaxes and uplifts me at the same time, and I can return to its refreshing well as often as I want. Deep meditation, beyond mental restlessness is, of course, the best cure of all.
Relaxation is made possible by putting everything in proper perspective. No matter how challenging things may seem in the moment, ask yourself, “How will I feel about this in a week?” Try to create a distance between yourself and the crises that come into your life. They are not you, and can only destroy your peace of mind if you allow them. Paramhansa Yogananda used to say, “Don’t let anything get the goat of your peace.”
Relaxation is based on the ability to feel at home in yourself wherever you are, understanding that all you need is provided freely by God. No matter how unusual your circumstances, or what turmoil may be happening around you, try to view life as part of a drama being enacted around the center of your own peace.
I remember an incident that happened in 1976 a few days after the forest fire that burned Ananda to the ground. Since our home was lost to the fire, we were staying temporarily in one of the remaining dwellings. One afternoon while we were enjoying a cup of tea, a Red Cross worker knocked at the door. “I’m looking for the fire victims to offer them assistance,” he said.
We calmly replied, “Oh, thank you. We’re part of the fire victims.” Confused by our composure, he tried to explain that he meant the people whose homes and possessions had been destroyed by the fire. When we assured him that we had indeed lost all our material belongings, he stared at us incredulously. Although we’d lost everything outwardly, we hadn’t lost our ability to relax in the comfort of our inner home of peace and security.
Relaxation is achieved by practicing deep, regular breathing even in the midst of outer turmoil. Take time throughout the day to step aside by yourself and deeply inhale through the nose for a count of eight to ten, hold the breath for the same count, and then exhale also through the nose. Do this five or six times and you will immediately feel a deep sense of relaxation, and peace, fill your consciousness.