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Relax the mind

The body and mind are like two strands of DNA entwined together in a mysterious contracting and expanding dance with reality. Relax the body and we relax the mind. Relax the mind and we relax the body. So it seems like a simple exercise to relax the mind - we do nice things to the body (massage, gentle exercise, listen to music, yoga) and our mind will naturally relax. However, after we have been doing this for a while we might notice that it gets us only so far and that there are deeper states of relaxation that we might cultivate if we knew how. We might also sense that 'we' are preventing ourselves from letting go further because 'we' might disappear. Luckily this is not the case.

So, we are relaxed but our mind is not totally at ease. There are two ways to take it a bit further. We can either:

- focus our mind on something neutral and use the magical ability of the mind to become whatever it focuses on. If it pays attention to something soothing then it becomes soothed; it absorbs itself into the object. The more absorbed it gets the more gathered it becomes, until it reaches a state where it is totally present yet relaxed. This is known as absorption concentration and leads us into mind states called the jhanas. More on this another time.

- become aware of the mind and just let it do what it does naturally without any interference from ourselves. We let it hear sounds and we just leave them as sounds. We feel sensations in the body and leave them as sensations in the body. The mind perceives, and we take it no further. In effect, we leave the mind in autopilot and refrain from getting involved in proliferating thoughts. This is known as momentary concentration. Things arise, we perceive, they go away. No desire to go after a thought or be caught in something. Just letting the mind be.

Obviously, reading about relaxing the mind and actually relaxing the mind are different exercises entirely. It's interesting to have a go and see what happens. You might notice some distractions that get in the way ... but it's all part of the process. Ultimately, we don't disappear but we connect with a deeper part of ourselves that is ever present but somehow hidden.

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It all starts with the body. Your body is your greatest asset.

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During the day: try it standing up, or in everyday situations. Notice what undermines your attempts to do the practice.

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This appears to be a common pattern. We do our mindfulness course expecting to be transformed, we feel a bit better on the course, a week after the course we find that nothing has changed. There's also the case of people who have been doing meditation for ages and yet they still feel as depressed and angry as they did when they started.

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Why does it come and go?
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