Relaxing your way to enlightenment

Dear Integral Meditators,

What is the relationship between relaxation and enlightenment? Is it possible to do both at the same time? The article below explains a mindfulness practice for doing just that; relaxing your way to an experience of your own enlightened nature!

In the spirit of the journey,


Relaxing your way to enlightenment

In the time before meditation and mindfulness became fashionable as a method for relieving stress, basically people practiced them to ‘become enlightened’, but what does that mean? One (not the only) central understanding of enlightenment is simply the capacity to recognize and identify with the state of formless, timeless, pristine consciousness that lies behind and supports both our sensory awareness and our thinking mind. On this level of self and experience we are simply consciousness itself. As such the primal consciousness that lies at the heart of you is the same as the same as the one that lies at the heart of me; we are all just different bodies and personalities sharing the same primal identity as consciousness itself.
For many of you the above paragraph might seem quite abstract, not necessarily something that you find easy to relate to on an experiential level. What I want to do here is to explain how to combine a simple, progressive relaxation technique with resting in your own enlightened nature, so that you can combine basic mindful stress relief and relaxation with the beginnings of enlightened awareness. It is really a very simple!

How to relax mindfully into your own enlightened nature using progressive muscle relaxation
Become aware of your physical body. Take an area of your physical body where you feel tension or fatigue. For a few seconds tense the muscles in that area of the body until they start to fatigue a little. Then release the muscles and relax your body as deeply as you can for a short while. As you are doing so, try and release the muscle tension as fully as you can, and simply rest in the state of pure consciousness that arises when you relax deeply like this. With part of your mind try and pay attention to this experience and recognize this absence of thought and mental activity as the experience of your own primal consciousness or enlightened nature. Go through your body, tensing and relaxing the muscles that are holding tension progressively. Tense the muscles, then relax them and really rest in the state of pure awareness and ‘letting go’ that you experience when you release the muscle tension.

Applying the technique to the mind and emotions
You can apply the same technique to your mind and emotions. For example, you can bring to mind some mental stress that you may be experiencing. Look for the feeling of that stress in your body. Having detected the area of the body where it is, tense the muscles in that area of the body as described above. When you release the muscles focus upon the releasing of the emotional and mental stress as well as the physical relaxation, then spend a while relaxing as deeply as you can in and into that space of open, spacious awareness.

If you do this regularly, over time you will become more physically and psychologically relaxed and gain the ability to deal with specific aspects of your own stress more effectively. You will also become more and more familiar with the experience of open, spacious consciousness beyond the thinking and sensory mind. This experience of consciousness itself can then act as the basis for building experiential intimacy with your own fundamentally enlightened nature. This practice is as easy to do as regular mindful progressive relaxation techniques, but is much more profound.

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

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