“How would you like to feel when you leave here today?”
Over the years I’ve heard my question answered in many ways but there is one intention that is, by far, the one that clients say the most:
What a worthy intention! When we are relaxed, hard things somehow become softer, easier. Tight places become roomier. Annoying things feel more neutral, and maybe even, humorous.
Being relaxed allows for seemingly impossible things to shift and settle into something new, something which tightness and anxiety may not have allowed us to see before. Relaxing clears space for the next and best thing to happen unimpeded; seen that way, relaxing makes better things possible.
I’m certainly not one to tell people who are feeling anxious or tense to “just relax” — it’s annoying, to say the least, and a bit insulting, too. After all, you’re smart and you do your best, and if it were so easy, I’m sure you would have already. But I love helping people relax, and today I want to tell you two things that make relaxing much more likely to happen:
Think of acknowledgment as saying hello to what is there, even when (or especially!) when what is there for you is unpleasant or hard. It’s a nod of recognition, a way of letting the unpleasantness or tightness know that you see it. It’s a little bow of respect. You may not like it, and you may wish it were different than it is but you are saying, nonetheless: “I notice you. Hello.”
Tension, anxiety or whatever word best describes what is hard for you, deserves your noticing and respect. After all, it is there for some good reason. Maybe it is trying to protect you. (Letting you know, for example, not to take on anything else.) Maybe it wants you to remember that “no” is a valid answer needing no further explanation. Maybe your body —through tightness and anxiety— is trying to express something that is off (like how you keep smiling and pretending everything is fine when it isn’t), or out of balance (like when you sit for hours on end, not letting your body get movement or fresh air).
Our bodies hold a wealth of wisdom and I love helping my clients learn to listen to their bodies, but simply acknowledging what is there for you right now and saying hello to that is always a good place to start.
It’s hard to relax when we don’t feel supported.
Imagine you’re entering a room and are looking for a place to sit and the only chair available looks kind of sketchy. You aren’t sure it will support you. If you sit down at all, you’d probably do so very tentatively, holding back some of your weight and then only letting go a little bit at a time until you know that the chair is stable and strong enough.
The support of the ground or of the furniture we sit upon is something we often get to take for granted. Thankfully, most chairs we go to sit in do support us.
Habitually tense and contracted places in your body can become so accustomed to tightness that even when your body is fully supported and by all accounts could be resting, those places may have a hard time letting go. If your body remains on high alert and tight when you would love to be resting, take it as a signal to pause and notice the support that is already there for you. Especially notice the support right under and around the place of tightness. And then, after you have said your “hello I see you there,” take a conscious and deep breath and as you exhale, notice if there is any softening, any relaxing, that is ready to happen.
Yes, it’s hard to relax when you don’t feel supported, but feeling supported can often be as close and as possible as an intention to give a nod of acknowledgment followed by a conscious noticing of the support that is there… it’s worth pointing out that the support is there whether you notice it or not; the magic, however, in this matter of relaxing, is in noticing.
Go ahead. Next time you have a hard time relaxing, practice saying hello, notice the support that’s there, and on your next exhale, see what happens. Maybe, like me, you will hear the ground saying to you: