Relaxation: A Back-to-the-Body Perspectiveown re

To relax, quiet the brain.

To relax, quiet the brain.

Life is stressful just from the nature of it—and our times seem particularly so. Of the three banes afflicting humankind today—namely, obesity, religion-based wars, and depression—I will deal with the third one; specifically, the importance of relaxation for mental health. I will, first, review the basics of the back-to-the-body perspective as applied to mental health. Then, I will mention mental health directly.

Part 1: Balance of Stomach, Brain, and Heart

The best way to look at issues of relaxation and mental health is to consider them from the back-to-the-body perspective. In order to make it simple and to avoid confusion of terminology, we have been using the physical metonymies of stomach, brain, and heart to indicate the three aspects of the human being. Health, including mental health, consists in the soft and inclusive balance of the three aspects.

This balance works in the following way:

  1. The stomach creates through the will. The stomach is the center of life. It sets the purpose of life. This may sound trivial, but “stomach” refers to the thriving force of life, or the soul. It is here that we find love, the joie de vivre, the center of vitality.
  2. Once a purpose has been determined, the brain receives this purpose in order to execute it. The brain, then, is the great servant. It is like a president or prime minister of a country: this person is there to implement the will of the people, to be a servant of the nation, to faithfully execute the will of the people expressed in laws. The brain uses logic and reason in order to establish the means for executing the person’s purpose. But when confronted with a purpose, the brain usually sees both sides: the good and the evil. Most of the time, the brain cannot decide: it could be this and it could be that. With its right side, the brain is enthusiastic; with its left side, the brain is critical.
  3. Fortunately, there is a third force: the heart. The heart has the power to supersede reason. To paraphrase Blaise Pascal, the heart has its own reasons, and reason (that is, the brain) knows nothing about the ways of the heart. The ways of the heart are the Tao of Tao Te Ching. Whereas the brain thinks of justice, the heart considers grace; whereas the brain thinks of reasons, the heart counts on magic and miracles; whereas the brain is dissuaded by difficulties and objections, the heart blossoms in hope. When in full bloom, the heart is the promised tree of life (Book of Genesis).

Part 2: Quiet the Brain to Hear the Heart: Secret of Peace

It was useful to go through Part 1 first, in order to contrast the different between reason and heart. But it is now time to address the question about relaxation, peace, and mental health.

The Brain is Quiet

A peaceful brain brings joy to the heart.

A peaceful brain brings joy to the heart.

Controlling the brain is the fundamental principle of mental health. Remember: the brain is a tree of knowledge. It is filled with reasons for the good and the bad. An untrained person can be manipulated by a run-away negative brain. This person may become convinced that everything is bad—and this causes stress. But with training, such a person can learn to take control of the brain and to offer positive reasons instead of negative ones.

Nelson Mandela, for instance, is said to have used positive self-talk in order to control the brain’s tendencies to become critical, pessimistic, or bitter. One of the phrases he used came from the poem Invictus, by British poet William Ernest Henley: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” The poem is short, and it is worth a read. Take a look:

Invictus
BY WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY
Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.
[Found online here: http://bit.ly/1VhyD3q]

With practice, we can learn to counteract every negative thought with a positive one. There are many techniques to quiet the brain—but it is good to know that all of them will lead to one goal: quiet the brain in order to listen to the heart. The brain is blustering, but the heart is like a healing touch. It brings peace, tranquillity, calm, clear-headedness, vision, and hope. So, go ahead: experiment with various techniques of meditation and relaxation, but know that in the end, it is the quieting of the brain that we need. In softness you will hear the pulsating moves of the heart—and of hope.

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA
September 27, 2015

Photo Credits:

Meditation — Author: Premasagar Rose; Source: http://bit.ly/1iV35zC; Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Joie de Vivre — Author: Georges De Valkeneer; Source: http://bit.ly/1VklHEK; Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

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