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Just Relax: Three Tools to Take on the Most Important, and Most Challenging, Step in Healing

by David Berkshire, L.Ac.

Over this past holiday, I had the pleasure of napping with my one and a half year old daughter for two days in a row; what a treat. However, her naps are much longer than my own. So for two days in a row I woke after a wonderful hour of sleep, and not wanting to wake her (she can be very grumpy if woken too soon), I needed to just lay there for an hour 'doing nothing.'

How hard it is to just do nothing! You have all this 'extra' time and you sit down to just relax and the monkey mind turns on and the thoughts don't stop. This is anything but relaxing–it's actually annoying and the longer you sit there the more busy the mind gets.  And yet, it's such a key to healing. Lonny Jarrett, a gifted scholar and acupuncturist from Massachusetts, once stated, "Most of our clients complaints would go away if we sent all of them to Hawaii for 2 weeks."

I think that is partially true, I say that because learning to relax is hard work!

If we can just relax and let ourselves sink into this very moment so much healing can happen. Just being in this moment is the key to relief from depression and anxiety, and often a gateway to health from everything from chronic pain to recovering from cancer.   Sure relaxing makes sense. I mean all that quiet snow, a nice fire, and the winter darkness and it is still hard to fully relax. You have probably tried setting aside those few minutes every day; you may have taken a class in meditation, gone to yoga or qigong. All these things seem to work for a little while; then we forget to do them or we get busy again.

The Chinese spoke about each season having a personality, and the winter is about stillness and inner reflection. This inner reflection is the thing that revitalizes us and provides the reserves to make it through the other busy seasons. For most of us, the winter is anything but revitalizing, and then we lack the energy to get through the rest of the year.

THE THREE TOOLS:
— MINDFULNESS,
— ACUPUNCTURE,
— AND NON-VIOLENT COMMUNICATION

In 1979 Jon Kabat-Zin, a Vipassana Buddhist meditator, had an idea of utilizing meditation to help patients at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Today his technique of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is widely used in pain management and even cancer treatment.

NPR has a wonderful article about this written back in March of 2007. I have had clients utilize this basic technique that is called the body scan and report back amazing things – 'my back still hurts, but I can live with it'.  On some level I think acupuncture does something similar to the body scan. As clients lay on the table with needles in energy begins to realign, and the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) turns a notch down and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) turns a notch up. Finally you're able to relax at least for a little while.

So what does acupuncture and this Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction technique have in common? Both techniques help shift the body into a parasympathetic state and through this people can reflect on  themselves – more from a place of being an observer. Usually when we reflect on ourselves it is about all the things we could have done better, as an observer we take a step back and this gives us the ability to have a little compassion. Dr. Christine Howard, a clinical psychologist, who just joined our clinic teaches and utilizes a technique called Non-Violent Communication (NVC). This technique similar to those above focus on mindfulness and utilizing the observer. You can find out more about this technique at the Center for Nonviolent Communication. Similar to the body-scan mindfulness meditation, lying down for a session of acupuncture, N.V.C. utilizes the ability to watch ourselves and creates a formalized way to communicate with others. As you begin to utilize this technique you'll find your relationships growing stronger, those places that were difficult to communicate about all of a sudden become a gift to yourself as well as strengthening your relationship.

So what does all of this have to do with just relaxing? You would be amazed that just a few minutes of mindfulness is the key to relaxing. Going back to the story I started with, laying down with my daughter for a nap, I focused on the body-scan activity and slowly that monkey mind calmed down a notch, and a half hour later Sofia and I got out of bed refreshed and ready for the rest of the day. Try to make it a little goal for this New Year to work on Just Relaxing. Implement some of the tools above, look into some meditation techniques, work on Non-Violent Communication, or seek some guidance from one our many dedicated practitioners. As a clinic we recognize health isn't just taking some extra vitamins, or even just changing your diet; nourishing your ability to dive into the winter energy to rejuvenate will pay off ten-fold this next year. So JUST RELAX!

Call to schedule a free 15 minute consultation or to check with any of us. To find out more about everyone at Kwan-Yin Healing Arts Center visit our bio page. Our amazing office managers are always available to point you in the right direction; so give them a call: (503)701-8766. Have a wonderful start to your new year!