Preksha Dhyana: Self-Awareness By Relaxation ► [5] Benefits Of Relaxation

Posted: 09.03.2010

Any wise person, before undertaking an exercise, will think about its result. A practitioner (being wise) will also do the same. He would like to know what are the benefits accruing from the exercise of relaxation. It is a reasonable expectation. Many benefits on various levels accrue from this exercise. In this chapter we shall discuss briefly what one may expect to get on physical, mental and spiritual levels. In particular, we shall discuss:

  1. Relief from tensions,
  2. Concentration,
  3. Development of 'Knowing and Seeing',
  4. Realization of spiritual self, and
  5. Development of wisdom.

Four Stages

In the first stage of relaxation, one learns to keep still and stop all voluntary movements. The turmoil due to restlessness vanishes and an acute sense of relaxation and relief from tension is experienced. There is some improvement in psychosomatic diseases such as hypertension and in due course this becomes measurable.

In the second stage of relaxation some further benefits accrue:

  • There is soothing effect on the nervous system.
  • Changes in the electric activity of the nervous system and brain take place (soothing alpha waves may be produced at will).
  • Rate of metabolism slows down and the need for oxygen is drastically reduced.
  • Control is established on the involuntary or smooth internal muscles. The level of excitation of these muscles is reduced and they are less tense.
  • Operational efficiency increases.
  • There is an increase in the capacity for bearing environmental changes such as heat, cold etc.
  • Alertness sharpens the intellect.
  • Concentration is easily achieved.

In the third stage, self-awareness increases and the physical body remains in the background. The subtle body is clearly identified and sometimes can be separated from the gross body. Perception is more acute and is considerably more than the normal five senses.

In the fourth and final stage, the separateness of the body and spiritual self is complete. Self-awareness is constant and without hindrance.

Relief from Tension

The most obvious and measurable benefit accruing from relaxation is elimination of tension. Anybody who practises regular relaxation will get rid of his tensions in a short time and would remain relaxed, calm and unperturbed in any situation. It not only relieves tensions but revitalizes the organism. Gone is the heaviness and congestion, and the practitioner feels that he is floating above the ground. The feeling of lightness of the body is not so important. More significant is the relief from mental load and heaviness. Regular practitioner never suffers from mental disorders.

Freedom from Turmoil

Our body is constantly agitated and in turmoil. Electric impulses keep the muscles magnetized and contracted. There is no rest. Relaxation starts when there is suspension of all movements. The whole body is inert and static.

We have a voluntary nervous system and an autonomic nervous system. First we inactivate the voluntary nervous system and stop all voluntary movements of the skeletal muscles. As the practice continues and the muscles begin to relax and drain out the tension, turmoil dies down and in due course is completely gone. When the control on the voluntary nerves is firmly established, the autonomic nerves also calm down. The vital activities of the body are the province of autonomic nervous system and are not generally under voluntary control. But as the relaxation progresses, these activities also calm down. Breathing slows down and the number of breaths per minute is considerably reduced. The heart-beat and the circulation of blood also slow down. Rate of energy-metabolism is reduced and the need of oxygen is drastically cut down. All the needs and necessities of the organism are reduced to a minimum and an unprecedented peacefulness prevails in the absence of turmoil.

Revitalization of the Organism

On the physical level, benefits of relaxation are obvious and measurable. The sensory nerves are always loaded with the continuous task of collecting and despatching information. Motor nerves are similarly engaged in transmitting messages from the brain to the muscles, glands and other tissues and producing action. The work is tiring and there is no respite. Relaxation provide much needed rest to the nerves and neurons. They are free from the load of their onerous duties. The rest gives them a chance of recuperating. The flow of vital energy saved from being wasted in producing tension now revitalizes and rejuvenates every tissue and cell. There is no wonder, therefore, that relaxation can relieve fatigue more effectively in a few minutes than hours of indifferent sleep. It will also be clear from the above that sleep, during exercise of relaxation, is considered a distraction. However, relaxation may be performed just before retiring for the night to get a more restful sleep.

Those who risk heart diseases because of high blood pressure can strengthen their resistance capacity by practising relaxation. A hundred electronic factory [1] workers, in risk of developing heart diseases because of their high blood pressure, cholesterol level or smoking habits, were given an hour's relaxation session, once a week for eight weeks. Their B.P. decreased significantly. Three years later these workers had maintained lower blood pressure and had suffered fewer incidence of heart diseases than in a control group of patients who had not received treatment.

Perception of Subtle Phenomena

Practitioner of preksã meditation should be familiar with the order of meditation exercise. The very first step of the meditation session is relaxation and stability of the body. This is the pre-requisite of all techniques. Stability and relaxation leads to perception of breathing, perception of body and perception of thought. Only when one is able to maintain the motionless state of the body, one can perceive the subtle sensations of the body and, can know what is happening at organic levels and what is happening at cellular level. The functioning of the nervous system and endocrine system, transmission of electric impulses from nerve to nerve, interaction of hormones and neuro-hormones and the effect of neuro-transmitters on certain regions of the brain are all perceived under deep relaxation. As the regular practice develops, the depth of relaxation, acuteness of perception increases. As higher levels of consciousness are reached, the perception transcends the sensory field and opens the gates of ESP (extra-sensory-perception).

Self-awareness

When the turmoil of the body ceases and one achieves total motionlessness, there is an acute state of self-awareness. The body is forgotten and the spiritual SELF reveals its separate existence.

This is neither imagination nor auto-suggestion but a real experience. This feeling is unprecedented. The separate existence of spiritual self was either derived or believed to be so but never actually experienced.

Let us try to understand the process which brought out this experience. As soon as the skeletal muscles were relaxed, the current flowing in the connecting nerves came to almost zero. The entire motor mechanism became passive and reposed. Very soon its counterpart—the sensory mechanism followed suit. Thus while the spiritual self was quite wakeful and alert, the physical self was gradually becoming bereft of consciousness giving a realistic experience of the separateness of the non-material spiritual self from its material counterpart. The experience is characterized by an actual feeling of floating outside one's body. This is self-awareness leading to self-realisation.

Perception of Aura

Everything—living and non-living—is surrounded by its aura, the envelop of its electro-magnetic radiation. This is normally invisible to naked eyes. The aura of a living being is interaction of material and psychic radiations. In the profound state of relaxation, the aura becomes perceptible. This perception is partly sensory and partly extra-sensory.

When the motionless state is perfect, the ingress from external environment is minimal. In this state, the consciousness transcends the physical body and becomes aware of the activities of the subtle inner body. The awareness of the subtle body affects attitudinal change.

Development of Wisdom

Wisdom constitutes discernment of material from non-material, body from soul, and the physical self from the spiritual self.

Discernment is not mental nor imaginary but real. The process can be illustrated by:

  1. Separation, by churning, of cream or butter from whey:—This is cream and this is whey.
  2. Separation, by crushing, of oil from oil cake:—Here is oil and there lies the oil cake.
  3. Separation, by melting in a furnace, of gold from dross:—Here is pure gold and there lies the dross.
  4. In the same way separation of the self from the non-self:—Here is SELF and there lies the body. This is wisdom.

Body is material, self is non-material. Body is perishable, self is eternal. The separation is real when wisdom develops. It is a great achievement. And the benefit accrues from Kãyotsarg, i.e. self-awareness by relaxation. The realistic evaluation of the body, the physical body, an ally of the spiritual self in his war against the karma-šarīra, is possible only under relaxation.

Wisdom of Abandonment

When the wisdom is fully developed, the capacity for abandonment also develops. Abandonmsnt is then painless whether it is of the body or the sensuous pleasures or the family or the wealth. The capacity is so high that anything can be cast off like a shell at any time without any suffering because there is no attachment. When the capacity for abandonment is fully developed, there is full awareness of the SELF all the time. I am spiritual self and all the rest are just non-self, associated but not identical.

Wisdom is different from intelligence in that the latter is replete with likes and dislikes. This is pleasant and that is unpleasant. Wisdom transcends the duality of like and dislike—attachment and aversion. Equanimity and tranquillity take the place of the like and dislike. The benefit derived from relaxation is substitution of intelligence by wisdom.

As wisdom matures, intelligence takes a back seat and transcendence of gain-loss, pleasure-pain, criticism-adulation, life-death, and such other dualities is natural and effortless. The dualities are replaced by a single entity, equanimity and bliss.

Footnotes:
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Published by:
Jain Vishva Bharati
Ladnun-341 306 (Rajasthan)

Editor: Muni Mahendra Kumar

© Jain Vishva Bharati

Thoughtfully wishing the century point of the auspicious life of His Holiness Acharya Mahaprajna, who, with his versatile creativity having rare equal in the history, is being felicitated on the 247th day of eightythird year on 16th February, 2003
Budhmal Surender Kumar Choria, Chadvas- Kolkata

Edition: January, 2003

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