find your still point
When neuroscientist Richard Davidson wired up Ricard Mattieu’s skull to 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin, his brain produced a level of gamma waves (those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory) 'never reported before in neuroscience literature'. He was meditating on compassion at the time when scans showed excessive activity in his brain's left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart. This, scientists say give him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced inclination towards negativity. According to researchers, Matthieu Ricard is the world’s happiest man. Ricard left Parisian intellectual life as a biochemist and moved to India to study Buddhism where he learnt the value of meditation. Achieving happiness, he believes, requires the same kind of effort and mind training that any other serious pursuit involves.
New research shows the simple act of becoming relaxed can have surprising health benefits. More than the obvious, relieving stress and mental tension, new findings show that deep relaxation, if practiced regularly, can strengthen the immune system and produce countless medically valuable physiological changes. Daniel Goleman writing for the New York Times reports that relaxation training for asthmatics has been found to widen restricted respiratory passages. In some diabetics, relaxation can reduce the need for insulin. In many patients with chronic, unbearable pain, relaxation training has brought about significant relief. What’s more, research shows relaxation may lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and prevent disease by making participants less susceptible to viruses.
Achieving a deep state of relaxation is not as easy as it seems. Most people live their lives alongside immense external stimulation. Power tools, billboards, communication, time constraints and busyness keep us wired and alert. Internal dialogue beset with deadlines, worry, financial threats and social pressure pre occupy our minds. Mostly we aren’t that conscious of the stressors acting on our lives. You must have experienced the feeling when suddenly you notice the power tool next door switches off. Your whole body sighs with relief yet you weren’t consciously aware how long or how horrible the noise was while in full blast. We are overloaded with stimulus that puts us in a continual reactive mode. Stopping everything and sinking into oblivion is challenging, yet, if you do achieve deep relaxation you set up a reference for your body that, when you are highly stressed, you can return to. Our bodies have a cellular memory that can act as a resource when we need it.
Medical science agrees with ancient wisdom that deep relaxation has a profound effect on our health – physically, mentally and emotionally. And doctors are now agreeing that regular deep relaxation helps us feel happier, more alert with more capacity to be efficient.
Franz Anton Mesmer, (1734-1815) was famous for inducing the mesmeric state (we get the word mesmerised from him) He used this state of mesmerism (deep relaxation) to cure his patients from disease. He also achieved anaesthesia with some of his patients who were able to undergo surgical operations without pain. Mesmer was highly instrumental in establishing the therapeutic value of hypnotic power.
Scientists studying deep states of relaxation noted that with regular practice, the neurons in the brain will re-shape themselves, and certain parts of the brain responsible for taking in information, slow down or go off-line altogether. There is a pronounced change in brain-wave patterns, shifting from the alpha waves of aroused, conscious thought to theta waves. This shift enables participants a more positive experience of themselves and a way to detach from negative feelings and situations. Contentment and a real sense of inner peace are naturally experienced.
Cranio sacral therapists are aware that healing takes place when the body reaches its still point. During this time the body registers a healing pulse and an undercurrent of healing shifts the body into balance, emotional energies from tissues are freed, stored energy blocks are released and the cells and muscles align into a new place. The body has natural healing processes that are more easily initiated during stillness.
Healer and author of The Big Book of You, Jennifer McLean explains how still points can be found in nature and in everyday life too. Think of how water hurtling down a river curls around a rock and makes a whirlpool. If you look closely you will also see the swirl move in the opposite direction forming an anti vortex. Between the two swirling vortexes is a point of inertia where movement seems to stop. Imagine the internal rhythm in your body and see if you can locate your point of stillness in your own being. McLean believes there is a still point or place of calm waiting for us in every life situation. Although we often create vortexes and sometimes tornadoes in our lives, our opportunities for healing our lives lie in the still points. “In the stillness one can discover a new connection to the divine or the source. This is where the wisdom shows up and reveals the nuances of change that can lead to healing. Here we find the opportunities for healing our life issues. It is in the still place that all possibilities are available,” says McLean.
7 TECHNIQUES TO BRING ABOUT STILLNESS
BODY MASSAGE Touch with regulated pressure on the body is one of the best ways to achieve a relaxed state. Several studies have measured the stress hormone cortisol in subjects' saliva before and after massage sessions, and found dramatic decreases. Many people find it difficult to shut off and discipline themselves to meditate. Going to a Spa with a calming environment and a massage practitioner will do wonders for your health.
GUIDED VISUALIZATION Use a pre recorded journey or make up your own to guide yourself into a restful place. Close your eyes and let your worries drift away, incorporate as many sensory details as you can, if you are in a field of flowers feel the breeze against your skin, imagine the smell of the flowers. Lead yourself through a beautiful relaxing journey and you will notice a transformation in your mood and attitude to life.
BEING IN THE MOMENT Lamenting the past, looking to the future or fixating on worrisome possibilities distracts from being in the present. Being present in the moment shifts all the unnecessary distraction and brings on a sense of relaxation and stillness.
DEEP BREATHING Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many relaxation practices. Slowing your breathing down, and taking longer deeper breaths will calm your system and is a fast way to invoke relaxation.
MUSCLE RELAXATION Progressive muscle relaxation involves systematic tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body. This creates an awareness of what tension feels like in the body and will help the onset of muscular tension that accompanies stress. When the body relaxes, so does the mind.
BODY SCAN Some of us are so unaware of our bodies, we dissociate from the parts we dislike and hardly ever connect or give quality time to all the different parts of us. Lie comfortably and slowly focus on one small part of the body at a time, send it love and regard. Move through your whole body noticing which parts might feel sore, stiff or tight.
MINDFULNESS is being aware of how you are feeling without collapsing into the feeling. One of the ways to do this is to locate a thought, feeling or sensation, follow it, watch it and then release internal thoughts or sensations connected to that thought.