We think, thinking is good.

We think, thinking is necessary. We value and treasure our thoughts. We all say things such as, “Oh, I think too much!”, “Just stop thinking about it!” or “I should be more present, be in the now!!!” as pearls of wisdom but yet we end up thinking any way.

The reason is because we don’t know what we would actually do to solve the problem if we didn’t think. What we don’t realize is that we think because we are either in emotional pain or physical pain and we are trying to figure out how to get out of it.

Often times, when we stop being caught up in our thoughts we relax, and what seemed to be a problem is no longer a problem. Even if we do need to think about the problem, when we are relaxed, we have much more perspective, we think better and come up with better solutions. Thus we wonder, why did we fret so much? Why can’t we just not overthink and just do what needs to be done or just be calm. If we forgot that we were caught up in our thoughts, we think “why did I need to be so emotional and couldn’t just be objective about it?

When our pain gets triggered, our minds go into the past and thinks about all the problems like it, and then goes into the future and thinks about all the problems that will keep happening if this doesn’t get resolved. So, instead of this one problem, the problem gets amplified in our mind. Then our mind thinks of the perfect place where there are no more problems and the contrast gives us even more pain. Now, we think about all the things in the past and all the things in the future so we can be thorough, so we can see the pattern that will solve all of this permanently so we don’t ever have to feel the pain again. But then the problem becomes too big and too complex or over generalized and no apparent solution appears. This becomes just more and more upsetting and hopeless and yet also more urgent. So, when we notice ourselves overthinking or being upset because we are caught up in our thoughts we say things like, “Oh, I think too much!”, “Just stop thinking about it!” as mentioned in the beginning. But just trying to not think about it like saying, “Don’t think about the elephant!”. Whatever we are trying “not” to do, we definitely end up doing. This is again why we look for a time when we don’t have to think at all, which is imagining a time and a place where we won’t have problems any more if only….

When we are feeling good, complete, and everything is perfect, we will notice that we don’t think. We just enjoy the moment. We are playful, we feel light and we feel good.

So, the solutions becomes enlightenment. A time and a place in the future where we finally won’t have problems because we are all so enlightened, where we have finally figured everything out and we won’t have either emotional or physical pain any more.

This is not so far off. The key is having things all figured out.

In general for most of us the state of enlightenment we seek is where we know everything, where we don’t have questions any more and we know what to do. I would say that this is pretty spot on in terms of a concept. The issue is we have the wrong picture of what that actually looks like. We think that the actual emotional pain and physical pain is going to go away. What really happens is that we learn how to handle it so well that it is no longer the pressing problem it once used to be.

A lot of people have hobbies or their area of expertise that they really enjoy or really love. What you will notice about these areas is that what other people see as problems, you see as fun. You feel so capable that you feel you can figure it out eventually if you really wanted to. It’s like a master car mechanic. Most people groan when the car breaks. A master car mechanic won’t even flinch an eye. It’s just what it is and you just need to take care of the issue and might even enjoy it. It’s no different then just opening a door or drinking a cup of coffee. With the things we are good at, what most people consider problems, is not a problem for us because we can handle it.

So, the issue is our knowledge then. We need to know enough. So, people go after knowledge. But then we are faced with a new dilemma!!!! Can we know everything????? I mean, everything is a lot of information! Then what “can” we do? What is enlightenment then?

How about this as a definition of enlightenment?

Knowing what we need to know on how to keep the mind calm and the body relaxed regardless of what is happening, in the same manner as when we do know what was going on, so we can best respond to the situation instead of reacting to it.

In short, it is the study of how to stay relaxed regardless of the challenges that come at us. To know everything not possible. To understand how to relax the body under the stress, possible.

The genius of this approach is that we are mastering that one thing we claim as a reward, the effortlessness that come only after years of hard work, as a way of living your life. Instead working hard to get to effortlessness, we start with effortlessness. Instead of relaxing after we reach proficiency, we start with relaxation to reach proficiency. Once we master this, everything becomes effortless.

So, what to focus on then when we are stressing out, when there is a problem? We would want to focus on those things that would impact our relaxation and calm our state of mind.

The Taoist have found the following impact our body and state of mind:
Form (posture and expression)

In SUN SHEN we use the acronym CBARS which stands for
Slow movement/Synchronous movement

When you are feeling tense and your mind caught up, do the following:

Consciousness is the exploration of where to place our attention and awareness in order to have more relaxation. When we are more relaxed, there is movement, and when there is movement, we breathe, and when we breath, we straighten ourselves. By consciously becoming aware of our tension, and then directing our attention to either movement, posture, expression, breathing or relaxing we can find more relaxation.

One key thing to understand is that if one of the 5 is in effect, the other is also in effect. For instance, there cannot be movement if the muscles are tense. So as long as there is movement, we know that the muscles are relaxed. In order to straighten our posture and smile which is the form at which we are most deeply relaxed, we need to move, since without movement we cannot straighten or change our expression. In order to take in a deep breath, we need our torso to be straight or otherwise the lungs cannot decent properly into the belly but will be cut off at our chest. Again, for that to happen we need to have good form, but in order to have good form, we need to stand straight and in order to do that, we need to be able to move and in order to move, we need to relax. But some people stand straight and then lock their muscles in a straight posture. But if we are relaxed, we should be able to move our diaphragm to breath, so again, true relaxation is when there is movement on the inside and where the form is good, and the muscles are not tense so they can move, which means we are relaxed. All this won’t happen unless we are conscious of all 4 aspects of relaxation.

Once we start being conscious of the dynamic of these 5 things that effect relaxation, we start seeing whether we can achieve this in every aspect of our interaction and in every aspect of our body. For instance, in a meeting we may notice that we are caught up in thought and we bring awareness to this and we notice that our forehead is tense and our brow is furrowed. We relax our 3rd eye and clear our thoughts. Then we often notice that our jaw is tense and our head is forward. We move our jaw, loosen it while pushing our head back and up to straighten our posture. Our muscles still feel full and tense even after letting go of the muscles, so we bring gentle breath into those areas that are no longer breathing, and we expand that breath until we feel our whole body. While we are doing this, we notice that our chest is caught up and our diaphragm is tense. We do a few small quick breathes to flutter the diaphragm to get it moving until the breathing resets and our full breath returns. We feel our chest letting go and our breath starting to reach our belly. Then …. so on so forth.

Now, while we talk to people we doodle, we thing of other things and we distract ourselves all the time. Instead of doing these things, if we bring our mind to these different aspects of our being, we will be more and more present and we will no longer be caught up in the circumstantial things. Instead we will gain more and more understanding of how our being responds to circumstances. Since our mind is present with how to be, instead of thinking of what to do, what to say to the changing circumstances, we can respond with being more calm, being more relaxed, being more honest, being more contemplative. This will allow us to be more centered and be more in contact with what we can do in the moment and prevent us from flailing about with reactions that we will regret later. For example, if we don’t know, we will just say, “I need some more time to get back to you” instead of trying to give an answer in order not to look bad because we are emotionally flooded.

If we can respond like that… Whew! Who needs to know everything? We will feel safe because we can trust our own actions to not jeopardize ourselves any more. Now, that would be safety. We can face any stressful situations if we can just relax.

Alexis Neuhaus