Wisdom from Books

<b>Wisdom from Books</b>
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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Happiness and Relaxation

Happiness comes from a relaxed state of mind. Relaxation, therefore, is an important ingredient of happiness.

The contemporary world is like a pressure cooker full of stress and tension. The problem is that some of us are not even aware of it: we simply accept it as the norm through our conditioned mindset that this is life. Yes, we are living in a high-technology world focusing so much on money, careers, children and families, and love relationships-so much so that we have absolutely no time left for total relaxation to relieve stress.

Are you being stressed without knowing it? Train yourself to read the body signs of stress, such as frequent frowning, finger biting, tension in shoulders, chronic fatigue, sweating, muscle aches and pains. If you are prone to temper tantrums, feeling depressed or insecure, most probably you are under stress and duress. Even if you avoid your friends and people, or go on a shopping spree, you may also be under the influence of stress without being aware of it.
Apparently, there are many solutions to stress: vigorous physical exercise, such as an intense workout session in the gym; going on a vacation; or even watching a movie. Unfortunately, most of these so-called relaxation activities or techniques do not provide any long-term solution to stress. As a matter of fact, many of them provide only a "different" kind of stress. For example, going on a vacation may become stressful while planning and booking the trip, or going through the airport security, among others. It is a myth that they afford relaxation for stress relief; the truth of the matter is that these contemporary solutions only stress us in a different way.

To relieve stress and tension, there is only one solution: follow the ancient wisdom of Tao. In ancient China, Tao was a way of life. This ancient way of life and living was based on the profound wisdom of Lao Tzu, the author of the ancient classic entitled "Tao Te Ching," which was published some 2,600 years ago. This world-famous book with only 5,000 words has been translated into multiple languages due to its profound and intriguing wisdom.

How does this ancient wisdom of Lao Tzu solve our contemporary stress-related everyday life problems?

According to Lao Tzu, stress is all in the mind. What is stress to one individual may not be stress to another. Therefore, you must cope with stress through the human mind—more specifically your mind.

First of all, time stress is the major stress factor in contemporary life and living. Obviously, the pace of life in the time of Lao Tzu some 2,600 years ago was much slower than that in this day and age. But there are only 24 hours in a day-this was true in the past as well as true in the present. Unfortunately, many of us wish we had more than 24 hours a day to finish all our chores. It is this wishful thinking that creates the mental as well as the physical stress. Instead of prioritizing, we want more time to accommodate all our "wants" instead of our "needs." The contemporary mind is pre-conditioned into thinking that "more is better" or "more for more": that is, the more effort we make, the better result or the more we can accomplish. This mindset, however, is contrary to Lao Tzu's wisdom in "less for more." Essentially, he believes that the more effort we exert, the more stress we create for ourselves, leading to more problems, and hence "the less" we are going to accomplish in the end. Lao Tzu believes in "less for more" or "not over-doing" which is doing the minimum. By relaxing and letting things run their natural course without expectation, we, ironically enough, maximize our effort or endeavor.

Time stress is a major stress that deprives us of relaxation: we cannot relax the body and mind, and we simply have no time to relax. But the underlying cause of time stress is not the amount of work that needs to be done or the amount of time we have, but the presence of the ego-self.

What is the ego-self? The ego-self is the self-image we have delusively created for ourselves in our minds. Contemporary wisdom focuses so much on the self, such as self-confidence, that everything around us becomes related to the self. Thus the ego-self is the self-image that we have consciously or subconsciously created in our minds based on our experiences in the past, as well as our expected outcomes projected into the future in our minds. But the past is gone, and the future is uncertain. As a result, the ego-self based on the past and the future is unreal. Without the ego-self, we have no expectations, and with no expectation, we have no stress. If we live only in the present moment, neither recalling the past nor expecting the future, we feel deep relaxation of the body and the mind. With a relaxed mind, we are then able to see more clearly what we must do, and so we need to do only the minimum without creating undue stress.

To sum up, Tao wisdom in letting go the ego-self that will lead to no expectation, resulting in no over-doing, holds the key to total relaxation. To attain this ancient wisdom in relaxation, focus on others, instead of self; live in the present moment, instead of recalling the past and anticipating the future. This can be accomplished through practicing total awareness of body and mind, such as meditation, mindfulness, and compassion.

Stephen Lau 
Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

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