From Uptight to Calm and Relaxed

I was at the dentist yesterday.  Nothing major, just getting my teeth cleaned.  As I was lying there on the chair I became aware of how “uptight” my body was.  It seemed that despite the relative safety of the event, my muscles were preparing to fight or flee.  It was as though at a deeply unconscious level my body was preparing to lift me off the chair and run.

Each time I sensed this state of up-tightness I would consciously soften my muscles, giving my weight back into the chair, and attempt to relax.  Despite my intention to stay relaxed, within 30 seconds, as my mind drifted away, my muscles returned to that uptight state.  This was such a clear message of how difficult it was for me to stay present.

This practice of paying attention to the tension of my muscles became a meditation for me during the 45 minutes or so that I was in that chair.  And, it amazed to me just how quickly and frequently I moved out of consciousness, and my muscles moved back into a state of fight or flight.  Every act of paying attention, though, brought me right back into the present moment.

How often do you feel uptight?  Are you aware of it at all?  How about when you speak? For most of us, that state of preparing for an emergency and evoking the fight or flight response is present so much more than we are conscious of.  One of the best ways to sense it is becoming alert to that uptight state, where our bodies are ready to lift us off the ground.

This state is especially apparent when we are feeling anxious in front of a group.  It might not be entirely visible to your audience, but if you tune in, you’ll discover how tense your muscles are – preparing to lift you off the ground and take flight.  Just the act of noticing this state will bring you back to the present moment.

I wrote an entire blog post about how to relax into the moment by giving our weight to gravity a couple of years ago entitled The Tai Chi Concept of Sung.

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