I remember reading an interview with the then oldest person in the world. She was asked what her secret was, and I still remember her answer today. I often think about it, actually. Her answer was:
You have to learn how to relax.
As one might expect from the world's oldest person, this is great advice. One of the best, really. It encompasses many great pieces of advice into one simple sentence.
Learning to relax and being able to relax instead of allowing stress to fester inside of us is basically the only skill we need. It's what I would ask for, that's for sure. Why? Let's see.
1. The mind is a con artist.
Our minds are like con artists. They scam us into thinking we are in danger only to sell us their services. These services being thoughts, worries and "what if" scenarios. Keeping these in our minds gives us the illusion of safety. Nothing bad can happen as long as we're prepared, right?
What we failed to realize in this process was that the threat was made up by our minds in the first place. Our heads can sure scam us easily.
2. Life happens, whether we stress or not.
The mind tricks us into feeling that if we stress then we are actually doing something productive. How can anything bad happen if we keep thinking about it over and over and over . . . and over? From every possible angle? For as long as we fall asleep? (If we can fall asleep with all these thoughts partying in our heads.)
But the funny thing (which might not be funny at all, but if you can laugh at yourself then you are on the right track) is that whatever will happen, will happen. Regardless of how much we think and stress and worry.
Stressing changes nothing. The only thing it does is ruin our time. The time that we could be spending relaxed. It's painful, really, how true it is. We could be relaxed if we made an effort, but instead, we choose to feed the constant mental noise. The good news is, we can always start to practice peace.
3. An empty mind is the best medicine.
A mind full of thoughts only makes everything harder. It makes pain worse, feelings more uncomfortable and experiences tiring.
My brain tends to produce anxious thoughts. For example, when I'm going somewhere, my mind might want me to think about all the things that could go wrong. Just to be prepared, of course. Engaging with these thoughts, believing them and following them would cause me to feel anxious. It can even cause me to panic and want to run back home.
But I'm wiser than my mind. I know it's trying to con me. So whenever I notice it trying to offer me these thoughts, I just say "no, thank you" and carry on with an empty mind. Just like you do when someone tries to sell you something on a street corner, you know?
Being without constant chatter in our heads opens up space in our minds for other, more useful things. We become smarter, kinder and more compassionate and patient. (Did you know that fear is the lowest state our minds can be in? An actual neuroscientist said this, not me.) It's not only good for us, but for everybody else as well. Practicing relaxation is good for the whole planet. Maybe even the Universe. Who knows?
A guided meditation talkdown to an empty mind can be listened to here.
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few. ” - Shunryu Suzuki