No Longer Lazy Busy

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.
~ Mark Black

Gambar oleh Pasja1000 dari Pixabay

What comes to the mind when we hear the word – relaxing? Perhaps a very nice and comfortable laid-back setting where you are enjoying yourself, enjoying massage, on holiday, or staying late in bed doing nothing.

Admittedly, many of us have one or few or many of those moments where we were thinking about tasks we are procrastinating by staying late in bed doing nothing (while doing many things in our head, without getting anything done); or reading our emails during holiday instead of fully enjoying it.

Indeed, the word relaxing has that lazy, non-productive connotation to it that we tend to want it, and simultaneously, feel guilty about doing it. Many of us perhaps also have had at least one episode of being off work sick, intending to get some rest at home, but not unwell enough to not keep on thinking about things we should be doing at work (and try to do a little bit of the works here and there too!), instead of fully resting. I for one, had more than one of those.

While oxford dictionary defines relaxing as “a way of resting and enjoying yourself; time spent resting and enjoying yourself”, it also defines the word as “the state of feeling calm and not anxious or worried”.

For the purpose of this discussion, we will refer to the second definition, which highlights the absence of anxiety and worry. So, it does not have anything to do with the activities. It is actually about the state of mind.

By this definition, we should be able to say that we are actually relaxing almost all the time, should we not? Yes, we can be worry and anxious about many things, but definitely not most of the time, right? Most of the ordinary moments of the day are actually relaxing – no anxiety, no worry.

Is that really so?

Let us have a look at what we notice in mindfulness practices. Herein, we discover that body and breaths tangibly display the state of the mind. A relaxed body that represents a fully relaxed mind is a body that is free from any unnecessary tensions, that is, tensions in all muscles, joints, connective tissues, in any part of the body.

It is important to mention that tensions are not inherently bad. They are necessary for the limbs and organs to perform their functions. Specific to the skeletal muscles, contractions are required for us to move around and lift things. Contractions may also be necessary for us to protect and defend ourselves from danger.

What usually happen is that we continue to contract the muscles when no actions are required and no self-defence is necessary. One example of this occasion is when we are reading texts and emails. When we observe ourselves close and often enough, we will find that there are usually, to a certain extent, tensions in the eyebrow centre, eyeballs, jaws, and shoulders while doing the simple act of reading. Some of us may even be holding our breaths.  All these physical tensions affect the mind, declining the relaxing state in which we were all to be.

Here is where regular mindfulness practice comes handy. When we train our mind to be mindful of our body, moment to moment, we are able to be aware of the tensions as soon as it is developing, not after it is being ingrained and affects our whole state of being, which in turn affects our actions and speech. The awareness, in and of itself, is liberating. The moment we are aware that we are not relaxing, we start to be more relax. We may not be able to relax completely yet, but being a tiny bit more relax is a good place to start.

At the end of the day, mindfulness practices would enable us to relax regardless of activities. We can become fully occupied and yet so relaxed that the mind is clear and luminous. We no longer busy looking for ways and places to relax, trying to escape from the worry and anxiety, only to bring the worries and anxieties with us.

No longer are we lazy busy, because the source of relaxation is always here and now, within.

Within you, there is stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.
~ Hermann Hesse

Mengelola Rasa Takut

Setiap dari kita sudah dan akan mengalami rasa takut. 

Takut adalah emosi, dan semua emosi netral dan ada manfaatnya. Takut mengingatkan akan adanya sesuatu yang mungkin tampak berbahaya bagi kita. Karenanya, ketika takut datang, janganlah kita takut. 

Gambar oleh Tim Trad dari Unsplash

Menyadari keberadaan rasa takut, dan juga rasa-rasa lainnya, akan mengasah kepekaan kita kepada keberadaan nafas, tubuh, dan pikiran. Bagaimana nafas kita? Apakah cenderung lebih cepat? Sensasi tubuh apa yang dirasakan? Apakah jantung terasa lebih berdebar? Apakah tubuh kita berkeringat, walau suhu ruang tidak panas? Apakah ada pikiran yang muncul sebelum dan/atau sesudah rasa takut itu tersadari? Misalnya, takut karena nama baik menjadi buruk, takut karena dosa, atau takut karena hal lainnya? 

Alami dulu semuanya seapa-adanya. Tidak ditolak, tidak dienyahkan, tidak dibahas, tidak dihakimi. Cukup sadar diterima. 

Ketika kejernihan hadir, maka, jika dirasa perlu tentunya, kita bisa mulai untuk memahami dari mana rasa takut itu datang, lalu memilih respons yang diperlukan, termasuk tidak memberikan respons. 

Semua rasa, termasuk rasa takut, akan datang dan pergi, dan bisa muncul kembali dalam berbagai bentuknya. Sadari dulu, jangan otomatis bereaksi, dan tidak perlu langsung ditanggapi. Kian kita berlatih, kian kita leluasa memilih tanggapan yang diperlukan, termasuk tidak menanggapi. 

Berkesadaran akan membiasakan kita untuk menyadari rasa takut itu dan berjarak padanya. Berjarak artinya bersikap bahwa kita bukan rasa takut itu, sehingga kita tidak mengatakan ‘saya takut’, namun ‘ada rasa takut’. Berkesadaran, karenanya, juga mengingatkan  agar kita tidak larut dan bahkan tidak dikendalikan oleh rasa takut itu. 

Berkesadaran, tidak menghilangkan rasa takut, tapi menyadari rasa takut. Karena berani, bukan berarti menihilkan rasa takut, namun menyadari,  jernih merespons, walau rasa takut itu masih ada.

Bersahabat dengan Rasa Marah

Marah, sebagaimana semua emosi, bersifat netral, dan justru baik karena mengingatkan. Marah mengingatkan adanya perbedaan antara harapan dan kenyataan. 

Gambar oleh Caroline O’Brien dari Unsplash

Berkesadaran (Mindfulness) membuat kita  peka akan segala rasa, termasuk rasa marah. Berkesadaran akan melatih kita untuk peka akan hadirnya rasa marah, dan memilih dengan jernih, bagaimana menindaklanjutinya, hanya ketika dirasa perlu. 

Kalau kita masih sering mudah meluapkan amarah kita, Berkesadaran bisa dipertimbangkan sebagai opsi untuk mengelolanya. Berkesadaran membuat kita menyadari dan berjarak dengan segala emosi, termasuk rasa marah. Jadi emosi-emosi tersebut disadari dan diterima. Dengan menerima, terkadang ia akan luruh dengan sendirinya. 

Namun bukannya tidak mungkin ia menetap bersama kita cukup lama, karenanya kitapun perlu menemani rasa tersebut, tanpa larut ke dalamnya. Cukup dirasakan rasa marah tersebut yang bisa saja juga muncul dalam bentuk nafas, tubuh, dan pikiran.

Bisa juga ia hilang, namun datang kembali. Kita perlu berlatih menyikapinya dengan cara yang sama: sadari, terima, tanpa larut. Demikian selanjutnya, sehingga ia tidak merasa dihempaskan, dan ia juga tidak perlu digenggam. Cukup disadari. 

Tentunya sikap-sikap ini perlu terus dilatih. Dan sebagaimana manusia, bisa saja kita terlanjur meluapkan kemarahan itu. Janganlah kita tambahkan rasa marah yang sudah terlanjur diluapkan itu dengan rasa marah yang baru, namun sekali lagi cukup disadari, bahwa kita sempat tidak sadar dengan ekspresi meluapkan kemarahan itu. 

Tidak ada salahnya kitapun mulai Berkesadaran untuk memahami dari mana rasa marah itu muncul, bukan sekadar Berkesadaran akan rasa marah tersebut. Seringkali bukan kejadian atau kata-kata yang kita dengar, yang dirasa  kurang pas atau perlu kita perbaiki, tetapi kemarahan muncul karena keberadaan ego kita yang terusik. Sebagai contoh, identifikasi kita cenderung dijaga sebagai kebenaran absolut. Suku, agama, ras, adalah identifikasi yang rentan untuk terusik menjadi marah. 

Kian kita berlatih akan hadirnya dan asalnya rasa marah ini, coba tanyakan hal ini dengan tenang:  tanpa kehadiran yang lain, siapakah yang akan disakiti oleh ia yang ingin menyakiti? Seringkali, justru kehadiran kita – kesayaan / ego –  adalah sebab dari rasa sakit. Kian kita berjarak dengan ini, kian marah justru memberikan fungsi terbaiknya: ada yang berbeda antara yang diharapkan dan kenyataan. 

Lalu dengan jernih, coba kita perhatikan. Apa yang sebenarnya diharapkan?  Apa yang dimaksud dengan kenyataan?  Langkah apa yang perlu diambil? Atau bahkan, perlukah ada langkah ini?

Monkey Mind and I

The sky is clear and unaffected by what is happening.
The clouds come and go,
the winds come and go,
so does the rain and sunlight,
but the sky remains clear.”
~ Joseph Goldstein

Try to sit still, do nothing and not think about anything at all for a few minutes or so. An average person will soon find the mind start wandering. Sometimes, the mind seems to have specific issues to grasp. Some other times it just hops on and off, from one thought to another. Just like monkeys, the mind incessantly jumps from one branch of thought to another. So, we call this mind monkey mind.

Now suppose we were to spend these same few minutes in a practice called meditation. It is generally being taught that meditation equals to focusing our mind only on our breaths and nothing else, which is supposed to be very calming. Unfortunately, this idea about meditation does not correspond to our reality of monkey mind, and this can easily frustrate anyone who try to learn to practice meditation.

What is not being as often discussed is that the meditation practice is a practice where we keep on returning the mind to our object of awareness, be it breaths or anything else. The calming focused mind is the meditative state resulting from the practice, and not the practice itself. It takes practice to arrive into the calming focused mind.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

For many of us, monkey mind drives us mad for two main reasons.

First, it is because we would like the mind not to be “monkey-ish”, while in reality it IS a monkey mind – the mind that just would not obey our demand to be calm and still. So, there is internal conflict between what we want and what it is.

Most of us do not realize that how lively that monkey mind is depends on how busy and agitated we have been during the day as well as how little real rest we allow ourselves. Our agitation and activities energize the monkey. If we wish for the monkey not to jump around so much, then we should remember not to jump around so much either. And yes, that includes not to jump around from one social media posting to another.

What do we then do with monkey mind? First and most important, Stop telling the monkey to sit still, because being still is simply what monkey mind does NOT do. Instead, we can practice being a passive observer. We observe whatever comes into our mind, be it good or bad, the way we observe monkey jumping from one branch to another. Being an observer, we do not jump around with the monkey, nor do we get upset about which branch the monkey chooses to land on. We passively observe until the monkey gets tired, or it runs out of branches to hop on, and it will eventually stay still. As will our mind.

I suppose this is why there is an old Zen proverb that says something like “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour”.

Sometimes the monkey is over-excited that it overwhelms us. In times like these, give the monkey something to do for a while, like counting the breaths, or regulating the breaths in certain rhythm. Practices with breaths are usually calming, that it is easier for us to go back to being an observer again afterwards.

Second, if we happen to have certain issues that are gnawing deep within, the monkey, for whatever reasons, tends to linger around these issues despite our dissent. In times like these, meditation is more of an agitating practice than calming one.

During such episodes, apart from being a passive observer, it also helps to be a good friend to the monkey mind. Most of the judging self-critical thoughts we have towards our own thoughts and emotions, the aversions we have towards our state of mind, would not be anything that we would do or say to a good friend. A good friend is kind, and being kind means being understanding, accepting and encouraging – full of compassion.

So, we do no different towards the monkey mind. Let it jump around, and talks incessantly and tells us stories we do not want to hear, fears we try to hide away, grieves we refuse to let go. We let the monkey mind do so with an open heart that is understanding and full of compassion, despite of temptations from time to time to jump after the monkey mind, or to grab its tail and try to make the monkey stay quiet. Instead, we stay put and be at peace with it. And that, for what it is worth, is the practice of meditation.

As we give our friend, the monkey mind, a space, to be still or to jump around, we learn so much about it, as much as we learn about our being. In this understanding, we can be more at peace with ourselves, anytime anywhere.

“How shall I help the world?”
“By understanding it,” said the Master.
“And how shall I understand it?”
“By turning away from it.”
“How then shall I serve humanity?”
“By understanding yourself.”
~ Anthony de Mello