Skiing, meditation, yoga and sex. What do these four things have in common? They each get better in direct proportion to the degree to which you relax.
Sure, you need to learn certain skills, and you have to practice. You need a good instructor when you're learning, and the equipment involved needs to fit comfortably and make you feel supported and safe. But at some point, after you've gained a certain level of proficiency and ease with the practice, it's no longer about equipment, techniques, or instructions. It's about you, your body and mind, and your world. Your willingness and dedication to show up and keep facing your fears and obstacles, your failures as well as your bliss and triumphs. Whether it's in skiing or yoga or meditation or sex, you will experience all of these highs and lows, sometimes all within the space of a few minutes.
But what's the difference between a miserable run of terror down the mountainside, and one that brings bliss, joy and a heightened sense of aliveness and embodiment and connection to your world and your life? It's your state of mind while you are on the mountain. Your presence, your mindfulness and awareness, your open eyes and open heart, and the magic ingredient: relaxation. If you can’t relax, your trip down the mountain will basically be an experience of terror. And at some point the practice will ask you (no, it will demand of you) that you step outside your comfort zone, into your fears. That's as true of yoga or meditation or sex as it is of skiing. Is there anything in life of which it isn't true?
A Tibetan meditation master once said, "Little relaxation, little meditation. Middling relaxation, middling meditation. Great relaxation, great meditation." All the techniques and props and rituals and instructions are really there as guides to help us get to the point where we can finally just let go, drop our resistance and relax into the present moment. And when we relax, we might be surprised to find how much bliss there is to be experienced right here in the present moment, even on the mountainside that formerly provoked our fears and resistance. We may learn that we are capable of things we never imagined.
Right here, through relaxation, we discover our human capacity to transform neurosis and resistance into clarity and joy. Mind and body are synchronized and we become intimately attuned to the elements of the phenomenal world, to our relationship to it, and to the other beings moving through it alongside us. We can experience this on the mountainside, on the yoga mat, on the meditation cushion, or...well, other places.
We show up, we train, we learn, we practice, we succeed and fail, we keep practicing, and then at some point the magic happens: we relax. And when we relax, we open to a deeper dimension of our human experience—glimpsing the space of joy, freedom, and bliss that was there all along, waiting for us to open to it.