Relaxation or Meditation
A Misleading Question
The question is misleading. The answer is there is no either-or, as the methods are complementary and serve different purposes.
I learnt first-hand transcendental meditation back in 1996 from Professor Dr. Luh Ketut Suryani, psychiatrist and traditional healer (Balian), and the first expert on meditation in Bali, Indonesia. Dr. Suryani is the founder of the Suryani Institute for Mental Health in Bali, Indonesia.
Prof. Dr. Luh Ketut Suryani, M.D., Ph.D. is professor of psychiatry and chair person of the Department of Psychiatry of Udayana University School of Medicine in Bali. She has a unique background having combined her experience as a traditional healer with her career in Western medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy.
Dr. Suryani has a private practice where she utilizes a special meditation therapy. She initiated and directed The Elder People Movement and Program in Bali, and has taught her own method of meditation to thousands in Bali and abroad. She initiated the International Congress of Psychotherapy. She was exchange researcher in psychiatry at the University of California and has conducted research in Bali, the U.S.A. and Australia. Her two books are entitled The Balinese People, A Reinvestigation of Character and Trance and Possession in Bali.
—See Luh Ketut Suryani, The Balinese People, A Reinvestigation of Character, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
In the latter book, she described a culture specific syndrome of possession in Bali. Dr. Suryani lectures and conducts workshops internationally. She has been invited to Asia, Australia, the United States and a number of European countries.
Together with Dr. Suryani, I was teaching meditation and knowledge about our inner selves to hotel managers in Bali, in 1997/1998, but after a while we had to realize that many Western managers faced major difficulties with learning and practicing meditation. Meditation comes traditionally from the Eastern world and philosophy whereas relaxation has been developed and tested in the Western culture, especially the United States.
Both techniques have their value. Meditation builds consciousness and attention whereas relaxation is known as a powerful tool against stress and stress-related disorders or illness.
As a result of this experience, I have created a technique that combines the positive benefits of both the Eastern and Western approach; it represents as such a unique synthesis of Eastern and Western wisdom, but at the same time a very practical tool for us to increase our potential and capacity to focus, to concentrate and to increase holistic attention. Many people today face difficulties to let go and to accept themselves as they are. We are eager to make us better than we are, and to value ourselves through achievement, be it in knowledge or practice.
Many of us tend to put stress on themselves and get caught in a network of self-imposed challenges and obligations. Challenge is important and a life without any stress would be boring and dull. Yet we can only achieve high if we use our own power, our deep-down potential, and not some or the other projection made on us by others, by parents, partner, friends, colleagues or others that we silently accept.
We have access to this power only from the moment we let go all projections and see ourselves as we are. This means in practice that we stop improving ourselves which namely most often results from guilt-feelings, and accept us just as we are, hic-et-nunc!
Recent research has corroborated the old insight that our level of achievement is closely linked to the level of interest and motivation we have for a particular field or affair. Moreover, researchers have found that when we are bored, part of our brain simply switches off. This can happen when we listen to a boring speech or when we have to accomplish routines over and over, without getting any pleasurable feeling out of it.
Unfortunately, even the most creative human beings also have to deal with routines. We have to work out an idea, to market or sell a product, to arrange, to improve, to train, to repeat, to work over. As a general rule, working out our ideas takes much more time and needs more endurance than producing ideas.
Handle Your Brain
For avoiding our brain to switch, and thus to operate on a reduced energy and intelligence level, we can do crossing, simple but effective exercises that involve both brain hemispheres so that they become more coordinated.
Our brain is functionally asymmetric. Crossing exercises, done regularly, help us to use our brain as a whole, and in a way that both brain hemispheres work in synch. They namely act counter to an overuse of the left brain hemisphere, which is a result of primarily intellectual activities. In addition, they sustain the brain’s natural functioning in an asymmetric manner, that is not right and right and left and left, but right and left, and left and right.
Functionally speaking real asymmetry is the highest form of symmetry, which is an insight great visual artists and also great musicians know about. A striking example is Pablo Picasso whose asymmetrical lines in his mature art works shock many non-receptive citizens, logically so, because ordinary people are conditioned to system-conformity which is but a distillation of symmetrical thinking! While both nature and the genius think asymmetrically!
They also refresh and stimulate and act counter to fatigue when done after meetings, conferences, and during coffee breaks. People report to be more calm and concentrate better after having done crossing.
The Brain Gym Method
Here are two of the 26 Brain Gym Movements created by Paul E. Dennison, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of educational kinesiology. They involve moving your arms and legs in opposition across the body’s midline. As natural as a baby’s crawl, these integrative movements help dissolve the stress of daily life and keep us in balance physically and mentally. Dennison’s research has shown a relationship between asymmetrical movement and asymmetrical thinking, reflecting an imbalance between the intuitive and logical sides of the brain. His Brain Gym moves, including these four, can help you activate the nervous system to promote balanced activity between the hemispheres.
— See: Brain Gym for Business: Instant Brain Boosters for On-The-Job Success, by Paul E. Dennison, PhD, New York: Edu Kinesthetics,1994. The following two exercises are taken from this book.
Stand with your feet slightly apart, arms at your sides. Lift your right knee toward your chest as you cross your left hand over the midline of your body, placing the hand, palm open, to the outside of the right knee.
Return to the starting position, and repeat with the right hand and left knee to complete 1 set. Do at least 12 sets. You can perform this move quickly and rhythmically to build energy, or very slowly to emphasize balance.
Benefit: Synchronizes both brain hemispheres, and promotes balance.
Lie face-up on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your fingertips, unclasped, behind your head. Pull your abdominals in so your spine is in contact with the floor.
Bend the left knee in toward your chest as you cross your body’s midline to bring the right elbow toward the left knee. Lower the left foot to the floor, and repeat on the opposite side (left elbow to right knee). Continue alternating elbow to knee rhythmically for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Benefit: Synchronizes both brain hemispheres, and tones the abdominal oblique muscles.