“The way to develop relaxation is not to instruct yourself. When you become tied up in plans or explanations, you cannot find internal openness. The secret is just to be, without relying on instructions. This may not be easy. We are used to telling ourselves that there is a certain way to be or a certain way to do things. We may even attempt to manipulate ourselves into that mold. When we begin to relax without instructing ourselves there is usually the feeling that we `do not know how to do it.’ As relaxation deepens, however, this feeling of unfamiliarity passes, and there is only allowing and continuing.” Rinpoche Tarthang Tulku, Kum Nye: A Complete Guide to Health and Wellbeing
When Rinpoche Tarthang Tulku first wrote ‘Kum Nye Tibetan Yoga’, the original title was ‘Kum Nye Relaxation’. This was confusing to readers, who might have assumed the text referred to either stress management or leisure activities.
I find the assumption can work the other way, as people come to expect (erroneously) a physical workout from a yoga practice. People might be disappointed by the paucity of exertion during a Kum Nye practice, but then surprised by the depth of relaxation after a session. It doesn’t take long for participants to experience the exercises as, ‘doing themselves’.
The foundation of Kum Nye is deep relaxation, first at the physical level of tension, and then at the level of tension between us and the world around us, and finally, at the level of tension between our individual purpose and the flow of life. Relaxation stands at the center of meditation practice, and a synonym for relaxation could be openness; the ability to be open to experience arising from within and around us. Relaxation opens up the flow of energies that support all dimensions of life, and begins to dissolve the separation between inner and outer.
The ego mind is in a state of struggle or tension, where nothing is quite as it should be, always seeking a slightly different experience from the one that is present. In a sense, there is always a background of commentary or instruction that prevents a deepening of relaxation. However, as we learn to swim, thrashing about eventually evolves into fluidity of movement, as we learn to trust the medium. How then, do we learn to relax?
Rinpiche Tarthang Tulku says that instructions interfere with the process of deep relaxation, and yet some basic preparation is necessary, to create an atmosphere where we can relax. So while we may need initial guidance, we can learn to drop the commentary, second guessing and self evaluation as our relaxation increases, and immerse ourselves as if swimming in the medium of inner life.
The first foundation of Kum Nye is achieved through awareness and intention. We notice, enter and be present with the patterns of tension that arise. The activity of noticing and allowing, with an attitude of curiosity, is the force that activates relaxation. We learn to be in, and not the observers (and thus commentators) of our senses and feelings.
Relaxation could also be called a return to wholeness, where we recognize an inner completeness where there is no sense of lack, nothing missing.
At a very visceral level, we may be ‘holding ourselves up, or together’, in ways that are subtle to us, but which are part of our self-organization and navigation. The result may be awkward at times and may consume more energy than is actually required. As we relax by entering into the patterns of tension, the original cause also dissolves, making more energy available to us.
This is not and need not be a cognitive or psychological process, in fact, our thoughts, beliefs and labels interrupt the healing process which, while possibly initiated by choice, is beyond our conscious control, effortlessly self organizing. It is that we learn to swim in the field of presenting experience, ever open and ever expanding.
Don is a Certified Kum Nye instructor teaching in Victoria, Duncan, and on Salt Spring Island in BC, Canada. For more information and to contact Don email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-897-5576, or website movingpresence.