Work and the Art of Relaxation

February 20, 2014 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: business, Zen.

Are you sitting comfortably?Are you sitting comfortably? No, really, are you sitting comfortably? Reading this on your desktop PC, laptop, tablet or mobile device you may think that you are sitting comfortably but now that I’ve got your attention, you may probably be more acutely aware of your posture than you were before.

Are you leaning forward in your chair? Are your shoulders tense? Is your back hunched? Is your neck craned or are your arms perched on the edge of your desk?

If you are doing any one of, or any combination of these things, then fix it. Let it go. Relax.

And that’s the gist of this post; relaxation. As a conscientious soul I’ve always worked hard but it has been in the last ten years that I have spent more time trying to work smarter. In my thirteen plus years as a web professional I quickly came to the realisation that you can always do things better and that starts with sitting comfortably.

That very act of sitting back is the beginning of that state of mind and body where you can position yourself comfortably, take a deep breath, let it out and feel genuinely relaxed. Then, without tension, you can truly take stock of everything – seeing, feeling, hearing and knowing what to do best.

Sitting comfortably, this physical state of relaxation, is just the start. Maintaining that posture, through awareness and eventually through habit, means that you can then conduct your work and your business in an almost permanent zen state.

I would however add a little caveat – It stems from the fact that some people thrive on a little bit of stress and this in turn introduces a little bit of tension. Dipping in to a book that I found dormant and unread on my bookshelf for nearly nine years, it might interest you to read chapter M of The Mind Gym, entitled The Joy of Stress – in a nutshell, stress starts off benign but too much of it can become a problem.

The chapter describes stress in four major stages; in an upward curve for the first two and a downward curve for the latter two. The first two states of stress are what is called euphoric stress or “eustress”. The third and fourth states are defined as being distress. Without going into too much detail, the four states are then given four tags – chill, thrill, spill and kill. It goes without saying that in work and in life it is preferable to enjoy the euphoria of the chills and thrills but the spills and kills are distressing and you do not want to go there.

It’s not just me who believes in a stress-free existence. I recently started reading Getting Things Done , “the international bestseller” by David Allen, a book with the subtitle “How to achieve stress-free productivity”. I am only a chapter or so into the book, which was first published way back in 2001, but already there has been a great takeaway quote which is:

Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.

Pardon the pun, but that is a very powerful statement and a profound one too. I believe that we have a certain amount of energy everyday that we tap into physically, emotionally and mentally. From my initial thrust of asking if you are really sitting comfortably, I was looking to see if there was any tension in your posture – that physical tension saps your energy as does any mental and emotional tension too.

I would also add, as a past practitioner of karate, that the most effective kicks and punches are delivered with a degree of relaxation. All the moves that lead up to a strike are drilled into a person so that they become second nature and it is the memory muscle that retains the physical order of the actions. A punch, for instance, begins in a particular starting position and is “thrown” at a target without tension. It is only at the point of the strike that tension is reinvested into the move, giving the punch that customary “snap” as the full force is concentrated at the time and in the place that it is required most.

And so, the art of relaxation will not only ensure that you are sitting comfortably, but that you continue to deliver effectively and efficiently too. I have another 240 or so pages to read of the David Allen book and I am sure there will be other moments of synchronicity where what I think will be mirrored in the pages of an already written tome, but I shall keep you posted with any gems of information.

So in the meantime I’ll ask again – are you sitting comfortably?

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