Monday, January 11, 2010

An Oolong State of Mind

Solitude is a healing balm and my personal antidote for the bites everyday life inflicts. I firmly believe that in order to give our best to others that we must first take the time to cultivate the best within ourselves. As a result, time alone creates a platform to examine one's thoughts, emotions and actions in order to maintain a proper perspective. Solitude encourages introspection, meditation and relaxation.

Most people simply do not know how to relax. Relaxation is a learned skill; however, it is important not to confuse rest with laziness. As Americans, we daily tend to rush to and fro, hurry from task to task, juggle appointments and then brag about how busy we manage to keep ourselves. For fear of being branded a "slacker", we are often tempted to find more ways to "do more", i.e. to overextend, and to devote less time to "menial" chores like sleep. Thinly disguised insecurities tend to create illusions of indispensablility. However, no one is indispensable.

Picture now adding these ingredients to our daily personal roux -- noise, distractions, miscommunication, information overload -- and the result is a life gumbo chockful of frazzled nerves. Have you ever been so fatigued that you lost mental track of the time of day? Or woke up more tired than when you went to bed? If continued, then this path leads to a physical and mental emotional roller coaster for which we just want to see an exit sign. Patience goes out the door. In fact, everything goes out the door. Wait! Please come away from window, put the chair down, and keep reading.

Inhale. Exhale. Relax.

While attending massage therapy school (and after completing my masters program), I studied the physiological effects of massage therapy. The relaxation derived from a one-hour massage, regardless of modality (e.g. Swedish, shiatsu, etc.) is equivalent to four hours' worth of sleep. Actor/comedian Bob Hope, who died a centenarian, was often cited as a strong advocate for daily massage sessions. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the daily relaxation opportunities during my school tenure, my graduation necessitated an increased frequency of these alternative relaxation methods: Pilates and tea.

Oolong tea is the tea type that reflects the relaxation process itself: it starts out very tightly rolled in knots. Apply the proper amount of heat and oolong tea begins to unwind, stretch out to its full leaf length, and releases its taste and aroma. The leaves unfurl more with every infusion, so the flavor profile changes as a result. In other words, we get to the real essence as the tea unwinds. Oolong tea reminds me of our lives: the more invested, the more returned. That sentiment encourages me to get away and enjoy another cup of oolong -- or book my next massage appointment. In either case, it makes an uncluttered mind that much more attainable.

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