Giving release a rest

If you have ever done any kind of meditation or guided relaxation (and if you are from the mid-Hudson Valley, do I even need ask?), you are familiar with the very real psychosomatic power of the word “release.” It sure is a graceful, euphonious iamb with its own internal rhyme, a long E slung by a rubbery L toward a little soft hiss at the end like what you get from a spent balloon. Release is a physically beautiful word, pretty damn onomatopoetic. There’s power in that.

Tell your shoulders or your jaw — two chronic culprits in the retention of tension, they say — to release. Time it to the exhalation of a deep breath to get mind and body in concert, and boom. They release. They just do. Imagine things like worry, stress, obsession or hate flowing out your fingers, or blowing off the top your stovepipe head on the exhale and tell me if you don’t actually feel it. Tell me that there isn’t some meter out there in science-land sensitive enough to actually detect it.

Such a powerful word and metaphor, and so congenially synchronized to breath, to the systole and diastole of the heartbeat, and to the periodic phases and wave forms of all our systems and cells.


Sometimes, though, I think it is the wrong message, the wrong metaphor, to send the self. Read on before you consider signing up for my workshop at Omega.

Stress. Cycling, destructive thoughts that you can’t quell or control much at all; the unruliest and most visceral of emotions that twist in the gut and will not stop coming back in waves. If you have never been there, lucky you. If you have, how do you visualize and understand these phenomena? What’s your model?

Do you the understand the pathology and the therapy as a movement of retention/accumulation toward release? Pent up and let go? I certainly did that for most of my life, until intuition began to suspect that letting go wasn’t really letting go of anything, and the more I let go, the more I actually seemed to stimulate the dis-ease, the production of the ill.

I began to experiment with a different model based on inflammation, overstimulation, production and secretion run amok, imbalance. Instead of sending myself the message to release, I sent the admittedly harder-to-visualize message to chill, to fall back into balance and resting equilibrium, to deflame.

Instead of visualizing bad energies flowing out of me, I imagine inflamed things settling, overfiring hydrants and spigots lowering output back to within desirable levels, red things getting less red, puffy things less puffy, the thresholds of oversensitive alert and warning systems recalibrated.

Yeah, I am a psoriatic, a member of the auto-immune disease club, so I think this anti-inflammatory imagery might have extra resonance for me and my ilk. And as a psycholinguistic magic sound, deflame will never have quite the same organic, physiological impact of release, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t bring me closer to stillness.

Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.