Hopefully you are already beginning to see that in reality, the response in fact lies within the compass of the old saying referred to above and gives rise to a further question. Although undeniably, “many roads” do indeed “lead to Rome”, were they not first envisaged, then built and set foot upon (as indeed they have continued to be over the ages, by foot-weary ‘pilgrims’) simply because Rome – with all that that entailed and entails for any would be ‘pilgrim’ – was and is there. The journey then, however enjoyable or fulfilling, or (at the other end of the spectrum) fraught with hazard, is above all else, the means to its desired end.
Nor is there any need for despair on our part, since also, in reality, all that was ever sought, from the ‘mists of man’ to the present day, is the same as it ever was; namely, an appropriate and feasible method and strategy to prosper. This – so its multifarious exponents and adherents would confidently claim – can deliver genuine success and achievement in the quest to attain that so illusive “inner communion”. Expressed in a more ‘down-to-earth’ way, it refers to the simple desire/ability to underpin all that we do and that befalls us, with an ever increasing and strengthening sense of inner control over and harmony with life. Few surely would deny that such an acquisition – together with its vast potential for spiritual (though not necessarily formal religious insight) – would represent a significant advance toward that yearned for triune of peace in body mind and spirit. Having then (for the reason hopefully apparent in previous paragraphs) metaphorically so to speak, selected “Rome” as our destination (with all that that entails for those inevitable moments of failure, hardship and need for continuing commitment and perseverance) it may very well, I suppose, be considered to have been attained, once foot has been set on the soil of “The Eternal City’s” furthest flung boundaries. Alternatively – and for others possibly – completion will countenance nothing less than the steps of the Colliseum or the Vatican Palace.
Similarly – and as we have already glimpsed and shall continue to see – relaxation may be perceived as an end in itself. Alternatively, it may be a means and essential pre-requisite to meditation, the trance-like state, or even perception of other forms of extra sensory and so-called “out of body” phenomena. And what about the transitory sense of enjoyment of the means (or journey) compared to the more enduring rewards associated with the end and attainment of our goal? When we consume and hopefully enjoy food and fluid, the regular practice and pursuit of the “what”, “when” and “how”, thereafter amounts to little more than an essential (and enjoyable) preliminary prerequisite to the energy, vitality and good health, which it helps to engender and promote. We eat to live, not the other way round and so it is with relaxation.
On the other hand, let us for a moment assume (again metaphorically speaking) that one’s ‘pilgrimage’ has indeed brought us to the very heart of Rome and the pinnacle of achievement in our quest. Would we for a moment consider that such attainment can thereafter be reliably predicted to somehow deflect or erase entirely every future moment (however occasional or frequent) of gut wrenching thought, paralysing worry and anxiety, whatever its cause? Of course not”! Indeed, one very sound reason for embarking upon such ‘pilgrimage’ in the first place is the all too apparent need for and determination to work through, strengthen and interpret every such possible future experience. In any event, the truth – as we very well know – is that in such moments, we would be as likely to “fly” as to “just relax”; (an instruction, which bye-the-bye, has often occurred to me to be motivated by its advocate’s own interests of the moment, rather than those of its recipient). Of course, we all – to some degree or other – must accept the world we inhabit, “warts and all”. Thus it is likely that somewhere at this very moment in time, some trembling, terrified soul bearing a welter of genuine personal concerns has been or is about to be constrained to “just relax”. Given such realities of life and not least, the not inconsiderable ‘ingredient’ of chronic, unthinking habit in the utterance of such words, I can but counsel the acquisition and deployment of some simple, pre-prepared ‘antidote’. A colleague of mine once told me that he never, for example, entered a dental surgery without a cassette recorder, complete with Wagner tape and headphones and I also knew a hospital consultant who actually resorted to plain and simple cotton wool as (as he put it) his “first line of defence against attack”. (Although to my knowledge he never used it in his clinics).
The aim and purpose then of whatever strategy may best suit, is to keep all ‘noise’ (as opposed to information and helpful advice) very much on ‘the outside’. For what it is worth, my own strategy (which in one way or another is, I suppose, steadily emerging from these pages) is to first, be clear in my mind as to what relaxation actually is and what it is not. This – so I find – facilitates a fairly reliable estimate of its potential, i.e. what I can expect to achieve with it and from it. One other (again for me) extremely useful strategy is simply to draw upon the wisdom of a mentor, belonging to days now long gone. He would simply counsel; “It isn’t the water around the ship that sinks the ship. It is what gets into the ship that sends it to the bottom”.