The parable of the shoulders

Parable: "A parable is a brief, succinct story, in prose or verse, that illustrates a moral or religious lesson."

(Okay, this isn't really a parable. If I really wanted to write one, I'd talk about a Zebra or Rabbit with tight shoulders, going to two different gurus (perhaps a Gorilla and a Giraffe?) getting different advice. I'm a huge fan of Rudyard Kipling and his Just So Stories, but I find it easier to speak plainly.)

For many, tight shoulders indicate stress. The shoulders ride up against the ears in a universal sign of worry or tension. There are two ways to correct this. The first is to consciously pull the shoulders back and down away from the ears, using the muscles of the back. The other is to identify and eradicate the tension such that the shoulders fall of their own accord.

The former method requires strength, energy, and constant awareness. It is a bit like a dead-man switch, in that when your attention wanders, the shoulders hike up again. However, the benefit is twofold- first, an immediate change is noticed which feels good. Second, one experiences a configuration of the body that is new, and which is now no longer scary.

Of course, this is not a very good long term solution. In particular, one might start causing strain in the back. Eliminating tension is ideal, but a much more subtle task. It is possible! One addresses the psychosomatic cause of the hiked shoulder at the systematic level. It's a bit like taking a systemic pain killer to address pain in just one part of the body.

Meditation is a good way to address this sort of tension. The nice thing about meditation is that it can often address problems you did not previously notice. The body is constantly ravaged by tension, conscious and unconscious, and these knots, hiked shoulders, headaches, etc are evidence of their accumulation.

My own experience with meditation has shown me that one passes through several stages of relaxation. Even if one feels like further relaxation is impossible, one discovers the truth - there was still tension hiding. And this might happen several times during a good sit. Tension and strain like to hide in the deepest places in our body and mind.

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