There are many candidates for what I think is the most important word in spirituality. My short list would include presence, non-attachment, non-resistance, breathing, self-realization, stillness, consciousness and awareness.

But there’s one word that, without it, we can’t achieve presence, non-attachment, stillness and all the rest. What’s that magical word?


Surprising, right? But think about it. Is it possible to be present unless we feel relaxed inside? Is it possible to go deep in meditation unless we’re relaxed?

It’s helpful to look at the opposite of relax. Tense. Clenched. Uptight. Resistant. All of those states are anathema to achieving anything in the spiritual realm.

How to relax

How do we induce a relaxed state? We go inside the body and say ‘relax’ in our head; that tells our muscles, brain and every part of our body to loosen up and unclench.

Relaxing is also enhanced by measured, calm, steady breathing. It’s impossible to be relaxed if our breathing is tight and haphazard.

Relaxing in meditation

In my extensive studies of meditation teachers, I’ve found that the cue to relax is the most common. Adyashanti and Peter Russell, my two favorite meditation teachers, both place primary importance on relaxing in meditation. The goal is relaxed awareness.

It’s the same with mindfulness, which is simply the extension of meditation into our daily lives. To take one of my commonly used examples, if you’re waiting in a long line at the grocery store and start to get that annoyed/perturbed feeling, the absolute best thing you can do is go inside yourself and relax.

I can’t think of a situation where telling myself to relax doesn’t work. Wife says something that really angers me…relax. Someone cuts me off in traffic…relax. Mind is racing during a meditation session…relax. Critical point in a tennis match…relax.

Michael Singer and relaxing

My favorite spiritual teacher, Michael Singer, places relaxation at the center of his one and only spiritual technique. He teaches that when a disturbance arises inside us, because of something somebody said or a whole host of other causes, the very first thing to do is relax.

Doing so allows us to loosen the energy the disturbance has brought up to the point where we can then let that trapped energy rise upward as it naturally wants to do. Singer calls this relax and release and it is the only technique he teaches.

Maybe most important, relaxation is a highly effective tool for easing into the present moment. You can’t be in a truly relaxed state AND be stuck in your mind thinking involuntary thoughts.

Putting RELAX into practice

Now we get to the most important part of this article which is about how we can use this information in our lives. It’s nice to learn about spiritual matters, but I like to focus on incorporating this stuff in practical, useable ways.

So what do we do with this ‘relax’ thing? That’s easy.

We use it as our ‘go-to’ word. When? Every day. For how long? The rest of our lives.

When you find yourself rushing for no reason from your car into the grocery store…relax.

When you get annoyed because you just hit the fourth red light in a row…relax.

When your boss says something shitty to you…relax.

When your 13-year-old daughter says something over-the-top mean to you that was 100% about pushing your buttons, relax.

When you find your boyfriend’s dirty workout clothes strewn around the bedroom, after telling him four times in the last week not to do this…relax.

The takeaway

Now do you see why relax is so important? We can use it in any situation where we’ve been poked. And the reason it’s so critical, and why I think it’s the most important word in spirituality, is because relax is the FIRST place we need to go. We do it before we do anything else.

In fact, one could base their entire spiritual practice around doing nothing else but relaxing inside. Frequently. Consistently. All day long…

Until the relaxed state becomes our natural state…which, by the way, it is.

Try it.