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May 2020, #75 Relax and Retreat

from Volume 3. Pt. 2, Ch. 1-2, of The Notebooks of Paul Brunton

What a perfect time to read this this book! Once again, we find in PB’s writings inspired intuitions that apply to outward circumstances in our lives. As we deal with scary experiences like living with the pandemic of today, dealing with phrases like “shelter in place,” and “social distancing,” and face changes in our daily routines and habits, we realize the need for something else.

PB’s thoughts turn our minds in another direction. These few words have power. “The aggressive world of our time needs to learn how to get out of time. The active world needs to learn to sit still physically and mentally without becoming bored.” (3.1.8.) It is as if these words written long ago magically fit today’s circumstances; perhaps we are led to find them.

In “Relax and Retreat” we find phrases that speak to us about world conditions and the tensions they bring and, more importantly, these words give us ways to lead us out of the bonds we carry into our lives. The paragraphs are filled with timely instruction about adopting a leisurely attitude in life. PB uses the word “leisure” several times in this book. It’s a word we don’t often hear today. We can reflect on thoughts such as “When he is charged with nervous tension, a man more easily commits errors of judgment.” (3.2.18.)

PB points out, “Stress impulses which bombard the body must be stopped in their activity at regular periodic times.” (3.2.34.) The periodic times referred to are daily periods of meditation. “A day begun with mental quiet and inner receptivity is a day whose work is well begun. Every idea, decision, move, or action which flows out from it later will be wiser, better and nobler than it otherwise would have been. (3.1.25.)

Chapter 2, ‘Withdrawing from Tension and Pressure,’ speaks of reclaiming our contacts with Nature. Para 45 on page 35 reads, “Are we not suffering from too much civilization, too much science, too much loss of contact with Nature, too much restlessness? For when excess is leading to destruction is it not more prudent to call a halt, and adjust the unfair balance? Has not the time come to look the other way for a while, meanwhile keeping our gains?”

Page 43 introduces the topic, ‘Price of Excessive Extroversion”. “Too much absorption with outward things, too little with inner life, creates the unbalance we see everywhere today. The attention given by people to their outer circumstances, amounts almost to obsession.” (3.2.118.)

PB writes of reclaiming leisure. “Most forms of occupying leisure periods ease either the pace or stress of life by relaxing part of the brain, the instrument of thought; or a part of the body, those muscles and organs most used; or the emotions and passional nature; but the deeper kind of meditation brings peace to a man’s whole being. (3.2.148.) “All that we can find in the world without us cannot be beyond in range or quality what we have already found in the world within us. “Man, know thyself is a practical rule.”’ (3.2.153.)