Relaxing into meditation
Meditation teaches us to live contentedly, which brings us peace of mind even in adverse circumstances
One can achieve deep relaxation, if one follows some simple routines. These procedures teach us to relax the body and enter meditation, which can take us into an even deeper state of relaxation of the body and mind, which is our natural condition.
1. Relaxing the body
Stress and unhappiness are stored in the body, so we begin by relaxing our muscles. We can achieve this by systematically tensing muscle groups throughout the body and then relaxing the tension on the out-breath. We can stretch the body and move into various postures, relaxing as we breathe out.
2. Relaxing the breath
When we are agitated, our breathing becomes faster and more shallow. When we slow down and deepen our breathing we become calmer. We can harness awareness of the out-breath through visualising tension streaming out of the body as we breath out. We can cleanse the breath through alternate nostril breathing.
3. Relaxing the voice
When we are happy we may spontaneously burst into song, but it is hard to sing when we are sad or stressed. We can therefore learn to relax through free energetic sound. We can chant yogic mantras and give ourselves permission to make as much noise as we wish without caring about the harmony or disharmony of our voice. We sing the sound Ahhhhhh for the length of an out-breath and release energetic tension with the sound.
4. Ready for meditation
Having relaxed the body we wish to retain this sense of comfort and calm when we start to meditate. It is therefore essential to find a sitting posture for meditation in which we can be relaxed but alert. Relaxing the mind is more difficult than relaxing the body. We want to be as physically comfortable as possible so that the body does not distract the mind. The body should be upright, balanced and unrestricted. The spine should be erect but relaxed. The body should be balanced and not twisted or placed in a position that requires effort to maintain. Blood needs to flow freely to all parts of the body and in particular to the limbs without constriction or pressure.
5. Relaxing the mind
Meditation relaxes the mind by letting go of thought to experience mind without thought. Thought is an intricate conceptual mesh that surrounds the still deep quietness of the empty mind and acts as a filter for everything that we experience. To relax the mind we need to loosen and let go of this mesh in order to discover and understand mind when it is no longer defined by thought. Thought is a natural process of mind but thought is not the essence of mind. We can only discover ultimate relaxation if we learn to become familiar and comfortable in the empty essence of the nature of mind. We begin by using the breath as a focus and letting go of thought as we breathe out. Over time, we can let go of the breath as a focus and simply let go of thought whenever it arises. Gradually, spaciousness develops in the mind and it becomes easy to dwell in the space of mind without thought.
6. Daily practice
Learn to let go of thought and relax the mind. This calls for commitment and effort. Meditating every day makes the mind settle and let go of thought, and increases our capacity to concentrate and experience spaciousness of mind. It is more productive to meditate for a short period every day than it is to meditate for a longer period more occasionally. The length of our daily practice must be realistic and easily achievable so that it does not become a burden or a chore. Ten minutes of meditation a day is all that is required for meditation to become a life skill that is simply part of who we are. At first, we will continually lose our focus and we may find this frustrating, but we must not develop self-deprecation. Whenever we realise that we have lost concentration we must celebrate this as a moment of re-emerging awareness. To recognise loss of awareness is to have regained awareness. Over time a commitment to practising letting go every day will produce startling results. We will start to understand our relationship with thought and develop increased awareness. We will start to feel more relaxed about who we are.We will start to feel less pressured by our life circumstances. We will begin to let go of self-centredness and find joy in being kind to others.
7. Further practice
When we have established a daily practice of letting go we can experiment with contemplative practices that change our ordinary view. We can examine our relationship with others through looking at how we interact with a friend, an enemy and a stranger. We can practise purification visualisation to discover clarity, and we can practise methods of developing loving kindness to enrich ourselves and develop openness and generosity.
Through relaxing the body we feel refreshed and invigorated. Through relaxing the mind we discover openness and clarity. Over time, the moments of experience of mind without thought will lengthen and occur more frequently and this spaciousness of mind will sparkle in our everyday lives. We will start to notice our habit patterns and cease to be their victim. We will discover that we have a choice about who we are and how we live. We will discover emotion as naked energy and our sensory experiences will become enlivened. We will become more open, patient, tolerant and kind. We will discover open appreciation and awaken to our natural state of well-being.