Stop Trying To Relax
A lot of people start meditation because they are under the impression that it helps to relax and reduce stress, but meditation can be incredibly frustrating and becomes stressful and anything but relaxing.
People can very easily quit meditation and say it doesn’t work; but the problem is taking our normal attitude of using willpower and aggression into the meditation instead of an attitude of surrender and neutrality.
As Meditation Master Chogyam Trungpa says:
“Most mental suffering and tension is caused by the subtle aggression of wanting the present moment to be different than it is.”
Here in lies the secret to total relaxation in meditation; is to allow things to be exactly as they are and just leave them how you find them. Even if you find yourself thinking a lot or tense you can allow that and take a mental step back and just observe it without trying to change it. There are many types of meditations like focussing on the breath, meta or love meditations, visualisations and mentally repeating mantras but in my experience these all have a subtle aggression to them, a subtle wanting or seeking things to be different. All these meditations are attempts to create a peaceful state or transcend your normal every day state of mind, but to truly relax all that is required is to allow the situation to be as it is.
You have probably heard all this sort of thing about accepting and letting go before, but here is the secret to accepting and allowing to truly be able to relax:- You do not have to actually accept the present moment or actually let go of anything because that would imply effort, and that would imply things are not already perfect just the way they are. trying to accept would require you to do something with will power and subtle aggression, the secret is to simply FIND that part of yourself that is already allowing and accommodating the present situation. Neither accept or reject anything. This is the key instructions of Tibetan Buddhist Masters.
This is where the most simple relaxation meditation also becomes the most profound. Finding that place that’s within every human being called Awareness. I use a capital ‘A’ to give it the extra respect it deserves but it is also the most ordinary and fundamental part of our lives. Contacting this Awareness is exactly what meditation is all about. Awareness has already allowed the present situation so there is no need for any further acceptance.
Trying to relax by changing our present condition has a subtle fear to it, a sense that things are not ok the way they are and we need to change or avoid them to be happy.
This open Awareness I am pointing to is fearless, what Zen Masters call indomitable, which means it is not moved or swept away by present circumstances, it is stable like a mountain and contacting this inner space can bring tremendous courage and fortitude into our lives. This incredible spaciousness surrounds everything – every feeling, every thought and every sensation is permeated and completely immersed in unbounded awareness.
Open Awareness does not come and go, you do not create this Awareness in meditation and you cannot make it better and you cannot harm it either, it is at the heart of all experiences, it is here right now, it is the open space that is allowing you to read this blog. It is the effortless ground of your being, the unchanging presence that has been with you all your life. As Deepak Chopra explains:
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day”
Presence, Being, Awareness – all these terms could be getting into using spiritual jargon but it is not special or ‘spiritual’ in the sense only Gurus or enlightened people have it. It is the most ordinary space within you that has ALREADY accepted and allowed the present moment to happen so you don’t have to DO anything to accept things just BE this fundamental open awareness that has already accommodated this present moment. Any attempt to get somewhere in the future is a mind made egotistical pursuit that is sure to fail or at best be short lived. There is nowhere to go or anywhere to get to in the future because this all accepting Awareness is always right now in every present moment.
Of course taking long slow breaths or watching the breathing process without getting distracted or mentally repeating a mantra can all help you to relax in meditation, and have great health benefits as well, but all these things are a temporary relief. They are way of masking or even suppressing the tension and creating a fabricated replica of real relaxation. They all require effort and willpower to achieve and therefore can actually take you away from finding the real peace of immediate open Awareness.
Once you have found the total relaxation of coming home to this Awareness in meditation it becomes increasingly easier to contact it at any time during the day. The Tibetan Buddhism word for meditation is ‘Gompa’ which means to familiarise. In formal meditation you become familiar with your own immediate all accepting Awareness and before long, during your daily life, you can easily slip into this open Awareness and relaxation will accompany you wherever you go.
So then, the instructions to formally meditate in this way go something like this: Sit still, do not talk, do not entertain philosophical thoughts, do not change or modify or fabricate anything, in fact leave everything just the way they are and relax into the all accepting Awareness of simply Being.