Alternation of concentration and relaxation in meditation3 min read

It is not necessary to stress that on entering into Meditation, we do so mentally entering the presence of the Spiritual Focus we have chosen, and when concluding we give thanks for the grace received.

We know that all spiritual practices in this tradition of Yoga, which includes our Meditations, are not done for ourselves but for the whole, and just as a compassionate person would not leave a plant unwatered or an animal unfed, so we would not forgo the Meditation that is bringing sustenance on the spiritual plane to countless beings.

It is said that when the Blessed Buddha meditated, little lights went up all over the world in response to the creative ideations He was sending forth.

When St. Teresa spoke of the different stages of meditation, comparing them to watering a garden—first with a watering can with much effort, then by irrigation, and finally allowing the clouds to fall and water the ground without effort, she spoke the truth, for first it is an effort of control and will or concentration, then follows relaxation, and finally a state of pure receptivity, when the soul is infused without conscious effort on its part.

It is very important therefore to understand the alternation of concentration and relaxation.

When a Hatha Yogi teaches physical relaxation, he gives the following exercise,—contract the hand, let go, contract the arm, let go, and so forth—as it is maintained that absolute relaxation cannot be obtained without it being preceded by contraction.

In meditation, the contraction is the concentration on the text; the relaxation or consciously receptive state should follow.

Dr. Shastri said on this point “ Concentrate on the text for a period, fling it away, and hang over the void”.

The concentration is followed by relaxation and the receptive state of waiting for the response or infusion of grace that will illumine the buddhi and bring revelation.

This alternation must be recognised and it is better at first to do both for a few moments making the process as conscious as possible.

When this alternation is developed and can be produced at will, the relaxation period is prolonged beyond the contraction period, for ultimately the aim of meditation is contemplation, which is a purely receptive condition in complete relaxation.

Here, however, it must be noted, relaxation is not passivity or Laya, but relaxation with a knife-like awareness and crystal clear keen and fixed attention, as if, for instance, you were listening for a bell which might mean life or death.

You can test your state of relaxation in certain ways.

In the Zen monasteries, a master monk goes round the hall of the meditating monks and corrects the posture when necessary.

Though we are often told to keep the spine and head erect, many may still not realize its vital importance ; the least ‘ slumping ’ is, so to speak, a precipitation into Laya, a comfortable peaceful state, but not creative meditation.

Regarding the fixed attention, you know when reading a paragraph and you have read it again, your attention has ceased to be fixed, or when trying to discern a distant object:

(Is it a crow or raven ?), if your interest flags, the attention is blurred.

In receptive relaxation absolute stillness and alertness can only be achieved by the correct posture, as demonstrated for instance by the Lohan in the British Museum, who manifests absolute stillness, relaxation, and restrained or controlled power.


What you hear you will forget, what you read you will forget, but you cannot forget meditation, because it becomes part of your being.

There is only one way of knowing about it, and it is meditating, meditating, meditating ’.

A verse recommended for meditation is :

“ OM.


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