Let’s have a closer look at another one of Swami Kriyananda’s precious Secrets of Meditation. At first glance, they seem quite simple and unassuming, yet behind them lies a profound yogic teaching.
The Secret of Meditation is…
Inhale, tense the body; throw the breath out and relax.
Release into the surrounding atmosphere, like wisps of vapor,
any lingering eddies of tension that you feel.
Yogananda defines relaxation in a way which immediately makes us realize its supreme importance: Relaxation is the withdrawal of life-force. He states: “The withdrawal of energy from the muscles is called relaxation. The various stages of relaxation represent the withdrawing, or dimming, of the consciousness and life current from the bulb of the body.”
He goes on to explain the various stages of ever-deeper relaxation which we can, and must, attain, if we are to “dim” our body consciousness, entering into blissful soul awareness.
“Relaxation is the way to the Infinite,” Yogananda simply states. Swami Kriyananda similarly writes: “It might be said that conscious relaxation is the straightest path to God.”
In other words: the less we are relaxed, the less our live force can flow inward, and the inner kingdom remains unreachable.
In one of his Metaphysical Meditations Yogananda interestingly describes relaxation as a “power”. Indeed is something to be practiced, to be strengthened gradually, almost like a muscle:
“I was a prisoner carrying a heavy load
of bones and flesh,
but I have broken the chains
of my muscle-bound body
by the power of relaxation.
I am free.
Now I shall try to go within.”
Alas, how chronically tensed our bodies often are! What to do? Physical relaxation fortunately can be greatly enhanced by correctly practicing the yoga postures. Often in fact devotees note how through the asanas their meditation immediately improves. Small wonder!
Yogananda teaches another practical method: lying down, one individually tenses and relaxes 20 body parts. Or alternatively one may consciously tense the whole body, then relaxing it. He explains: “There is no greater method of relaxation than the one you are learning. Any time you are tired or worried, tense and relax your whole body.”
Swami Kriyananda explains this principle in his book Raja Yoga: “I have said that awareness is the necessary precursor of relaxation. There are many parts of the body that are tense without our conscious knowledge. How are we to become enough aware of them to relax them? The answer is, by increasing the tension throughout the body…. The best way to induce preliminary relaxation in the body is first to inhale, tense the whole body (equalizing the flow of tension throughout the body), then throw the breath out and relax the entire body at once.”
Of course physical relaxation can’t be separated from mental or emotional relaxation. If during the day we get upset or worried, our body automatically gets tensed. Relaxation, then, is a whole lifestyle training: “Be even-minded and cheerful at all times.” And, to quote one of Kriyananda’s songs (words from S.Teresa of Avila): “Let nothing disturb you, nothing afright you, all things will pass, but God changes not…”
In this way we take a deeply relaxed body into meditation. That relaxed body must be kept completely straight and still: “Don’t move a muscle, while meditating,” said the Master, “Don’t twitch a limb. Feel the life inside you, rather than your physical body, as your reality.”
One danger of relaxation is that it can easily take us downward, into subconsciousness, dreaming, thinking, drifting. The only remedy is high energy during meditation: practicing deep relaxation, yes, but mixing it with an energetic superconscious awareness.
In short, a special inner “marriage” is needed: the “wife” is deep relaxation, the “husband” is high energy. Their union will result in wedded bliss for the meditator. Their “offspring” will be, if love is in their hearts, the light of Spirit.