One of the most difficult concepts for most people to grasp is that we don’t so much achieve Self-realization as we relax into it. We are constantly bombarded with the message that success depends upon making a strenuous effort. While this is often true for worldly success, it is the opposite for spiritual attainment. One time Swami Kriyananda, a little frustrated with the pace of his spiritual progress, asked Paramhansa Yogananda, “Am I not trying hard enough?” Yogananda replied, “You’re trying too hard. You are using too much will power. It becomes nervous. Just be relaxed and natural.”
What this means for those of us who meditate is that our success will depend upon releasing, not acquiring. Ultimately we need to release those feelings and thoughts that strengthen the ego, and simply sink into our true soul-nature.
Joyful relaxation is often the better path even in worldly pursuits. When Devi and I were starting Ananda’s first large ashram in San Francisco we enjoyed running and participated in the city’s famous “Bay to Breakers” race. In a park near us there was a Saturday runner’s clinic open to anyone who wanted to attend. The instructor, who had been a famous college track coach, told an illuminating story about his career change.
He said, “As a college coach, I had several world-class, Olympic-level athletes on the team. Then one day a group of lady librarians from the college asked if I could coach them. Eventually, giving in to their persistence, I told them to run around the track with a moderate effort. They were thrilled with their success and over the next few weeks, as they continued to ask my advice, a nice bond formed between us.
“Then I recognized something that changed the course of my life. The librarians were always happy, positive, and having fun. My world-class runners, on the other hand, were usually upset and angry about something. Perhaps they had been edged out in a race or failed to set a personal best by a tenth of a second. One day a light bulb went off in my brain—I realized that I was coaching the wrong type of people. I ended up quitting my job and the stress that went with it. Now, I coach runners who just want to have fun, and my life also has become fun.”
Our meditations should be more like fun-runs than competitions. When we simply watch the breath and relax, the life-force withdraws naturally. Swami Kriyananda has defined meditation as “listening.” The only effort we should make is to focus and relax. Our concentration should be intense, but not tense. If we do that, God will take care of the rest. It may take time to overcome past tendencies and karma, but in the end, if we are sincere in our desire for God, He must respond.
Yogananda said, “Don’t feel badly if you find yourself too restless to meditate deeply. Calmness will come in time, if you practice regularly. Just never accept the thought that meditation is not for you. Remember, calmness is your eternal, true nature.”
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Thank you for your beautifully written and helpful wisdom. I always get so much from the articles by you and Devi.
Thanks for this nice blog
Thank you so much… I think I try too hard on meditation…Now I will be more intense and not too hard …Thank you again…
Thank you Swamiji for such an enlightening advice. I will try to follow this & improve my meditation.
Wonderful Jyotish ji, wonderful
Thankyou! Relax and Feel educated me about the process of self realization, and I enjoyed the story line very much.
This is simply awesome read . I also do pranic healing meditation . Would be keen on practiocng TM. Love to read your blog . Blessed 🙏 to read such a wonderful article on meditation
Thanks It help me more than you can imagine , just what I need to know . I want to be like the happy runners and I was acting like the Olympic runners.
I love your paintings !
Thanks for the perfect message this morning, Jyotish. – from a joyful librarian
Thank you for this!
I had just finished my 15min morning Meditation (first one since class started yesterday) and I felt uplifted by the encouragement reading your words!
The Joy in Knowing that Divine Mother IS faithful, if I simply continue to seek Her with my whole heart and relax into the expansiveness that I’m just beginning to touch the corner of!! It will continue to unfold… Both on the days She feels nearer then my next breath… And on the days that feel like She’s so far away from my broken temple.
Oh Calm, Divine Bliss… Here I come!
It is always heartening to read these messages. Feels as if Jyotish ji is speaking directly to you. This message had a very calming effect on me and gave a really important insight .
May I suggest something about the designing aspect? The text in grey looks beautiful, but is not quite readable as it is too faint. Can we give more importance to function rather than to style? No hard feelings, please!
This message came to me in the exact time that it was needed. I have been struggling with relaxation in my meditations and have not been able to go as deep as in previous times. I’m blocked and The Light has dimmed! Your blog today has given me new encouragement to continue my meditation practice in total Trust, Devotion and in the Knowing that Master will help me through this challenging period!
Thank You from the depth of my heart and soul Jyotish! Many Blessings and Much Love To You!
In Divine Friendship,
Fantastically important. When Yogananda said that chanting is half the battle on the spiritual path, I think too many people may think first of the word “battle.” Swamiji used to talk about meditation also as “absorption,” specifically with regard to the AUM technique. All of this is so relevant. Swamiji said that when the feelings of the heart are harmonized the mind automatically becomes still. Lots of food for practice here. Thanks, Jyotish, for stimulating lots of thoughts that will be very useful for me as I sort through them.
P.S. In sports, the three most successful cultures in distance running – in New Zealand, Kenya, and Ethiopia, all began with cultures that placed high value on the group, and on making their training fun. The Kenyan runners who were known for training hard when it mattered, would simply stop and not run if their bodies were telling them that they weren’t ready to run fast; whereas a Western runner, obsessed with “making the numbers,” would likely push through. They ran by intuition, with a relaxed and receptive attitude that let them feel what was right to do on a given day.
Wow, Jyotish, wonderful & timely article. Thanks!
This message came at the perfect time as I described this morning’s session as a “check the block”. I felt tired and unable to give my best but in the end I am still growing and trying. I like that you called meditation a release because I have felt that before having felt a sigh of relief and huge amounts of weight lifted from my body during these sessions. Thank you so much for your encouragement and validation. Blessings.
Thank you Jyotish! I have been really focusing on relaxation and it has been such an expansive time. I can go so much deeper and the after effects of the meditation seem to stay with me longer.
Mahalo the powerful reminder.
Thank you for your words your messages!
Very Dears, I think I’ve just met my Self , last week, I feel we need to join to be One. When I’m relaxed with Me I feel a beatiful vibration inside. Your words help, always help me. Thanks!
Dear Jyotish Nayaswami, thank you from my heart for this wonderful wisdom! So timely and reassuring!
Gratitude and Joy to you,
Dear Nayaswami Jyotish Ji,
Thank you for this wonderful blog.
Very useful guidelines. I enjoyed and it’s something to be very careful about Intense vs Tense.
Thank you for sharing this important message.
thank you very much this has come to deepen my will to meditate no matter how i feel.
Deep gratitude, dear soul, for your caring and upliftment. As with your anecdote about Swamiji, reminders of higher consciousness are always necessary and timely. Namaste
Thank you so much Jyotish and Devi for this beautiful reminder. Of all your inspiring messages through the years, this has struck me as the most important for me at this time. I have been unsuccessfully trying to “push through the pain” for so many years, now I finally “hear” the message. The harder I push the harder it gets. I believe you have given me this day the greatest info I have heard since I arrived at Ananda.
In Master’s Love,
The Audio clips is of highly guided & useful , Hope will lead me to right path.
One of the best written articles on Relaxation!
Very beautiful. I think it is not only true about meditation but about life itself.
Thank you. This message came to me in the exact time that it was needed. Being in the fourth week of the Course in Meditation I have been struggling with relaxation in my meditations. Your words are a gift to me of encouragement to continue my meditation practice and relax with intensive focus as I learn.
Thank you for that encouraging and helpful blog. I think trying too hard for me is a ‘hangover’ from childhood where I tried to please everybody. However, just your words ‘relax’ and ‘be joyful’ (in your meditation) is a key for me. Thank you for your wise words.