Methods of Meditation by Jenny Croft
Lesson 1: Relaxation
Beginners in the science of meditation are prone to think that entering the silence means only the stilling of thought. But there is more to the silence than that, and a preliminary to the silence is the easing of the body from strain and the stilling of the mind from effort.
It is impossible for one to cease mental activity when the body is tense, when the nerves are taut and the muscles are rigid. Under these conditions Spirit has very little opportunity to find entrance to the body; therefore it is necessary to train the body to respond to the mental suggestion of relaxation. Since there is no absence of life, substance, and intelligence in any atom of our bodies, the intelligence residing in each atom will respond to the word of command spoken by divine intelligence through the conscious mind.
In teaching the body to obey we begin with the very top of the head. The student may think that it is impossible to relax in this part of the body, but there are nerves and muscles both outside and inside the skull, and we may speak to them with the authority that comes from the inner self, and bid them let go all tension. They will obey. We mentally direct our attention to the top of the head, and then slowly and firmly we repeat three times the word, "Relax." We center our attention at this point for a short time, that the word of command may become operative. We remember that it is not the personal self but the Presence within that is doing the work.
Next we direct our attention to the muscles and the nerves of the forehead. It is here that we begin to notice the effect of relaxation. The tensity of thought, or of emotion, may have caused us to frown or to wrinkle our brows, but in this practice of relaxation we are aware of the smoothing out of the flesh covering of the forehead, and we have a feeling of peace. Then we say, "Relax, relax, relax," slowly, gently, peacefully.
Next we center our attention upon the muscles and the nerves about the eyes, and at our mental command, "Relax," the eyelids close lightly and softly, without any effort. There is no determined closing of the eyelids, but there is a gentle letting go of all eye tension.
Continuing this drill in relaxation we come to the facial muscles and to the nerves about the nose and the mouth. Here we again repeat the formula, "Relax, relax, relax." It is quite habitual for us to purse the mouth, whereas, responding to this mental command to relax, the muscles and the nerves lose their tenseness and the lips assume a natural and a more beautiful position.
The neck is the column by which the head is supported, and there are many muscles with their accompanying nerves governing the motions of the head. Responding to the command of the mind, these muscles and their nerves relax; the neck falls into a natural position, the chin retreats from unnatural prominence, and all the adjacent parts relax and assume positions of greater ease and flexibility.
A desire to make haste is a pronounced trait of most Americans. Since they are not conscious of the influence of this desire, they are likely to thrust their chins forward as an outpicturing of the subconscious notion that they are hastening to their destination. This habit of thrusting the chin forward is a misuse of energy. When this habit is corrected by the practice of relaxation, the results of the work that has been done in the top of the head will become noticeable. This work in relaxation must be done faithfully.
Next the shoulders claim our consideration. Centering our attention upon this part of the body, we repeat the usual formula, "Relax, relax, relax," remembering to speak the word very slowly, and through the imagination picturing and feeling our burdens fall away and our shoulders assume a position of comfort. It is a common belief that man must carry burdens of every sort and description, but by our letting go of the nerve and muscle tension the Spirit within discards these burdens. At this point in the exercise we may claim and may realize the fulfillment of the promise: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden . . . Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me . . . For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28). This means that by our relaxing and letting go of the personal self and uniting ourselves with the Christ self within, the burden has been entirely dissolved. We advise the student to give particular attention to this important feature of relaxation.
In relaxing the arms we begin at the shoulders and relax to the elbows, then to the finger tips, proceeding after the usual form until the arms are entirely limp and we feel that they might drop from the shoulders if they were not permanently attached. We are now beginning to feel a state of rest, brought about by the process of relaxation from head to finger tips.
We next consider the part of the body containing what are termed the vital organs. Here are great nerve ganglia and muscle centers that act in response to the mental attention and authority that we direct to them. We classify the trunk of the body in three divisions: the upper part, the diaphragm or center, and the lower part comprising the abdomen and the small of the back. To each one of these divisions we direct our attention as though we were looking down into it, and we go to each separately with the drill in relaxation until there is an inner feeling (not a sensation, but a knowing feeling) of harmony. This feeling is concordant activity, not mere passivity. We should take at least five minutes for the practice of relaxation in each of these sections of the body.
The lower limbs now claim our attention. As we proceeded with the arms, so now we shall treat the legs from hip to toe, slowly bidding the nerves and the muscles, "Relax, relax, relax."
Our final relaxation takes place at nearly the center of the body, in the largest group of ganglia in the whole body, the solar plexus. While dwelling in thought upon the practice of relaxation at this center, we often become conscious of a spiritual awakening, as if the very presence of the Christ were making itself felt throughout the whole being. The personal self has ceased its dominion over us; the divine nature has been aroused to activity and its harmony permeates us. Many times relaxation in this vital center has caused instantaneous healing.
For every practice of the drill in physical relaxation we advise that you take your most comfortable chair and sit in the most comfortable position, so that there will be no strain upon your body. Put everything out of your hands as you put everything out of your mind, and relax until you are inert and are not conscious of your body. We suggest that, if it can be so arranged, you take the same time each day, the same room, and the same chair for your exercise. In this way you more easily impregnate yourself and your surroundings with a consciousness that is in accordance with your thought, and you can much more readily get the realization that you desire.