Seekers sometimes ask: “I was told that mantra meditation will de-stress and relax me. But I find that meditation itself is a demanding exercise. What’s wrong?”
The only thing wrong is that we have got the wrong idea of how mantra meditation works: it is experienced initially as a workout and eventually as a massage.
Both workout and massage help the body, but in different ways. Workout usually exerts the body, stretching the muscles almost to exhaustion, thereby causing them to strengthen. Massage normally soothes the body, kneading and relaxing stressed muscles, thereby stimulating their growth.
Whether mantra meditation seems like a workout or like a massage, it helps us spiritually. Essentially, it connects us with Supreme through the sound of the mantras comprised of his holy names. As he is the supremely unchangeable reality, meditation on him offers the opportunity to go beyond the anxiety-inducing change-filled material reality and relish his calming, sheltering, healing presence.
Unfortunately, our mind due to its infatuation with worldly pleasures is frequently apathetic or averse to Supreme. So it doesn’t focus on him easily. That’s why mantra meditation initially seems demanding, like a workout. But if we persevere, then gradually we start connecting with Supreme more and more, thereby relishing more and more the solace of his divine presence. This first-hand experience gradually converts the mind, making it attached to Supreme. Thereafter meditation becomes soothing, akin to a massage – we simply bask in Supreme’s presence as his comforting warmth drives away anxieties. The Bhagavad-gita points to this nature of higher pleasures when it states (18.37) that happiness in goodness tastes first like poison and then like nectar.
By remembering the omni-beneficial nature of meditation, we can persevere in it even when it seems demanding and eventually relish its real nature as relaxing and fulfilling.