The 6Rs are crucial, and the most profound is the Relax step. Many people seem to glaze over the Relax step, not really taking the time to understand what it is. It is the relaxing of the mind, body and the tightness in both.
What does it feel like to Relax?
Relaxing the bodily, mental, and verbal Formations – it feels like a clear space, a pristine, thoughtless space without craving. The body is relaxed, but not slouching. Mind is clear, like a cloudless sky, and thoughts are gone, barely wisps, if they are present at all.
To practice just the Relax step, as a preliminary step to understand what it feels like:
Just let mind be and then intend the relaxation. Relax, relax, relax – then, you are able to see what it means to have that open spacious mind. Then, you can quickly go to it, as you let go of the distraction, then you see that open mind.
Some people seem to associate the Relax step with a sharp intake of air and a letting of breath. This is a reactionary aspect of the Relax step, but not the Relax step of stilling Formations in and of itself.
Of course, one caveat – you mustn’t just Relax during the actual meditation. Once you understand what it feels like, you use it as part of the 6R’s. Then, there is development and progress, as it is intended. Besides, if you were to just relax, relax, relax, the mind would become dull, with no object.
Once you understand the feeling of the Relax step, you are ready to incorporate it into the 6 R’s. This is what happens:
Your object is Metta. Suddenly you think back to a time with nostalgia, or you consider the future, or think about anything other than the Metta. You
- RECOGNIZE, seeing the distraction.
- RELEASING is the immediate letting go of the distraction – not attending to it, turning mind’s attention now to the
- RELAX step – the stilling of Formations. Mind is now clear, ready to attend to
- RE-SMILING, or checking if you ares still smiling, then
- RETURNING to the object of meditation, then
- REPEATING every time you see mind has been distracted.
All of this happens in less than 5 seconds. It is a flow, a rolling of the steps.
Don’t get attached
Now, the other thing to consider is that mind attaches itself to the Loving-kindness, Compassion, Empathetic Joy or Equanimity.
Here, it’s important to pay attention to mind observing – just watching, not becoming the Metta. It’s an object, therefore, you are watching it, not becoming it. The feelings that come up from the object must be observed, and 6R’d if they distract. Likewise, you observe that you were distracted – not becoming the distraction by fighting it or ignoring it. Any such effort will only cause more craving and clinging. Allow the mind to do its work. It will unravel itself.
Observation is not focus – it is the mere watching and seeing what occurs, not becoming involved or identifying with the feeling or the object. This then would become absorption concentration; too much focus, pushing down insights to arise naturally.
This is why relaxing is important – it provides the mind space, required for insights to arise.
The luminous Mind
It’s only after the mind has reached stability through the jhanas, that mind can then watch its own clarity, luminosity, and radiance – the bright, quiet, clear mind, where at this point all crude Formations have been relaxed, and now one lets go of the subtler Formations.