There is a difference between meditation and relaxation. The purpose of meditation is not to be zoning or spacing out or even reaching some relaxed state of mind. Meditation is sitting in a particular way. It is sitting with attention & an alert state of mind. As a by-product of meditation, the body may become relaxed, but the mind should stay focused.
What happens when relaxation occurs in the mind is that the mind usually begins to wander. It goes from thoughts, to feelings, to sensations, to sounds, or if easily carried away by other distractions. And when this occurs the mind is no longer in our control.
Focus and concentration are what stops the mind from wandering aimlessly.
Therefore, at the very basic foundation of any meditation practice is the strategy of focusing the mind on something – i.e. Mantra, Breath, Image, 3rd-eye, Candle Flame, etc… We call these things our “anchor” or “the object of meditation”.
And so, the basic exercise of any meditation practice is to pay attention, be alert, to your anchor & whenever you discover that your mind has wandered to gently bring yourself back by refocusing on the “anchor” again. This continual refocusing upon the object of meditation helps to train the mind to break it’s habitual thought patterns of running off to the past or future.
Now, you should not be forcing the mind to focus, but should gently and lovingly encouraging it. And with time, the practice of continually returning to the object of meditation, will build up the mind’s mental concentration which enables the mind to stay focused the object of meditation longer & longer. And with even more time & practice, you will be able to witness thoughts within the mind as a detached observer, rather than be pulled off by your thoughts in a particular direction. You will then become the master of your mind, rather than be mastered by it!
This newly cultivated concentration will also give you profound insight into the nature of reality and your self.
Good luck in your practice & may all your days be filled with happiness & peace! ~ Anthony