When you can maintain concentration for even only a few minutes, spontaneously calmness will appear like a miracle. The mind and body will get into a state of rest, of silent peace. Breathing, the pulse, and metabolism itself will decrease. The rhythm of the whole being will slow down and become smoother, gentler, more subtle. This is serenity, a very special type of serenity.
It is now time to point out the differences between meditation and relaxation, in order to understand better the importance of this first phase.
- Meditation: – the mind is aware of the fact that it is far away from the distractions which come between it and peace; it is aware of the fact that it can be itself again, that it does not get lost in its own thinking maze; it is aware of the fact that it becomes clearer and clearer, more and more precise, similar to the sunrays penetrating the clouds.
- Relaxation: – the mind is able to freely pass through any mental experience, imagined or remembered, which brings with it pleasant and peaceful feelings. The mind gets into a state similar to dreaming, a state of trance, completely different from the alert and vigilent serenity specific to meditation. In most relaxation techniques, the mind is allowed to roam, to disconnect; while in meditation there is a coupling, a greater awareness.
Naturally this serenity seldom manifests itself during initial meditation phases, in the same way that deep relaxation can only be felt for a very short time for a beginner in the practice of relaxation.
Meditative serenity cannot be maintained without long practice, and it is often strange why it appears early during some meditation sessions, while during others it is only transient, even if concentration appears to be deep and sustained.
There are different levels of serenity, including those deep states of bliss about which experienced meditators describe. At the beginning, serenity means an absence of emotions rather than awakening profound levels of existential happiness. Through the experience of meditation, he who meditates becomes more and more aware of the fact that the practice of meditation is a goal itself, rather than a means to achieve an end. Of course it is possible that one day it will lead to an inconceivable goal that is impossible to know, but for the moment, the practice itself is important.