Actually, even the word passive is a misnomer for it is only the body that is passive and motionless. The internal environment can be a hive of activity on a conscious level, either spontaneous or intentional, whether it is desired or not. In some people this process is automatic. Many people watch a person practising passive meditational techniques and assume that the person is either asleep or unconscious. This may be the case, but if the practices are done properly this could not be further from the truth.
The first step is to overcome disturbances of the body. It is difficult for most people to sit comfortably in one position for more than a minute or so without feeling pain or wanting to scratch. This causes the awareness to be wholly externalized – exactly the opposite to what is required, for the aim is to direct the awareness inwards to the workings of the mind.
The next step is to try to achieve calmness of mind and relaxation. Most people have a mind that is like a stormy sea. Before we can see below the surface we must first of all settle down the tumultuous waves. This is done through awareness. In other words, we try to be aware of one object, symbol or process of thought. This takes practice, but eventually it is possible to focus the awareness on one thing to the exclusion of all others. This one-pointed attention allows the awareness to pierce and enter the various depths of the mind. A dull arrow will not penetrate the target, whereas a sharp one well-aimed will decisively pierce the bull’s eye. This point of awareness acts as a vehicle for the journey into the mind. It is merely a means to an end. Furthermore, this point of awareness prevents the meditator falling into a state of unconsciousness. That is, it is very easy to lapse into a state of sleep if one relaxes mentally and physically and tries to do meditational practices. This point acts as a continual reminder of our awareness. The vehicle in karma yoga is intense, concentrated work; in bhakti yoga overwhelming devotion to a person or one object, and in jnana yoga the vehicle is an all absorbing enquiry.
Many people try to concentrate too hard in order to meditate. However, concentration does not come easily or spontaneously to a disturbed mind. Therefore, to try to attain concentration they strain themselves; instead of becoming relaxed and calm, they actually create more tension. Under these circumstances it is impossible to meditate. For this reason we don’t advise people to concentrate intently. Instead, we ask them to be aware of an object or process of thought to the best of their ability. That is, if the mind tends to wander, then don’t fight it – let it wander, but remain aware of the object or thought process. In this way you will not only attain one-pointedness but will simultaneously enjoy a state of mental and physical relaxation.