Mental training such as meditation requires a sensitivity not required in other pursuits.
The key is the relaxation pyramid – which is described with more skill and depth by Dr Alan Wallace in his book the ‘The Attention Revolution’ – here it is in brief:
Relaxation as the foundation.
Out of this we develop a stability of attention and this enables a clarity of awareness.
So all three in a balanced proportion. Relax, then focus with clarity. Don’t let clarity come at the cost of stability – nor stability at the cost of relaxation. Want to hit some high peaks of mental clarity? Make sure the foundation is solid – just like our pyramids in the photo.
Some examples of when we might be out of balance below.
Clarity but no stability
Like when you travel at high speeds or are startled – high acuity mentally but it isn’t enduring – a spike for a moment, maybe a short afterglow, then we need another hit.
Relaxation but no clarity of attention
Relaxation too can be out of balance – like when we sleep – usually with no clarity or conscious directing of attention. This isn’t to say that sleep isn’t needed – just that when we meditate drowsiness is an obstacle.
Focus without relaxation
Simialry you can develop a focused mind by bearing down on a single point with a lot of effort – but it is likely that it won’t be sustainable and this method is also prone to being easily disrupted – for example, by collapsing into a rage.