If we examine our attitude towards relaxation, we find, generally, that people look at relaxation as a type of reward for efforts made. They work hard all day, or all week, or they finish a major project they are focused on, and then it is time to “relax”. In the West, there is an institution known as “happy hour” where people finish the day’s work and go to relax by imbibing alcohol and spending time with friends and co-workers distracting their minds from the activities of the day. Many people work hard for a period of time and then go on a vacation to “relax” and may simply lie in the sun without moving to get a suntan. School break periods have led to the institution known as ‘spring break’ where college students go to certain well-known gathering places and party, take drugs or alcohol, engage in sex, and generally undertake a number of raucous actions in the name of ‘relaxation’. Many people relax daily by simply sitting in front of a television set and dulling their minds through watching, in many cases, somewhat mindless entertainment.

Humanity as a whole has not gained the understanding that this type of tamasic or rajasic activity does not bring true relaxation, and is not helpful to their evolutionary development. Those who follow certain paths of yogic development begin to appreciate that while relaxation may be necessary from time to time, it is a period of assimilation of new forces, energies and knowledge provided through their yogic practice, and the assimilation does not take place through dissipation, but through achieving inner peace and allowing the realisations to grow, flourish and widen within the being.

The Mother notes: “I knew people of great intelligence, admirable artists who, as soon as they began to ‘relax’, became utterly foolish! They did the most vulgar things, behaved like ill-bred children — they were relaxing. Everything comes from this ‘need’ of relaxation; and what does that mean for most men? It means, always, coming down to a lower level. They do not know that for a true relaxation one must rise one degree higher, one must rise above oneself. If one goes down, it adds to one’s fatigue and brings a stupefaction. Besides, each time one comes down, one increases the load of the subconscient — this huge subconscient load which one must clean and clean if one wants to mount, and which is like fetters on the feet. But it is difficult to teach that, for one must know it oneself before one can teach it to others. … This is never told to children, they are allowed to commit all the stupidities in the world under the pretext that they need relaxation. … It is not by sinking below oneself that one removes fatigue. One must climb the ladder and there one has true rest, because one has the inner peace, the light, the universal energy. And little by little one puts oneself in touch with the truth which is the very reason of one’s existence. … If you contact that definitively, it removes completely all fatigue.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, General Methods and Principles, Rest and Relaxation, pp. 9-11

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.