Grace is an impulse from beyond the structures of our own effort. Only grace can bring deep meditation.
Whether our effort is mental, emotional, or physical - jnana, bhakti, or hatha yoga - the state of deep meditation never results from self-will. Any command we give ourselves to relax the body, concentrate the mind, or produce a feeling of peace, will fail. Why?
Because relaxation, concentration, and peace are effects, not causes.
In the stillness of true meditation is infinite rest, where body, breath, feeling and mind repose in the field of transcendental silence, merging back into a single field of energy. Any effort or instruction we could possibly give ourselves, whether to "concentrate" or to "relax" or to "love," can only disturb that ground-state of silence, never draw us into it. For every self-instruction is an action that disturbs stillness.
This is the paradox: we want to meditate, but real meditation never comes through self-will.
The paradox is solved by Grace. Grace comes from beyond, from outside the knot of our self-effort. A knot cannot untie itself. Only the impulse of the master's Grace allows meditation to happen, without any effort on the part of the meditator - except the decision to be open, and to sit for a period of time. Twenty minutes of grace-full meditation is worth years of sitting without the grace of the master. This is why so many people who try to teach themselves meditation, as if it were a "technique" to be learned and practiced, like a job, achieve little but a sense of pride in how long they have been meditating. They were never initiated into the grace of the master, which flows through the Guru lineage.
Americans are obsessed with independence, individualism, and do-it-yourself achievements. They assume that receiving the initiation of the master means losing their freedom. In fact, the grace of the master is freedom itself.
Grace is like a feather's touch on the crown of the head, the brow, or the heart. It is the subtlest impulse in creation, yet the most powerful, collapsing every structures of thought, dissolving self-will, allowing our attention to repose in absolute stillness, while fully alert. This is turiya, the fourth state of consciousness as defined by the Mandukya Upanishad: beyond waking, dreaming and deep sleep. The state of turiya is known in Yogic philosophy as samadhi, and in Christian mysticism as the prayer of union.
This transcendental silence is not just an absence of thought, but a fullness of bliss, ananda. It is boundless, self-luminous, and joyful. Neither a thought or a feeling, it is consciousness alone, illumined by consciousness alone: yet it is awakened by the impulse of another. A candle cannot light itself. The nearness of a flame, already lit, ignites the waiting wick.
To awaken the radiant stillness of effortless meditation is the role of the spiritual master. This is why we say, "Jai Gur Dev: all gratitude to the Guru."