Preparing to Meditate
One of the great problems in spiritual growth is carelessness. We fail to pay sufficient attention to what we are doing, why we are doing it, or how well it is being done.
Meditation is a very precise practice. It is important to hit the mark we aim for. We can grievously deceive our self if we believe we are in tune with our Higher Self when we are actually only in touch with the warm and cozy wish life of our subconscious.
The antidote for carelessness is, quite obviously, carefulness. This is the practice of taking the time and effort to do any endeavor properly.
Carefulness includes making sure that our motives for meditating are proper; our understanding of what we are doing is thorough; and our goals are clear and well-defined. Haphazard efforts usually result in haphazard results. A modest amount of planning and preparation can go a long way in improving the quality of our personal development.
It is surprising how many people resent this idea. They just want to be able to plop down and tune in. Usually, this is because they are still operating in the mode of wanting an interesting and pleasant experience. They want our Higher Self to act as a tour guide to something which will be entertaining and magical.
This is not how our Higher Self works, however. Our Higher Self responds to intelligent inquiry, not to requests for a show.
If entertainment what we want, it will turn the enterprise over to the subconscious, which is more than willing to put on a show for us.
It is therefore helpful to cultivate the habit of preparing ourself for the activity of meditation. This is not difficult or even time consuming, but it is most beneficial. It keeps us focused on our goals and helps protect us from being sidetracked. It reminds us of the serious purpose of meditating and encourages us to proceed carefully. And it creates a matrix of expectation and need which helps invoke the presence of our Higher Self.
Those Who Have Difficulty Meditating
There are certain types of people who will find meditation unusually challenging. The reason or this is that they hold on to beliefs that limit their ability to work with abstract forces and higher authority. The type of beliefs that make it difficult to meditate include feelings of inferiority and unworthiness and fear that contacting higher power might be dangerous or unpleasant.
Our preparation for effective meditation will be incomplete unless we examine ourself for traces of these limiting beliefs. While removing these beliefs is not always easy, the meditator can at least learn to set them aside as they engage the meditative practice.
There are many categories of people who have difficulty meditating for these reasons. They include the following.
Those who maintain a poor self-image
As long as we feel inferior and unworthy of any help or friend, we will find it very difficult to contact our Higher Self and its treasures. Even if we discover and experience the love of our Higher Self, we would likely be unwilling to believe that we deserve it. Because of this belief we would probably not accept this encouragement or do anything useful with it. As a result, we will not experience a healthy and productive meditative state.
Thus, if we regard ourself as inadequate, inferior, or guilty, then we have a problem. We need to recognize how these beliefs limit our ability to accept the treasures of our Higher Self. They should be set aside as part of our preparation for meditation.
To reduce our sense of being inadequate and unworthy, it is helpful to understand that our Higher Self has more faith in us than we do. It would not have selected us for the roles we play in life unless It knew we had the potential to do an adequate job. Accepting this powerful support will provide the strength and belief to rise above our sense of inferiority.
Those who sustain a martyr complex or depression
If we believe our self to be a victim of life, or find life to be an unmitigated hell, it will not be possible to approach our Higher Self effectively. The forces and strengths of our Higher Self will be unable to penetrate the tent of gloom and pessimism in which we have chosen to camp. It is our responsibility to strike this tent before we can expect the light and love of our inner life to enter.
Those who indulge a guilty conscience
Guilt can be a major hindrance to allowing the light and love of our Higher Self to enter us. This is especially significant if we have been the victim of the fundamentalist tenet that God is everything and we are nothing.
If we believe that we are born in sin, living in sin, and doomed to die in sin, we will have to put aside this nonsense that God is our adversary.
Instead, we will need to appreciate that our Higher Self as a friend which can help us.
This does not mean we are without some deficiencies in our character and behavior. Of course we have our problems, limitations, and peccadillos, but our spiritual nature is more important than any of these. It is certainly more important and powerful than our guilty feelings and our sense of nothingness. We are the child of our spiritual nature as well as our experiences, and so have the means of healing and enriching that which is imperfect or marred.
Those who are paranoid
People who exaggerate hostile suspiciousness and fear of loss or criticism to irrational extremes become almost incapable of change.
Paranoids tend to project their fears and anxieties onto the world about them. This can escalate to becoming obsessed with the expectation that they will be harmed, cheated, or criticized. Such attitudes foster a climate of defensiveness and hostility which prevents a proper relationship with everything, including our Higher Self.
Paranoid people need to realize that while some of their fears and suspicions undoubtedly do have a basis, there is no reason for projecting them onto our Higher Self.
Our Higher Self is a source of goodwill, peace, insight, and courage, not a malicious fiend. It is a powerful ally we all urgently need. However, it will have difficulty entering us unless we trust It enough to be open to Its love and wisdom.
Those who dabble and sample
There can be no effective meditation without self-discipline and perseverance. The person who hops from one system to another, seeking but never using, is not really interested in growth, just the latest fads.
Our Higher Self is not interested in fads. It expects a serious and stable interest that will go beyond, platitudes and generalities.
Those who think they know-it-all
Like the dabblers, these are people who will try any new fad that comes along, just to prove it does not work. They surround themselves in a shell of complacency so that all they can hear is the echo of their own opinions.
Their lack of vision and small mindedness confines them to very limited possibilities. When they search for new ideas, they only look for validation of what they already believe. Their self-satisfaction inhibits the acquisition of anything beyond what they already know.
In order to meditate effectively, these people first have to learn to accept the world as it is, and that it is larger than they are. It is also richer in possibilities and opportunities than they suspect, and full of surprises, undiscovered joys, and marvelous new experiences.
Those who are passive-dependent
These are individuals who are constantly on the prowl for assistance and approval. Their enormous craving for attention can quickly distort the activity of meditation into a search for self-praise, or perhaps a guru who will flatter them.
These people urgently need the strength and greater sense of individuality our Higher Self can give them, plus the dignity and knowledge which will let them stand independently.
Effective meditation is not to be used for satisfying neurotic needs for affection and attention, but it can be used to cure the basic problem these people have – the lack of psychological self-sufficiency.
First, however, they must shift from focusing their attention on getting what they want to taking on the responsibility for making their lives work more successfully.
Those who cannot accept anything unknown or formless
Some people believe that if they cannot knock it, taste it, see it, kick it, or at least take photographs of it, it does not exist. Before these people can meditate, they must learn that some of the most important things in life are rather nebulous or even intangible. The air we breathe, the production of our blood cells, the affection we receive from friends, the joy we experience at times, and the life force which animates us all are invisible to us.
So is the life of our Higher Self and its influence on us. A little use of our imagination and common sense can open new worlds to us for our benefit.
Those who are lazy
Some people are quite intelligent and curious but expect good ideas and techniques to work automatically. Unfortunately, thinking about a technique and making it work are two different phenomena.
Meditation is not effortless. It is not hard work, but it requires conscious effort. It involves change, not escape; self-appraisal, not self- indulgence.
Before they can meditate effectively, lazy people must learn to be constructive and efficient in their use of these techniques.
Sometimes, the help we need the most is the help that only we can give ourself, self-help!
Those who are skeptical
Doubt is not a hindrance to meditation, unless it is excessive. It leaves open the door to the possibility of surprise and discovery. Many doubting people are able to accept new ideas quite gracefully.
But those whose awareness and imagination have been dulled by an overdose of the mundane can find it difficult to cope with both the subtle and the complex. Conceiving of a Higher Self and a level of consciousness filled with the riches of wisdom, compassion, talent, strength, and peace will seem strange. Such people run the risk of missing important events and phenomena – even when they happen right under their nose.
Skeptics often pride themselves on acute perceptiveness, but this view is often limited to focusing on finite, objective details. The skeptic is likely to “miss the forest for the trees” by this narrow view. They can easily overlook the large patterns of behavior that reveal the complexity of human consciousness and behavior.
Skeptics need to reflect on the possibilities that they may be missing a great deal of life – fun, rich ideas, insights, new abilities and strengths, and opportunities for understanding themselves better.
Those who are gullible
The person who believes everything will find it very difficult to meditate effectively. The ability to discern is one of the basic tools of the meditator. The person who accepts most any philosophy which claims to promote enlightenment is also prone to being deceived by a lot of silliness from their own subconscious and from the mouths of others.
The gullible person needs to add a healthy measure of common sense to their openness and trust.
The adjustments needed in these areas of attitude and concept should not amount to much of a strain for anyone seriously intent on self- discovery and self-improvement. It is rare to find anyone so imbued with these problems that they cannot begin to meditate and, in meditating, cure the problem.
It is important, however, to realize that traces of these problems do tend to exist even in the best of us. And if we allow them to continue to fester, they will interfere with the work of meditation. An important part of preparing to meditate, therefore, is the work of removing these problems, so that our access to our Higher Self will be clearer and more direct.
Packing Our Bags
Preparing to meditate can be compared with the activity of preparing to drive from Chicago to Miami. We would not just jump in the car and drive off, hoping we were going in the right direction. We would plan the trip. This planning would consist of several elements:
- Considering the purpose of the trip and making sure it was worthwhile.
- Choosing the best route and making hotel reservations.
- Packing our clothes and loading the car.
- Making sure the car was ready for such a long trip.
- Visiting the bank to make sure we had enough money.
In preparing to meditate, we should plan in much the same fashion.
A good place to begin is by considering the purpose of our meditative work and making sure it is worthwhile. If all we are interested in is conjuring up some pleasant fantasies about our Higher Self, our psychic nature, or our karma, it probably is not worth the effort. This would just be the meditative equivalent of looking at a travel brochure about Miami and daydreaming about being on the beach.
In meditating, we are journeying toward the very essence of our life – the life behind our personality and body. We are pursuing our sources of wisdom, love, strength, and skill.
We should have some definite purposes in mind for using them in our life, the more practical the better. If these purposes are then kept in mind constantly as we meditate, we will not be distracted by back roads, wrong turns, or detours.
We should then choose the best route. Having the intent to visit Miami will count for nothing if we head for San Francisco. Just so, having the intent to contact our Higher Self will count for nothing if we head for the wish life of our personality, or become passive, or simply chant a mantra.
We must choose techniques which are compatible with the activity of our Higher Self, techniques which will help us make improvements in our self-expression. And we should set goals for making these improvements, just as we would make hotel reservations.
Next, we should decide what to take and what to leave behind, and pack for the journey. Instead of clothes and cameras and swimming gear, we will be more in need of mental provisions and equipment.
And so, we should pack our common sense, a healthy measure of self- discipline, a satchel full of ideals, a supply of determination and dedication, reasonable expectations, and an alert mind. If we are tired, we should postpone the start of the journey and take a nap first.
In meditating, what we leave behind is sometimes even more important than what we drag along.
Just as we would not take bulky furniture and bags of garbage along on a trip to Miami, there are numerous things we ought not take with us as we seek out our Higher Self:
- The bulky furniture of mundane habits and behavior.
- The garbage of worries, doubts, and fears.
- The poisons of anger, despair, and malice.
As always, this is a matter of common sense. Fur coats are not needed in Miami for warmth, but they are often taken along for style and pleasure. But if we want to get a suntan, we have to take the fur coat off.
In meditation, there are certain attitudes which keep out the light just as much as a fur coat impedes the sun.
The light of our higher intelligence will generally be kept out by skepticism, vanity, prejudices, and stubbornness.
The compassion, joy, and serenity of our Higher Self will usually be kept out by gloominess, self-pity, and criticism.
The life of our Higher Self will be kept out by apathy, empty mindedness, and depression. It is better to leave these items behind.
The equivalent of making sure the car is ready for the trip would be a quick check that the mind, emotions, and will are suitably prepared.
Preparing the mind must include at least a brief reflection on the nature of our Higher Self as the benevolent source of our life, a power which ever seeks to help us as we provide opportunities for it to do so.
We should recognize that we have a responsibility to contact and effectively respond to our Higher Self. And it can be very beneficial to contemplate the fact that our Higher Self already has plans, intentions, and a wealth of talent for helping us in our meditation. We therefore gear up the mind to work in partnership with this higher intelligence.
The emotions can be prepared by looking forward with anticipation and enthusiasm to the new discoveries and insights that will be made and reflecting on the wonderful improvements we are working toward. We should especially cultivate the attitudes of hope, affection, reverence, and goodwill.
As these qualities are responsive to the wavelength of benevolence of our Higher Self, they are quite useful in preparing us to interact with the greater love of our spirit. The will is prepared by dedicating our self to being the right person doing the right thing, supported by the power and direction of our Higher Self.
If we are uncomfortable with the prospect of sharing our authority, we may have trouble interacting wisely with our Higher Self. We ought, therefore, to contemplate the many ways this greater power can enrich our life, if we cooperate with it.
Finally, the step of visiting the bank would correspond to the need to make sure that we have worthwhile activities planned for our meditations.
Too many people sit down to meditate with hands, mouth, and mind empty, waiting for something to happen but not knowing how to make it happen. The key is to take a moment to outline specifically what we will do during this trip and the best techniques for doing it.
A morning meditation, for example, might include work on planning the day, transforming a specific emotional attitude, and seeking creative inspiration for a project at work. An evening meditation might include a review of the day, an examination of ideals and convictions, and an exercise in blessing and forgiveness.
These schedules will change from day to day, but it can be useful to give our meditative work this kind of structure and format in advance, always leaving it flexible, of course, so we can be responsive to the guidance of our Higher Self.
It is unfortunate that many people assume that only a vague intent, such as identifying with God, is needed before sitting down to meditate. They often give more forethought to walking out to the mailbox than they do to their journeys into consciousness.
We must keep in mind that because meditation is an activity of consciousness, skillful preparation and planning is of tremendous importance.
Meditation is an opportunity to explore the hidden and richer dimensions of our humanity and spirit. The possibilities should quietly excite us, stimulate our curiosity, and appeal to our sense of adventure.
Meditating is not quite like a visit to a public library, with its brisk efficiency and clear access to information; it is more like a visit to a strange but intriguing mansion filled with rare and exotic furnishings and objects of art. We are not quite familiar with it, so we must tread carefully, but there is much of value and interest to us if we proceed with intelligence, curiosity, optimism, a quiet enthusiasm, and the intention to make the most of this opportunity.