Applying Wisdom to Solve Problems

OUR SPIRITUAL OBLIGATION

The differences among meditative traditions become obvious in the ways they are designed to handle stress. Every human being must deal with problems, difficulties, and stressful conditions on a daily basis, whether they meditate or not. Because meditation connects us with the wisdom, peace, and greater strengths of the Higher Self, it can be extremely effective in managing problem situations.

But not all meditative approaches to problems and stress are equal.

The passive systems of meditation, for example, endeavor to cope with stress by avoiding it. The meditative period is spent emptying the mind and emotions of all content, including stressful reactions.

Since this emptiness is pleasant in comparison to the stress and worries of daily living, an illusion of managing stress is created. But once the meditative period is completed, and the meditators must confront their problems and anxieties anew, the stress returns. In fact, the meditators may well be more irritable than before.

These systems also frequently teach their devotees to become indifferent to the problems of the world. Instead of learning to solve problems, they withdraw from them and become absorbed entirely in the inner life. There is certainly nothing wrong with being able to become immersed in the inner life. However, this capacity should not be carried to the extreme of cutting off all interest in the outer life.

Meditation is meant to be a means for bringing the life of the Higher Self into the life of the personality and its ability to contribute to life.

As such, it does not make sense to use meditation to abandon the personality or to seek escape from its difficulties.

Active Meditation emphasizes reducing stress by solving our problems and difficulties, not by withdrawing from them. In this way, it applies the basic theme of the greater taking care of the lesser.

Thus, the personality does not use the life of the Higher Self as a refuge from the problems of daily life. Instead, the personality invokes the wisdom and power of the Higher Self to correct the problems at hand. It involves heaven in the affairs of earth.

There are two fundamental goals of the Western spiritual tradition. The first is to discover the presence of God. The second is to express this presence in our outer activities as an enlightened agent of our spiritual plan and purpose.

Turning Points

Most people view problems as troublesome, something to avoid at all costs. And yet they are a natural phenomenon of life. The person who believes himself to be without problems is either asleep or self- deceived.

It is realistic to consider that many of our problems can serve worthwhile purposes.

Our difficulties motivate us to grow and become a better person. They give us experience in the mature management of opposition and resistance with maturity. In many cases, they are actually opportunities in disguise.

There is a potential of great power in problems. A moment of crisis may be a turning point in our life. Such times boost our ability to gather resources, solicit the assistance of friends, and invoke the support of our Higher Self. If we manage this predicament successfully, our new direction may be a significant improvement for us.

The key lies in how we respond to the problem.

If we habitually respond by seeking refuge in passive meditation, we will be completely unprepared to seize the opportunity of the turning point.

If we habitually respond by attacking the problem with aggression and anger, the turning point will become so painful or exhausting that we cannot gain from it.

This result is especially likely when we fail to realize how much our anger and aggressiveness contributed to the development of this problem.

A vastly different result can be achieved if we habitually respond to problems by seeking the enlightened perspective of the Higher Self.

This will help us to recognize the deeper aspects of our challenges:

  • the message about our deficiencies inherent in this problem
  • the opportunities for growth presented to us
  • and reasonable solutions for the problems

This can be done by posing a series of questions the Higher Self can answer. These questions should examine:

  • why and how the problem has developed
  • what we have contributed to it
  • the lessons we can learn from it
  • the deeper issues behind the outer symptoms
  • and the most effective way to resolve them

Some people are hesitant to ask specific questions of the Higher Self. They believe they should merely contact the wisdom of the Higher Self and let it guide them whither it will.

This is a false belief based on assumption that the personality is incompetent and inherently unable to comprehend the vast wisdom of the divine. The personality has neither the ability or authority to direct the Higher Self for any reason. This would be as arrogant as telling the sun where to set.

Good parents both expect and invite their children to ask questions and seek advice. For the same reason, the personality should be confident about requesting advice from the Higher Self.

This is most successfully done by formulating penetrating questions that are designed to invoke practical advice.

The meditative practice of waiting for the Higher Self to guide us often results in serious self-deception. Meditators can waste years struggling with issues of anxiety, discouragement, and indecision. Yet, this amounts to little more than nibbling at the edges of problems. They may assume they are struggling bravely to cope with major issues, when in fact they are not working with the heart of the problems at all, just the symptoms.

The Higher Self is always striving to help the personality increase its responsibility, not decrease it. It will provide us with useful guidance and insights, but it will expect us to:

  • use this help and integrate it into our daily living
  • make decisions and accept the consequences of them
  • play an active role in working to resolve the problems we encounter.

We should always know that we can turn to the Higher Self to strengthen our courage and determination.

It is up to us, however, to confront the issues and challenges ourself.

This is the way in which we become a competent agent of the wisdom, love, and power of the Higher Self.

There are three basic categories of problems with which we must deal:

  1. Personal problems.
  2. Career problems.
  3. Problems arising from creative activity.

The kind of questions to direct meditatively to the Higher Self will vary somewhat for each of these categories. Each will therefore be examined in greater detail by itself.

Personal Problems

The single greatest difficulty in managing personal problems is our intimate involvement in them. This closeness distorts our perspective, making it hard to view the situation with objectivity.

All too often, we color the questions we ask with our wishes and expectations, so that the answers will please and satisfy us. For example, we might inquire why a certain person dislikes us, thereby distracting us from inquiring about how we managed to offend so many people. Loaded questions always bring loaded answers.

Another factor to consider is that our primary concern is often about the symptoms of the problem and how we plan to defend ourself.

Less or no thought is given to the genuine, underlying difficulty.

For example, those who lack ambition and tend to be dependent on others will find it hard to compete against them. They will tend to think that society is discriminating against them by unfairly holding them down. If there is any admission of laziness, this will be justified as a rightful response to the unfairness they have received.

In this way, the basic problem, inertia and dependency, perpetuates a cycle of hostility and resentment.

The questions we pose in order to solve personal problems must therefore be designed to help us penetrate beyond our self-deception and arrive at the actual problem we must confront. These are the basic questions to consider:

  • What are the beliefs and habits which have led to this problem?
  • What we have contributed to the problem?
  • How we have aggravated it?
  • Where have we been negligent in attending to duties, commitments, assignments, and obligations?

If we are being dunned by bill collectors for instance, they will likely be due to in our basic failure to pay what we owe, and not in the obnoxious, persistent behavior of the bill collectors.

If we have a problem of loneliness, we ought to examine what efforts we have made to cultivate friends, and how we have treated the friends we already have.

If we have been bitterly criticized by colleagues, we should consider the possibility that we have been critical or antagonistic toward them. This investigation must require some subtlety.

We may decide that our friends have been letting us down in a time of need, especially since we have always been ready to help them.

Perhaps we need to consider the possibility that the “help” we have given them in the past has been rather self-serving and manipulative. Quite possibly it was not even perceived as help!

We also need to consider the psychological context in which this problem arose. Many families or groups have strict traditions they expect individual members to respect. A simple disagreement between two people can take on complex overtones that will be absent if most other situations.

The same principle can affect other personal problems as well. Some of our difficulties, for example, are simply the general tribulations of the human race.

For example, teenagers can be too influenced by the superficiality and pettiness of popular role models. Others may be conditioned by the dark moods from mass consciousness – the fear of economic hard times, racism, prejudice, chauvinism, and nihilism.

Examining the climate in which the problem arises can therefore provide us with many clues for managing it more intelligently.

After all, if we try to treat a bigot by being stronger bigot, we will probably soon find that we are only increasing the intensity of the problem.

The real work to be done in solving personal problems is not always as obvious as it seems. It is easy to become absorbed in the minor issues and details of a problem and fail to recognize the core issues involved.

For example, the parent who is constantly at odds with his or her children may focus entirely on the lack of respect of children for parents. Finding the real work to be done usually requires that we embrace the larger perspective of the problem. In this case, the actual difficulty might be the ignorance and practice of the principles of good parenting.

The person who has difficulty relating to strangers may need to become aware of the corollary problem of not liking themselves or anyone else all that much. As we make the effort to broaden our perspective on the real dimensions of our problems in these ways, we are able to see more clearly the changes to be made. Narrowness of attention can actually blind us to the roots of our difficulties.

What is the real issue posed by these types of problems? The larger challenges that are posed for all people stem from the fact that the Higher Self has a number of duties for us.

We are sent to an imperfect earthly realm in order to:

  • acquire maturity, greater skill and expertise
  • become an enlightened individual
  • be helpful in the world in some form of service to others
  • and honor our spiritual potentials in additional ways.

Not everyone understands this agenda, nor do they sign on eagerly to pursue these goals. The core problem behind all other problems on the path to enlightenment is the tendency of the personality to:

  • view all work as a burden
  • all conflict as harassment
  • all offers of cooperation as intrusions
  • and all criticism as an attack on our character.

When this occurs, it will be impossible to arrive at any enlightened solutions to the problems of our life. The Higher Self will be unable to help us reduce stress, because much of what we are defining as stress is designed to be an opportunity!

It is therefore important to start viewing many of our problems in a new and different way, trying to determine their potential for success rather than their potential for failure.

As long as a problem is seen only as an obstacle, it may well be unsolvable. But if we begin to view it as an opportunity for growth, we can usually make it precisely that very quickly.

To do this, we must ask ourself:

  • What we can learn from these problems?
  • What can we learn about ourself, human nature, and the needs of others?
  • How we can be helpful in these situations?
  • What new responsibilities ought we to accept?

In this way, we begin approaching problems constructively instead of defensively.

The one factor which prolongs and aggravates most problems is the tendency to develop a self-serving definition of the “solution” we will pursue. In far too many most cases, the solution sought is no solution at all. It will be just the desire to survive, avoid conflict, and wait for better times. As a result, we retreat into defensiveness instead of taking constructive steps to improve the situation.

Sometimes, we even go a step beyond defensiveness and entertain a perverse desire for vengeance or punishment of enemies we assume are the cause of our distress. This will introduce elements which will intensify the problem, not resolve it.

It should be understood that some people do not actually want to solve their problems. This is because they have learned to use their outer appearance of great difficulty to cloak their weakness and self- absorption. They are addicted to the victim status they have carefully developed.

These people would not consider a resolution of their problems as a moment of triumph, because it would rob them of their perverse delight in suffering and their justification for continued anger and self- pity.

These tendencies can at times be very subtle. It is therefore quite important to examine our motives regarding our problems.

Are we in any way secretly committed to sustaining this problem?

Or have we carelessly set a goal which de facto makes the problem an open-ended one?

We need to take sufficient time meditatively to determine what the ideal solution to our problem. This will help us to orient our thoughts and attitudes toward resolving it, not prolonging it.

In doing this, however, we must take care not to limit our definition of “best possible solution” to what is best for us alone. Most personal problems involve other people. If we consider only what is best for us, we are severely limiting our choices and probably reducing our chances of discovering what truly is the best solution.

Nothing traps a person in his or her problems more than a sense of righteousness. The object of meditating on our problems is not to convince us that everyone else is wrong and we are right.

This usually involves developing new qualities, forces, and talents which we can then apply to the situation at hand. Occasionally, it may also involve learning to stop acting in ways that irritate the problem.

Often, the new skill to be learned is quite obvious – greater patience, renewed faith, or a stronger dose of courage.

Sometimes the solution is more subtle.

For instance, we may need to appreciate the ways other people view these circumstances quite differently from our own.

Other times, we need to learn how to remain firm in our convictions without seeming dogmatic, obstinate, or pushy to others.

We also need to be able to integrate these new qualities, forces, and talents into our self-expression. It is naïve to think that new measures of patience or goodwill can simply be plastered on the outer surface of our character. Our old traits of rudeness, intolerance, and criticism will not say “covered.” Plaster soon chips and wears thin. This is also true of superficial changes in self-expression.

To be effective, these new qualities, forces, and talents must be permanently worked into the foundation of our character.

If our problem is rudeness, we will need to practice politeness and respect for all of our dealings with others, not just the most annoying people we know.

In this way, the new skills become a permanent part of our character, not just a temporary convenience.

Career Problems

Many of the problems we encounter in the work place are merely extensions of personal problems, and we need to be handled as such. Rudeness is rudeness, and so also is indifference. It has the same annoying impact whether we happen to be with friends or at the office.

Many other problems from the work place are distinct from personal problems, especially if the work we do is part of a group and hierarchical enterprise. These are often problems which affect the whole business or activity, and must be solved with this in mind. They are not our personal problems alone. As a result, the kind of questions we direct at the Higher Self, in order to better understand and solve this problem, will be somewhat different.

These are the basic questions to consider:

What mental framework are we using to define and solve this problem?

It is important to understand that any mental set can limit our ability to recognize the real issues at hand and find the best methods for solving them. Many experts in business management view problems with a very narrow mind set.

Engineers, for example, tend to view all business problems in terms of nuts and bolts, machines, flow charts, and production, as though humans were machines or even behave like machines.

Accountants tend to view the problems of the company in terms of what will make it easier for them to keep the books, or cut expenses. Their major concern will not be in terms of what is best for customers, employees, or productivity.

A person who views all aspects of a business as though it were a machine which can be fixed will be blind to the impact of his decisions on staff and customers.

A person who sees the needs of a business only in terms of the bottom line of a financial report will never comprehend issues of purpose, quality, and style.

A person concerned only with the public’s impression of the work being done will tend to sacrifice long-term progress for a short-term impact.

To truly solve the problems of business, therefore, we must be able to transcend the limitations the various mind sets the business imposes upon us.

What can be done in these types of situations?

Many problems in the work place become aggravated because no one is willing to accept responsibility to initiate remedial action.

Other problems are created when one person attempts to intrude in a situation where he or she has no responsibility, and no business.

Examining the scope of our responsibility can be an essential part of the solution.

This responsibility can be of two kinds.

The first would be the specific duties spelled out by the job we hold.

The second is the obligation we have to the welfare and growth of the entire enterprise of which we are a part. It is this latter responsibility which is so often forgotten in the work place.

Workers refuse to help their colleagues when it is clear they need assistance. Sometimes, they are more interested in the mischief and embarrassment they can create than in the contribution they can make to the company or agency.

In what kind of environment has this problem developed? Our ability to work out a simple solution to problems depend on the presence of:

  • long-standing morale problems
  • depressed market conditions
  • bad publicity about a product or service offered
  • or serious competition.

Trying to remedy difficulties without considering these external factors can make it all but impossible to achieve success. And yet, these external factors are not always as troublesome as they sometimes first appear.

Depressed market conditions, for example, often lead to a tightening of efficiency and internal discipline. These changes can continue to benefit the company long after the poor conditions pass away.

To take advantage of these environmental conditions, we must first ascertain what they are. What trends are inherent in this problem?

Experience is a tremendous help in analyzing our problems. It enables us to understand the events and decisions from the past which may be affecting the problem we are facing today. This can give us a basis for projecting how this trend will continue, if left unchecked.

Sometimes, this examination of trends will indicate that no action is required; it is best to let the problem die of its own inertia.

At other times, however, it will indicate that the trends which have led to this problem are far more serious than the problem itself has suggested. Swift action is necessary before conditions worsen.

In this regard, it is useful to keep in mind that many trends are cyclical in nature and need to be treated accordingly.

What is the real problem to be solved? As with personal problems, it is important to separate the real difficulty from its symptoms.

Sales may be declining, but the problem may not be in the sales force. Instead, it may involve bad management, faulty marketing strategy, or weak quality control.

Assuming that the sales force is responsible for slumping sales may lead to more problems, not less.

One of the best ways to separate the real issues from the symptoms is to consider how the problem at hand is affecting the whole enterprise and its capacity to fulfill its purpose.

The reassignment of duties from one unit to another may be in the best interest of the company as a whole. This action, however, may strain relations between the personnel in these two units.

This difficulty lies not in the actual decision to reassign these duties but in the petty bickering which is transpiring between these two units.

Putting the problem in the context of the purpose of the enterprise as a whole is essential. This will help us to see the larger dimensions involved as well as the best solution to implement.

Have we been asking the right question? Sometimes problems in the work place arise because we have made unrealistic assumptions or are working toward false goals.

Many managers, for example, believe they can mold the people working for them into their own personal style. In the vast majority of cases, this is an unrealistic expectation. The employees will rebel against it.

Yet the fault lies not in the employees, but in the impractical assumption made by the manager. If such a person were to ask the question, “Why are employees so disloyal in our modern society,” this would be asking the wrong question.

The right question should be, “What attitudes of mine have been causing my employees to rebel against me?”

What practical steps can be taken to solve this problem? The cardinal rule of working on problems of the work place is to tailor solutions to factors under our control. It serves no constructive purpose, after all, for a clerk to daydream about taking over the role of manager and then brilliantly correcting the morale problem. But the same clerk does have the opportunity to use what wit and influence he or she has as an individual.

For instance, each person can decide to contribute to the improvement of morale by being:

  • more cheerful
  • more supportive of the work of others
  • more optimistic about the future of the company.

Other factors which will be involved in implementing the solution should also be considered, the time it will take, the cost, and the chances of success.

Problems Arising From Creative Activity

The third category of problems are those which arise from our creative activity. They differ from the first two in one major way, they are mainly the byproducts of our own innovative work. As such, they are usually not as troubling or threatening as the other two classifications of problems.

We will, however, still require skill and maturity to resolve them properly. Indeed, many times the problems arising from creative activity demand far more skill than any other type of problem.

Creative activity embraces a wide range of self-expression. These include those in conventional fields of creativity – the arts, literature, drama, music, and dance – but is not limited solely to them.

The difficulties of establishing an enriched atmosphere for our family life is a common example. Other problems can arise from exploring a favorite hobby, researching the subtle factors in an illness, or a new breakthrough in science or technology.

The problems which arise from these pursuits tend to involve the difficulty of:

  • developing creative ideas in the first place
  • the obstacles to be overcome in refining and perfecting these ideas
  • opposition from others who are jealous of our creativity or threatened by what we are producing
  • and the challenge of translating a good idea into a practical reality.

This line of problems reminds us of the questions we need to invoke the greater to help in the affairs of the lesser. This must always be the underlying theme of creativity.

These questions include:

1. What is the purpose of this creative activity?

Answering this question correctly will be a great boon to our efforts to be inspired with good creative ideas.

Many people, unfortunately, seek their inspiration from the greed, lust for attention, fantasies, pride, or illusions which move them to work creatively in the first place. None of these elements contains any creative inspiration, however. They can only stimulate us to copy what others have done before us.

The real source of creative inspiration is archetypal life.

To contact the archetypes, our primary motivation must be to serve the purposes of the creative ideas themselves, not our personal, petty desires.

For a composer, this would be the purposes of the spirit of music. For a scientist, it would be the purposes of the spirit of scientific discovery.

For a national leader, it would be the purposes of the national spirit.

Meditation is an excellent time to become acquainted with the purpose and force of creative inspiration. Then, when we are ready to perform our creative activity, we will experience far fewer problems in receiving a high level of helpful inspiration.

2. What is the real need we are trying to serve?

Many people who work creatively are aware of the purposes of their labors, but ignore the needs they will fill, the needs of the people who will benefit from the end result.

This might be a parent who understands the principles of the art of parenting but does not adapt them to the individual children in his or her care.

Or it could be an artist who becomes totally involved in a private communication with his muse and neglects to use his art for conveying the inner realities of life to those who will view his paintings.

Such shortsightedness limits the creative endeavor and diminishes the impact it will have. It becomes self-serving.

3. What effect do we seek to create?

The one who would learn to work with causes must also become responsible for the effects that are produced.

A writer, for instance, must weigh not only the music and loveliness of the words chosen, but also the meaning they convey. If they will confuse or distract the reader from an understanding of the basic themes being presented, they represent poor writing, no matter how clever they might be.

Many people are attracted to creative pursuits by the thrill they derive from producing something new from their own imagination.

They have not yet developed a sense of responsibility for creating something that will produce favorable effects. Many problems can arise when this sense of responsibility is lacking.

4. What resources of talent, time, raw materials, and opportunity are we able to draw on?

An excellent inspiration does not become a creative masterpiece until it has been translated by the creator from the abstract into the concrete.

Many would-be creative people are frustrated because they never manage to produce the great masterwork they claim to be capable of producing. Yet if they would examine their problem closely, they would see it is mostly the result of their inability to coordinate talent, time, raw materials, and opportunity.

The problem may simply be that they have not acquired sufficient skill for their chosen field to work. Or they may not be sufficiently disciplined to produce results. In any event, their frustration can only be reduced by examining the implications of this particular question.

5. What is the psychological climate in which we are seeking to be creative?

There are several levels to examine in answering this particular question. The most important is our own mindset.

Elements of self-doubt, self-criticism, fear, resentment, and fatigue can sabotage creative endeavors.

These elements, if discovered, can be removed in meditation by using appropriate mental housecleaning techniques.

Another important influence on the psychological climate is generated by those around us. Friends or family members who are jealous of our work or antagonistic can disrupt the creative process at psychic levels.

Various forces in mass consciousness can do the same, especially if our creative triumphs tend to put them in a bad light by comparison.

The best way to manage these difficulties, if they should arise, is to apply two major types of solutions.

One is to increase our faith in our own skills and inspiration, and the second is to renew our commitment to serving the purpose of our creative endeavors.

6. What is the best way to honor the creative forces we are working with?

If creative endeavors are alive and vital, they will grow in scope, quality, and their value to humanity. The creative person should frequently review the effectiveness of methods for approaching the creative process.

This would include examining our alignment with creative forces, the strength of our faith in the work we are doing, and the skills and talents we possess. It should also include periodic mental housecleaning to remove unnecessary doubt or hesitation.

It is also useful to reenergizing our ideals and mindset for the creative process. This can be performed by our dedication to excellence and a devotion to being receptive and response to the very best ideas and ideals within us.

Solving Problems

This question-and-answer approach to solving problems is useful in many areas other than Active Meditation. It can be used by any intelligent individual seeking to reflect on the meaning of their difficulties. It is especially powerful when used as a meditative exercise, because meditation is the natural communication between the greater and the lesser – between the Higher Self and the personality.

At a meditative level, we are better able to see that our problems have a multidimensional structure and implication, just as we do.

Quite often, problems can only be solved to the fullest degree if we work on them subconsciously and unconsciously as well as consciously.

This can only be done in meditation.

It is always important to keep in mind that when we ask questions at a meditative level, we receive more than mere answers. We receive an understanding of why these answers will resolve the problem as well as the power to implement the solution. It is this dynamic aspect of problem solving which distinguishes Active Meditation from ordinary thinking and reflection.

The meditative exercise for solving problems begins, as always, by establishing contact with the Higher Self.

This entails the use of the four-stage process of relaxation, detachment, concentration, and attunement described in chapter five.

Once this contact has been reestablished, we should then take a few moments to dwell on the capacity of the greater to care for the lesser, the capacity of the Higher Self to help us understand and solve our problems. This can be done by meditating on the power behind various seed thoughts, such as “discovery of inner resources,” “the perfect strength and wisdom of the Higher Self,” and “the power of a creative approach to life.”

Once we are properly responsive to the Higher Self, we can then proceed with the actual asking of questions.

The first step is to define the problem as we perceive it, its antecedents, the climate in which we must deal with it, and the real pattern of the problem behind the symptoms.

Two of the skills of meditation can be most helpful in this regard:

Personification. We can personify the capacity of the Higher Self to resolve problems as an infinitely wise person with whom we can converse and receive answers to the questions we have in mind.

Or, if we prefer, we can consult a committee of experts who can examine this problem from their various perspectives.

In using this skill, however, we must be careful to keep our attention focused on solving the problem at hand, and not be swept away by a fantasy about the personification, or believe that the personification will solve our problem for us.

Role playing. There are several ways this meditative skill can be used in defining the problem.

If other people are involved, we can meditatively play their roles in the situation, thereby gaining insight into their motives, their attitudes, and what will be best for them.

If we are being sabotaged by self-doubt, we can role play with the “inner critic” to better understand what is prompting this doubt, and then silence it.

If we are working on a creative problem, we can imagine the ideal solution to our difficulty or challenge to be a spirit seeking to enter into life through an unborn embryo, the spirit of our own creative design.

We, as the loving parent, communicate with this “unborn child” and see how we can help to bring it into life and nurture it to adulthood – full self-expression.

It is also possible to use role playing to converse with a specific aspect of our subconscious which can help us solve this problem, a certain talent, an aspect of our personal pride, our capacity for patience and tolerance, or something else.

It may take several meditative sessions, on different occasions, to complete our definition of the problem and our understanding of the multidimensional forces contributing to it. But as this understanding grows, we should then move on to another set of questions, questions which will help us understand and implement the solution to our problem.

There are again several meditative skills which can help us at this stage:

Working with the ideals of the Higher Self. This skill is particularly useful in determining the best possible solution to our problem.

If we find that our problem of loneliness is due in part to the selfish and manipulative way we treat our friends, for example, then the solution will lie in working to cultivate a number of the spiritual ideals of the Higher Self.

These ideals can include: a capacity to care about the interests and welfare of others, a healthy respect for the individuality of others, affection, kindness, and the willingness to share. We can give this exercise a practical focus by carefully rehearsing ways in which we can express these ideals to specific people we know.

Working with divine archetypes. Divine archetypes contain the pattern for acting with enlightenment in every conceivable circumstance.

The more we learn to interact with them, the more we master the skills of solving problems.

If our problem involves unfair treatment, therefore, we can invoke the divine archetype of justice and see how it can most creatively be applied in this particular circumstance.

If our problem involves an area of self-deception, we can invoke the divine archetype of truth to help us unravel this difficulty.

As always, the beginner will find it easiest to gain access to these archetypal forces by using personifications such as the Muses or the Graces (as described in detail in the essays “The Act of Human Creation” and “Becoming Graceful” from The Art of Living series). But it is the force behind the personification which will help us solve the problem, not the image. It is also useful to keep in mind that these divine archetypes are not creations of our imagination.

Our imagination may help create the way we visualize the archetype, but these forces are real and independent of us.

Many of our problems deal with the important activities of our life, such as our work or creative endeavors.

In such cases, it can sometimes be helpful to invent a mental laboratory or studio in which we can work on projects, research options, and carry on continuing conversations with personifications, subconscious roles, and so on. The nature of this workshop or studio would vary with the kind of work we do.

An artist would create a mental studio with perfect lighting and experimental materials.

The engineer would obviously prefer a formal laboratory with testing equipment and other devices.

A chef would need a well-equipped mental kitchen in which he could experiment freely with different recipes and combinations, and refine new skills before trying them in physical life.

Once a solution is achieved, and again, this may require several meditative sessions, it is then important to conclude our work by focusing the power of the solution into our thoughts, feelings, and physical activities.

This can be done by dwelling on a seed thought which represents the power of the solution we have discovered. The actual seed thought would of course vary with the kind of problem and its solution.

In a personal problem, it might be “right human relations” or “self- sufficiency.”

In a problem of the work place, it might be “adaptability” or “thoroughness.” In a problem arising from creative activity, it could be “resourcefulness.”

In some cases, it may also be necessary to use the techniques of mental housecleaning to prepare the way for the use of seed thoughts.

The Divine Catechism

Taking our problems into a meditative state and consulting with the Higher Self about them also provides two extra benefits.

First, we begin to understand the value of problems in our life.

Second, we recognize we are meant to ask questions about our problems.

Problems become a primary incentive for us to grow and develop our inner resources. Asking the right questions is a direct way to invoke these resources.

As we build skill in asking these questions, we gradually come to an interesting insight:

It is really the Higher Self which is asking us questions!

Through our problems and challenges, we learn to give voice to these questions and find their answers. This give-and-take of daily living is a divine catechism, through which the Higher Self teaches us the lessons of responsibility, creativity, and maturity.

Once we learn the answer to any one of the questions in the divine catechism, the problem associated with it ceases to be a problem.

We know how to solve it.

The Technique For Solving Problems

The technique for solving problems can be summarized as follows:

  1. We begin by entering a meditative state and contacting the Higher Self, as described in chapter five.
  2. We dwell on the capacity of the greater to assist the lesser in solving problems it faces. This can be done by contemplating various seed thoughts.
  3. We ask questions which will help us define the problem, its antecedents, the psychological climate it is part of, and the real problem behind the symptoms. The meditative skills of personification and role playing can be used as appropriate.
  4. We ask questions which will help us understand and implement the best possible solution to the problem. This will often involve working with the spiritual ideals of the Higher Self or divine archetypes. For certain kinds of problems, it may also be useful to create a mental laboratory or studio.
  5. We focus the solution into our thoughts, feelings, and physical activities. Seed thoughts can again be used at this stage of the technique.
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