Grounding the Life of the Higher Self
Each human being is designed to be a single, integrated self. We are not meant to have one self which meditates and one self which is busy and active in daily life.
For the sake of clarity, we speak of the parent within and the child within, the Higher Self and the personality, but the goal of Active Meditation is to integrate these different parts, not increase the distinction between them. The self which meditates should therefore be seen as the same as the self which is active and busy in life. This is just a matter of good sense.
And yet, strangely enough, few meditative systems see the one who meditates as the same as the one who is involved in active self- expression.
Most glorify the meditating self and discredit the active, involved self, and thereby keep them separate.
In many cases, they seem disinterested in relating the work and themes of meditation into the fabric of daily life. Instead, they try to draw the individual entirely out of the active world and into an ashram, monastery, or other hermitage. Thereafter, dominant attention is given to the meditating self and the mystical life. As a result, the insights gained in meditation are not integrated into the individual’s potential for self-expression and activity.
The seven techniques of Active Meditation which have been presented are not designed to be used in an ashram or a monastery. They could be, but they are designed primarily to be used by the individual who is active in daily life and is seeking to integrate the life of the Higher Self into the busy, productive, and fulfilling life of the personality.
They are deliberately pragmatic in approach.
As such, it is not enough just to learn to use these techniques at a meditative level. We must also complete the process, and learn to translate the wisdom, love, and insights gained into our daily self- expression.
This stage is known as the process of grounding the qualities, skills, and principles of the Higher Self in the life of the personality. It brings heaven to earth and lays the foundation for eventually building the city of God in the physical world.
One of the great problems among meditators has always been the tendency to turn their back on the earth and float into an otherworldly peace. They become impractical, dreamy, and sometimes disoriented.
Yet there is no need for this to happen in the practice of meditation. There will be no difficulty in keeping our consciousness grounded in daily life if we understand the value of human self-expression and its role in spiritual growth. The goal is to become a citizen of heaven while participating in a useful life in the material world.
Our Spiritual Duty
In watching a movie or play, it is easy to forget that the characters being portrayed are not living, human beings, they are merely fictional characters who are brought to life for a few brief moments by skillful actors.
But they are brought to life so cleverly and charmingly that we overlook the actors behind the makeup, until the curtain call or the end of the movie. Then we realize that actors have a life of their own which is quite different from the character they portray. When the actors remove their makeup and costumes, they are once again themselves.
There are always stories of actors who confuse the roles they play with their own identity, who do not know who they are once they remove the mask. But these are never truly gifted actors.
The best actors are always those who knows themselves, their values, and principles so well that they can enrich the character they are portraying. They can make intelligent statements about life while assuming a fictional identity. In other words, they do not just play a role, they express themselves through the role!
We, too, play roles – as citizen, parent, spouse, friend, worker, consumer, and provider. But like the truly gifted actor, we are not meant just to play these parts. We are designed to enrich the roles we play, and make an intelligent statement about life through everything we do. We are meant to express ourself – our Higher Self!
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to remove the makeup and the costumes and still be able to act in life. They are too involved with the roles they play, imitating television and movie heroes or friends and associates they admire. Imitating the behavior of others, however, is not a genuine form of self-expression. It is the kind of approach to life we would expect from a pre-adolescent, who is enamored with the very latest pop star, not from an adult.
Others have moved beyond the imitating stage, but they are still immersed in the roles they play. They are “true to their feelings,” which means they let their emotions dictate how they will react to the events of life. Yet feelings are all they have to give to life. They are unable to make a meaningful or creative statement about the inner dimensions and values of life. They do not recognize the actor behind the role any more than the person who merely imitates.
True self-expression is something more than imitating others and being honest with our feelings. It involves two factors:
- Knowing who we are when we have taken off all the makeup and costumes of the roles we play—knowing our true self.
- Expressing the values, principles, and talents of this true self—the Higher Self—in everything we do. The ancient statement, “To thine own self be true,” captures the essence of this—if it is thought of as an injunction to be true to the Higher Self, not a justification for selfish behavior.
This kind of self-expression is what heals and enriches the personality and gives the greater within us a chance to contribute to life. It enables the light within us to shine forth in and through everything we do.
In the West, true self-expression is not just a goal, it is a duty! It is our obligation to spiritualize civilization and enrich the physical plane.
Those who seeks to grow spiritually must therefore strive for self- expression, or they will not be in harmony with the basic direction of the spiritual life. The collective work of spiritualizing civilization can only be achieved as individuals strive to bring new light and love into their daily labors.
Meditation is an excellent opportunity for discovering who we are and the spiritual design of our character. It can bring us many fascinating and important insights into our place in the universe.
But meditation is designed to do more than just expand our self- awareness.
It must create an outlet for the expression of the Higher Self as well. In this way, the personality and the Higher Self can have the opportunity to work together, as a partnership. This partnership is the true secret of individuality.
The Higher Self’s Commitment
The value of enlightened self-expression is enormous, both for the personality and for the Higher Self.
In the personality, self-expression stirs up the life force, giving focus to our good ideas, plans, and intentions and breaking up congested areas of consciousness.
It is surprising how frequently congestion is a problem among spiritual aspirants. A fact which is poorly appreciated in the West is that the personality as a whole breathes, just as the physical body breathes.
The breath of the personality is the figurative inhalation of inspiration, power, and compassion from the Higher Self. But the inhalation must be followed by exhalation, not only in the physical body but also in the personality. If it is not, then congestion will ensue.
And so, if we have breathed in inspiration, power, and compassion from the Higher Self, we must complete the cycle, by expressing wisdom, strength, and goodwill in our acts and good works.
If we fail to do so, the personality may gradually become restless, depressed, irritable, and frustrated. Its self-image may deteriorate.
Consciousness has been bottled up, just as though we were holding our physical breath. At the physical level, the breath can only be held a short while before the lungs will forcibly expel it. But at the psychological level, the congestion can be much more severe, leading to long-term problems.
It should be noted that people with congestive psychological problems may be quite busy in daily activities.
It is not the volume of activity which measures self-expression, but rather the degree to which we express our inner nature and qualities.
To honor wisdom, we must engage in intelligent activities.
To honor love, we must treat others with goodwill, affection, compassion, and tolerance.
To honor the purpose of the Higher Self, we must seek to serve the divine plan.
As we do, we learn to breathe psychologically, and our capacity to breathe in larger measures of the power, talent, love, and wisdom of the Higher Self increases. This is the dynamic effect of enlightened self- expression.
The Higher Self takes a vital interest in the life of the personality, because it provides the doorway for influencing life on the physical plane directly. As the personality becomes more responsive to expressing the purpose and qualities of the Higher Self in daily life, the plans and intentions of the Higher Self can be activated.
At the same time, as the personality finds outlets for the wisdom and love of the Higher Self, it fulfills the commitment to participate in the divine plan for humanity and civilization.
Truly, only the person who has cultivated an enlightened self- expression is able to understand fully what it means to participate in the life of humanity – to help one another and work collectively toward the goals of the Higher Self.
A Multidimensional Phenomenon
Some people, of course, believe that enlightened self-expression will develop spontaneously as we expand our self-awareness, but this is mostly just a pleasant self-deception. One does not become a skilled and talented writer simply by contacting a good creative idea. The ability to translate that idea into clear prose is also required. No idea can teach anyone to be a good writer. The lessons of clear writing are learned through self-discipline, practice, and the training of the mind.
Nor does one become a skilled composer merely by mentally hearing a lovely melody on the inner planes. The ability to translate the “music of the spheres” into a composition which can be played by other musicians is also required.
Self-expression is a multidimensional phenomenon, a creative phenomenon, if understood properly. For a quality or talent of the Higher Self to achieve self-expression, it must pass first through the concrete mind, then through the emotions, and finally be embodied in physical activity.
No matter how much white light we may be able to bask in while meditating, the work of self-expression is not an automatic process. Rather, it is an operation which needs our intelligent involvement.
If the vehicles of our mind, emotions, and body are not properly coordinated or trained, they will not transmit the ideas and intentions of the Higher Self.
If the concrete mind and emotions are bogged down in antagonistic feelings or thoughts, the whole process of self-expression will be aborted.
The grounding of the work we do in meditation, through our enlightened self-expression, is of utmost importance to the practice of Active Meditation. It is not something which can be casually dismissed as an after-thought. Only people who know nothing at all about self- expression would ever believe it!
There are certain specific steps to be taken:
- During meditations.
- At the end of meditations.
- During our non-meditative activities.
These steps will help us coordinate our self-expression, harmonize it with the insights we gain while meditating, and make it a more complete and enlightened statement of the message of the Higher Self.
At Meditative Levels
During meditations, the work of translating the ideals and wisdom of the Higher Self into an enlightened self-expression involves several actions. These are:
- removing obstacles which might sabotage this enlightened self- expression
- strengthening our intention to act
- generating an ideal psychological atmosphere for honoring the insights we have gained.
This work should be integrated into our use of each of the seven techniques for personal growth already given.
The work of removing obstacles which could sabotage our enlightened self-expression will obviously employ many of the principles of effective mental housecleaning. The most common obstacles we might encounter and need to remove are elements of:
- fear of criticism or loss
- feeling inadequate or unworthy
Sometimes we will not know the exact nature of our obstacle to self- expression, but this lack of knowledge need not deter us. We can use our meditations to call up the “dissenting voice” of our subconscious and give it the opportunity to speak to us.
We may find, for example, that we are in danger of being sabotaged by a deep-seated fear of criticism. If left unchecked, this fear of criticism could easily inhibit our self-expression.
Once we become aware of this force of obstruction, we can bargain with it.
For example, we can suggest that we will be less likely to make mistakes and draw criticism if it works with us to build and rehearse better ways of acting.
In this way, a potentially negative force, which otherwise would only nag at our efforts to be productive, can be harnessed to help us.
In addition to removing obstacles, the period of meditation is also ideal for strengthening our intention to act. This is useful for:
- changing a habit
- approaching our work with more creativity
- implementing a plan for treating others with greater kindness
- other new programs of self-expression.
Once we have decided how we intend to act, we need to dwell on the noble purpose for acting in this way.
If our intention is to treat others with greater kindness, for example, we define the purpose of acting in this way as something more than a personal benefit to ourself. More important would be to fulfill the ideal of establishing “peace on earth, goodwill toward all men and women.”
As we enrich our self-expression with kindness and goodwill, we help not only ourself but the whole of humanity. By registering this “greater purpose” behind our acts, we are able to tap a powerful source of motivation, strengthening our will to act.
The power of this purpose can then be translated into the actual energies of self-expression by meditating on appropriate seed thoughts, such as:
- the greater expresses itself through the lesser
- the courage to act
- purpose determines my self-expression
- the complete fulfillment of purpose.
A third step which can be taken during meditation is to generate a cheerful and optimistic psychological climate in which to act.
This is especially important when we are struggling with resistance, temptation, or discouragement. In this way, we “coat” our plans and intentions with a positive attitude and the power of optimism. We also invoke the quality of thoughts and emotions we need to fuel the effort before us, both as a rehearsal and as a final performance.
This activity of rehearsing an enthusiastic and cheerful approach to our work should be done thoroughly and completely if it is to be effective. It is not a procedure to rush through. Several minutes should be spent building the mindset and maintaining the intention.
In general, every aspect of our self-expression can be strengthened by one key, regular meditative habit.
This is to cultivate a warm and quietly enthusiastic respect for ourself, our talents and ideas, and our intended work.
Without adequate self-respect, it can be very difficult to sustain any constructive activity, no matter how much we recognize the importance of this effort.
It is unfortunate that the first reaction to the effort to build healthy self-respect is sometimes the exact opposite of what we intend. It is possible to stir up ancient feelings of inferiority, self-rejection, and self- denial which could easily overwhelm our enlightened efforts.
This is why it is important to recognize this reaction as evidence of how self-critical and self-sabotaging we are. These negative forces must be managed intelligently by using the proper techniques for mental housecleaning and strengthening our self-image.
Three points must be kept in mind as we work meditatively to generate a cheerful attitude toward our self-expression and a healthy respect for what we do:
1. We are not attempting to just “feeling good” about what we are doing. We are striving to translate the joy and goodwill of the Higher Self into our attitudes and moods.
Good feelings alone do not necessarily guarantee contact with the Higher Self. Most of the time they are just expressions of the innate life of the emotions.
The work of grounding is designed to charge our self-expression with the qualities and powers of the Higher Self.
The fact that these qualities and forces are in part grounded through the emotions – our attitudes and moods – does not mean that we are dealing either with “nice feelings” or mere wishes. We are harnessing the emotions to become an effective vehicle of the love and joy of the Higher Self.
2. Many people find it difficult to remain cheerful and optimistic in the face of the problems and imperfections of their lives. This difficulty can be avoided, however, by making sure that our state of mind responds to our spiritual ideals, not the difficulties we face. This is a subtle but crucial difference which in effect moves the epicenter of our moods and feelings from the actual conditions of outer life to the ideals of the inner life.
The premise of any good meditative system, after all, is that the subtle, invisible forces of spirit are the real substance of life, not our problems and deficiencies. Spiritual powers can be invoked and used to heal and redeem the imperfect. But for this to occur, our moods and attitudes must magnify the ideal conditions of spirit, not the actual conditions of form.
3. We must do more than just affectionately dream about lovely plans and lofty ideas. We must fully intend to involve ourself in bringing them to fruition physically! This involves much more than just looking at an imaginary mental picture of the desired result. We must assume “ownership” of the work or activity before us, and consider our responsibilities to it.
The very end of a meditation is an important time in the activity of grounding. True meditation is a state in which we deliberately detach ourself from the physical world and our emotional reactions, in order to work at inner levels of consciousness.
If we are working at a true meditative level, we will be dealing with abstract qualities, ideals, and energies. It is important to use the end of a meditation to reconnect ourself with the concrete dimensions of life.
If we fail to make this reconnection, much of what we have gained will simply be left at the higher level, in its original abstract form. Our meditation will have been a pleasant interlude in our daily activity, but not a constructive force for good in our individual life.
Most systems of meditation, unfortunately, ignore the value of this step in the meditative process. As a result, the transcendent levels the meditator touches will not become grounded in self-expression. The inner life is enriched, but the outer life remains impoverished.
At times, in fact, the capacity to act in the outer life may even be weakened, thereby defeating the true goal of meditation, to establish a better rapport between the Higher Self and the personality.
The work of grounding the abstract qualities of the Higher Self in the concrete thoughts, feelings, and plans of the personality at the end of a meditation is known as contemplation.
In many systems of meditation, the word “contemplation” is used to refer to the adoration of the glories of the transcendent nature of God or the inner virtues of spirit. There can be great value to such practices, but contemplation also has its practical side.
The word itself derives from a Latin phrase meaning “laying the foundation of a temple.” Contemplation is therefore a two-stage process, which begins with meditating on a sacred subject or ideal, but concludes with laying out plans and specific intentions for putting that sacred subject or ideal to work in daily life, “building the temple.”
In other words, we end the meditation by quietly reflecting on the implications and meaning of the insights we have just gained, relating them to the needs and opportunities of our daily self-expression. There are several questions which can be considered during this period of contemplation:
- What new and deeper realizations have we gained about our spiritual nature and powers?
- How does this new understanding strengthen us in the pursuit of our daily activities?
- How does this meditative experience alter our view and attitudes concerning ourself, our work, our past, and our problems?
- Has this strengthened our intention to act in life, to take charge of improving the quality of our life and becoming a more responsible agent of the Higher Self?
- What new expectations do we have about ourself and our self- expression?
By reviewing questions of this nature in a contemplative mood at the end of meditation, we gradually saturate our subconscious with a vivid awareness of our inner life.
This, in turn, helps build the expectation subconsciously that the Higher Self is able and ready to help the personality throughout the day, whenever there is a need for such assistance. We begin to understand that we always have access to the greater life and power of the Higher Self, not just in meditations but at all times throughout the course of our daily activities.
As part of this contemplation, it is also important to mentally rehearse the ways we expect to apply, in daily life, the key insights we have gained and the changes we have made in meditation.
If we have been working to treat family members with greater kindness and forgiveness, for example, we should rehearse specific instances in which we can express these qualities actively.
Or, if we have been working to establish a new set of values, we should rehearse specific ways we can honor these values.
In this way, we ground the abstract intention and enthusiasm to act in finite instances of self-expression. We relate the gains of meditation to the opportunities of our outer life.
The period of contemplation at the end of a meditation is likewise an excellent occasion to charge the personality with a special blessing for its self-expression.
This can be done by dwelling on a mantra such as:
The life of my spirit pours through me, strengthening my courage to honor my ideals and my duty to serve in all that I do and say. May goodwill be the keynote of my self-expression.
As we contemplate this mantra, we hold the thought that the Higher Self is flooding us with its power, compassion, wisdom, and courage. This simple technique can both refresh and reenergize the personality, so that it is better prepared for the activities ahead. It also widens the channel between the inner and the outer life.
In Our Daily Activities
The most important sphere for the work of grounding the insights and forces we tap during meditation is, of course, our ordinary state of consciousness. It does no good to behold lovely visions and insights during meditation, and then forget all about them as we pursue our work and obligations during the remainder of the day. And yet, as obvious as this principle is, it is amazing how many people overlook it.
As usual, we must be ruled by common sense. The single most important action we can take during our daily activities to ground the life of the Higher Self is to put into practice our goals and ideals.
In other words, if we are working in meditation to heal a certain area of emotional expression, we should strive to express the ideal emotion in our actual dealings with others. It is senseless to fill ourself with goodwill and compassion during a meditation and then continue to treat others selfishly, unkindly, and harshly.
Or, if we are striving to enrich our self-esteem, we must try to hold an enlightened opinion of ourself and the work we do throughout each day.
As the cliché puts it, nothing succeeds like success. Nothing will help the work of meditation more than supporting it with small attainments toward our goals every day.
And yet, it is amazing how frequently students of psychological conditioning and spiritual growth fail to implement this basic principle. The momentum of habits, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs does not arise out of nowhere. It is generated by a specific pattern of actual expression. The most effective way of redirecting psychological momentum is therefore to change the motivating power and pattern of expression.
Nevertheless, even though nothing succeeds like success, we must be practical. Fifteen minutes of success followed by two hours of failure or frustration is not at all helpful.
We must know when to quit.
In the early stages of working to change a habit or improve our emotions, it is important to look for small achievements which indicate progress toward our goal, rather than a miraculous overnight cure produced by a marathon of redemptive work. Small but regular efforts to treat others kindly, to be confident and optimistic about our future, to achieve greater self-discipline, or to develop intuitive insight will produce far better results than a frenzied, all-out assault on our weaknesses and deficiencies.
In this regard, it is important always to work with a healthy respect for the subconscious. It is in the subconscious that we build up the patterns of self-expression, good or bad. The subconscious is therefore the primary site for the grounding of meditative work in our self- expression.
Some people, however, arbitrarily assume that they can dispense with the subconscious by declaring it null and void during their meditations.
They believe that an enlightened person is able to bypass the subconscious and work directly with spirit.
But it does not happen this way.
As long as we are incarnate, we have a subconscious. It is an inseparable part of human nature.
Others go to the opposite extreme, assuming that the subconscious is some kind of enemy to be feared. This is just as absurd.
The subconscious is the product of our experiences, an important part of our humanity, and the mother of our thought children.
If our experiences embody and reflect the wisdom, love, and talent of the Higher Self, the subconscious will be healthy, and our self- expression will be enlightened.
If, by contrast, we allow our experiences to be of random quality, the quality of our subconscious may be quite low, its structure disorganized, and its function chaotic.
The work of putting into practice the life of the Higher Self can be supported in a number of other ways as well:
Recalling the mood, perspective, and strength of our meditative state.
As often as possible during the day, we should pause and recall the detachment and poise we have achieved during our meditations. By bringing this memory back into mind, we refresh our thinking and feeling with some of the actual qualities we have tapped during meditation.
This recollection of meditative experiences is not as difficult as some people try to make it. These people usually have no trouble at all, for example, recalling an unpleasant experience which fills them with anger. All they need to do is put the same principle to work in a healthy way, and use the memory of their meditations to fill them with compassion, wisdom, and detachment, thereby displacing elements of fear, doubt, or worry which may be cluttering up our consciousness.
It should never be forgotten that detachment is not meant to be reserved exclusively for the state of meditation. It can be very helpful in maintaining an enlightened perspective as we go about our daily work in the midst of difficulties and imperfection. Its purpose is not to defend us against this negativity, but to help us preserve our identification with the Higher Self.
It is also useful to cultivate the habit of pausing briefly throughout the day to be thankful that we have the capacity to rise above negativity.
Reviewing Recent Behavior And Accomplishments
Near the end of each day, we should set aside a period of time to review the successes and struggles of the personality in grounding the values and ideals of the Higher Self in its self-expression.
If desired, this can be combined with the practice of keeping a journal or written record of the progress we are making.
The major purpose of this review is to give formal recognition to the successes and achievements we have made during the day. Few people are oriented toward giving themselves credit for the good they do.
Many have overdosed on false concepts of humility and self-rejection. But giving ourself credit for the gains we make is a fundamentally healthy practice. It reinforces the efforts of the Higher Self to help us transform our behavior and attitudes.
In addition, this period of review serves to identify more clearly the behavior patterns and traits which either help or hinder our efforts to implement the plans and intentions of the Higher Self.
We are therefore able to make adjustments and revisions in our approach to self-expression as the need arises—before the problem has become serious. And there are always small adjustments to be made, because we are part of a living plan. We are designed to grow a small amount every day, in both self-awareness and self-expression.
Reviewing our actual behavior and attitudes, day by day, is also an excellent way to protect ourself from self-deception. It is much easier to spot inconsistencies and excuses for falling short of the mark if we confront them when they are still fresh in our mind, than if we let the experiences of one day slide unexamined into the next.
For exactly the same reason, a daily review can also bring in many new insights and understandings. We are much more likely to grasp the symbolic significance of events if we review them on a daily basis.
In this regard, it is helpful to keep in mind that the wisdom of the Higher Self can be active throughout the whole day. It is not restricted to periods of meditation.
Any time we seek to comprehend the meaning and pattern of experiences, we will tap this great source of insight to some degree.
Acting In Life As If We Were Enlightened
Many people limit themselves by approaching their tasks and responsibilities with the assumption that they will not succeed. They are filled with fear, doubt, and resentment.
The more intelligent way to act in life, however, is to behave as though we were free of these deficiencies and able to act with the courage, confidence, and goodwill of the Higher Self. By acting in this way, we put the emphasis on succeeding, not the obstacles in our way.
This is not a recommendation to fantasize that we are free of all distress. Rather, it is an aspect of intelligent detachment. It helps us realize that we do have the capacity to act with enlightenment in our life, and we do not have to wait until we are a saint to begin honoring this potential.
Acting as if we are already enlightened means that we move through our day with the faith and conviction that our meditative efforts support our outer work.
One of the key principles of Active Meditation is the use of mental rehearsals during meditation to anticipate ideal behavior in daily life. If we have conducted these mental rehearsals, then in fact we will be well prepared to act successfully and wisely in the actual circumstances of life.
As a result, we should proceed with our duties and the challenges of daily living with the confidence that much of what we are trying to accomplish has already been done, in part, at inner levels. We are now completing the work, bringing the rehearsals of the inner dimensions into reality in the outer dimensions.
In a very real sense, being able to act in this way helps us learn the elementary lessons of fourth-dimensional thinking.
A New Meaning
When meditation is grounded in our daily self-expression in these ways, a curious phenomenon develops. The levels of awareness and power we tap during our meditative periods gradually become the ordinary levels of awareness and power we use in the daily circumstances of life. As this occurs, of course, the levels of awareness and power we tap in meditation become progressively more sublime.
This is the true state of transcendence. We have done something more than just escape the physical plane and discover spirit. We have learned to ground spirit in the physical plane, thereby lifting up that which is of the earth and giving it a new identity, a new meaning, and a new purpose.