The Role of Meditation
Stretching the Mind
There are many practical ways the potential of meditation can be harnessed. We can be inspired by good ideas which will assist us in our work. We can establish a healthier rapport with others, helping us build better relationships. We can work to improve our self-image and accelerate our personal and spiritual growth. The list of practical applications of the skills of meditation is virtually endless.
Yet no matter how we choose to focus the potential of meditation, our efforts will inevitably bring us back, time after time, to a fundamental realization. The work of meditation is to bring the life of our Higher Self into expression in the activities of our personality.
The problem is that most people know very little about our Higher Self and what it means to integrate the resources of spirit into the activities of our personality. To master meditation, however, we must strive to understand:
- The nature of our Higher Self.
- Its relationship with our personality.
- How the resources of spirit are integrated into the activities and needs of our personality.
All effective techniques of Active Meditation are based on this understanding. This is why they work.
The Higher Self
Volumes can be written about the nature of our Higher Self. For the purpose of this book on meditation, it is enough to state that our Higher Self is the essence of our humanity, the source of our inspiring wisdom, our healing love, and our basic will-to-life. It is abstract, but certainly knowable.
Our Higher Self can be known through our most noble acts, our highest aspirations, our tenderest moments, and our best insights. It is the impelling force behind all these expressions, and many more.
Our Higher Self is also intangible, but this does not mean that it is the creation of our personality. It is not the invention of philosophers, religious leaders, or the superstitious. Our Higher Self existed long before our body or our personality came into being. It does not owe its existence to our physical body or anything in the physical plane.
Quite simply, it is the presence of God within us. To employ religious terms, our Higher Self lives in the realm of heavenly wisdom, love, talent, and strength; it possesses these wonderful treasures, and more. It stands ready to serve as a benevolent parent to our personality, if our personality will accept this relationship and learn to make our Higher Self its basic source of guidance and inspiration, love and forgiveness, courage and steadfastness, dignity and beauty.
Of course, there is no way these bold statements about our Higher Self can be proven. We have no figures and graphs which plot the statistics of spirit. We have heard of no laboratory which has yet dissected or weighed the soul. Brain waves can be tested, but they prove nothing about consciousness. Neither would an opinion poll of one thousand random meditators.
The factual reality of our Higher Self can be proven only in the experiences we each have and the experiments in meditation we each conduct. There are, naturally, many tales which could be told about the miraculous transformations that can occur when our personality and body come in full contact with our Higher Self. But these are tales meaningful to the people who have lived them, but just examples to others who have not. No matter how impressive they may be, no evidence is as impressive as our own evidence in proving the fact of our Higher Self.
To those who have not yet experienced the reality of our Higher Self, we can only suggest that there are good reasons to pursue a meditative discipline. Once contact with the Higher Self is established, we will be able to experience the evidence of it. This can come in the form of inspiration, healing, or strength from our Higher Self.
It makes sense to do this, just as it made sense for the Portuguese and Spanish explorers to sail in search of the New World, even though they had no proof it was there, or what it would be.
And, as inspiration, healing, and strength are discovered, they should be taken as a sign – a sign that there is more whence this has come.
Indeed, the source is inexhaustible. Therefore, the reward for discovering it and learning to use it is great.
In seeking to make contact with our Higher Self, we are venturing forth to do nothing less than make contact with the divine Presence, the God within us. Unfortunately, this is a hard concept for many people to grapple with because God, quite frankly, has been on the losing end of some rather poor publicity over the years.
The very ministers and priests who have been charged with leading us to a closer union with God have distracted us from this goal. They have often been eager to tell us how sinful our human nature is, and how evil our origins and destiny are. The impact on us has polluted our understanding of the nature of our Higher Self, and its relationship to our personality and body. These individuals have reduced the subject of spirit to an issue of hysteria and superstition. This has made it difficult to discuss the nature and purpose of meditation without being seriously misunderstood.
The advanced practitioner of meditation, of course, will have already found the evidence which shatters these concepts of sinfulness and evil, but this is of little help to the beginner. More frequently than not, our cultural conditioning on these issues represents a serious problem in our endeavor to comprehend the purposes of meditation and pursue an effective program.
The best way to handle these difficulties, of course, is to apply some common sense.
If we are seeking to contact the source of our highest intelligence and greatest love, why should we expect to run into the devil?
It does not make sense.
If we are looking for the most transcendent elements of strength and purpose within us, why should we expect to discover something inherently marred?
It does not make sense.
If we are intent on pursuing our noblest ideals with faith and steadfastness, why should we be afraid that calamity will befall us?
It does not make sense.
What does make sense is this: that as we think and act on the wavelengths of love, wisdom, and joy, we will gradually become attuned to greater measures of love, wisdom, and joy, wherever they exist. The evil we might do becomes overshadowed by the good that we choose to do, until the evil disappears.
Clearly, the ministers of fear and the priests of original sin are trying to sell us something other than the best within us. They are trying to persuade us to accept the worst within us, rather than the wisdom, love, courage, and dignity of the human race. Their untiring effort to find a devil to hate in the heart of every man and woman, while professing to lead a spiritual life, is the height of silliness. A whiff of intelligence will blow them away as though they were a puff of dandelion fluff.
It makes sense to ignore such distortions of the spiritual life.
Meditation establishes contact with our Higher Self, the God within us. It does not connect us with the devil or our sinful nature.
Common sense, therefore, dictates that we should put the devil, whatever that is, behind us, and put our Higher Self before us. We should pursue knowledge and wisdom with intelligence, compassion and goodwill with loving devotion, and courage with all our strength.
And even though we are contacting ideas, qualities, and powers which are abstract, we should expect our contact with our Higher Self to be intelligible, clear, and helpful. A benevolent parent does not speak vaguely or in secret code to his or her child. Neither does our Higher Self hide behind the veils of mushiness or conundrums. It guides us in reasonable and meaningful ways, but we must learn its language.
That is the purpose of meditation: to help us develop the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the mind to know.
Our Human Nature
In addition to our spiritual nature, our Higher Self, we also have a human nature, our personality. This personality is the offspring of the interaction between our Higher Self and our earthly experiences. It is the sum of our thoughts, emotions, habits, and behavior.
The personality is not designed to be static. It may appear to be static, because the physical body is relatively solid, emotional patterns tend to
be repeated, and thoughts generally adhere to certain grooves. In some people, the dynamic potential of the personality does become bottled up and stagnant. But this is not what is meant to be. Ideally, our personality learns to be responsive not just to its experiences in the physical plane, but to the guidance, love, and strength of our Higher Self.
There are many departments in our human nature. Our personality, as a whole, is composed of the mind, the emotions, and the physical body. Each of these three aspects, or bodies, of our personality in turn has conscious, subconscious, and unconscious expressions.
The conscious element is that part of our personality which we happen to be expressing at any given moment.
The subconscious is a much larger portion of our personality, the sum of our memories, habits, skills, and potentials for action. It is a very busy part of our personality, but it operates behind the scenes of our conscious awareness.
The unconscious is even more remote. It contains the seeds of our character and our taproots in mass consciousness.
Each of these departments of our personality can be thought of as a matrix in consciousness, capable of responsiveness. It can be responsive to our environment and experiences, as it is in most people. It can also be responsive to the guidance, healing, and love of our Higher Self.
But it can only become responsive to our Higher Self if taught. Left to its own devices, our personality will simply remain trapped in what it experiences, desires, fears, resents, enjoys, and what it needs. That may be satisfying to some people, but it is woefully incomplete, just as a fruit tree which bears no fruit is barren.
Moreover, it is important to realize that before a rapport with our Higher Self is possible, each of these departments of personality must be aligned and attuned with it.
It is not just enough to link our conscious awareness with our Higher Self, through devotion and affirmations. It is a beginning, to be sure, but if we stop at this level, our contact may be sabotaged from the subconscious and the unconscious. Nor is it enough just to link the unconscious parts of our personality with our Higher Self, which is primarily what happens when people fall into passive trance. This leaves out the conscious and subconscious.
The whole of our personality must be involved in our association with our Higher Self, if our meditations are to be effective and productive.
Unfortunately, people frequently confuse their human nature and their spiritual nature. Some believe the subconscious to be our Higher Self, because as they explore its content, much of it is new and different to them. Others believe that if they have tapped into mass consciousness, they have contacted great power. These people fail to appreciate a basic distinction between our personality and our Higher Self.
Our human nature has its home in our daily activities, reactions and memories of them. Our spiritual nature has its home in heaven.
The confusion engendered by the failure to make this distinction can be great. Many people, intent upon finding our Higher Self, go exploring in the subconscious instead, where they discover pockets of ignorance, sickness, greed, laziness, anger, or jealousy. They then mistakenly conclude that this is the nature of our Higher Self and cannot be changed. This is a tragic error.
A person of goodwill and intelligence will push beyond these imperfections and seek to find that which is worthwhile. They will connect themselves with the abundance of nobility, grace, love, and wisdom to be found in their spiritual nature. Subsequently, they can focus this abundance into the personality to heal the imperfections. But not everyone does this.
There are imperfections in our personality that must be dealt with and overcome. Yet, some seem to enshrine and sanctify these imperfections as a permanent part of our nature.
Emphasizing the deformities and deficiencies of our personality is a peculiar materialistic practice which has crept into much modern thought. Religion, meditative philosophies, and certain psychiatric therapies have not been immune from this contamination—even though our common sense is often puzzled by this.
It could be said that ever since God created man, man has been returning the favor by creating God, by deifying and excusing our imperfect human nature through myths and theologies. Naturally, this phenomenon can also be found in the practice of meditation. Many people, in meditating, simply deify their wishes and feelings and label them the “Higher Self”. They fail to make the distinction between Higher Self and personality, between spiritual nature and human nature. As a result, the entire process of meditation breaks down.
It is therefore important to avoid the intriguing sights and sounds of a slightly deeper level of our personality. This will protect us from common superstitions in mass consciousness as we pursue the legitimate qualities and strengths of our Higher Self. We must seek our potentials for gracefulness, intelligence, peace, and courage – nothing less.
At first, we may be puzzled as to how to proceed. This hesitancy can overcome by embracing our Higher Self with faith, hope, and the expectation that it will help us in our efforts. This not a rejection of our personality, however. This is merely the intelligent and sensible recognition that our Higher Self wants to help us, and our human nature is designed to cooperate with the process.
If we experiment with meditation skillfully and cautiously, we can reasonably expect to progress, from faith to knowledge, from experience to understanding, and from need to fulfillment.
As we progress, we build a base of common sense which will add knowledge to our faith and wisdom to our experiences. It will add light and love and power to our personality.
The Missing Link
How to link our personality with our Higher Self in meditation is a subject which has generated many different and opposing perspectives. Some people are quick to tell us that our personality is virtually useless. It must therefore be all but destroyed in order to make room for the unveiling of our Higher Self. Unfortunately, the devotees of this approach usually end up being more successful at damaging their personality than at delivering spiritual wisdom and power.
Others listen to their emotional fantasies and feelings, until they become drunk on sentiment and lost in artificial dreams. When they enter a “meditation,” they head for a place in consciousness which feels good to them, not for our Higher Self.
Their goal in meditating is more to be soothed and entertained than enlightened. As a result, they become victims of self-deception.
There are many other variations on this theme as well: students being encouraged to plug into their guru instead of their Higher Self or loving a God of their own creation. It should be understood that the subconscious is very willing to put on makeup and costumes and strut about in a meditation looking absolutely divine. These god games can be sustained for a long time through wishes and affirmative platitudes.
But when serious problems arise, the gods we have subconsciously created turn out to lack the power to offer genuine assistance and guidance.
The sensible way to link our personality with our Higher Self, by contrast, is through the practice of integration.
We seek out whatever treasures of our Higher Self we need, for example, greater compassion, goodwill, wisdom, or skill, and work to blend them into our daily self-expression.
We replace our pettiness with nobility. We replace our anger with tolerance.
We replace our jealousy with appreciation.
We fill the holes of our ignorance with intelligence.
Integration implies something more than the acceptance of new perspectives on living. It implies active work to change our daily behavior and the attitudes and convictions which influence it. The objective is to make them more constructive, healing, and inspired.
Integration is the work of making our human nature more compatible with and expressive of the power, love, and wisdom of our spiritual nature. Obviously, as this occurs, our Higher Self will draw nearer to our personality and use it more completely and powerfully.
The practice of integration is not guaranteed to be free of illusion, self- deception, or conflict.
But its great advantage, over other methods of linking with spirit, is that it keeps us focused on growth. Therefore, as we encounter self- deceptions and silliness, we are more prepared to see them for what they are and remove them. The work of integration constantly reminds us to strive for a better definition of our Higher Self, and to use its power to animate our daily living.
A good analogy for the proper relationship between our Higher Self and personality, and the work of integration, can be found in the legitimate stage. When we go to the theater, we expect to be entertained by a polished performance of accomplished actors in a witty, well plotted play. We do not want to see them stumbling through their lines, covering up for poor writing, or trying a scene five different ways until they find the best variation.
And yet, we know that this polished performance we are seeing is not a fortuitous accident or improvisation. The activity leading up to this performance began many months before, when a producer and a director chose a script to stage. They hired actors, engaged a theater, set stage and costume designers to work, scheduled rehearsals, and found funding.
The actors, at one time, did stumble through their lines, and perhaps tried certain scenes many different ways, until the director was satisfied. Stagehands, costume designers, and dialogue coaches all made their contributions.
We see only the actors and the polished performance, but the play would not be possible without proper preparation and rehearsal.
Much the same can be said about our daily performances at work and home. They are not meant to be improvisations. Although many people do approach life spontaneously, there really is little virtue in “going with the flow.” Our acts and attitudes should be guided by our noblest convictions, ideals, and inspirations. Then, they need to be carefully thought out and rehearsed before they are performed.
Our personality is the actor of the drama of our life, but it is our Higher Self who ought to write the script, direct the action, and produce the show. This only makes sense.
Our highest intelligence ought to be the part of ourselves which creates the plot we are to act out and writes our dialogue.
Our highest power ought to be the part of ourselves which produces this script, arranging opportunities, relationships, and learning situations.
And our highest ideals and convictions ought to be the part of ourselves which directs the play, giving it meaning, scope, and drama, as indicated in the script.
Our personality, on the other hand, should focus its efforts to acting out the part it has been given. This is a major challenge that requires talent, integrity, and self-mastery.
If we could see the invisible influence of our Higher Self in our life, we would understand how apt this analogy is. Behind the outer expression of our overt behavior and our spoken words lies the true “center stage”, the convictions, ideals, strengths, intuitions, and patterns. These are the counterparts of director, dialogue coach, costume designer, and producer. Indeed, there is a progression of “directors” and “producers” which await our discovery.
But they will remain unknown to us until we learn that our personality and our Higher Self need each other, just as actors and producers and directors need one another to stage a proper performance of a play.
We need to rehearse; we need to perform. Both go together and must be properly integrated.
Those who do not accept the need for this integration of personality with Higher Self condemn themselves to a very incomplete existence. Such a person could be the ardent materialist who disclaims the reality of anything greater than our personality and body, either in word or deed. This attitude marks them as an actor who scorns the script, director, and the rest of the company.
Another example of a personality that is not integrated with the Higher Self would be the otherworldly dreamer, who holds the personality and its activity in contempt. Through this belief, they become a director without actors or a stage to perform upon.
Our Higher Self is the source of healing and enrichment for our personality.
Our personality and physical body are the vehicles our Higher Self must use to express its wisdom, talent, love, and potential on earth.
Meditation is the center stage for inspired activity. It gives our Higher Self the opportunity to reveal to us our purpose, lines, and role. It also gives the personality the opportunity to rehearse its performance and be guided by our Higher Self. Meditation is not the performance itself, but without it, our performances in life may fall far short of what they otherwise could be.
The Proper Relationship
Much insight about the proper relationship between our personality and our Higher Self can be obtained by extending this analogy of our personality being an actor and our Higher Self being the director.
Several factors are worthy of consideration.
1. It would be silly for an actor to show up for rehearsal and then fall into a deep sleep. They must be alert, awake, and ready to interact with the others in the cast and the director. Nonetheless, many people seem to believe that the best meditative state is a deep trance. Suffice it to say that meditation is no time to fall asleep! We must participate in meaningful ways.
2. No good director is impressed by adoration from his actors. A director needs allegiance and attentiveness not worship; cooperation, not surrender. It is important to approach our Higher Self in much the same spirit.
3. The good actor pursues their craft. They seek from the director clear guidance, support and encouragement, discipline when they are wrong or ineffective, and constructive criticism when necessary, not just vague affection and approval.
Many people who meditate do not approach their Higher Self in this way, however. They prefer to be comforted rather than guided, indulged rather than supported, exempted from consequences rather than disciplined, and “stroked” rather than criticized. We must understand that help is often more than a kind word.
4. Communication must be clear and established in both directions. The actor should articulate their needs; the director has the responsibility to give clear instructions. If an actor does not understand the director’s intent, they should ask for further clarification. Naturally, it is presumed that the actor has already acquired certain skills of their craft and will be able to figure out some of what they need to know for themselves. But where they are confused or mistaken, the director will help them.
The same is true in the communication between our Higher Self and personality. Divine guidance is never so strange or incomprehensible that it defies understanding. If it is muddled, it is usually our own confusion which has done the muddling.
As with actors, our personalities are at different levels of competence and brilliance. But the needs of each are met. It therefore makes sense to expect that communication is possible and that it will be reasonably clear.
Either there is light in our Higher Self and in God, or there is not.
Either there is wisdom in our higher intelligence and in God, or there is not.
Either there is clarity of thought in our Higher Self and in God, or there is not.
The assumption that there is none is untenable.
5. A proper line of authority must be established. The director has reasonable authority over the final performance of the play. To this authority the actor must yield, but not in fear or intimidation. The director will not use their authority tyrannically, smiting actors who misbehave or are slow to learn. They would not have selected them for the play unless it was thought that they were capable of acting the part! So, they will work with the actors, train them, and support them in their efforts. They will handle the actors gently, skillfully, not by issuing ultimatums or taking an adversary position.
The actor could, of course, defy the director and play the part any way he chose, but the good actor has no motive for doing so. For the most part actors are not threatened by or covetous of the authority of the director; rather, they see its value and seek to cooperate with it.
These approaches to authority are also ideal in meditation. Our Higher Self does not expect our personality to become mindless, simple, or passive; it does not desire our personality to surrender to it, either in fear or in awe.
Passiveness and surrender reduce our capacity to respond meaningfully to the assistance of our Higher Self.
The proper attitude, by contrast, is a healthy appreciation of the bond between our Higher Self and our personality.
This is a bond of sharing, not fear.
This is a bond of cooperation, not surrender.
Just as the actor submits to the authority of the director in order to share in the staging of the play, so we ought to submit to the authority of our Higher Self in order to share in its greater wisdom, love, and power.
6. A commitment is required. An actor is not signed on to do a play only at their convenience; they make a binding commitment for a certain period of time. As we approach our Higher Self, we are expected to make certain commitments as well, commitments of responsibility, ethics, and dedication. In return, we receive the opportunity to work with the greater life of our Higher Self. This is an agreement which is taken quite seriously by both parties.
7. There must also be a proper definition of the standards of performance. An actor does not have sole responsibility to decide how a character will be played. The character must be compatible with the rest of the play and the other parts. It is the duty of the director to make sure that the actor performs adequately.
Sometimes, this requires pushing the actor beyond his talents and capacities into new realizations of character.
The actor may resent this temporarily, but after the new skills have been perfected, the value of what the director demanded will be recognized.
The same is true in the proper relationship between our Higher Self and personality, in meditation and in life. It is not the wishes of our personality which are to be stirred up and enforced in meditation, but rather the projects and standards of our Higher Self.
At times, our Higher Self may actually push us beyond our limitations, but this must be accepted as the only real way growth can occur. And so, we must keep in mind that self-satisfied feelings about what we have accomplished are not really a very good guide to our performance. Meditation is not designed to be an exercise in self- flattery!
8. Together, the director and actor bring life to center stage. As the proper relationship is established, a true integration occurs. This does not mean that they literally become one and the same.
But the inspiration, authority, and guidance of the director draw from the actor a response of talent, charm, and brilliance, as the actor performs the role on stage. The talent and genius of each feed the talent and genius of the other. As a result, a transformation occurs.
The play is no longer just a play; it becomes an act of magic which enchants, instructs, and lifts up the spirit of the audience.
The integration of Higher Self and personality is very similar. The wisdom, love, and power of our Higher Self draw from our personality a response of intelligence, genius, and goodwill which vivifies all it does, thinks, and says. Our Higher Self still remains the greater, but a figurative union does occur. And there is a genuine transformation. Our personality becomes infused with ever more of the life of spirit.
Once again, it must be understood that this process of integration is anything but mindless and passive. The director does not insert a tape recorder in the throats of actors or manipulate them like marionettes. The role of the actor is of great importance, requiring extensive training and talent. They contribute much and receive much. The same is true for our personality.
The goal of meditation is to transfer some of the life of our Higher Self into our personality, where it can transform daily behavior and self-expression. As such, meditation is anything but a quiet, passive state; it is a dynamic process involving three distinct stages:
- Contacting our Higher Self.
- Transferring some quality, energy, or idea.
- Using it to transform the life of our personality.
The first stage is similar to the activity of the actor trying out for a part. The director advertises the parts available; the actor responds and appears for an audition. To many, it might seem that winning the role is the hardest part of acting, but it is really just the initial stage.
The same is true in meditating. Many people believe that contacting our Higher Self is the entire work of meditation. In reality, it is just the beginning.
For the actor, the next step is to learn his lines, walk through the paces of the role, and rehearse the part. It is much the same for the one who meditates. Having contacted our Higher Self, we seek out the guidance or inspiration we will need to act. We rehearse ways to express this in our life.
Once the lines are memorized, then the actor faces the hardest task: mastering the state of mind, feeling, conviction, and movement of the role played, and how the character must react to and interact with the others in the cast. The actor becomes the character and bring to life a believable portrayal of a human being.
The third stage is also the hardest one for the meditator: having glimpsed the insight or love or plan of our Higher Self, we must now assimilate that greater life into our core beliefs and values. We must remove old patterns of thought and behavior which will conflict with the new, and move beyond them, establishing new habits, new patterns of thought and feeling, new definitions of self-image, new ethics, new skills, new values, or whatever is required to properly honor the inspiration and intention of our Higher Self.
We must permanently improve our self-expression in some significant way, while remaining flexible so that we can grow some more in the future.
Meditation transforms. Meditators need to pattern themselves after the mythical alchemist, who sought to transmute lead into gold.
Meditation is the alchemy of human consciousness, seeking to transmute the dross of our habits and feelings and thoughts into something more refined and noble: the wisdom, compassion, and skill which characterize the enlightened individual.
Many beginning meditators learn a few tricks and then assume that they know all there is to know. They clean up a few bad habits and then stop, content with the modest improvement made.
The alchemy of transformation, however, is meant to be a continual process, with each succeeding meditation adding a new layer of richness to our character and creativity.
We are meant to take peak experiences of love and become so acquainted with them that they soon become our customary self- expression. When we have achieved this, we then stand ready for even greater peak experiences than before.
Just so, we are meant to convert awe inspiring revelations into simple, common sense attitudes and perspectives toward life. When we do, we stand ready to be inspired by even greater elements of our Higher Self.
The sure sign of the novice is the meditator who gushes about the wonders of his or her meditations. “Oh, wow, you should have seen all the white light.”
Experienced meditators have seen all the white light they want to see. They continue to be moved by truly profound experiences, but these encounters become progressively more subtle.
Their meditations move them not to talk and exclaim, but to act!
They are moved to improve their character, learn new skills, make new commitments, contribute to life, and integrate the treasures of heaven into the rich opportunities of earth.
The efforts of a poor playwright will never be the equivalent of the masterpieces of a Shakespeare, just because they happen to be performed on the same stage and by the same company.
But many people treat meditation in this way, believing very different techniques to be the same just because they are performed by “meditators.”
A meditation which does not bring in the life of spirit is not meditation.
A meditation which does not lead to growth of character or creativity is not meditation.
A meditation which does not lead to new revelations is not meditation.
To understand this distinction, it is helpful to realize the difference between sensation and consciousness.
Briefly stated, sensation is any perception made directly by our personality, either through its physical, emotional, or mental senses.
Consciousness, by contrast, is the knowingness of our Higher Self.
The capacity to sense is a projection of consciousness, but consciousness itself is much greater.
Many people who profess to meditate simply deal with a somewhat higher level of sensation than usual. They close their eyes to physical phenomena but keep themselves focused on emotional and mental phenomena.
Except as a very introductory stage, this does not serve the work of meditation. We must make the effort to climb out of sensation and enter into the realm of consciousness.
The goal of meditation is not just to get more ideas; it is to obtain the power to think!
The goal of meditation is not just to get more good feelings; it is to tap the power to love!
The goal of meditation is not just to slow down our heartbeat or breathe more deeply; it is to contact the power to act!
Consciousness is the staging ground of meditation.
Meditation does not alter consciousness, as so many people insist, nor does it raise consciousness. It turns our attention away from sensation and focuses it in consciousness.
What may or may not happen to the physical body of the meditator is therefore inconsequential. It is what occurs in consciousness that is all important, and how successfully the meditator assimilates the power of consciousness into self-expression.
In this regard, it is helpful to keep in mind that not all actors are successful in projecting the essence of their character to the audience.
Some fill the stage only with emptiness. But truly inspired actors magnetically charge the auditorium from the very moment they appear.
The work of meditation is to magnetically charge our awareness and activities with the dynamic presence of our Higher Self, the presence of consciousness. If we are using meditation effectively, then eventually everything we think and do and say will reveal the wisdom, love, and power of our spirit.
Measure for Measure
Anyone can daydream, but daydreaming holds us in the world of sensation. How do we know when we have actually been meditating, and not just entertaining ourselves with a series of daydreams?
The only sensible answer to this question is to look at the results.
The effectiveness of meditation should always be evaluated in terms of the enrichment of our self-expression and growth in our understanding, not in terms of how many lights we see, how “deep” we go, or what sort of visions appear.
One fact stands clear: the true activity of meditation occurs in consciousness, not sensation. The best measure of meditation, therefore, is our success in managing our thoughts, feelings, and intentions, so they become more enlightened.
Our capacity to breathe deeply, visualize clear symbols or images, adore a guru, or sound certain words is no guarantee of achievement in meditation. Even the most novice meditator can learn to imitate these phenomena.
It is always more appealing to focus our attention on lovely images and superficial changes instead of disciplining ourselves to make a substantial contact with our Higher Self.
It is more exciting to believe that a force such as kundalini is flowing up the spine than it is to struggle with the work of forgiveness.
It is easier to sound a mantra than it is to make our habits sound.
It is simpler to concentrate on a straight posture than it is to create straight thoughts about our self-deceptions.
It is more comforting to hold in mind a pleasant daydream than it is to generate benevolent thoughts regarding a tragedy we have experienced.
It is more restful just to relax and let go of tension than it is to remove the psychological beliefs which caused the tension to build in the first place.
But none of these efforts is a path to our Higher Self—just to superficial pacification.
It is important to respect the tremendous richness which can be tapped in effective meditation, and not be fooled by insignificant phenomena.
We have the responsibility to place our priorities for meditating in proper order. Only then will it be possible to evaluate accurately the progress we are making. This is just common sense.
If our goals and motivations do not amount to much, neither will our efforts. Those who meditate only to find tranquil respite from the harried activities of life will not tap their Higher Self or the riches of heaven. Instead of meditating, they might take a nap, or soak in a hot bath.
But people who want to remove the elements of their own hostility, resentment, and intolerance can find a new measure of tranquility. Much of this occurs once they discover the great resources of compassion, forgiveness, and peace within themselves. Surely this would be an indication the work of meditation is proceeding well.
There are dangers in pursuing the practice of meditation without an intelligent definition of our goals and expectations, or a means for examining how well we are proceeding.
One danger is that our quest of peacefulness is achieved by simply deadening our awareness. Our whole effort will sink to a level of numbness. This, of course, is not peacefulness at all – just the avoidance of responsibility.
Another danger is the risk of being held hostage by the wish life of our personality. The subconscious of each of us is well stocked with assorted desires and fascinations, plus the feelings and images that go with these desires.
It can be very exciting to pursue these, especially since the pursuit will quickly take us out of our subconscious (allowing us to conveniently forget our problems) into the subconscious of mass consciousness. The risk is that we may soon become trapped on the level of these images, and actually begin to believe that these images represent our Higher Self. In point of fact, however, they are several strata below.
This danger of being trapped by the wish life is far more common and enticing than might be suspected. The study of the images of the mind has always been popular, and for good reason. It is a science, when properly approached.
When the study of images is taught by people who have incomplete knowledge of imagery, it can become a seductive diversion from the real work of meditation. In such cases, the images or symbols perceived are made almost wholly of emotional or astral energy, which is, of course, the primary energy of our wish life.
There can be a strong temptation to deal with symbols, images, and ideas exclusively on this level of our wish life. The consequence of these diversions is that we will not discover their true essence (or total absence) in the mind and our Higher Self.
We should always pursue the highest level of consciousness in meditation, rather than the far more entertaining and pretty images of the subconscious. The responsible meditator must learn this basic lesson.
The third danger of meditating without a sense of responsibility or true intelligence is the most obvious. It is just a waste of time.
This also implies the most effective measure of the success of our efforts. If we are meditating well, it is time well spent. If not, it is just a waste.
Into the Abstract
These principles of Active Meditation will undoubtedly be annoying and frustrating to some.
Those who draws comfort from their wish life and the study of astral images will be irritated by the prospect of giving them up, and probably find some reason for not doing so.
Others who enjoys resting passively and doing as little as they can in meditation will be put off by the invitation to be active. They will piously claim that activity is the wrong path to our Higher Self.
The chief reason why Active Meditation is annoying to some is that it lacks the comfort of concreteness. The essence of our wisdom, love, and strength, the virtues of our Higher Self, is to us, abstract. It is not formed into nice images we can contemplate. It is formless.
Active Meditation does deal with forms and images, but its principal focus is to connect us with the abstract levels of our Higher Self:
- the power of pure ideas, not the mantras which represent that power
- the power of goodwill, affection, and forgiveness, not just passive adoration
- the impelling intention to express ourselves.
The average person is not accustomed to working with abstract thought, emotion, or power. Yet, unless it is embraced and mastered to some degree, our efforts to meditate may never lift us above the concrete elements of our personality.
We need not fear the abstract. We are all potentially capable of experiencing and interacting with abstract thought, feeling, and power. Likewise, we can learn to focus them constructively through our personality.
Almost everyone has touched the abstract from time to time, often without realizing it. The peace and goodwill which can be perceived at Christmas worship services are abstract emotions. Flashes of insight are abstract thoughts. A sense of purpose is abstract power. The goal of meditation is to help us become more conscious of these abstract elements of life and do something with them.
We should not turn away from the abstract, even though we are more accustomed to the concrete and the well-defined. It may be annoying or frustrating to deal with the abstract at times, until we become more familiar with it, but the process of bringing abstract life into concrete expression is the way we grow, develop, and become more useful.
God seldom gives us concrete answers to our prayers. Instead, we are given the wisdom to figure out our problems on our own. It is not always easy, but it does help us grow. And the support is real, even if abstract and indirect.
Still, some people have a strong desire to avoid activity. These people love the platitudes which enjoin us to turn all our problems over to God
and let divine Intelligence solve them. This sentiment can be appropriate, but only to the degree that we are sincerely seeking the support of the divine and intend to work with God to solve these problems. But if we “give ourselves to God” as a clever way to avoid responsibility in facing our problems, we are seriously deluding ourselves.
The higher life is there to help us at our point of need, but it is our responsibility to give it focus and expression.
Is that all there is?
Because meditation is a technique used for self-improvement, exploring consciousness, and contacting our Higher Self, it is frequently confused with other systems and practices. Many of these are designed to provide some of the same benefits. In order to properly understand meditation, it is useful to see how it differs from these other practices. The most common include:
The heavenly states of consciousness are not populated with pictures or images; they are realms of force and abstract qualities. Symbols can be intelligently used to lead a meditator into contact with these forces and qualities.
The difficulty can be that most people who employ imagery never go beyond the images themselves. This failure to explore these possibilities mean their experiences are often no more valuable than looking out a car window as we drive downtown.
Guided imagery can be a useful way to learn the content of our subconscious, but we may need other techniques to organize is and clean up the problems we find there.
Because the images themselves originate in our personality, or in mass consciousness, the use of guided imagery or visualization can be limited to the exploration of those levels. As commonly practiced, it is not the best vehicle for contacting our Higher Self or exploring the true realms of consciousness.
This is a practice which is frequently mistaken for meditation. This is because many of the words used and methods of relaxing are very
similar. Even most hypnotists tend to believe that meditation is a type of hypnotism, but then, hypnotists are the most hypnotized people in the world when it comes to the subject of hypnosis.
It must be kept in mind that not all doorways lead to the same interior. The doorway of a church may resemble greatly the doorway of a courthouse, but the activities which occur inside each building are considerably different. In meditation and hypnosis, the methods of entering may be similar, but once inside, the activities are poles apart.
The object of meditation is to contact the life of our Higher Self and transcend the limits of our personality. The object of hypnosis is to contact the subconscious of the person being hypnotized and make changes there which will influence daily behavior and attitudes.
There is much of value in hypnosis. It can be most useful in strengthening or weakening certain trends of thought and feeling.
But as commonly practiced, hypnosis does not lead to transcendence. (There is one exception. When a person who is already psychic, mediumistic, or mystical is hypnotized, he will frequently rise above the subconscious and contact the life of his spirit. Edgar Cayce was a good example of this. But such exceptions should not be construed to be the general rule.) It does not bring in the life of our Higher Self or any of the richer dimensions of wisdom, love, courage, or skill. And so, it differs fundamentally from meditation.
Hypnosis does sometimes stir up the wish life of our personality, engendering the illusion or fantasy that our personality is vastly more powerful and mature than it actually is. This type of experience could be misconstrued for contact with our Higher Self. However, this sense of strength usually fades in the face of subsequent experiences, as
unresolved conflict, resurrected hostility, and ambivalence resurface. Hypnosis can do little to put a person in touch with the resources of spirit needed to conquer these problems.
When used skillfully by people who are maturely aware of human nature and psychology, hypnosis can be a marvelous adjunct to the work of conditioning and healing our personality. But it is never more
than one aspect of our personality (our own or someone else’s) talking to another part of our personality. It does not contact our Higher Self.
Like hypnosis, positive thinking is a practice in which one part of our personality speaks to another. In this case, it is the conscious mind speaking, attempting to control the reactions of the subconscious and unconscious by repeating affirmations.
It is often quite effective, but it must also be realized that there are other sources of power available to us than our conscious thoughts. Positive thinking does not connect us with our Higher Self. After all, our Higher Self already knows that it is healthy, wise, loving, and well.
Indeed, if positive thinking is pursued too fanatically, it can lead to self- deception, in which we are denying our actual problems and weakness rather than conquering them. Consequently, the use of affirmations can give us the illusion that we are doing all that is necessary to correct our behavior and grow. In fact, we are taking only the beginning steps.
The practitioners of positive thinking ought to reflect on the fact that there is a difference between uttering a statement which affirms truth on the one hand and comprehending and being able to express that truth on the other. This is the difference between positive thinking and meditation.
This is the practice of quietly observing our thoughts, feelings, and images as they arise to the surface of awareness. Self-observation is advocated in many circles as a true meditative technique, but it is not. There is, of course, much merit to self-examination, but to be effective, self-examination must include more activity than just self-observation. In reviewing an experience, thought, or attitude, we should extract some message or meaning from them. This is to be followed by the act of forgiveness when necessary, rehearsing the ideal, and building convictions for future action. All of these activities go beyond mere observation and, to some degree, call upon the power and intelligence of our Higher Self.
As usually practiced, self-observation is passive and undirected. It leads to becoming progressively more immersed in introspection about our rich storehouse of memories and fantasies. It can cause us to “space out” and become detached from the bundles of memories and associations in our subconscious.
It is important to note that while this observation continues, it does not transform any part of it – contrary to what is often claimed. The short- term result can be that we feel better, but the long-term consequences are more serious. The strength and quickness of our reactions to life are reduced. More problematic is that we may begin to accept the illusion that “understanding” our past and what we associate with it the basis for maturity and even enlightenment. What is omitted in this illusion are all the changes that are needed in the dysfunctional beliefs and convictions that keep recreating bouts of anxiety, resentment, and depression.
Hysterical and habitually overreactive people may enjoy this quiet self- observation as way to escape the mess in their lives. But this is not the blessing it seems to them. It is more like cultivating deafness as a means of coping with noisy neighbors. It does not make sense.
At best, self-observation leads to a richer awareness of what has happened to us, and to the innate life of our personality. Employed selectively, this can have value, but what do we do once we have reviewed all there is to review? Is our past, our fantasies, our illusions, our memories, our feelings, and our fears all that we have? Is that all there is?
Of course not, there is the full abundance of our Higher Self. But we cannot tap this merely by observing the life of our personality. We cannot even change our personality just by observing it! We must take action.
Laziness of thought and feeling, so attractive to so many people, has never had a more sophisticated cloak than the practice of self- observation. But like the emperor’s new clothes, it is a bit thin.
Meditation is much, much more than self-observation. Intelligent activity is required for effective change.
Besides, the path to enlightenment should never be so boring!
As the activity of meditation is pursued, there often is an increase in psychic perceptions. We become aware of the phenomena of inner realms of creation which have heretofore been unknown to us. But these perceptions are incidental to the true activity of meditation, just as conversations we hear between acts at the theater are incidental to the action on stage. And it should be recognized that not all people who have psychic perceptions know how to meditate intelligently.
Some of the psychic phenomena which might come to us in association with meditation may be useful to us. But this will be true only if they lead to practical insights about life or the nature of our Higher Self. It must be understood that most psychic perceptions are the products of sensation, not consciousness. They are either emotional or mental (primarily emotional), but they are still sensations. And it is so easy to become charmed by our fascination about these sights and sounds that we forget our more serious purpose for meditating: working with our Higher Self.
If we are more interested in chatting with someone who has died or in seeing auras than we are in discovering the abstract forces of our Higher Self, then we ought to watch television rather than meditate.
We are obviously more devoted to being entertained than we are to enriching our consciousness. And yet, this is a common motive for “meditating”!
Far too many people simply lust secretly to travel through the astral plane, and are quite content just to remain at that level. They conveniently label all its psychic phenomena as “spiritual” and even insist that the astral plane is the highest level of “consciousness” anyone can achieve. But these deceptions and dissemblings do not change the basic fact that they are not actually meditating. They are merely playing psychic games.
Some of the places and people we might meet psychically, on the astral plane, are quite real. But this level of life is no more our Higher Self than the physical plane is. Thus, the meditator must not confuse his work with the pursuit of psychic impressions. Aside from this, the one who would travel astrally should beware the allurement of the many astral “Disneylands” which infest the astral worlds. They can be fun, but they are not real, and their entertainment can be had only at the sacrifice of true meditation.
This is a valuable practice when performed correctly, but it should not be confused with meditation. The person who reads a little about meditation and then proclaims, “Oh, I do all that in my prayers,” clearly knows very little about either prayer or meditation.
Many consider the realm of our Higher Self as a heavenly state of consciousness filled with the rich treasures of wisdom, talent, compassion, courage, and beauty. If this is our concept of the Higher Self, then prayer would be akin to a phone call to heaven.
Meditation, by contrast, would be more like an actual visit.
Both practices can be used to bring new, enriching life from the spirit to our personality, but prayer does not require much preparation of consciousness, and thus is more limited in its results.
Meditation involves a much more extensive change in our state of mind and emotion.
To oversimplify a bit, prayer is essentially a one-way communication with a higher power and intelligence. Meditation is more truly a communion with that higher power. It is an interaction with wisdom, goodwill, and power.
Prayer invokes aspects of our higher life for assistance in our daily activities. Meditation lifts aspects of our personality to the level of our Higher Self so they may be bathed with its wisdom, goodwill, and power.
The practice of prayer is largely controlled by our personality. In meditation, we make far more of an effort to open our personality to the authority and guidance of our Higher Self.
We can pray for a specific blessing, for example, and never expose or think about our prejudices, hypocrisy, or unresolved conflicts. In meditating, however, we do expose the weaknesses of our personality to the redemptive and penetrating life of our Higher Self, while also seeking its blessings.
Thus, the opportunities for effective healing and transformation are far richer in the practice of meditation than in the common practice of prayer.
The Fundamental Principle
The path we choose to follow to our Higher Self should be compatible with the nature of our Higher Self.
If we are seeking to discover love and goodwill, the best technique is undoubtedly the expression of gratitude, compassion, and benevolence in all we do.
If we are seeking to discover wisdom, the best technique is surely the use of curiosity, intelligence, and creativity.
If we are seeking to discover strength, the best technique is unquestionably the expression of courage and determination in pursuing goals.
All techniques of Active Meditation grow out of this fundamental principle. There are many other systems of self-improvement which have great value, but it is important to comprehend that we reach our Higher Self only by learning to think and act and express ourselves as our Higher Self would have us think and act and express ourselves.
Anything short of that will obviously not suffice.
This is also a good principle to keep in mind as we survey the vast array of meditative techniques available. We must strip away the propaganda and glamour which attend a good many of these practices and look for that which will truly help us.
The meditative supermarket is overstocked with theories, gurus, and philosophies. Before we buy anything, we should ask: “How well will this help me become aware of our Higher Self and integrate more of its life and light into my own self-expression?”
And we should also ask ourselves how willing we are to make these techniques work for us.