Establishing an Enlightened Self-Image


A Window To The Light

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?” the wicked queen was wont to ask. As long as her subconscious was strong enough to distort the oracle, the answer always was, “Why, you are, darling.” But the moment a ray of truth was able to slip through, the answer became: “Snow White.”

We often distort the mirror of our self-image this way.

The student-child within us longs to believe that its current status is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it is not just good, but that it is admired by many and is the rightful heir to the Higher Self.

And yet, if the inner child is not frequently reassured that it is wonderful, it may begin to believe quite the opposite: that it is a miserable wretch, unworthy of success, and disliked by all.

In both cases, the best within us is displaced and our access to the Higher Self is blocked. All we can see then is the mirror reflection of our own beliefs.

Belief definitely plays an important role in our life, but we need a better pathway to the Higher Self than the beliefs of our personality. It is quite necessary to believe in our essential goodness as a human being. It is also necessary to believe in the presence and power of the Higher Self.

But beliefs are easily twisted into fantasies, fears, and childish expectations.

We can be led into believing things which are not true.

When this occurs, we end up connected only with our beliefs – not the Higher Self.

In order to receive the power, light, and love of the Higher Self, there must be a proper place in our subconscious where, without distortion or restriction, these qualities can enter and take up residence in us. This is the function of a healthy self-image.

The resources of the Higher Self will just remain a lovely vision or beautiful potential unless we are convinced that some part of us is worthwhile and stands for something noble. Potential wealth, of course, pays no bills. Likewise, potential courage cannot help us in time of need. But if we are confident that a part of our personality – the healer-teacher-parent within us – is real and available, we can connect with our Higher Self. Then it will be possible to activate the strength and support we need in times of crisis.

Those with an unhealthy self-image must be satisfied with their beliefs and fantasies, because they have compromised their ability to contact the Higher Self. But the those of us who have carefully established a proper self-image have a basis for acting effectively in life. Active meditators understand this principle and view the creation of a healthy self-image as one of the first priorities of their work.

It must be understood that this is not an exercise in narcissism. An overly confident self-image is just as distorted as a “poor me” self- image.

Both block off the light of the Higher Self and keep us surrounded by mirrors of our own creation. Rather, building a healthy self-image is all about establishing a point of access in the personality that can be used by the Higher Self.

Unfortunately, very few people who have an unhealthy self-image actually recognize it as such. Instead, they are blinded by both pleasant and unpleasant self-deceptions: they assume that what they believe about themselves is real and final.

Thus, if they like to think of themselves as humble, they are able to cover up very pompous and arrogant ways of acting. Or, if they like to think of themselves as competent and wise, they are able to disguise serious deficiencies in intelligence and skill. And some, perversely, assume they are more helpless and weak than they are, allowing them to excuse their fears and laziness that are their real problem.

Real life does not support fantasies, however. Despite what we believe about ourselves, our real merit, competence, and quality of character are revealed in how we behave and react – especially to challenges, success, crises, and how others respond to our customary behavior.

Some might here object: “If I want to engage in this kind of self- deception, what of it? What harm is it?”

The answer is that the harm can be great indeed.

If a person struggles through life with a chronic inferiority complex, guilt feelings, or intense discouragement, little opportunity will be left in the personality for growth. In particular, access to the optimism and joy of the Higher Self may be killed by the blight of pessimism and negativity.

In a similar manner, individuals who bully their way through life projecting an image of hostility, defensiveness, and a need to dominate others will leave little room for the support of the Higher Self. They will have excluded the kindness, sympathy, and cooperation which could have been available to them.

The personality can be considered as a household of consciousness. If the windows in a house are kept shuttered, no light can come in. Just so, a person who is dominated by pessimism, depression, hostility, or inferiority is comparable to a household filled with darkness, because all the windows are covered. The light of the sun cannot penetrate the gloom.

It is not always gloom that covers the windows, of course. Sometimes our fantasies and foolishness become so thick that the light of the Higher Self is all but blocked. If we are attentive to maintaining a healthy self-image, however, we can remove these coverings and reopen a window to the light.

Still, it is amazing how many people look to the light of the Higher Self for help but forget to raise the blinds of their own self-image.

As a result, they do not understand how much they are missing in the way of peace, joy, insight, or courage. They believe in the treasures of heaven, but do not experience them. Yet the fault lies not in heaven, but in ourselves.

This should not be a difficult principle to grasp. If we try to comfort someone steeped in guilt or grief, we often find our efforts rejected, not because this person does not need our help, but because the depth of the shame or sadness is so great it blocks off everything that could relieve it. There is no room for help.

It is our responsibility to make sure the window to the light of the Higher Self remains open so we can honor and welcome the riches of heaven we need. It is therefore important to take the time to establish a healthy self-image.

A Basis For Acting

A healthy self-image is far more than an occasional good feeling of confidence, or a visualization of success. It is designed to be a vessel for the life of our Higher Self and to serve as a fixed representative for the best within us.

In this role, it can guide us in our daily activities, both consciously and subconsciously. It can serve as the protector of our ideals and our most cherished qualities, talents, and plans.

It can also be the staging ground for our noble endeavors – a center from which we can go forth into an imperfect world and interact with it in the certain conviction that this part of us is never damaged by outer circumstance or failure.

In this way, the healthy self-image is meant to be our basis for acting maturely and responsibly in all that we do.

Instead of reacting thoughtlessly to the events of life, we are able to respond in a manner which will be more in harmony with our Higher Self than the negativity and adversity of outer circumstance.

The healthy, ideal self-image is that point where our spiritual nature meets and can interact with our human nature.

To put it in religious terms, it is a place in consciousness where we can receive the wealth of the kingdom of heaven and the blessings of the Higher Self.

And it is the place from which we focus these qualities and blessings into the rest of our personality and our self-expression.

Each individual will naturally have his or her own special virtues, talents, and strengths featured in the healthy self-image.

There are certain components in every proper self-image. These are:

  1. Our most idealistic views on life, people, duty, opportunities, and ourselves.
  2. An enlightened appreciation of the most important roles we play in life – parenting, work, community and religious involvement, and so on.
  3. An intelligent appraisal of the talents and qualities of consciousness we can mobilize to fulfill our duties.
  4. A basic decision to play the role of the healer-teacher-parent within the personality, rather than indulge the patient-student-child within. A healthy self-image will never permit illness, immaturity, or imperfection to be used to excuse one of responsibilities or procure special benefits. It respects the ideal of growth.

Dirty Dishes

It is impossible to build a healthy self-image (or work effectively with our Higher Self) until we learn certain basic lessons of coping with the constant imperfection in our world as well as in ourselves.

If this core area of conflict is ignored or not handled appropriately, the entire issue of integrating the higher and lower selves can be placed in jeopardy.

And so, it is important to cultivate a proper perspective on interacting with imperfection.

A good analogy for this perspective can be found in washing dishes. Years of personal experimentation have revealed to us the persistent and annoying tendency of dirty dishes to stay dirty. They do not wash themselves! And frequent exhortations notwithstanding, we have not been able to coax either fairies or elves into attending to this problem.

Instead, we have had to wash our own dirty dishes. We have tried many techniques but are able to report now that the best is integrating the dirty dishes with warm, soapy water, combined with certain scrubbing and drying exercises. The result: clean, dry dishes. The dirty water runs down the drain.

For quite some time, we were offended by the messiness of these plates and glassware – until we realized that it was only natural for remnants of food to cling to dishes after they have been used. Now, we see it is a perfectly normal part of dinner for dishes to get dirty—and for us to clean them once we are done. Sometimes we even enjoy it, although a neighbor thinks this is outrageous. “I don’t care how detached you are,” he cries, “the only proper way to regard dirty dishes is with disgust.”

Nonetheless, we do not find it necessary to take our dirty dishes to a “plateologist” or a “dishiatrist” to have the dirt analyzed, so that we can better understand the nature and origins of the dirt. We do not go off to a house of worship to listen to sermons about the virtues of being squeaky clean and the sinfulness of dirt – or to be told that all we need to do is believe in “Gawd” and He will cleanse our dishes for us.

We do not even feel especially guilty when a few dirty dishes pile up, as they occasionally do. We simply wash the dishes when they need it and are done with it.

Just so, we should regard our imperfect attitudes, false perspectives, secret sins, and the imperfections of others and the world at large as nothing more than “dirty dishes.” They must be cleaned regularly and as completely as possible without any extra grumbling.

There is no reason to accompany the process with hysteria, anxiety, guilt, or gnashing of teeth. There is no mysterious reason why our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs get dirty from time to time.

It is just a natural phenomenon of using them.

It is not unusual that we pick up bad habits here, become a little discouraged there, and soon the emotional dirt begins to accumulate.

But the remedy is obvious and easy. We simply integrate these imperfections with the equivalent of a little “warm and soapy water” – the love, wisdom, and strength of our Higher Self. The scrubbing is performed by the higher aspect of the personality – the healer-teacher- parent within us.

The result is a healthy self-image – and the understanding that Archimedes is not the only one who can have an eureka experience by getting into hot water!

We must take care not to let our dirty dishes pile up, however, or we may find the task of cleaning them monumental. In this regard it is wise to remember that although dirty dishes are a natural byproduct of eating, it is not desirable to leave them dirty.

So also, such imperfections as negative attitudes, selfishness, pessimism, fear, doubt, and prejudice may be natural to our human nature – but they are not desirable.

They should be cleansed as quickly as possible, without overdramatizing their significance by becoming agitated about them.

Just because an imperfection happens to exist does not justify impairing our effectiveness by blighting ourselves with confusion, fear, guilt, or depression. None of these reactions is in harmony with the life of the Higher Self.

Despite this practical insight, many serious problems, individually and in society, result from the unenlightened way in which we cope with faults and failures.

At times, our response to imperfection becomes far more debilitating than the problem or fault itself. Every serious meditator, and everyone who strives to live a spiritual life, should therefore learn to work with imperfection, wherever it exists, without hating it, glorifying it, or ignoring it.

Hating our flaws and failures leads to self-rejection and self-contempt. Eventually, to a denial of the Higher Self. Glorifying our flaws leads to a martyr complex and the parasitic manipulation of others – not better spiritual connections. Ignoring our flaws creates a psychological state of estrangement from the Higher Self.

The dimensions of this problem are enormous, although they need not be. The difficulty is fed by the exhortations of the ignorant and malicious, who are intent on preserving, if not enshrining, our human imperfections.

To quote the essay “Becoming Graceful,” from The Art of Living, Volume V: “The roots of this condition lie primarily in the Western tradition of puritanism, which made it a principle of ‘spirituality’ to remove all elements of style, art, color, joy, and fun from living.

Puritan sects dressed in blacks, grays, and whites and deliberately maintained a grim, spartan lifestyle. They championed a work ethic which was so severe it has soured the enthusiasm of many people toward work.

Above all, they promoted the notion that happiness is something evil, that a person who seems happy must be doing something immoral. A person who is friendly must be trying to manipulate others. Anyone who is optimistic is not sufficiently sensitive to the suffering of the world.

These ideas have now crept into mass consciousness, influencing virtually everyone in our society in one way or another. They have been seized upon and elaborated, to the point where anyone who finds delight in what he does is somewhat suspect.

The patient person is thought to be apathetic. Self-confidence and a decent self-image are construed as a sign of haughtiness and vanity. Good humor is believed a sign of silliness.

“In modern society, the philosophy of grimness is perpetuated by sour, dried up, joyless people who take refuge in it as a justification of their own spiritual emptiness – their lack of goodwill, affection, and wisdom.

Not knowing how to enjoy themselves, they are threatened by those who do, and so condemn them and accuse them of being unspiritual.

Not knowing how to be friendly, they try to intimidate others into being unfriendly, too.

Not knowing how to celebrate life, they try to make everyone who does feel guilty.

They preach that the ‘true’ spiritual life is one of sacrifice, hardship, misery, sadness, groveling, and submission. As a result, they manage to suppress the life and thoughts of others to a startling degree.”

What we must understand, before we pursue the integrative work of meditation, is that our primary responsibility in dealing with imperfection is not to reject it, but to heal it as best we can.

If we are too hostile, we should cultivate affection.

If we are too anxious, we should cultivate confidence.

If we are too discouraged, we should cultivate enthusiasm.

This is what it means to follow the rule “If the dishes are dirty, we should wash them.”

Effective meditation is a powerful tool for cleansing the personality and a distinct opportunity for healing the mind and emotions. The work of meditation will not unleash a storm of guilt, anxiety, misery, and discontent, as some people fear.

The enlightened state of living is defined by the optimism, dignity, and cheerfulness of the Higher Self that flows through our character into practical expression.

The enlightened individual knows pain, sorrow, and suffering as much as anyone else – perhaps even more – but is never far from the inner life.

Our inner resources lift us above the unpleasant aspects of our experiences, enabling us to act with joy, kindness, and enthusiasm.

Truly, only pompous and artificial people ever feel the need to present themselves in sober, joyless, and grim ways to the world.

The enlightened person does not.

Only spiritual hypocrites take themselves so seriously that they believe their works and efforts to be threatened by good humor, enjoyment of life, and simple human charity.

Only those who have no contact with the life of spirit are arrogant enough to use their suffering and sacrifices as justifications for demanding attention, loyalty, and submission from others.

Behaving in these ways is incompatible with the enlightened life. It betrays a consciousness of smallness and poverty which excludes God and the divine presence of power, intelligence, and goodwill.

The Higher Meets The Lower

In this context, we can observe one of the basic tenets of the activity of integration—that strength overwhelms weakness. When the higher meets the lower, it transforms the lower into a more perfect expression of the higher.

  • Courage overwhelms discouragement
  • Forgiveness overpowers anger
  • Enthusiasm conquers pessimism
  • Joy defeats grimness
  • Order overwhelms chaos

None of this can occur, however, unless these qualities are focused through skillful activity.

The infinite qualities of life will remain remote and largely disconnected from us until we give them finite focus.

Then and only then does the above principle begin to help us clean our dirty dishes. It is nice to talk about the joys of “unconditional love,” but it is even more powerful to give that unconditional love expression in the conditions of our life.

This is when we discover that we can “move mountains.”

This basic principle is most useful in building a healthy self-image. It serves no purpose to attack and blast away at the problems and flaws of the personality.

Rather, we want to recognize the mature elements within us.

These are the qualities that are capable of quietly infusing our character with superior strengths and qualities that gradually replace or dissolve the negative elements within us.

Taking Inventory

In building a healthy self-image, it is important to keep in mind the dual nature of the personality,:

The distinction between the healer-teacher-parent within us, And the patient-student-child within us.

While it is currently very chic to chat about oneness and the presence of God everywhere, differences do remain:

  • between our intentions and our overt behavior
  • between our understanding and the actual events of life
  • between our conscious awareness and our sensory perceptions
  • between our Higher Self and our personality.

The healthy self-image is meant to bridge this gap, not emphasize it.

There are always those who love misery, however, and they have been quite diligent in emphasizing the differences. There are plenty of differences, to be sure, but they are meant to be complementary, not divisive and destructive.

There are differences between warm, soapy water and dirty dishes, but the differences are not harsh; there is no need for alarm. The dishes do not burst into flame or crumble into fragments when inserted into water. They simply come dean, so they may be used again.

The enlightened washer of dishes sees the different characteristics of the water and the dishes, but also fully understands how they can be used together, harmoniously, for productive work.

Just so, our higher and lower natures each have their distinct duties to perform – but they are meant to perform them in healthy relationship to one another. It is the goal of Active Meditation to establish this healthy relationship.

As this concept applies to the work of building a healthy self-image, we look to the ideals, values, and goals of the healer-teacher-parent within us. From this study we will realize that there are many good qualities within us.

The patient-student-child in us may have distorted these good elements to some degree, but the good has not perished. It is still there.

In other words, we are to take inventory of the noble elements in us:

  • the cherished principles we stand for
  • the goals we have set for ourselves
  • the noble attitudes we value
  • and other good aspects of our mind, emotions, talent, and ideals

We look for traits of the personality which can serve as a basis for the expression of health, strength, ability, goodwill, and constructive ambition.

In no way, however, does this include compiling a list of our problems, sins, weaknesses, and miseries.

Those who are used to dwelling on their problems may find it difficult to resist this temptation, but this is vital to the process of building a healthy self-image.

Some people do not believe that they have very many elements of goodness within them. Such people need to keep in mind that we are looking mainly for the seeds of these values, goals, and ideas rather than the actual expressions of them. Everyone has these seeds, and so we must continue to look for them and begin to appreciate them.

We must spell out our strengths and affirm them!

Once we have identified our strengths, there are three specific meditative techniques we can use to energize them with the life and power of the Higher Self:

  • the practice of self-respect
  • the practice of self-esteem
  • and the creation of a mental symbol

Self-respect is the approval we give to the goodness in our character and Higher Self.

Self-esteem is the approval we give to the accomplishments we have made.

The creation of a mental symbol enables us to focus this approval in our daily thoughts and feelings.

Self-Respect

The fundamental premise of the practice of self-respect is accepting the Higher Self as our real nature—not our imperfections and difficulties.

At the same time, however, it must be emphasized that it is not the object of this technique to practice self-deception. We are not pretending that our imperfections are just an illusion; it is a matter of common sense that the results of bad manners, apathy, incompetence, and fear are not illusory!

Nor are we pretending that now that we are sounding the magic word, the full force of the virtue and wisdom of the Higher Self will immediately take charge of the whole scope of the personality. Again, common sense tells us that no such instant changes are likely to occur; the path of self-improvement is trod step by step.

Instead, the practice of self-respect in Active Meditation is meant to be the affirmation of our intention to behave as the Higher Self would have us behave, to think as the Higher Self would have us think.

In the presence of our Higher Self, we declare, mentally, that our most cherished values and talents are to be the dominant qualities and intentions of our thought and self-expression.

This is not a casual declaration, but a commitment to the best within us. It may have to be repeated many times, but each time we do, we are in fact creating a vessel in consciousness that is filled by the power, wisdom, and goodwill of the Higher Self.

Done in meditation, this activity is far more powerful than the average practice of affirmative thinking, although the intent is similar in both cases.

The ordinary practices of positive thinking rarely go beyond the level of the personality. They have their value, but the type of affirmation being advocated in this technique is more akin to the act of a skilled engineer seeking employment with a large manufacturing firm, so that his work will be supported by the vast resources of the company. He recognizes that the total resources of an international firm will provide a potential for inventiveness and experimentation far greater than what he could do in his own basement or garage.

Applying to such a firm, therefore, would be an act of self-respect – an act of taking his talent, discipline, genius, and ambition and committing them to a larger enterprise.

In exactly the same manner, we have the opportunity to take the best of our talents, genius, values, ideals, and qualities, limited though they may be, to the infinitely more powerful wisdom and resources of the Higher Self.

By pledging them to the larger enterprise of the Higher Self, we build self-respect. Working together, our genius can become inspired, our strengths augmented, our attitudes repaired and healed, and our dedication blessed.

As we declare our intention to be a noble person and do what is correct and proper, the Higher Self can invest itself more fully in our daily activities. In this fashion, our self-respect grows, and with it, our healthy self-image.

The actual steps to be followed in cultivating self-respect in meditation would include:

  1. Entering the meditative state and contacting the Higher Self, as described in chapter five.
  2. Affirming our worthiness as an individual who is seeking to be a noble person and do the right thing. This involves identifying with the higher element of the personality, the healer-teacher-parent within us, and affirming that we want to do what we can to help this part of the personality to grow and become stronger.
  3. Affirming the value of the major roles we play in life – for example, parent, spouse, worker, and citizen. We have the opportunity to make a contribution through these roles – and the opportunity to touch more of the life of the Higher Self by meeting them responsibly – and so they are worthy of our respect.
  4. Affirming our interest in nurturing various qualities of the human spirit in our own life – for example, integrity, forgiveness, patience, courage, or endurance.

In applying this formula meditatively, it is important to dwell on each affirmation thoughtfully – not just repeat it by rote.

We can be aware that even as we make this affirmation, the Higher Self is responding by charging us with new love, power, and wisdom. Often, this charging occurs unconsciously, but it does occur.

The actual details of this formula can be varied as necessary to meet our own individual needs.

Above all, whenever we use this technique, we must set aside our concerns about our imperfections and our selfishness. Without denying that we do have flaws and weaknesses of character, we must concentrate on strengthening the idealistic skills, traits, and qualities within us. We align ourselves with the best within us and charge it with the life of the Higher Self.

Self-Esteem

The second major meditative technique for building a healthy self- image is the practice of self-esteem. To properly understand the role of self-esteem, however, we must carefully distinguish it from self- confidence and mere arrogance.

Self-confidence, while useful, is too easily generated through self- deception; some people simply declare that their life, their career, and their personal relationships are perfect – even when they clearly are not.

Arrogance is the attempt to build self-esteem by putting everyone else down while carefully preserving the illusion of superiority; it is based on a very pessimistic attitude about our own weaknesses.

True self-esteem, on the other hand, is a quality which is generated out of a healthy appraisal of our accomplishments and our competence – not as a result of self-hypnotic babblings or egotism.

Just as we receive our paycheck for work accomplished, not work yet to be done, so also self-esteem is a reward which can be claimed only after we have actually made some kind of achievement. It is therefore real and substantial, not illusory.

The value of a meditative practice of self-esteem is that it builds a habit of periodically reviewing our progress and achievement in life.

Far too many people go through life modestly accepting most of the good that they do without fully appreciating it, but spending a great deal of time fussing over difficulties, failures, and adversities.

If they spent an equal amount of time considering the value of their accomplishments, their self-esteem would be much higher. As it is, they are doing a great deal of good work but forgetting to pick up the paycheck, the paycheck of self-esteem.

The meditative practice of self-esteem is designed to reverse this situation.

This is performed by blessing the good achievements we have made as well as the skills of consciousness we needed to produce these results.

In addition, it gives the personality an opportunity to recognize more completely that the Higher Self is the source of our ultimate strength and contains the power we need for self-expression.

It improves our self-image.

This technique is also very powerful in overcoming the negative effects of criticism, especially self-criticism and self-condemnation. We all make mistakes from time to time, but it is vital to keep a healthy balance on our score sheet of success and failure.

It is absurd to think that anyone is ever a total failure. We all manage to do some things well and successfully, even if they are only simple acts of self-sufficiency and personal affection. Whatever we do well is the basis for building our self-esteem.

Therefore, we should take the time to review the good things we have done, the help we have extended, projects we have contributed to, and the kindness we have projected. They may be great or almost trivial, but these are the achievements of daily life which make us feel rightfully proud.

Then, as we review them, we should meditatively bless each one of these achievements.

Blessing is more than feeling good about what we have done. It is the act of radiating goodwill and joy into the whole of our being, in recognition of the significance of these worthwhile achievements.

By blessing our legitimate achievements, great and small, we add new life to our good habits and thoughts, we boost our self-esteem, and we affirm our general usefulness in life.

In addition, we should also remind ourselves of the talents and qualities of consciousness which helped us in performing these good works.

We should be thankful for these skills and strengths, and for the support of the Higher Self, and bless them so that they, too, become charged with the energy of our self-esteem.

Just as the technique of self-respect protects our basic identity and our ideals, so also the practice of self-esteem becomes the armor which protects us from the negativity in which we may have to live or work from time to time.

It is unfortunate that many people seem to rely on hostility, sarcasm, indifference, rudeness, prejudice, or bigotry in order to protect their values and their way of life. These defense mechanisms do work, at least to a certain degree, but the price we pay in setting up these shields is enormous.

We lose the most valuable parts of our humanity.

Self-esteem, by contrast, helps protect us against the adverse conditions of life while strengthening the best within us.

The meditative technique for the practice of self-esteem includes the following steps:

1. We begin by entering the meditative state and contacting the Higher Self as described in chapter five.

2. We review a number of achievements, recent or remote, which we know to be worthwhile.

These do not have to be spectacular; they can be simple events, such as keeping our temper under control when provoked, living up to commitments we have made to the Higher Self, or making valuable contributions to a project at work.

3. We approve of these achievements, knowing they have helped us bring some of the light and power of the Higher Self into manifestation on earth. They are therefore worthy of approval, and every part of the personality which has helped in accomplishing these good things deserves our gratitude.

4. We bless these achievements, by radiating our goodwill and joy into the whole of the personality. This blessing flows from the Higher Self into the personality as we continue to concentrate on it.

5. We then reflect on the talents and qualities we had to mobilize in order to make these achievements. Before we could make these good contributions, we had to be a good person in some way, and we should recognize it, and bless these skills and strengths as well as the achievement itself.

As with the technique of self-respect, it is important to take enough time in meditation to perform this exercise properly, thinking each step through carefully. Our achievements are one of the most important assets we have, and they deserve proper attention.

They deserve to be approved.

Visualizing An Image

It is also possible meditatively to create a mental image which symbolically represents our ideal self-image. In doing this, however, it is important to understand that the image itself is not nearly as important as the values, the attitudes, and the ideals we associate with it.

If we cannot approve of ourselves or respect ourselves, creating a flashy visualization will do little to help us. This may come as a shock to those people who believe in the total power of visualizations and mental imagery, but it is just common sense.

The value of creating a specific image for ourself is that it can help remind us of the need for self-respect and self-esteem.

It can remind us of the values we hold and our intention to act in certain ways. At times, the Higher Self may even be able to use such a symbol to jog our memories and not allow ourself to be overwhelmed by imperfection or negativity.

In creating a symbol for our healthy self-image, we must take care not to dip into the fantasy department of our subconscious or of mass consciousness as a whole.

It might please us to think of ourselves as Superman or Wonder Woman, but such an image is not likely to remind us of our responsibility to practice self-respect and self-esteem. It is more likely just to space us out in a fantasy we cannot fulfill, thereby serving to injure our self-esteem, not increase it.

Instead, we should draw our visualization from such basic themes as the healer-teacher-parent within us.

An excellent image, for example, is that of the loving son or daughter of God, possessing a rich heritage and blessed by wealth and intelligence.

Appropriate images can also be drawn from scriptural sources, such as the Good Samaritan.

The most serviceable images, however, are usually those we create for ourselves. This is done by visualizing ourself acting in ordinary circumstances of our life, but imbued with certain qualities of the Higher Self, as appropriate – great courage, a deep compassion, a strong faith, or inspired wisdom.

Such a visualization can be quite specific, and the more often we call it to mind, the stronger it becomes in consciousness. In this way, we join the commonplace, our ordinary circumstances of life, with the noble, the qualities of the Higher Self.

Regardless of the image chosen, it should always be carefully linked with the power of the Higher Self, not the whims and urges of our wish life.

A Key To Success

Every time we attempt to think and act as the Higher Self would have us think and act, we strengthen our self-image.

Every time we consult our Higher Self for guidance on how to view some situation of life, past, present, or future, we add to the quality of our self-image.

Every time we rise above the pettiness and negativity of our personality and impose our higher life on our attitudes and habits, we reinforce our self-esteem.

There will always be aspects of our personal life that cannot be changed. Tragedy, accidents, and misfortune come into the life of everyone. Some events which seem to be tragic eventually turn out well. Others do not have a happy ending.

But the person endowed with a healthy self-image has the advantage of a good relationship with the Higher Self.

They have the strength of self-esteem to protect them from the pain of adversity and the common sense to make sure that defeat or failure does not become a roadblock.

They will recover from such circumstances by calling on their optimism and resourcefulness to initiate new projects and explore new possibilities.

It is a little known but true fact that successful people generally experience even more defeat than unsuccessful people, because they are oriented toward trying more and doing more. They simply know how to handle the setbacks and criticism they encounter and are therefore able to press forward until they do succeed.

Lack of success is caused more by our own reaction to failure than it is by the failure itself.

Creating a healthy self-image is the first step in establishing a full partnership with the Higher Self.

It is unfortunate that many good people assume that they are supposed to think of themselves as inferior in the presence of their Higher Self. Mass consciousness has been terribly infected by an overdose of contrition.

Anything we can do to improve our self-image will in turn contribute to the healing of this problem in humanity as a whole. And it is a problem, a most undesirable one, both spiritually and psychologically.

We need to realize we are a divine creation, designed to become perfect even as our Creator in heaven is perfect.

We must therefore not deny our worth, or grovel in unwholesome contrition, or quail at the thought of our imperfections. There is no doubt that the personality makes mistakes from time to time; it is a necessary part of evolution.

Even though the personality is not yet perfect, there is a part of us which is! There is a part of us, the Higher Self, which is awesome in its talent, love, compassion, and wisdom.

Our duty as a human being is to put on our ‘robe without any seams’ and express our innate love, compassion, talent, and wisdom in every department of life. We are called to act with inspired humility.

The robe without any seams is a marvelous garment. It fills us with reverence for the presence of divine life wherever we may encounter it in others, nature, the affairs of nations, the work of civilization, and all noble endeavors.

It motivates us to engage our personality in the active expression of the very best elements within us.

The more we wear it, and honor its purpose, the more we evolve into the kind of person who is able to contribute creatively to humanity and civilization, through our genius, love, and patient understanding.

A healthy self-image allows us to mirror the ideal strengths and qualities of the Higher Self in our personality. It helps us correct that which is improper, and also provides a basis for noble achievement and success.

This kind of self-image becomes a vital part of the basic mechanism we need in order to enable our spiritual nature to triumph over our negativity, peevishness, and ignorance. It is a basic ingredient in the work of practical transcendence.

Transcendence does not occur by becoming so indifferent to the needs of the personality that we simply float to heaven and drift on out to the stars.

It occurs in practical ways, as we patiently lift the lower elements of our nature into rapport with the higher elements, cleanse them, and then set them to work.

In this sense, the healthy self-image becomes a permanent part of our human nature which never leaves the grace and love of our Higher Self, even in the midst of the most unfavorable circumstances.

It becomes an actual link to heaven, which helps us preserve the sanctity and purity of our highest talents, attitudes, and values.

A healthy self-image is our way of revealing heaven in the way we act and think and feel.

Summary Of Techniques For Building A Healthy Self-Image

The three techniques for establishing a healthy self-image can be summarized as follows:

Cultivating Self-Respect

  1. We enter the meditative state and make contact with the Higher Self, as described in chapter five.
  2. We affirm our worthiness as an individual who is seeking to be a noble person and do the right thing.
  3. We affirm the value of the major roles we play in life.
  4. We affirm our interest in nurturing various qualities of the human spirit in our daily life.

Cultivating Self-Esteem

  1. We enter the meditative state.
  2. We review a number of achievements which we know to be worthwhile.
  3. We approve of these achievements and are thankful for the contributions made by every aspect of the personality in achieving them.
  4. We bless these achievements and the contributions of our personality.
  5. We reflect on the fact that these worthwhile achievements and contributions have enriched the value of our life.

Visualizing an Image

  1. Having completed the work of cultivating self-respect and self- esteem for one phase of our life, we use the skill of visualization to create a mental symbol which will represent our ideal self-image. The image can be based on literary or religious sources, or our own rich associations.
  2. The symbol should be active. In other words, we visualize ourself acting in ordinary circumstances of life, but imbued with specific qualities of the Higher Self.
  3. We charge the symbol with the power of the Higher Self.
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