What is so special about
By Dr. Robert Leichtman
Active Meditation brings new perspectives and techniques to meditation. It engages a new paradigm for directing consciousness in the meditative process. Instead of a passive approach, active, skillful interaction between the personality and Higher Self is encouraged. Instead of suppressing the mind, the intelligent use of thinking is utilized to direct our attunement to the Higher Self (Spirit). Instead of regarding the personality as a barrier to the Higher Self, the personality is honored as an agent for the Higher Self on earth – capable of being purified and trained to ground the qualities and wisdom of spirit.
Traditional meditative practices tend to promote the development of a one-sided connection to our Higher Self. Most often, the personality takes a passive role in this process. In this arrangement, the personality is something to be pushed aside to so it will not interfere with the superior qualities of Spirit. Enlightenment then proceeds by nullifying the beliefs and cravings of the personality and enabling the Higher Self to dominate.
The result of these passive but sincere practices is often a more peaceful and less reactive personality, but little else. A major piece is missing from the pursuit of the Spiritual Life. It is the prepared mind and heart that is best able to receive new life and inspiration from Spirit. It is the individual who has already developed a capacity for gratitude and kindness that is best able to receive new degrees of spiritual love from the Higher Self. Likewise, it is the person who has developed a platform of knowledge and reason that is most prepared to register great new insights.
Skeptics of these more active meditative practices might recall how modern education operates. The uneducated young child is not ready to receive instruction in calculus and engineering principles. This can occur only after the student is prepared in the basics of math, physics, and logic. In a similar manner, master classes in music are inappropriate until the student has developed some understanding of musical theory and can sing or play an instrument with minimal ability.
The right preparation is also needed for effective meditation. We should bring our intelligent curiosity to the meditative experience – not emptiness. It is our sincere aspiration and trust that we need to make a solid connection to spiritual love – not a passive state.
Active Meditation is designed to help us relate to our Higher Self and Spirit as a resource for our improvement – not simply as an object of veneration. The goal of Active Meditation is not an escape from the distress of the personality or the lures of the earth plane. Instead, it is to establish an intelligent connection to our Spiritual or Higher Nature and Its qualities—not a passive association. The result is the development of a working relationship between the personality and the guiding wisdom, love, joy, and various strengths of our Higher Self.
Part of the limitations in traditional meditative practices is that they are heavily influenced by ancient teachings developed in a preindustrial culture. As such, they were designed to operate as a nearly closed community of spiritual aspirants. The techniques are gentle and mostly passive. They are geared to produce oneness with the life of spirit and liberation from earthly interests and involvements.
In the modern era of the western traditions, there has been a radical shift in the goals of the spiritual individual. Now it is essential to prepare for an active life in society as enlightened leaders in commerce, government, science, and all other major departments of civilization. This calls for a more practical set of meditative practices that will aid in training the skilled personality to develop a collaborative affiliation with the Higher Spiritual Self to build a character of wisdom, strength, and integrity.
The major goal of Active Meditation
Meditation can be so much more that simple relaxation and seeking a higher awareness. We can also learn to establish a skillful interaction with our Higher Self. We can then learn consult it for guidance and support for our personal problems.
The ability to work directly with these higher qualities has immense value. So often, modern medicine and psychology can provide only limited relief for chronic recurring anxiety, depression, hostility, and assorted traumas that personalities often endure. The personality, by itself, has few resources to manage these afflictions effectively. The strong personality can provide mental restraint to cope with negative emotions and unhealthy urges, but this does not actually cure the deep underlying anger, fear, and alienation that are the actual roots of these problems. It is through working with the love, joy, strength, and wisdom of the Higher Self that healing can be brought to these deeply seated issues.
The special role of the personality in Active Meditation
Active Meditation works in a paradigm in which the personality is regarded as a valuable agent of Spirit rather than a nearly useless impediment to the development of enlightenment. The personality is treated as a friend and potential partner with the Higher Self and Life. Because of this, it can be trained to receive, translate, and apply the wisdom and love of spirit. The objective is to become an enlightened participant in our modern civilization.
In addition, the personality can be taught to receive, translate, and apply the abstract, universal love and joy of Spirit. This is the activity that can transform the ordinary personality into a compassionate and charitable individual who demonstrates tolerance and cooperation in the daily activities in the workplace.
For Active Meditation to function in this manner, the traditional techniques of meditation must by supplemented to bring a new dimension and role to its practices.
The processes of Active Meditation activate the resources of our Higher Self in practical ways rather than a more global sense of peace or bliss. While these states of quiet tranquility are fairly easy to achieve for most, they are not easy to maintain in our daily activities. Furthermore, the techniques of traditional meditation may require decades of disciplined practice to achieve these results.
As modern spiritual aspirants we need to learn how to rapidly integrate this experience of peace and bliss into the outlook, motives, understanding, self-concept, and attitudes of our character. Only then can we sustain tranquility, self-control, and calm expectations in our life situations.
Liberating the potentials of the mind and personality
Some traditions of meditation favor a near complete withdrawal of attention from the personality and its concerns. In Active Meditation the personality and mind are regarded as potential and valuable agents of the Higher Self rather than being impediments to enlightenment.
The personality can be a home to many obstacles to the Higher Life. This occurs most often in those who are too attached to the sensations and cravings of our physical body and emotional desires. The ignorant and concrete mind often tends to keep us stuck in materialism, stubbornness, and all of its limitations.
Many individuals, however, have developed their capacity for intelligent thinking, abstract awareness, and a creative imagination. They are able to relate effectively to the abstract wisdom, love, and power of the Higher Self. Because of these abilities, neither the personality nor the intelligent mind needs to be abandoned in our pursuit of enlightenment. The reality is that both the mind and personality can be purified, organized, and enriched to become effective partners with the Higher Self.
Once this realization is activated, the special techniques of Active Meditation can be used to begin working with the Higher Self to enable many new possibilities such as:
- to invoke and receive guidance to aid the personality in reducing confusion, ambivalence, and disorder in our thinking
- to summon love and joy from our Higher Self to heal the pockets of despair and resentment in us
- to bathe in the peace and serenity of the Higher Self to calm impulsiveness and anxiety
- to sense the presence of a higher and benevolent power that relieves our fear that we are alone and unprotected
- to deepen our awareness that we are, in some mysterious manner, a part of a greater life that sustains, guides, and supports us
- and that we have access to strength, love, joy, and other positive energies from the Higher Self to help us in the practical challenges of a busy life.
The Special Role of the Mind
The skillful and alert mind is a key agent in this process. Many consider the mind to be useless and incapable of relating to the sublime energies of the Higher Self. They mistakenly confuse the ignorant and critical, concrete intellect with the greater abilities of the developed mind. The concrete mind is designed to cope with specific events, memories, and sensation. It is not able to relate effectively with abstract energies of love and joy or abstract archetypal and spiritual forces. The developed mind, however, can engage abstract energies and archetypal forces to comprehend and apply them in our self and how we live.
Although the intellect is usually unable to link directly with the mystical abstractions of the Higher Life, it still is useful to the enlightened personality. Those who seek to reject the intellect need to appreciate its special usefulness to us as a valuable part of our mind. The intellect has the power to:
- prepare us to set aside material concerns as preparation for meditation
- organize and direct our attention to stay on task and avoid distractions
- enable us to discriminate between our ability to observe from what we see, sense, feel or remember
- focus our concerns and interests to search for good answers rather than keep recycling the details of our distress and failures
- focus our curiosity to explore our higher human and spiritual possibilities instead of investigating some enticing fantasy
- help to make sense of our meditative experiences
The mind, which includes the intellect, has far greater abilities and powers. It has the potential to work at the abstract level of thought, emotions, and the will. Our mind is a valuable assistant in the process of Active Meditation because of its capacity to:
- work directly with the abstract intelligence and power of archetypal forces and spiritual principles
- use abstract awareness to comprehend our collective purpose and priorities in key situations of our life
- establish and define our primary values and principles for our conduct, e.g., integrity, responsibility, etc.
- identify and set boundaries for our responsibilities and when others must contribute to complete difficult tasks
- recognize the patterns of finite details, activities, and purpose that reveal the meaning of complex situations
- expand awareness about our purpose, plans, priorities, and values.
The enlightened mind with these abilities is well equipped to engage in the self-examination that is crucial for the development of our character. It is the mind, not our emotions, that is best suited to operate this discovery process. The mind has the capacity to discriminate between the real and the false as well as between facts and opinions. Thus, it is the intelligent mind that can be effective in sorting out memories, feelings, beliefs, and habits in all their contradictions.
The mind, therefore, is also the proper agent for creative analysis and problem solving. While emotions can surge around our ideals and focus our devotion, the mind adds a crucial set of abilities. The mind, once educated and enlightened, can:
- interpret the abstract energies of archetypal forces and convert them into practical ideas, plans, and techniques
- translate spiritual principles into useful knowledge about the meaning of key events and situations in our life
- determine how to funnel abstract energies of love, joy, understanding, and other virtues into enlightening the personality
- integrate the greater wisdom, love, and power of purpose to the line of service that we provide for our spiritual brothers and sisters.
Connecting to Our Inner Master
The proper use of the techniques of Active Meditation can establish a conscious and cooperative relationship between the personality and the Higher Self. The regular waking state of most people is dominated by their mood, frame of mind, and habits. These factors can easily obscure the subtle hints and influences of the Higher Self. However, effective detachment can successfully divide our attention so we can be aware of both the personality and the Higher Self at the same time.
This capacity to have a dual awareness is no more complicated then observing two of our best friends or children at the same time. In meditation, however, the dual awareness is directed to the guidance and qualities of the Higher Self as it relates to the needs and problems of the personality. When the techniques of Active Meditation are used to achieve appropriate detachment and self-regulation, it is then possible to begin direct work with our Higher Self. At this point, the qualities of our Higher Self can be invoked to guide, mentor, and heal us. The net effect is to be able to relate to our Higher Self as a personal master teacher for our self.
In developing this type of relationship, we are seeking the strengths, compassion, joy, purpose, and plan of the Higher Self to help with our individual issues and obstacles to enlightenment. A collaborative relationship with our Higher Self can offer these benefits:
- clarification of our identity as being strong, resourceful, and resilient instead of a bundle of confusion, conflict, and uncertainty
- a significant reduction on our storehouse of anger associated with a myriad of people and situations we blame for much of our suffering
- a greater capacity to rise above our despair and beliefs that we can never truly be happy or successful
- a significant increase in our faith and respect for our self and the worth of our strengths and contribution to life
- more ability to organize our self, stabilize our focus and priorities, and discipline our unruly emotions
- improved ability to live in the present, put first things first, and not become so distracted
- be able to concentrate more attention on our talents and achievements than our mistakes, losses, and disasters
- develop a sense that the Higher Self is a true partner in our earthly life and a resource to help us in all our legitimate duties and struggles.
Working with our Higher Self in this manner means we are able to relate to our higher human and spiritual potentials as a resource rather than an object of reverence. This is a fundamental change from many traditional disciplines that depend on surrender and devotion to Higher Life. Using our Higher Self as our personal master to guide and support us means:
- we can work directly on our personal problems by bringing the resources of our higher energies to cleanse old negative attitudes and the beliefs that continue to recreate these problems
- we can review old conflicts and disasters with greater insight that allows us to extract their meaning and lessons so we can finally move beyond them
- we can recognize in retrospect how our life has often been subtly guided and supported by a higher power through a jumble of experiences that are meant to teach us something valuable
- we finally connect the major events of our life to recognize an underlying pattern for a destined evolution of our knowledge, skills, and ability to live a fulfilling life
Some will object to the statements about using the personality as a tool for spirit or using the mind to receive wisdom from spirit. The stubborn personality and the ill-informed mind are natural barriers to the abstract qualities and will of spirit. But just as a two-year old child can be trained to be a brilliant, creative adult, the average personality and mind can also be trained to participate actively in the light, love, and power of our spiritual or Higher Self. It is the gentle tyranny of low expectations, ignorance, and superstition that are the real handicaps in this situation.
Spirit is always seeking to find a way into our minds and hearts. Contrary to the assumptions of many, the spiritual purpose of the human race is not to learn how to escape the material existence of incarnation. It is exactly the reverse. It is to bring more Light and Love into the material plane to spiritualize our culture and enlighten the human race.
Active Meditation seeks to serve this cause in receptive individuals. As ever, this can only occur when the personality recognizes and participates in the work of activating its higher possibilities. While specific instruction can be provided to achieve these goals, much work is involved. The easy path of letting spirit do all the work is not how Active Meditation works. The student is expected to participate in creating a path to their Higher Self and then follow this with actively making changes in their personality’s attitudes, habits, motives, and expectations that will lead to revealing the life of our Higher Self.
Out of these practices, the very foundation of the personality can slowly be improved at the level of the self-concept, world outlook, and purpose in living. This new foundation becomes the basis for authentic enlightenment that can survive in the modern world.