Meditation comes in many shapes and sizes. We can sit and recite prayers, which is a form of religious meditation. We can also use meditation to improve our powers of concentration. In another kind of meditation, we might contemplate spiritual laws, or we may make our ego completely passive, letting go and following divine flux. All these have their own value.
There is yet another kind of meditation in which we use our available time and energy to confront the parts of ourselves that destroy happiness and wholeness. To be sure, we can never achieve the kind of wholeness we aspire to if we bypass this type of confrontation. We must give voice to the recalcitrant, destructive parts of ourselves that deny us the best life has to offer.
To get started, we need to understand the three fundamental layers of the personality that must be involved in the process of meditation for it to be truly effective. The three levels are: 1) the ego, with our ability to think and take action, 2) the destructive inner child, with its hidden ignorance and omnipotence, and immature demands and destructiveness, and 3) the Higher Self, with its superior wisdom, courage and love that allows for a more balanced and complete outlook on situations.
What we want to do in meditation, in order to be most effective, is leverage the ego to activate both the immature destructive aspects and the superior Higher Self. There must be an interaction between these three levels, which means the ego has some work to do.
The ego needs to have a single point of focus to get the unconscious inner child to show up and express itself. This isn’t all that hard to do, but it’s also not that easy. What makes it so difficult is that we’re afraid of being seen as nowhere near as perfect as we want to be. We’re not as evolved or as good or as rational as we like to pretend we are. We’re selling the world an idealized version of ourselves that frankly doesn’t exist, but our ego has bought its own story.
Our surface-level convictions about ourselves often clash loudly with the markedly different picture of what’s hiding in the cracks and crevices of our unconscious. As a result, we secretly feel like frauds and are terrified of having this exposed. It’s actually a sign of great progress when we can allow the belligerent little monster inside us to surface in our inner awareness. Being able to acknowledge this destructive part of ourselves in all its egotistical and irrational glory indicates a measure of self-acceptance and growth.
If we are not connected with our inner destructive parts, they can blindside us by manifesting undesirable creations that seem like they have nothing to do with us. If our meditation doesn’t deal with this sort of blindness, it will be a lopsided endeavor.
It can be hard to accept that there is something in us that breaks away so decidedly from how we see ourselves and want to be. This part is an egotistical infant—an immature aspect of the Lower Self—and its antisocial desires need to be exposed in humbling detail. Meditation is a prime opportunity to encourage self-revelation, both in general and specifically in the way this unpleasant part reacts to daily situations.
So one direction to take in meditation is for the ego to reach down and say, “I want to see whatever is hiding in me. I want to see my negativity and destructiveness, and I am committed to bringing it all out into the open, even if it stings my pride. I want to be aware of how I refuse to see my part wherever I am stuck, and which makes me concentrate too much on the wrongs of others.”
It is a tall order for the ego to expose all this on its own. It needs the help of the Higher Self, which is the other direction to turn during meditation. The Higher Self has access to powers far beyond those of the conscious ego, and they can be called upon to get the destructive little self to overcome its resistance and show itself.
The universal powers can also serve in helping to understand the destructive infant correctly, without exaggerating it. After all, we don’t want to go from ignoring it to blowing it out of proportion. We can easily vacillate between self-deprecation and self-aggrandizement. We can also fall prey to thinking that ultimately we are that hot mess—that this is the sad reality of who we are. So it’s important to not leave out asking for guidance from the Higher Self, without which we will easily lose perspective.
If we are an interested, patient listener, open to receiving the expressions of the destructive inner child, it will begin to reveal itself. Collect what surfaces and study it. We want to explore its origins in us. Why are we self-destructive? What are the underlying misconceptions that result in self-hate, spite, malice and our ruthless self-will? We’ll find that once we uncover our hidden wrong conclusions about life, our guilt and self-hate will slip away.
We need to uncover the consequences to giving in to the short-lived satisfaction of being destructive. Our destructiveness will then weaken in proportion to our understanding of all the aspects regarding which cause led to what effect. If we gloss over this part, our work of self-discovery will be left half-done. We need to follow all the threads until we uncover exacting insight about our issues.
Meditation must go one step at a time, working in a three-fold manner through the entire problem of our unconscious negativity. We need to start with the observing ego committing itself to reaching in and exposing the negative childish side. The ego also needs to ask the Higher Self for help. Once the destructive parts open up, the ego again can ask for help from the greater self to guide the exploration of what it’s all about and to see the heavy price paid to keep it going.
If we allow it, our Higher Self will help us overcome the temptation to give in, over and over, to destructive impulses. This giving in may not always show up in our actions, but often is present in our emotional attitudes. These are prevalent wherever we have conflicts, inclining us to concentrate on the woes of others or on circumstances outside our control. But instead, what would really help us is to explore how the cause for such problems is embedded in our own egocentric childish self.
For that, we need this kind of meditation, which takes time, patience and perseverance. We need to allow time for ingathering, being calmly determined to know the truth about a certain situation and its related causes. Then we need to quietly wait for an answer. In such a state of mind, we’ll feel a peace come to us, even before we fully understand our part in our negative creation. Approaching life in a truthful way will also bring self-respect that was lacking as long as we held others responsible for our suffering.
If we are diligent in cultivating meditation for three voices, we’ll discover a side of ourselves we have never known before. We’ll realize how our Higher Self can communicate with us, helping expose our ignorant, destructive side, which needs insight and encouragement to change. It’s only when we are willing to accept our Lower Self that our Higher Self will become a more real presence in us. Then we’ll have a more clear sense that this is our real self, lessening our despair that we are bad or weak or inadequate.
Many people meditate but they neglect this two-sidedness and therefore miss out on the opportunity for transformation and integration. Their Higher Self may be activated, to the extent possible based on how free and open they are, but the unfree, closed off areas remain neglected. The work of opening and healing, unfortunately, doesn’t happen by itself.
The ego has to want it and it has to fight for it. Otherwise the Higher Self can’t get through to the blocked-off Lower Self areas. What’s more, if we only make contact with one aspect—the Higher Self—this may lead to greater self-deception and make us even more prone to overlooking the neglected destructive side. Again, our development is at risk for becoming uneven.
Next comes the important step of reeducating the destructive inner child that is no longer completely hiding in the dark. We need to reorient the wrong beliefs, the stubborn resistance and the spiteful, murderous rage. But reeducation isn’t possible until we’re fully aware of all our hidden beliefs and attitudes. That’s why it’s critical we take such care with the first part of meditation: uncovering and exploring what’s inside us.
Also note, this isn’t a linear process. We don’t get over the first phase before moving on to the second and then the third phase; the phases overlap. Further, there are no rules about when we should be exploring and understanding and when it’s time for reeducation. They go hand in hand and we must continually feel into what’s called for when.
Our habit is to overlook the stagnant parts of ourselves. So we might use the first meditational approach correctly, surfacing new aspects of the destructive child, only to neglect the second phase; perhaps we don’t make all the connections between cause and effect, or we don’t complete the reeducation process.
But if we track the whole meditation process through from beginning to end, we’ll gain tremendous new strength for our whole being. Then several things begin to happen in our personality. First, our ego will become healthier. It will be stronger and more relaxed, with even more determination and single-pointed ability to concentrate.
Second, we’ll have a better understanding of reality and more acceptance for ourselves. Unrealistic self-disgust and self-hate will dissolve. So too will our unreal claims of being special and perfect disappear, along with false spiritual pride, false self-humiliation and shame. All this accrues from the steady activation of our higher powers, making us feel less and less forlorn, lost, helpless and empty. All the marvelous possibilities of the universe reveal themselves to us when we tap into this wider world and it shows us the way to accept and transform our destructive infantile ways.
Gradually, as we work with meditation in this way, we will develop the strength to accept all our feelings. By accepting our petty, mean-spirited side—without thinking this is the totality of who we are—the beauty and wisdom of our Higher Self becomes more real. This is not a power that leads to arrogance and feeling special—those are Lower Self qualities. Rather, the result must be realistic, well-founded self-liking.
Where there is life, there must be constant movement, even if temporarily that movement is paralyzed. Consider that matter is paralyzed life-stuff; the frozen blocks in our body’s energy system are also temporarily hardened life-stuff. This life-stuff, which is made up of both consciousness and energy—regardless of whether consciousness has been temporarily dimmed or energy momentarily frozen—can always be re-enlivened and set back into motion. But only consciousness can make this happen.
Meditation then is, above all, a process for re-enlivening frozen energy. The part of us that is already conscious and alert has an intention to reanimate blocked energy and dimmed consciousness so that movement and awareness are restored. The best way for this to occur is if the frozen and dimmed aspects can express themselves. For this to happen, we need to have a welcoming, receptive attitude, instead of a ‘sky is falling, this is devastating and catastrophic’ reaction.
Having a panicky attitude towards ourselves and what unfolds does more damage than the destructive child we are hoping to heal. We need to listen without hating ourselves for what we hear. Because this meditation will not be possible as long as we are denying and self-rejecting with a perfectionistic attitude. That won’t allow us to unfold and explore, and it sure won’t aid the reeducation process.
It takes a calm, relaxed ego to assert a gentle dominion over the violently destructive and stagnant matter of our psyche. Kindness and firmness will carry us much further than a bulldozer. We need to identify the destructive parts but not identify with them. Our best approach will be to observe in a detached way, without hurrying or judging. Accept what unfolds, knowing that its existence isn’t final. Know too that we have the power within ourselves to change. It’s when we’re not aware of these aspects and the damage they do that we lack the motivation to change. So stay calm and remain detached.
Every day, in our meditation practice, we can start by asking ourselves, “What am I feeling right now about this or that? Where am I dissatisfied? What am I overlooking?” Right away, the ego can turn to the Higher Self for help in getting answers to these questions. Then we can continue an inner dialogue and ask further questions. If we’re not willing to do even this much, we can confront that.
This is the only way for meditation to move us in the direction of problem resolution and greater growth and joy. Then trusting life won’t seem like such a crazy idea. Self-love will awaken in a healthy sense that’s not based on unrealistic expectations or wishful thinking. We’ll discover that opposites can come into relationship with each other, and paradoxes can be reconciled.
To recap, the first stage of meditation is discovery, the second is exploration and the third is reeducation. Now let’s discuss the fourth stage of meditation, which is desire. For people desire, and this is what expands our consciousness so we can create new and better life-stuff—and therefore life experience. Let’s look more closely at the paradox of desire, since both desire and desirelessness are important spiritual attitudes. Only in the illusion of duality are they opposites, which leads to the confusion that one is right and one is wrong.
If we have no desire for more satisfaction or fulfillment in life, we have nothing to work with in re-molding life-stuff. We can’t visualize a more complete state without having any desire for it. It’s our ego that’s in charge of fostering our concepts, and then calling on the Higher Self to bring them home.
Desire and desirelessness are not mutually exclusive, and if our ego has that impression, it can’t grasp the right attitude for moving forward. In our desire lies our belief that new possibilities can unfold and greater self-expression can be enjoyed. But if we’re all tense and tied up in knots about this, we form a block in our system. We’re essentially saying ‘I doubt if what I want can happen.’ Under this may lie ‘I don’t really want it,’ under which is a mistaken belief or an unrealistic fear or perhaps just an unwillingness to pay the price to have it.
All this underlying denial makes us tense about our desire. What we need to find and express is a kind of desirelessness regarding our desire: “I know I can and will have this or that I desire, even though I can’t realize it right now. I have trust in the universe and in my own goodwill, and I can wait. It will strengthen me to cope with the short-term frustration of my desire.”
There are a few common denominators that make meditation a rich and beautiful process with regard to healthy desire and desirelessness. First, we need the presence of trust and the absence of fear. If we are afraid of a little frustration, the tension inside us will prevent fulfillment of what we want. Over time, this will lead us to giving up all our desires. Then our desirelessness will be the wrong kind; we’ll misunderstand and be in distortion.
In the final analysis, the real source of our tension is the infantile notion that we’ll be annihilated if we don’t get what we want. It’s our inability to cope with not having that scares us. As a result, we’re on a hamster wheel; our fear causes a cramp that turns into denial of our desire. This is what we can explore as we come into the fourth phase of meaningful meditation.
In this stage, we are expressing our desire, confidently sensing our ability to cope with both the fulfillment of it and the nonfulfillment. We trust in the loving nature of the universe to bring us what we long for. When we know that we will eventually realize the ultimate state of bliss, we can deal with the obstacles that arise along the way. Then desire will complement desirelessness, no longer at odds in an irreconcilable paradox.
Another seeming paradox is the ability for a healthy psyche to be both engaged and detached. Not surprising, we’re going to need a two-fold approach to resolve this contradiction. We need to explore whether our detachment is actually indifference, caused by our fear of being involved and our unwillingness to endure any pain. If we won’t take a risk because we’re afraid to love, then our detachment is in distortion. On the flip side, if our involvement means we’re super-tense, insisting in a childish way on having what we want when we want it, we’ve turned the idea of being engaged inside out.
A third and final example of how apparent opposites can be united into a comprehensive whole when they are not in distortion is regarding the inner attitudes of being active and being passive. If we’re stuck in duality, we’ll see these two as mutually exclusive. How can we be both active and passive at the same time, and in harmony? In fact, our meditation must do exactly this.
We are being active when we explore our inner levels of consciousness; we are being active when we struggle through overcoming our resistance; we are being active when we question ourselves about the until now hidden destructive aspects that show themselves; we are being active when we reeducate the ignorant nature of our young split off aspects; we are being active when our ego seeks out our Higher Self for guidance and help in healing; we are being active when we replace a limiting, incorrect idea about life with a new truthful concept.
Every time the ego reaches out to either the Higher Self or the destructive child, we are taking action. Then it’s time to wait with patience, to passively allow the unfolding and expressing of both these levels. That’s how we find the right blend of these two approaches—activity and passivity—in our meditation. Both movements must be present in our psyche for the universal powers of creativity to function.
Our goal is not to slay the destructive aspects of ourselves. No, these parts need instruction so they can be freed and allowed to grow up; then salvation can become a real thing. As we do this, our ego will, sure enough, move steadily closer to becoming unified with the greater Higher Self.
We only need to find where we are in distortion and where we are functioning well. Using this three-way interaction, we can create a harmonious blend of desire and desirelessness, of being involved and being detached, and of taking action and being passive. When this balance becomes our steady state, the destructive child will naturally grow up. It won’t be killed off; it won’t be exorcised like some kind of demon. The frozen areas will simply be re-enlivened and we will feel our re-energized life force waking up within us.
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