A first step in meditation is to transcend the usual personality routine – those automatic patterns of thoughts and behavior. Meditation functions as a kind of stop and recalibrate time, stop and re-tune our self. Such transcendence of the personality routine requires some fundamental steps, all included in a useful meditation practice. One step is relaxation of the body and mind, and quietness is part of this. One reason for this relaxation is to relax the personality pattern itself – which has a rigidity in its automatic and routine mode. So we are actually relaxing the rigidity of this pattern, which then softens and loosens it, making it more pliable for change.
As well, a unified consciousness is required, which is an unscattered consciousness. So in the fundamental first steps of meditation our mind needs to re-gather itself into a meditative unity. For if our mind remains scattered into this or that, then we will lack the power to go deeper into contemplation and into deeper spiritual experience.
Next, bring consciousness into the heart of being. Then from here, experience I am. It is from here that we can then discover the essences of who we really are – rather than merely be content with superficial knowledge about our self, as from what others say or from from astrology or other sources outside of direct self-experience. Essentially, we have to be fully present and awake to our own being – to who we really are; sincerely and honestly asking, who am I. Not just superficially, but instead very deeply and directly. And be open to the discovery. But what is needed is being open to and allowing to the revealing – as the truth is revealed from one's heart.
Sometimes it helps to have the question in mind of who am I, or one can simply delve deeper into this inquiry and discovery. But it is the heart that reveals the essential emotions, feelings, sincerity, and intentionality of who we truly are. Our fundamental attitude and intention here is to deeply discover and realize our sincere, authentic, truth of being. This truth of our being is the same as our soul, and also same as the spirituality or divinity within us. This is not the same as the outer shell of personality. Crack the shell to find the kernel.
An important part of a spiritual path is purity, which is also an aspect of self-mastery. This could involve any or all of the personality bodies; such as the physical, emotions, or mental body. Having a pure, clean, and healthy physical body is pretty obvious spiritual aim. But let us begin with the mind and heart. Purity of mind means a clear, uncluttered, and peaceful mind. The same can be said for the heart. Purity of mind results in our ability to clearly receive higher Intuitions, higher spiritual Impressions, and higher cosmic energies. We can then learn and also understand higher spiritual principles and ideas. We can then receive and learn from higher Teachers. And we can then more directly receive from God, understanding the Divine Will and Wisdom.
A pure, clear, uncluttered heart brings love and other higher emotions. Why? Because purity and clarity in one's emotional body, and especially in one's heart, will result in a clearer receptivity of Divine Love and also of the love expressed by others. Love coming from the natural world can also then be received. A clear and pure emotional body, without clutter of emotional troubles or reactions, will also result in a serene emotional experience, with the heart open and ready to receive. Thus, a clearer emotional body makes possible a clearer receptivity to higher emotional energies; just as a clear mind makes possible a clearer receptivity to higher spiritual thoughts or ideas.
A pure, clear, and uncluttered heart brings love also because the essence of the heart is love. So when the heart is clear, its essence is realized. The essence of love shines through the clear and pure heart, and thus love is spontaneously realized (uncovered). As well, when the mind is clear and pure, the essence of mind can then shine through, which is peace, and so peace is then spontaneously realized (uncovered). To summarize, the heart's essence of love shines through when the heart is pure, clear, and uncluttered; and the mind's essence of peace shines through when the mind is pure, clear, and uncluttered.
In some Buddhist teachings the heart and mind are considered to be interrelated. A pure heart is an open heart, which is its natural state when uncluttered and clear. Likewise, a pure mind is an open mind, which is its natural state when uncluttered and clear. The natural state of mind and heart is simply to be open, expansive, uncontracted, and non-judgmental. Clear your heart and mind to see if this is true. Test it out.
Then, one can also discover that an open, expansive, uncontracted, and non-judgmental mind or heart is what love is. Love welcomes and allows in. This is the loving heart. So everyone can enter into my heart of love when my heart is naturally open, which is its pure and clear state. This the Buddhist ideal of heart and mind, to be clear and free of everything, to be uncluttered, so that heart and mind are simply open, receptive and accepting to what is, which is what love is. This relaxed openness is the natural, loving state of heart and mind. Or in other words, the loving heart is relaxed in its openness.
But then as it might be worried, what about negative energies or negative people? Would we want anyone or any energy to enter in our pure and open heart? If one has made a clean and pure house, would one want to welcome everyone in, even those with dirty shoes? So doesn't the pure and clear heart need some kind of boundary or protection? Here are some answers to those concerns.
Everyone can enter in, but all dissolves into the pure loving essence. In other words, when the heart and mind are pure and clear, all beings and all levels of energies can be received into one's heart, but everything then dissolves into its original spiritual essence, similar to how any material would dissolve into essence when entering into the pure fire of the sun. So, the purity and clarity of one's heart dissolves everything and anything back to its original spiritual essence.
Also with a pure and clear heart, nothing is held-to, kept, or 'taken on'. The moment anything enters the heart or mind, it is immediately allowed to move through, like a visitor, but nothing is held-to, nothing held on to. Therefore, whatever comes in, or whoever enters one's heart as a welcomed visitor, just remains for a temporary time, in order to present a certain teaching or experience, but then this simply drifts away because one easily allows it to go. In other words, the energies come in then go out freely, like pieces of dust drifting into an empty open jar with the wind, then just as easily drifting out with the wind.
So with a purely open mind and heart, that does not cling to anything, miscellaneous thoughts and energies might come in, but nothing is held-to so everything just moves on, unless one sees something especially significant. It's kind of like creative brainstorming; a lot is thrown onto the table, but one has to see or feel what is truly important or useful. All else is allowed to simply drift on, without giving it any of one's energy.
If there are some kinds of energy or circumstance that are difficult to let go of or dissolve back to essence, then this is what one needs to presently work on – that is, it's still in need of 'processing', or one might even think of it as karma not yet resolved. So one can have an open, clear, receptive and allowing heart, but nothing in particular has to stick or get stuck, or be held, and much can be psychically dissolved back into essence, or just dissolved into love; or else one will have to make some internal effort to process-resolve what is still upsetting emotionally or what still worries the mind. For the goal is to be emotionally clear and free, as well as mentally clear and free. And once again, this is the path to love, because a clear and free mind/heart will be naturally open in love.
The first phase of meditation is clearing/emptying of the mind and heart. This also includes relaxing and letting go of physical stress. After relaxing and releasing stresses of the physical body, the emotions need to be cleared of worry and irritation. Then the mind must be cleared of any ongoing thought processes, meaning that one needs to let go of thoughts and other mental concerns. Related and complimentary to this clearing phase is the need to be simply present and receptively open. Awareness of the breath will help, as well as maintaining awareness in one’s mind and heart.
The second phase, after clearing, is opening of the heart/mind to Divine Presence. This can also mean opening to Divine Love, or it could mean opening to Divine Light. Love and Light are the two fundamental sides of Divine Presence, so one could bring attention to either one for a time, and then bring attention to the other for a time. The Divine Presence could also be experienced as peace, or as a feeling of harmony with all life.
The keys to this phase are opening, receptivity, and a coming into oneness with the Divine Presence, or one of Its Essential Qualities. This phase could also be called attunement with the Divine. We might also add to this phase the attitude of surrender, or a sense of allowing the Divine Presence to enfold oneself. The Divine Presence is sensed and realized as being present and permeating the space around one, both inside and outside.
The third phase begins with the definite realization that the Divine Presence is now present in one’s own heart – that oneself is truly the Divine Presence.
from this inner Divine Presence of oneself, there emerges an
expression of Divine Love, which begins to radiate outward to
all life and the world. This is the phase of Divine expression, or
Divine radiance, which emerges from our own centre of being. It is
the activity of service and giving through meditation. It is the
giving and sharing of our love, which is now Divine Love. This can
also be the giving and sharing of our light of realization, which is
now Divine Light. It can also be understood as the transmission of
divine healing energy. For now we are radiant centres of Divine Love,
Light, Realization, and Healing; which goes out to enfold and embrace
all of life and the world. This brings spiritual transformative
effects in the world, and it also brings about transformation within
ourselves, in that we become centres for divine expression, love and
healing in the life around us. As a final point, remember that love
is both giving and embracing.
These are the four phases of meditation; which we can label as the emptying/clearing, opening/receptive, realization/awakening, and out-giving compassionate phases. One will find that most forms of meditation involve one or more of these modes. This categorizing is useful, yet there are other modes of meditation as well.
First is relaxation, letting go, and emptying of emotional and mental jumble. Second, is being consciously present right here and right now; being awake to what is. Included here is the conscious experience of I am or I am here, and the conscious-present power of I will. This can also be called having and maintaining self-presence. Remember that this power of the conscious I am and conscious will protects us from the scattering forces of the world. Third, is being in conscious relationship with people and things and nature around us. This involves our conscious will to be in relationship, and the higher form of this is the will-to-serve truth, love and goodness. Remember that there are levels of will within us, so an aspect of our spiritual journey is to discover the deepest will of oneself, rather than remain identified with any number of superficial wills. The fourth stage of practice is opening up to the Divine Presence, in and around oneself. This is the action needed to make connection with the Divine and become conscious of the Divine Presence. And the fifth stage is allowing God to work through oneself. Here one is immediately conscious of God, or Divine Presence, while also conscious of oneself as a vehicle or channel for the Divine. The attitude and intention here is two-fold. On the one hand, there needs to be a self-intention to be of service or to be a divine channel, or at least take on the attitude that one is. Then on the other hand, there needs to be an attitude of allowing the Divine to work through oneself.
Note about meaning: Contemplation and meditation are two words that are often used in regards to spiritual practice, but the distinct meaning of each of these words is not the same for all spiritual teachings. Reflection is another word that is used in many ways and with many possible meanings. That is, there is no absolutely agreed distinction between what these words mean, so it is best to use these terms generally and distinguish a more specific meaning by an added qualification.
The first type of contemplation is upon tasks or work to be done. We need to make a conscious study of ourselves and the world in front of us, in order to understand what needs to be done. Some tasks directly involve our own development or how we challenge our potentials and some directly involve service in the environment or with others, while any task involves both of these to some degree. We need to contemplate on what needs to be done and how to accomplish this.
The second type is a contemplation on creation, the natural creations, the creations of man and the creation of our own life and body. Here, we can understand the great intelligence and beauty of creation, and appreciate the manifesting love and wisdom shared in this world.
The third type of contemplation is upon the inner qualities of our being and others. These qualities are the archetypal patterns of the formative collective mind. They are qualities of the Divine Presence. We see know these qualities inside us and as they relate to us from the creation around us. Here we contemplate upon universal truths of experience, such as beauty, value, love, goodness, harmony, healing, insight, etc. We contemplate upon the Divine Qualities given to us, whether they are seen as coming from within or outside, and we assimilate them into our being through recognition and loving agreement. Through quiet, receptive meditation or communion with nature, the particular quality of presence within us or in nature can be recognized consciously and given contemplative light to; thus building it stronger within our being.
The fourth type is contemplation is upon the Being of Presence Itself, the relaxation of being into Being consciously. It is upon the Unity or the undivided essence of all beings. This contemplation results in a conscious, Spiritual Union; yet is always limited to some extent by our capacity and the given Grace of Divine Revelation. Complete conscious union or contemplation upon the Divine Essence is actually impossible, because the Divine Presence is infinite and ultimately transcends complete knowing.
We can only really comprehend the Qualities of Divine Being, knowing how the One Being is being in our self. To be in the Divine Presence in complete purity and fullness is beyond human possibility, but we can come ever closer to knowing the Unity which we are in essence as we surrender our heart to the One Being.
One of the most important kinds of meditation is the self-reflective mode. This is a meditation upon the qualities of one’s true self. It involves self-discovery, self-reflection and self-understanding. We can distinguish three levels of this type of meditation practice.
First is self-recognition of our ego patterns, which would include recognition of our beliefs and emotions. This kind of self-recognition, involving an acknowledgment of our usual mental and emotional patterns, is part of ordinary psychological work. It is useful and significant, but it only deals with ordinary ego understanding, and by itself this recognition is not sufficient to transform these ego patterns.
Next is a self-reflection meditation that goes beyond the ordinary ego and identification with ego-content, into a deeper discovery of our true being, the truth or essence underneath ordinary ego thinking and emotions. This essence of self is found deep in the heart of our being, in the stillness of the knowing heart. This can also be understood and as soul-meditation, or meditating upon one's soul essences. Here we find the spiritual qualities of our true being, which at the very essence is love.
Now at this level of meditation, there are two complementary ways to self-reflect. One way is to self-discover with no preconceptions at all. Just discover what is true in the heart of being and let this emerge. The other way is to use spiritual tools given by various spiritual traditions, such as archetypal images or ideas, in order to evoke and bring forth to awareness spiritual qualities in oneself. A whole book could be devoted to such valuable tools. But if we use evocative images and ideas, it is important to balance this approach, at some time, with the pure self-discovery approach that is without preconception.
Finally, the highest level of self-reflection is upon the Qualities of Divine Presence, as experienced in the mode of spiritual attunement. This is a contemplative reflection upon the Qualities of God, as experienced from the Divine Presence. It is like getting to know God, by directly experiencing God permeating the space all around us. This is a furthering of our discovery of Divine Presence while in the mediation mode of attunement.
The Divine Presence is also realized in oneself, when in the deepest meditation. This is, of course, an extension on the middle level as already discussed. So the distinction between these levels is merely a matter of deepening experience. In the highest level, the qualities of our true self (as realized in the middle level) are more deeply realized as Qualities of God or Divine Presence. For in the highest level, all sense of oneself as being an individual has been surrendered and obliterated, and only God remains as the True Being. This realization will then filter down into all levels of being and expression. The key will be to bring the Qualities of Divine Being down and outward into living expression.
Reflective thinking on an idea or theme is a form of meditation, but this is just one kind of meditation. To progress one needs a balanced approach, which includes a balance of the many kinds of meditation. Too many spiritual teachings emphasize just one kind of meditation, which then produces imbalance or even fanaticism. Some teachings emphasize a sound meditation, others a thinking meditation, others a blank-mind meditation, and others an emotionally devotional meditation. A new person interested in meditation is bound to get confused if all of the many suggestions are considered; though most people just stay committed to whatever form of meditation they happened to come across first.
A reflective kind of meditation is very useful, but consider other kinds as well, which will help make a balance. For example, another important form of meditation involves feeling. Thought can be allowed in a feeling meditation, but feeling is now the emphasis.
Here is an example. A thinking meditation might reflect on the idea of peace in the world. Perhaps one might think deeply about the meaning of peace, and then reflect on the importance of peace in the world, and one might also think of a practical example of peace-making in the world. All of this meditational thinking is spiritual useful to one's own understanding and also helpful to the whole world as any understanding is instantly shared with the world mind. But we can also take our meditation to an even deeper level by working with a feeling meditation – which also balances the power of thought with the power of feeling.
The feeling meditation on this might be as follows. Sincerely feel peace in the world. Try this. Feel, as a real experience, peace in the world. This feeling has power. After allowing some time to really feel-experience the peace, one could then thoughtfully reflect on the significance of this feeling peace – whereby thought comes forth from the feeling-experience and is reflective of the feeling experience.
In this way, both thought and feeling coalesce integratively in the meditation and carry a synergistic power through the mind and feelings of humanity.
Thought and thinking are important mental tools, helping us to understand an idea better, how it works and how to apply it. When we work with thinking in meditation, for the purpose of either self-reflection or to understand spiritual qualities and truths, then we can call this a thinking kind of meditation. But deeper meditation is beyond thought. It is being conscious in the very quality of being (or in being that quality). This can be called a being kind of meditation.
and work with these two kinds of meditation:
Thinking meditation and Being meditation.
Thinking meditation is when one thoughtfully considers an idea, a theme, or a quality, in order to understand it. One might think about what a particular idea or quality means, how does it look and how is it manifested, what is its effect on others and in the world, and what is our own responsibility in generating it or bringing it into actuality. This kind of deep thinking requires a sustained mental focus and intelligent analysis. It requires more than just brainstorming and mental association. Yet it also requires some degree of receptive openness to our power of spiritual intuition.
Thinking meditation has both an active and receptive component. The thinking is active, concentrated, and logical. Yet the thinking mind should also be receptive to an intuitive, immediate, and perhaps surprising insight. We are being receptive to our own inner intelligence and also to our spiritual intuition. This receptive component is the difference between meditation and mere analytical or strictly logical thinking. For in meditation there needs to be some degree of mental receptivity to intuitional insights from our spiritual intuition. Overall though, the most important key is to just be intelligent, in the questions we ask and in the answers we believe are true.
Being meditation is different from thinking meditation. Thinking meditation is more structured and directed by active thought; though it is not merely letting the mind wander into whatever associations. Being meditation is less structured and does not require any thinking or thought; but it does require a sustained consciousness and is not merely a spacy or dreamy mind. Thinking meditation is to acquire knowledge and intellectual understanding. Being meditation is to enter into real experience and to develop beingness of a spiritual quality.
Both purposes are useful and important. Without knowledge and understanding by the thinking mind, we will continue on the same roads, rather than understand other possible roads. Also, our knowledge and intellectual understanding of a spiritual idea or quality gives us a practical foundation for manifesting it. Yet, without an actual experience about this idea or quality, to go along with our thinking and knowledge about it, we are simply stuck in thinking about it or just knowing about it intellectually. Actual experience gives us a deeper knowing of what this idea or quality is, and actual experience is what finally transforms our being.
These two kinds of meditation can work well together and be integrated. But at first, we need to intentionally give some meditative time to each of these on their own. Some types of people are drawn to one of these kinds, while other types of people will be inclined towards the other kind. Yet it is good to work with both and find a balance with these, since both are important. Though Being meditation is more difficult to reach than Thinking meditation.
Remember that Divine Qualities come from our being. Then remember the goal, which is to consciously be these qualities of being (these qualities of our soul). This is the goal of deep being meditation. It is a meditation of self-discovery and being. Finally, our goal is a sharing of these qualities – emanating each quality into the space around us and even into the whole world. The work of Service Meditation is about being and doing it, not just thinking about it. Contemplative thinking can help is understand a Divine Quality, but our aim is to discover this Quality in our own being, then be this Quality. Discover your true being, then be and do this.
There are two fundamental directions for meditative spiritual practice. One is inward and the other is outward. Likewise, there are two fundamental modes of spiritual experience, inward and outward.
Spiritual Presence and the qualities of Spiritual Being are found inward within our own being, and also outward in the world around us. Therefore, meditative or contemplative awareness can either be inward or outward, to discover spiritual quality. If we study the history of spiritual systems and practices, we will often find one of the approaches much more emphasized than the other. But what is needed is a general balance with these two approaches, a balance in practice. Still, we need to focus and practice on one at a time. Maybe later a blending can be achieved, but for now let us briefly consider one at a time.
The inward spiritual practice will be an investigation, an inspection, and discovery of your spiritual being and spiritual qualities. It is an investigation of who you are. This requires utmost sincerity and self-honesty, to discovery the true qualities of one’s being. This can also be called the self-discovery of one’s soul, for we are talking about the true qualities of our soul-being, and these soul-qualities are independent and transcendental (a priori) to any personality traits or habits that have been conditioned by social-cultural factors or by the personality-ego development. We have to look into ourselves, deep into the heart and truth of our being, in order to discover our real soul - the being who we most essentially are – and the various spiritual qualities of this inner soul-being. This fundamentally requires an inward inspective awareness and, as well, deep sincerity and self-honesty.
In more deeper meditative experiences, the mind needs to be receptive to the inner truth of oneself and allowing the qualities of our deeper self (or soul) to be revealed. This can be called the revelation of the soul. But truly in essence, this is just as much a revelation of Divine Being Itself, or God. For this is how God Itself reveals through oneself. In essence then, we are discovering the very Presence of God within ourself, and not just statically there but ‘dynamically presenting’ – dynamically emerging and revealing. Yet in order for this to happen, mind has to be awake – awake in the heart.
Another way of describing the inward approach is to ‘go into the I of oneself’. Go into the I of being, investigating ‘who I am’. This is direct and straight approach into God, through the eye (I) of the needle, right through the presence of one’s own being. This leads to a discovery of true Spiritual Being and the true soul qualities. In a way, this leads to God – to God Conscious Being. Though one should always qualify any experience as being but a portion or degree of the Absolute God, which also helps to avoid an ego tendency to be big-headed about oneself. Nonetheless, it is equally disingenuous to fall into a false humility by thinking that God (or Spirit) is always beyond oneself. The right thinking is that God is revealing through our own mind and heart, but only portionally, and that we are each within God – as well as God within us.
The outward meditative practice is a complete opening of awareness to the world around. This is an opening to and investigation of the spiritual qualities as found in the world. It is also an opening to the Spiritual Presence of the world around. In the beginning stage of this practice, awareness is finely observant and listening. Awareness of self, or inner awareness, gradually disappears. This is vanishing of oneself is important to the practice. We might call it self-forgetfulness or self-abandonment, for there is no more focus on oneself, but instead the focus of awareness is on the world outside of oneself. When the self-knowing has expanded to be more inclusive, then the apparent boundary between self and outside of self begins to dissolve, but that is in the later stage of the practice. The first stage of the practice can be summarized as observation, listening and appreciation. There is an awareness and appreciation of the spiritual qualities and spiritual Presence.
Next, there is a gradual sense of relationship and even communion with that appreciated part of the world (social or nature). This communion comes to be when the limited self, or held-onto self, lets go of itself - to be in complete intimacy or communion. Here, the self dissolves into being one with this wider field of life. So now the self has expanded to include more of life, and thus the self is wider, has greater span, or it is more ex-span-sive. The potential for this expansion is great, as it might eventually include the whole ecosystem of life. The sense or experience of interrelationship with others and with natural life can become more and more inclusive, and so the self-identification is less and less limited.
Inward self to Outward
There is a third kind of spiritual practice, related in a way to both the inward and outward kinds of practice. It is an inner meditative practice that does not involve outer senses, and yet it is outward from the self perspective. If we reconsider the inward practice described above, the awareness goes inward into the heart or essence of the self. The direction of awareness is inward. But in the third kind of practice the awareness is outwardly expansive – to include more and more of the world and finally the whole universe of Being. Yet this is done in an inner meditation of mind-heart, without the outer senses. The self-consciousness is like a container. The self has a boundary in its knowingness, in its light, and we might call this its present level of self-identification. This is ‘who I am’ as a being-consciousness or light of self-knowing. Yet there is a sense of limitation about oneself, or a sense of boundary, between this present sphere of self-being (or self-light) and the whole of Universal Being.
In recognition of this, there arises a wish for self-transcendence and to be Knowing of the All of Universal Being, and this produces a willingness to surrender the present self into the Universal Being, to be in complete Unity of Being. This will require self-surrender and self-sacrifice, the dissolving the veil (or boundary) between oneself and the One Universal Being. This could be a gradual process, of more and more outward expansion, from self to group, and from group to world, and from world to Universe. Yet ultimately, the final surrender is to the One Itself, and the final Realization is the Infinite, Uncontained, Mystery of Being Itself.
The self-being is always limited, in relation to the Infinite Being of which it is; like a sphere-of-knowing within Infinite Being. Thus, there is always Greater Being that is transcendental to the limited sphere of any self-being. So in the spiritual evolutionary process of the soul, or self-being, there needs to be an opening up to the Greater Transcendental Being, to God, and a letting in of this greater Grace of Being.
One is opening and letting in the greater Light, or greater Love, or just greater Being Itself. And then there is a period of resting at this new level of expansionary self-being. The period of resting is ‘here I am, here I be’. And complimenting this resting period, within the overall Process, is the period of dynamic opening– which is oneself opening to the Greater Transcendental Being and allowing a movement of ascent. And then once again there is the period of resting. This is the rhythm of the spiritual evolutionary Process, the dynamic opening and the resting containment. One experience is ‘here I go’, as the opening is also a letting go and allowing of self-transcendence, while the other experience is ‘here I am’, settling in the present containment of oneself.
This Process has been called ‘climbing the ladder to God’. It has also been called ‘the dropping of the veils’. In the ascent to God, the veils become evermore thin and subtle, they become more transparent. The many layers of veils can be alternatively explained as just one ultimate veil between self and God, which is ever thinning as self opens to God.
There are many rooms within the whole Reality of Being, within the whole of God. This means that there are many different ways of experiencing God or the Reality of Being. Each way is a kind of room in which one experiences. These rooms are distinct, though somewhat related. Each has its own quality and inner phenomena. But not all rooms are equal in clarity and importance. So we should not become attached to any one room, or get stuck. We need to be free enough to leave the room we are in, at some point, and discover another room. It is like traveling. If one is to become a more whole person, one must travel around and experience different places. Don’t get stuck in just one place. Moreover, there are levels of rooms within the hierarchy of Being. Higher levels have larger rooms. And there are rooms within rooms; in other words, every room is surrounded by or contained within a larger room.
So if one enters into a higher room, this new room is experientially larger. The inner space of experience is larger, that is, one’s experience of being is larger or more expansive. The mind and heart is more expansive and spacious. Thus, the inner being is larger. The masters in the spiritual hierarchy are larger beings. Now, we each can move from one level to another, from a smaller room to a relatively larger room. This experience is sudden. That is, in a moment one is suddenly in a much larger room of inner space. The key to this sudden change is conscious surrender. Surrender the present room, while opening up to the next greater room. This is called the ladder of ascent. But it only can happen one room at a time, and gradually, with sustained consciousness and surrender. As one one room disappears, the next one appears.
Imagine in the beginning, before even being a child, without any knowledge or understanding whatsoever, and when you did not even have any sensory experience. Who were you then? What was this like? This is the experience of self prior to any knowledge and sensory experience. This is the experience of self essence, or being essence. From this essence then comes the essential qualities of self. So it is helpful to return in meditation to this primary essence of oneself, which is empty of preconceptions, opinions, judgments, emotional patterns, and cultural conditionings. For then, out from this unconditioned essence, the essential qualities of being can emerge.
Three keys are necessary to this emergence of the pure essential qualities of being, the divine qualities. The three necessary keys are emptiness, faith, and allowing. First of all, we need to come into this emptiness of our primary essence. This involves a letting go our usual self identifications and thought processes, in order to dissolve into the emptiness of primary essence, which is like the primary water of life. Now we call this emptiness because the necessary step involves emptying and because the initial experience is empty; but in fact, the primary essence is not empty of potential – it is full of potential. It is simply empty in the experience, yet out from this emptiness emerges the divine essential qualities of being, the essences of self.
Yet this emergence can only happen in an attitude (or self-atmosphere) of faith and allowing. There must be these two qualities already present: faith and allowing. On the one hand, faith and allowing are necessary in the initial process of letting go and dissolving into the emptiness of essence. That is, complete emptying of self can only happen in an atmosphere of faith and allowing. There has to be an allowing of oneself to dissolve into the essence, yet this will not happen without faith. Complete letting go and emptying of self can never happen when fear and doubt are dominant. So a quality of faith is necessary. Then, on the other hand, faith and allowing are also necessary in the emergence of divine being. For one needs to have faith that there is a hidden divinity within the emptiness of essence, and one needs to allow this inner divinity to come forth from the pure essence of being.
The essence of deep meditation is both the essence of oneself and the Essence of Divine Presence. These are not really different, but are two ways of understanding the same reality of experience. It is oneself and it is God. It really is the same. As one of the great Yogis said, at this deepest reality of experience the atman (self-soul) and Brahmam (Universal Being) are truly one and the same.
But also in deep meditation there is an essence of experience. This is not the absolute Essence of Divine Being, but instead it is one of the many essences of Being. These are also called the Qualities of Divine Being. Each experience of a Divine Quality also contains all of the Absolute Divine Essence. Or in other words, within each divine quality or divine essence is the Absolute Divine Essence – the experience of God absolutely.
The experience of a divine essence could be a quality of light, or perhaps a quality of love, or sometimes a quality of peace, an open spaciousness, or a blissfulness. The Absolute Essence is in all of these, and can be discovered through any of them. But in any one moment, the Absolute Divine Essence is understood as a certain quality or another.
First there is a direct experience of this essence-reality [of self/being], and then there is some kind of understanding, interpretation or recognition about it. There is nothing wrong with understanding or describing it. But we should remember that, in these moments of understanding and describing, the full essence cannot be contained in the described quality. In other words, we are picking out only one quality of the essence, or it might be said that only one quality is presently being revealed.
The Sufis have a spiritual practice involving the sound and breathing out of Hu. One of the practices involving Hu is allowing oneself to dissolve into the Divine Essence, while sounding and breathing out Hu. This is an expiration of oneself, a willing surrender into the Divine Essence, a return back into the Essence of God. And in order to make this practice complete, one has to really let everything go, including one’s own individual self, letting go of everything in mind and heart, which is a complete emptying of oneself. It is an allowing of oneself to completely dissolve into the Divine Essence, the Pure Water of Spirit. And this requires a quality of faith, because it is quite similar to a conscious death. It takes faith to completely let go and allow this dissolving of the individual sense of self, and it takes faith to enter into absolute emptiness of Divine Essence.
All that is there is the absolute beginning, the eternal beginning. And out from this absolute emptiness there can now emerge the primary qualities of God/Being. One has become so empty that God, and the Qualities of God, can now emerge freely and unhindered. One looses oneself so completely in the Essence, allowing oneself to so completely dissolve in the Essence, that the Divine Qualities [of God/Being] can now reflect more clearly and perfectly through this individual self called I. A new spiritual beginning now emerges, and this new spiritual beginning can happen in any moment or in every moment.
Our lives are usually so full of thoughts, desires and reactions, that we seldom take some precious time to consider who we really are in all of this drama. Who am I? Now this may seem like a silly question to many people, because there isn’t any uncertainty about who they are. Most people have a fairly strong identity; such as I am this body, this face, this kind of personality, with certain beliefs, and doing this kind of job. We can call this a self-identification with the body, beliefs and emotions. Now this does make some sense, to identify with our body and personality, but from a spiritual perspective we are more than this. That is, there is a deeper level of ourselves, which has an indefinable depth or a certain sense of mystery. Thus, the question makes sense, ‘who am I’, underneath all of the phenomenal drama of thoughts and emotions.
Yet when we are wrapped up in such phenomenal identification, the question of ‘who am I really’ does not arise. We can only ask the question when we take a break from this usual self drama and enter into a mode of self-contemplation or self inquiry. Eastern spiritual traditions have best emphasized this need for self inquiry, and in those traditions we find this question of ‘who am I really?’
We can answer this question in a simple way, saying that I am a soul that is beyond the phenomenal personality. But it is not sufficient to answer this question by a simple abstract notion of the soul. We need to answer the question from direct experience and not simply be satisfied with an abstract idea. If we inquire deep into ourself, into our heart, we may find that we are essentially love. Love is a spaciousness of the heart, an inclusive space. We may also find that we are essentially consciousness, and this consciousness is spacious. We might also acknowledge that we are essentially a mystery.
In the deepest truth of who we are, we are space. For underneath all qualities or phenomena of self there is but space. This is a very radical experience of oneself. It is jumping off the cliff from all identification, whereby there is nothing at all to cling to, no self-identification at all. I am simply space. This is the ultimate freedom from phenomenal identification. Who am I? I am space.
I am the space underneath and encompassing all of the thoughts and emotions and qualities that may arise in this space. This is the space of un-identified consciousness. And if we can live from this conscious spaciousness, we are free and nothing can ultimately affect us, because we are nothing but space. We can walk about and interact in the world, but essentially we are just space. Then everything that happens, externally and internally, are merely like objects in this greater space. Try this as a practice. Let go of all identification, and just be conscious space.
We are looking for spiritual balance, which is like a balance between the in-breath and the out-breath. The two aspects of breath are opposites, yet both are necessary for a greater, balanced purpose. Meditation is a concentrated form of experience, and there are many kinds of meditations. But even with meditation, balances are needed.
One important meditation practice is a conscious self-experience of I am. Breathe in, thinking I am; then breathe out, thinking I am. Also feel it. The experience is more complete when both thinking and feeling are present. This brings one into one's own self-knowing and self-power. It leads into one's centre of power.
Now this practice may sound ridiculously simple, but it has a profound effect when actually done as a practice, rather then just thinking about doing the practice. Try it for seven breaths, or at minimum three conscious breaths. Next, on the out breath, think and feel I give. This will truly balance the concentrated experience of I am.- which could become an over-focus on oneself or become self-narcissistic. So, balance I am with I give. Or it could be I love. Yet both are important, so work on both.
The use of breath in these meditations can be very effective; however, one can meditate on I am or I give, without having breath as part of the practice – though breath will still be in the background.
The meditation of I am is a precursor to the meditation-experience of I will. First I am, then I will. First return consciousness to the I am knowing of self. Return consciousness from its outward-worldly scatteredness (or lost in the many concerns of worldly life). Return to oneself and to self-power. But self-power fully blooms with the meditation of I will. It is not necessary to have anything in mind particularly as to what I will. Just meditate on I will, and the power of this.
Very often one's mind is scattered or fragmented. So this intentional practice is to intensify the self-experience of I am in this present moment and present breath. It is also true that there is a self-will at work in daily life, but this is often working subconsciously and mechanically. So this meditation practice is a concentrated experience of I will, consciously realizing the power of I will.
Then, this can be balanced by the practice of self-abandonment into the present moment. Notice how self-abandonment feels to be opposite to self-will. It is true that one is often losing oneself in the phenomena of life, and one might go for long periods without any immediate experience of oneself. But this is different from conscious self-abandonment, which is to consciously surrender oneself to the flow of life, or to let go of all self-ness.
A related cousin of self-abandonment is grateful acceptance. The average person is quite often accepting what is given in life, but this is an involuntary, passive resignation to the forces or circumstances of life. This can be called 'passive acceptance', which is really a passive resignation, due to either a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness, or due to a religious belief in fatalism – that there really is nothing we can do about anything since God decides and creates all things.
But instead of passive resignation, powerlessness, and fatalism; it is better to practice grateful acceptance, though consciously and intentionally. And as part of this, we can be grateful and accepting of what is given in the moment, without also feeling helpless or powerless. For we should also know that in any moment there is at least some degree of positive change which we can contribute by our own power of mind and action.
So here is a meditation practice of grateful acceptance, which can be done anytime and in any situation. With willingness, relax into whatever is given in this moment – from the outer world or from the inner world of Spirit. In this conscious relaxation and with a conscious attitude of grateful acceptance, allow the world to be as it is, just accepting what is – rather than thinking about how to change things or trying to change anything. There will be other times to usefully think about how to make possible changes in the world or in oneself, or make an effort to do so; but just for this time, gratefully accept what is, or how one is. Because even though it's often good to think about improving things or try to do so, if one is always in a “what is wrong here and how can I fix it” attitude, then one is never fully relaxing and simply being grateful for life as it is.
Imagine being in a most beautiful and peaceful place, and then let yourself completely relax here while feeling absolutely grateful for this place and for being here. Or find a real place in which you can completely relax and simply be in grateful acceptance. Once we can practice this in special settings, then we can move on to practice this in most any setting.
Yet if one took this practice to be the ultimate ideal of all practices, one might fall into a false spiritual view that there is nothing to ever change in the world, or in oneself, because everything is always wonderfully perfect. So we do need to become masters of relaxation and grateful acceptance; but this needs to be balanced by a mastery of intentional will and the power to rightly respond to needs of the world. Thus, one needs to develop this balance in oneself, and this balance in our relationship with the world. Thus, on the one hand, we develop the ability to come into and remain in the experience of relaxed grateful acceptance. While on the other hand, we develop the power of conscious will, in order to respond and serve effectively in life.
In meditation it is possible to come into Divine Breath. This may seem odd to many people that the Divine (or God) has breath. It sounds like an anthropomorphic projection. But it is true. God breaths, though not be exactly like our kind of breathing. It is movement/pulsation between higher and lower worlds, or actually between inner and outer worlds. This pulsating movement is what connects these 'worlds'. Of course, in the larger view of things there is only One Reality, which includes the many kinds of 'realities' or what has been called 'worlds'. As well, in the larger view there is no distinct line of separation between these worlds, but rather a continuum from higher to lower, from inner to outer.
Yet from the perspective of experience there is a differentation between higher and lower, inner and outer. Reality is a continuum of higher and lower vibrations. The higher the energy vibration, the greater the consciousness. The higher the vibration, the closer is one to Divine Being Itself. Though again, in the larger view all reality is Divine Being. The meaning of Divine Breath is the connecting movement/pulsation between all levels of energy vibration.
This can be pictured as Higher Divine Energy (or Divine Consciousness) breathing through all the levels of reality, vibrating and pulsating through the full continuum of higher to lower worlds. The breathing-out aspect is the Compassionate-Givingness of Divine Being or the transmitting-sending aspect from higher to lower realities. The breathing-in aspect is the drawing back of lower-being to Higher Consciousness, or the attraction back to Divine Consciousness Itself. In other words, the breathing-out is the Divine movement of incarnation, while the breathing-in is the urging movement of Return. This pulsation of out and in, between the higher and lower levels of Reality, is how the many levels are related in One Unity.
We can also understand Reality as Inner and Outer. The Inner aspect is mind/consciousness, and the Outer is form/matter. It is from the Inner Realm that Divine Being/God first works through and eventually works into the Outer. God, in the most Absolute meaning, is the most Inner Reality. God-Absolute is the most inner reality of our being, and God-Absolute is the most Inner of all Reality. It is most inner in the sense of being the Inner Consciousness. And It is most inner in the sense of being the Inner Potential of all material beings.
In other words, God-Consciousness (and all the Divine Qualities) is the Inner aspect of all Reality. It is the Inner Potential seeking outer actualization. It is the Higher working into the lower. And this working into the lower is God breathing through creation. Divine Breath moves from the Inner to the Outer. Yet as the Higher/Inner breathes into lower/outer levels, the lower/outer is brought back (or breathed in) to the Higher/Inner. Thus, both aspects are complimentary and simultaneously pulsating. This is the pulsating rhythm of Divine Breath.
We can consciously participate in the Divine Breath. As we journey inward we can sense the Divine Breath, then harmonize and participate in this. We can become one with this Divine Breath, our breath becoming one with the Divine Breath. Then, by entering into Divine Breath, we become the Divine breathing into the world. Then, our outward breath is Giving (of Light, Love and Goodness) from the most Inner Source, and our inward breath is a Receiving of all the world into our Innermost Heart. In this way we become meaningful participants in Divine Breath.
One of the finest inner practices we can do is to breathe in harmony with Life. This is done consciously and with intention. The purpose of this is to harmonize our being with Greater Life, and conscious breath is the mediator of this transformation. Harmonizing our being with Greater Life is the same as coming into harmony with God, or with the Tao. We bring our breath of being into harmony with Greater Being. This Greater Being is Life, the essential Energy and Being of Life. We thus tap into the essence of Life Itself. This Greater Life is vibrating and breathing through existence, but we need to consciously connect with this Life and come into harmony with It, in order to be fully nourished and in harmony. This Greater Life is the Living Spirit of God, which is the same as the Great Spirit of Nature. So we can also see this as coming into harmony with Nature. This practice is also a coming into harmony with Love, the Spirit of Love.
In this practice we open our inner senses to the Greater Life and then surrender our being to this Life. We do this with conscious breath, by bringing our breath into harmony with the Greater Life. Breath is the transformer of energies, so by harmonizing our breath with Life we harmonize our being with Life. We surrender all chaotic and lower energies, when we surrender and harmonize our breath to Life. We actually become free when we surrender and harmonize our breath to Life. For then we become free in the Spirit of Life Itself. We enter the Living Spirit and Breath of Life, the Spirit and Breath of God. We come into harmony with Life, God, Love, and Beauty.
This esoteric meditation practice has many possible depths to it.