You’re saying meditation will help open us to subtle communications. So do you recommend any specific form of mediation? Is there a beginner’s form and an advanced form? Or should we just go with whatever works? THE GUIDES RESPOND:
The particular form of meditation is unimportant. Some people sit, others stand, walk, sing, or sway rhythmically. Different cultures and traditions have different practices. What is important is that the meditator attains a focused inner state in which the external world is shut out and the mind is directed to pay attention to subtle communications. That such a state is attained and sustained is what matters. How such a state is achieved does not matter.
This is the short answer to your question. However, there is a longer answer, which has to do with the underlying characteristics meditators need to be successful long-term. We call these characteristics attitudes of mind. They will help you establish a successful meditation practice.
Every skill in the human world requires repeated practice if it is to be performed successfully— by which we mean with a high level of competence. This applies to meditation, as it is a skill. Accordingly, the first attitude the successful meditator needs is commitment. It is only through repeated effort carried out over an extended period of time, and we are talking years here, that a high level of competence will be achieved. Certainly, small efforts will enhance health and relieve stress, as with the practice of mindfulness that is currently popular in some circles. But if you wish to engage in subtle communications with those in the spiritual domain, a sustained commitment to developing your meditation skills is required.
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The next attitude involves fostering sensitivity. If you intend to become open to subtle communications, you need to increase your sensitivity to them. It might be argued that some people are naturally more sensitive, as is seen with psychics who easily connect with those in spirit, glean information about upcoming events, or know when things around them are going awry. While it is true that these people are naturally sensitive, that is only because they worked to develop their skills in previous lives. Everyone who is better than average in anything is merely expressing a skill they learned previously, whether it involves athletics, music, horticulture, engineering and so on.
So sensitivity is a learned skill. Like everything else in the human domain, developing sensitivity is both a simple and a complex task. It is simple in the sense that you just have to open yourself up and invite communication. But a state of openness is itself very difficult to achieve then sustain. All kinds of fears and doubts naturally creep in, which close down your efforts. This makes developing sensitivity a complex psychological task.
The chief blockage to becoming sensitive is self-defensiveness. Elsewhere we have described at length how fear is the principle force behind self-defensiveness. Fear of the unknown, fear of being hurt, fear of losing the way, fear of not doing what’s right, fear of what will happen if you disobey your elders and betters—these are examples of the many ways fear manifests.
Doubts are another significant cause of blockage. Doubts may be quite irrational, especially when fears drive them, such as a fear of ghosts when one has never actually encountered a ghost. Alternatively, doubts may manifest in the guise of rational thoughts, taking the form of logical questions or observations: “I don’t believe this is possible.” “This is too weird to be true.” “This communication defies common sense.” “These kinds of things just don’t happen.” In fact, all doubts are just subtle forms of fear, because a specific fear always underlies a doubt. A useful exercise is to adopt a detached inner perspective and examine your doubts as if they belong to someone else. This will enable you to identify the fear behind the doubts you have in relation to any life situation, not just towards meditation.
To recap: In order to become open to subtle communications, meditators need to work against self-defensiveness. To achieve this, fears and doubts need to be banished, whether they take the form of irrational obstacles that stop you accepting subtle communications or of rationalising thought processes used to think them away. Understandably, this is a difficult task. In effect, it means that in order to come face to face with communications emanating from the spiritual domain you first have to come face to face with your self.
A saying common in spiritual circles is that the aspirant has to confront the dweller on the threshold. The threshold denotes the doorway that leads into the deeper reaches of your mind. The dweller stands in the doorway and prevents your entry. Psychologically, what stops you from entering is fear, doubt and over-rationalising. So the dweller on the threshold represents your own negatively impacting, self-limiting psychological traits.
We have previously named this dweller on the threshold your gloopy self. It is the monster that protects the hidden treasure sought by pirates, the dragon that must be slain in order to rescue the princess, the minotaur that keeps explorers from the centre of the labyrinth. The gloopy self, however you describe it, is what stops you stepping over the threshold. It must be slain. Of course, we are talking metaphorically, not literally. Just as you wouldn’t cut off your arm just because it hurts, but would rather seek to heal what ails it and restore it to health, so you don’t need to totally destroy the dweller on the threshold. You just need to transform it from an agent of self-defensiveness to an agent of inner progress. This involves transforming all negative traits into positive traits. Then the gloopy self dissolves away, the shadow that dominates your inner threshold vanishes, and you can gain access to the treasure within, which is your spiritual self.
As we have repeatedly said, dissolving the gloopy self is a long-term project. Right now, what you need to do is be able to step around the gloopy self to cross the threshold and enter your inner world. When for a short period you disengage from everyday life, you also disengage your mind from your gloopy self’s preoccupations. This state of disengagement frees your mind to step across the threshold.
Yet even when the gloopy self has temporarily fallen away, and so is no longer in your way, taking that first step and listening for what is quietly calling you from what appears to be far away, can itself be a highly unsettling sensation. We are aware of many people who have sought out subtle communications, but as the communication occurred they pulled back and retreated to a safe and familiar place. What they lack is trust.
Trust is a very useful psychological tool. It helps you develop the confidence you need to step over the threshold and enter what, from the perspective of your everyday identity, is the unknown. Naturally, like every tool, trust is double-edged. Going through life naively trusting others is not recommended. The world is full of people who readily exploit those who are wideeyed, eager and too easily surrender what they have, whether that be material goods or their desire for happiness, peace or love. Be clear that we are not talking about this kind of naive trust. Rather, we are referring to trusting yourself. Often, when people receive a subtle communication they doubt that they have received anything at all. They rationalise the communication as being imagined or as being a projection of their own desires. And even if they do accept that something of value has been communicated, they don’t trust themselves to do anything with it. The traits that promote lack of self trust again manifest from the gloopy self. Overcoming these traits is actually straight-forward. It is simply a matter of training.
In some cultures, and especially within knowing families, children are taught to trust subtle communications. However, for most children today training is in the opposite direction, towards rejection of the inwardly subtle. So all that is required is for you to retrain yourself—and we acknowledge how easy it is for us to say this and how difficult it is for you to carry it out. There are two principle ways to retrain. One is in a group context, the other is solo. Which approach will work best for you is for you to discover.
Group situations, such as a meditation group in which participants openly discuss their subtle perceptions, is in general best for beginners. Being around others who can affirm that what you perceive is also being perceived by them is reassuring. It teaches you that what you are encountering might be strange, but it is certainly not uncommon. It is usual for people not to trust themselves because they lack a context in which to place their perceptions. Feeling isolated feeds uncertainty. So having others around you who are also exploring subtle perceptions provides a wider experiential context and bolsters self-confidence. This in turn builds self-trust: trust in your perceptions, that they are actually occurring, and trust that they are valid and useful. Group meditation practice facilitates the growth of self-trust. Once you have developed trust in the validity of your perceptions in a variety of situations, flying solo, so to speak, becomes easier.
We add that group meditation has another advantage over solo practice, because people meditating together generate a group energy. This energy can provide a power boost that enables not just the group as a whole to perceive more subtly than is normal, but for individuals within the group to travel further and deeper into spiritual domains than they would if they were meditating alone.
A meditation group need not be large. Three people are a group. In the Christian gospels Jesus is reported as saying that whenever two or three are gathered in his name, he will be there. Each individual has an inner Christ. Your intent to engage in subtle communications is the knock on the door. Being in a state of inner quiet enables you to open the door. You then need to step past the dweller on the threshold and enter your inner world—which is an entrance into the extensive spiritual realm. We note that instead of the word Christ you could equally use the terms atman, soul, Buddha nature or higher self. Each spiritual tradition has its own way of describing the same process.
To summarise, successful meditation requires you to commit to long-term practice, cultivate sensitivity, overcome the triad of self-defensiveness, fears and doubts, and learn to trust your own perceptions. To these we add a final quality, introduced in the previous response, of not being satisfied with your current levels of knowledge. A quest attitude is spiritually beneficial, of always striving to open up new trails and seeking to know more.
To conclude, we observe that while these six attitudes of mind—commitment, sensitivity, not being self-defensive, overcoming fears and doubts, learning to trust, and sustaining a quest attitude—will foster the growth of your inner life, they will equally stand you in good stead when you have to deal with the difficult situations and relationships that arise in your outer world. We invite you to ponder on how this is so for yourself.