Activity and receptivity in meditation

Bringing activity and receptivity together integrates the mind, By Vajradaka

With regards to meditation practice it is good to keep primary dynamics in mind. One such dynamic is the relationship between receptivity and activity. These are pillars upon which much of what happens in meditation practice rests.

Receptivity is the ability to be open to noticing and allowing what is here to come more vividly into conscious experience. This includes the more subtle underlying qualities of mind. It is characterised by openness and relaxation. It enables you to engage with and become absorbed in what is here as you meditate. If you are receptive in meditation, you can sometimes gain access to a strong intuitive ‘knowing’ of the nature of what is here in experience.

Activity refers to a range of ways of paying attention. It includes choosing and applying yourself to a particular meditation practice and choosing your focal area of attention such as the breath, it also includes exploring it and staying with it in a continuous way. When you consciously check for whether you have gone away from a direct experience of your object of meditation and adjust accordingly, you are being active. When you anchor your attention to a particularly sensation with a directive such as ‘come into this’ or ‘follow this’ you are being active.

It is important to find ways to ensure that these two qualities operate together. They can be described in terms of “noticing” and “ active looking.” Noticing refers to what happens when we are receptive. Active looking involves looking for, or searching out, particular mental states that may under the surface but of which we are not directly in touch with. We may ask: what is here? or what is missing? or is there a limitation to being kind? These questions actively direct our awareness to areas that we might have overlooked. Of course, as well as being active in asking these question, we also need receptivity and sensitive to the understanding which emerges from the active questioning.

We need both receptivity and activity in our meditation practice and spiritual life and it is sometimes useful to assess the relationship between them to see how much of each is present. However, they are often intermingled, and they are always interrelated. Even so, most people have a bias towards either activity or receptivity. When the relationship between the two becomes disconnected our meditation will suffer. Over-emphasis on activity can make our practice dry and going through the motions. An over emphasis on receptivity can lead to a sense of stagnation and missed opportunities.

Finding a way for these two modes of operating to integrate is an essential dynamic in moving from ‘ordinary consciousness into  more inspired and positively creative states of mind. As we consciously exercise our skills of receptivity and activity in meditation, they will gradually become second-nature, and will interact harmoniously.