Our mind plays a crucial role in our lives, even in our self development. Indeed, as it could also be the main cause of our state of imprisonment, it could also be a “tool” to emancipate us from unwanted and troublesome emotional states, and which also can improve our presence and participation in what happens around us.
During the first period of my apprenticeship, it has been taught to me that there are seven basic types of “exercises”, of which the training of the mind is the first. Now, in order not to create a misunderstanding, “exercises” here are not intended as a series of things we must do sequentially, but a “practice” that is more a way of being, a way to live in a different, more sober and intense way.
When we speak about a “practice” to improve our mind, we might intend this as a way to make it active, instead of passive: so, learn to use our mind instead of being used by it, as usually happens.
In his book , “Guidance in Esoteric Training”, Rudolf Steiner described a series of practices in which a complementary exercise is just the cultivation of an active mind.
Before sharing a practice which is not this one, but related to it, I would like to cite a very interesting quotation from this book that, linked in a right way and in context with the exercise that will be proposed in this post, a smart mind will surely gain profit in his daily practices. Here’s the quote:
“The first condition is the cultivation of absolutely clear thinking. For this purpose a man must rid himself of the will-o’-the-wisps of thought, even if only for a very short time during the day – about five minutes (the longer, the better). He must become the ruler in his world of thought. He is not the ruler if external circumstances, occupation, some tradition or other, social relationships, even membership of a particular race, the daily round of life, certain activities and so forth, determine a thought and how he works it out.
Therefore during this brief time, acting entirely out of his own free will, he must empty the soul of the ordinary, everyday course of thoughts and by his own initiative place one single thought at the centre of his soul. The thought need not be a particularly striking or interesting one. Indeed it will be all the better for what has to be attained in an occult respect if a thoroughly uninteresting and insignificant thought is chosen. Thinking is then impelled to act out of its own energy the essential thing here, whereas an interesting thought carries the thinking along with it. It is better if this exercise in thought-control is undertaken with a pin rather than with Napoleon. The pupil says to himself: Now I start from this thought, and through my own inner initiative I associate with it everything that is pertinent to it. At the end of the period the thought should be just as colourful and living as it was at the beginning. This exercise is repeated day by day for at least a month; a new thought may be taken every day, or the same thought may be adhered to for several days.”
Even Gurdjieff gave an exercise that was, queerly, ignored by most of his disciples (curiously, a person that practices the Gurdjieff “system” said to me that this exercise is irrelevant), even if it’s a “masterpiece” as practice, something that could give, to one who persists in this (and similar) practice, one of the “keys” to an integral way of experiencing things, an objective reason. If you think I am exaggerating, then leave aside your thoughts and try it for yourselves.
So, speech aside, this is the practice:
Choose the most common object close to hand, and make it as an “object” of your particular contemplation, considering the following aspects:
• What is its origin?
• What’s the cause of its origin?
• What is its “story”?
• What are its characteristics and qualities?
• What are the objects in touch with or in relation with it?
• What are its possible uses and applications?
• What are its effects and consequences?
• What does it allow to explain or demonstrate?
• What is its possible end?
• What’s your opinion, the causes and the reasons of this opinion regarding this object?
This way of observation might be done dependent on your personal knowing and understanding. Indeed, what is important here, are not the possible answers, but the way we use our mind. It’s a pondering.
Consider first, at least three of the above mentioned questions, one by one, then the results together and try to realize them as a whole: try to look at the same object while being aware of all the data you have gained from the contemplation of the object, Experience it through the awareness of all the data you have achieved.
To see results from this exercise, one might perform it daily. It’s a considerable effort, because it implies the use of a “muscle” that is usually lazy, but the rewards will be worth the effort: a clearer, deeper and more complete way of experiencing things, a great control of our mind, a skill of detaching ourselves from unwanted emotional states which are only some of the results that will be achieved through this practice if done with diligence and constancy.