5 Basic Exercises for Development of
Spiritual Organs of Perception
of Rudolph Steiner
Rudolf Steiner's Meditation Techniques Teach Us Mindful Meditation
Brief: Great meditation exercises for beginners and for advanced alike. Considered safe even for a novice, these exercises build spiritual organs of perception.
Exercise 1: Concentration - Make a mental picture of some simple object, for instance, an ordinary pencil with an eraser on one end. Excluding every other thought, and feeling, ask yourself questions such as, “What is it made of?” “How is it put together?”, etc. so as to keep the mind pinned to the one point of interest. Or take a simple phrase like, "Rain freshens the air." and maintain it for 5 minutes. Keep watch for ideas trying to break in on your train of thought, such as, "I must remember to stop at the market today”, or something else wholly unrelated. We are so accustomed to distractions and adjusting to interruptions. Five minutes on just one thing! Simple, but not necessarily easy. Jot down notes on your experience in your journal. Make note of the kinds of thoughts which try to interrupt you and where they come from (up, down, side, etc.). You may want to jot down items that belong on your “to do” list that occur so they are out of the way.
Exercise 2: Controlling the Will - Choose some simple act you would not ordinarily do at the time of day you determine, such as carrying a sofa cushion to a chair in the next room, turning your ring around on your hand, rubbing your nose or pulling your ear. It needs to be something without meaning or value, merely arbitrary. To do this requires releasing an impulse deep inside of you that prods you to remember what you have chosen to do at the given time, then DO IT, daily at the same time. This way you are learning to obey your own commands, training your will forces. The more trivial the action the more difficult it is to arouse the will to do it --without fail, daily at the same time (that’s the goal, it can take some time to get there if this exercise is a challenge for you). To half-heartedly desire something that seems impossible to attain creates dissatisfactions and instability in the soul. But applying a strengthened will to focus on the matter will either show it to be an idle longing, therefore to be dismissed, or the will takes hold and transforms what seemed impossible into the possible, and the desire is fulfilled. With what satisfaction then! As a result the soul itself is made stronger.
Exercise 3: Equanimity - Here we try to avoid swinging between sympathy and antipathy toward what comes to us from outside. Instead we try to maintain a balance between the two extremes. By consciously paying attention to our reactions we come to see how letting ourselves be swayed from side to side prevents us from seeing the true nature of what meets us. We become more receptive to what lives in our environment if we avoid extreme expressions of, for instance, elation and sorrow; the one tending to carry us out or ourselves, the other plunging us into despair. This exercise is to help us become capable of maintaining an equable mood, so no sudden situation leads to an outburst of anger, or catches us up in anxiety and fear. How often have we judged something bad and reacted with negative emotions, only to find later it was one of the best things that had ever happened? Equanimity is important as you progress in your spiritual development for with greater abilities come greater responsibilities. Said Rudolf Steiner: "The equilibrium we already appear to possess is less important than practicing what we lack. Though life may have taught us much in this respect, the abilities we gain by our own effort are what count. "
An old Chinese tale might be of help here. The Old Man had a horse which ran away and the neighbors said “How sad, how bad.” and he said, “We’ll see. We’ll see.” Three days later the horse returned with four other horses and the neighbors said, “What good fortune!” The Old Man said, “We’ll see. We’ll see.” The next week his son was breaking one of the new horses and fell and broke his leg and the neighbors said, “How sad, how bad.” The Old Man said, “We’ll see. We’ll see.” The next week the young men in the neighborhood were all drafted, but his son could not go due to the broken leg. Their group was totally killed in action one month later.
Exercise 4: Positivity - To cultivate this soul attitude does not mean to avoid all criticism or to close our eyes to what is bad, false, or inferior. It is not possible to find the bad good and the false true. It does mean to attain an attitude of sympathetically entering into any situation so as to see its best attributes. It means responding to what is praiseworthy, seeking out what is to the good, constructive, beautiful in all things and situations. This develops the power to nullify evil influences. Maintaining a positive attitude itself sends forth constructive influences, and it does much to overcome the all too frequent lack of attentiveness to the subtle details in situations which are so revealing and help one to know how to make them constructive. To be positive does not mean to be aggressive, only to approach a person or situation in a spirit of constructive interest. Whole books have been written on this subject.
Exercise 5: Open Mindedness - By whatever regulating forces we have been living heretofore, and are used to -beliefs, customs, laws --we should keep ourselves ready at any moment to take in a new idea, a new experience, with total impartiality. Life is continually evolving, sometimes at a rapid pace, and we need to see what is for the good and what is detrimental to it; also how we are to proceed in relating to it. New manifestations of truth must find us ready at any time to receive them. Our thinking and our impulses of will grow more mature as we freely take in, without bias, what is new. While we do not disregard past ideas and experiences, we must be willing to continually experience what is new. We must have faith in the possible contradictions of the old by the new, as being the way of evolution. Therefore we implant in our consciousness the need never to fail in maintaining an impartial, open mind, free of prejudice. It’s an exercise.
Exercise 6 Cycling --and very important - When you have successfully completed one consecutive cycle of 7 days of each of the above five exercises (if you missed one day of an exercise you go back and started over again at 1 until you manage 7 consecutive days) begin now to practice them again but with more frequent interchange. Do them in pairs, one pair each day for a week; another pair the next week, and so on for five weeks --without a break. You might do it so: I paired with 3, 2 with 4, 1 with 5, then 2 with 3, 4 with 5; or however you feel they are most needed. The purpose of this interchanging practice is to bring about a good balance in the effectiveness of the exercises. You may also practice one exercise per day for several weeks. As pointed out below, you can also do them one month at a time. Great results will eventually become apparent.
"These exercises are suitable for anyone to do who is in earnest about it," said Rudolf Steiner. "The important point is not to aim for any special achievement --such as attaining 'spiritual vision,' . 'enlightenment,' or the like -~ but to keep steadily going in the direction one has chosen, regardless of results. Whereas the usual attitude in our material world is to 'go get,' and accomplish, spiritual results come of themselves when we practice steadily. Spiritual qualities, their value, come to us, but only when we are ready to receive them; to bear them. "He also said "When these exercises are conscientiously carried out it will be found that they yield gradually, much more than at first appeared to be in them."
Rudolph Steiner Knowledge of Higher Worlds, ISBN: 088010046X , Steiner Books, 1983.