Re: 6 Preparatory Exercises
- sarahfe.is@... writes:
Thank you for the description of the preparatory exercises which I
thought was particularly lucid. I have tried the first exercise and I
have to say that, whilst it doesn't sound as exciting or mystical as
some exercises that you read about in more "new agey" books of
spiritual exercises, I found it to be really profound. It has allowed
me to experience a completely different relationship with the things
Firstly it became very clear that all man-made objects involved very
unnecessary, complicated and... well unpleasant processes:
manufacturing, packaging, marketing, transportation. But it also
brought home to me that all these things have their origin in the
natural world. The first object I chose to meditate on was a glass
tumbler: I cannot look at a glass now in the same way without realising
that it is made out of what was many years ago sand and small shellfish
swimming around in a world that I can only begin to imagine....
*******Right there is the purpose of it: to begin to see things in a different and deeper way than we're accustomed to doing.
>>The will exercise is definitely the hardest for me. Since I am a fairly
calm, open person anyway the later exercises are not such a problem.
The other thing I wondered is, if one (or more) of the exercises
becomes easy, should you still practice it out of discipline or not?
For example, I am always open to new ideas (I think since reading
Rosicrucian Wisdom last Summer I can now take anything on board!)
Should I practice that exercise nonetheless?
*******Yes, because all 6 have an effect together. The Doctor recommended that they be made into a dynamic: that is, first you take up the thinking exercise, let's say every day for a month; then, in the second month, you keep doing that one but add the second exercise, the will exercise, to it. Then the third month you add the third exercise in addition to the first two, and so on.
Now, this doesn't have to take an enormous amount of your time. The thinking exercise can be five minutes a day. The will exercise could be simply to do THAT (thinking) exercise exactly at the same time of day every day--- or to do your daily meditation at exactly the same time every day, or to write in a journal at the same time daily. Then, the third exercise, maintaining balance of feelings, could be done in conjunction with keeping a journal, for instance: as you're reviewing your day, learning to do so in a calm, dispassionate way, to have an even keel, not being excessively up or down.
In the same way, positiveness can be practiced as part of a daily review, by seeking out positive aspects of people or events in your daily life. Then it will gradually flow into your life in other ways. The same is true of tolerance and perseverance.
You can practice all six of these exercises in no more than 15 or 20 minutes of your day, once you start developing "mindfulness" as opposed to the distraction and scattered thinking that our modern world encourages. But each of these develops one of the petals of the six petaled lotus flower, and so we should always do all six together. If some require less work than others, well and good!
******* The path of spiritual development outlined by Rudolf Steiner goes through stages. The first stage is the use of your ordinary everyday mind to absorb the teachings of spiritual science; the second stage is where you choose to do certain exercises in concentration and meditation, to deepen your understanding of what you have first come to know through your ordinary intellect. (The meditative mantras I post each week here, The Calendar of the Soul, are some of these meditation devices.)
Then you rise to a third and fourth stage as your consciousness gradually changes, and this causes a transformation of what we call the astral and etheric bodies. These meditation exercises and the ascending path of initiation are described by Dr. Steiner primarily in his books Theosophy, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, and Occult Science: An Outline, and in his many lectures, of course.
Simply put, the mental exercises of concentration and meditation gather together life forces in the head area and form a sort of center there, in the region of the third eye. But once this center is formed by your will, it begins to be drawn down towards the heart, and this is where it must eventually implant itself to become a new organ of seeing. None of the mental exercises would be of any use if they remained only in the head-- -- -- the deeper forces of feeling and will have to become involved. The center formed in the head must migrate to the heart, from which it affects everything.
In ancient eastern wisdom, they knew about the 7 etheric centers of the body (which also have been handed down to us in a hidden way in our Western religions in the form of the 7 parts of the Lord's Prayer, the seven seals in the Book of Revelation, and so on). Steiner could also sense these, and described the heart as the center that has 12 spokes or petals, and said that six of these have already been developed for us. He gave out six exercises to develop the others, and emphasized that we need to begin with these as soon as possible along with doing the meditations. They are described in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (now published as "How To Know Higher Worlds").
The first exercise is control of thinking. You don't have control of your thinking if whatever your senses give you immediately makes you think of that. Instead, you must think about something you choose to think about without your life forcing you to. He recommends you take simple things at first, and form very simple, basic ideas about them and put these together in a logical sequence. A simple object like a pin or a pencil was recommended. I can post an example here.
The second exercise is control of will. If you only do what life forces you to do, like get up in the morning because you'll lose your job if you're not at work on time, you're not truly in control of your will. You're living by habit, not consciously willing. So you choose things to do that nothing forces you to do, regularly. You decide to water a plant every afternoon at 3:00, or even just to touch your fingers to your ear lobe then. People who actually DO this exercise (as opposed to just thinking about it or talking about it), quickly find out they can't do it; they forget almost instantly, the second or third day, and keep forgetting -- -- -- showing how "asleep" our wills truly are. But this exercise begins to awaken them, and can then be extended to doing something every week, every month, and so on -- -- -- things you consciously choose to do, with nothing forcing you to do so.
The third exercise is control of feelings; to consciously keep oneself from becoming all ecstatic with happiness, and then the inevitable opposite, plunged downward in depression, but rather to have balance or equanimity of feeling. [For some people, this may be the most important exercise to take up!]
The fourth exercise is positiveness, seeking the good in everything instead of looking only for what can be criticized, as a deliberate choice; not refusing to criticize where criticism is deserved, but looking for the good aspects of all things.
The fifth is openness or tolerance, deliberately seeking to be open to new things and ideas rather than saying, 'I've never heard that before, so I don't believe it.'
The sixth is perseverance, control of resolutions, being able to decide on a course of action and then stick to it, allowing nothing to sway one.
These are known to anthroposophists as the Six Preparatory Exercises, and are one of the first things new anthroposophists are advised to undertake. The reason why is what is all too easily seen here on the Internet, where dabblers in anthroposophy play mere games with the head-concepts from spiritual science--- unfortunately. The spiritual ideas of Anthroposophy have great power in them, and therefore a person must begin a path of moral ennoblement right away if you intend to use them. Otherwise mere sophistry results, not real spiritual knowledge, which they CAN lead to, IF used with more than only the head-forces.
I'll be posting some things here from the basic books with their spiritual ideas, but these exercises need to be done along with book study.
P.S. Along with these six exercises for the Heart Center, there is also a series of eight exercises for the will center in the throat, which are the same as the eightfold path found in Mahayana Buddhism (Right Image, Right Judgement. etc.). These can be done on the 7 days of the week, along with your daily meditation (Right Meditation) being the 8th part.