WORKING OUT IN THE SOUL GYM
Finding it difficult to lug your suitcase
upstairs? Work out a few times a week at the gym and your suitcase
soon begins to feel lighter! Likewise, going to the "soul gym"
every day develops your capacity to remain peaceful amidst the pressures
of life. Just as workouts at the "Y" build muscular strength
and flexibility, regular workouts with soul/spiritual exercises
build mental strength and the flexibility to withstand the anxieties
Going inside during stress periods can be
like a descent into the deepest darkness imaginable. When things
start to press hard in our lives it is beneficial to remember that
our inner being is always living in a timeless realm. How can we
draw attention away from the anxious parts of life and redirect
it to the True Self or the real "I"?
Here are a series of 4 exercises that combine
well to create an excellent daily workout. Future columns will offer
additional exercises and workout strategies.
"30 Seconds": Watch the second hand
of the clock or analog watch tick off thirty seconds. Allow no other
thoughts. If no clock is available then try counting backwards from
thirty at approximately one second intervals. Count silently and
avoid "automatic mode". Stay completely focused on the
This exercise is deceptively simple and yet
challenging. The beauty of it is that it is brief, can be done anywhere
and doesn't cost anything. Well, you could ask, why do an exercise
which is almost impossible to do? Won't it just lead to frustration
and then more anxiety? An important attitude can be learned from
this exercise. The outcome is unimportant. Whether you succeed or
not is truly irrelevant. No one is giving you a reward for doing
the exercise or watching over our shoulder to see that you do it
right. No spiritual food pellet drops into a great cosmic food trough
if you press the right lever. No matter what happens, whether you
succeed or fail, you can do the same 30 second exercise at the same
time the next day or the next hour or whenever you are feeling bored.
Once you manage to get one 30 second exercise complete then repeat
After a few repetitions
pause and ask yourself, "Is there anything today for which
I can be grateful?" Pretend as if you really didn't expect
an answer, sort of like we were putting questions to the wall or
to a tree. After asking the question spend a few moments listening
into the silence of timelessness.
If an answer comes, great! Regular and frequent
acknowledgment of those things for which we feel gratitude helps
develop a positive and confident mood. If not, then simply asking
the question is steadying and cooling for the mind. Freeing yourself
from expectation allows the exercise to work more effectively.
Each day do a few repetitions
of the 30 second concentration exercise and then ask the gratitude
question and listen a little bit into the silence. The whole exercise
should take about five to ten minutes, total. For maximum effectiveness,
do this at the same time every day. If you forget at that time and
remember later, do it then.
After a month or so a subtle mood comes
over the time spent doing the exercise. When we are doing the exercise
there is a feeling as if we are having a talk with someone we trust.
This is not a big time revelation with light shows and funky smoke
and voices speaking to us out of clouds. It is just a subtle feeling
of being in a regular conversation with someone who we know will
never lie to us. Some traditions call this approaching the Guardian.
Some call it speaking with the Confidant Doorkeeper. This feeling
of being in intimate dialogue with another tells us that the inner
being who remembers how life was before things got anxious is beginning
to once again talk to us. When this feeling shows up you can add
a further practice.
"New Seeing": Look each day at some
object such as the bed, the sink, a button or a pin. Notice something
that you hadn't seen before. It is helpful to keep a running list.
When you can no longer notice anything new about the object you
are observing then we can pick something new. This exercise has
a funny effect on time. We can become so absorbed in observing common,
boring things that time seems to melt away.
Through an exercise like "new seeing"
the soul is led back into having an interest in life and in developing
itself through a living, active thinking. We are training ourselves
to see in a more fluid and process oriented way. Following this
exercise pose the following question:
"How has my life
become like this?" Like the gratitude question this
question is followed with another session of listening into the
silence of timelessness as the question fades from consciousness.
With the addition of this practice the total
time spent in developing the mind can be ten or fifteen minutes
a day. The ideal would be to spend 15 minutes in the morning before
starting any of the day's activities. The sense of freedom in the
mind from these exercises when practiced regularly can offset years
of hectic living. Doing the exercises prior to placing the questions
greatly enhances the effect of the questions. It is a like preparing
a garden prior to planting seeds.
Once again it is the doing of the practice
independent of measurable results which moves the mind slowly towards
the timeless state of the inner being.
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