Six Exercises for Basic Esoteric Development
Rudolf Steiner gave six exercises which are fundamental to his meditative work.
No. 1 – The Control of Thought
The first exercise has to do with the control of thinking. It is designed to keep our minds from wandering, to focus them, in order to strengthen our meditative work. There are several versions of this exercise. Here is one version:
Select a simple object – a pin, a button, a pencil. Try to think about it exclusively for five minutes. You may think about the way the object is manufactured, how it is used, what its history is. Try to be logical and realistic in your thinking. This exercise is best if practiced faithfully every day. You may use the same object every day or a new object each day, as you choose.
No. 2 – The Control of Will
Choose a simple action to perform each day at a time you select. It should be something you do not ordinarily do; it can even be a little odd. Then make it a duty to perform this action at that time each day. Rudolf Steiner gives the example of watering a flower each day at a certain time. As you progress, additional tasks can be added at other times.
This exercise is as hard as it is simple and takes a very strong intention to complete. To start you might think of it as you think of a dentist’s appointment – you do not want to be late. It can be helpful to mark your success or failure on the calendar each day. If you completely forget at the time, but remember later, do it then and try to do better the next day.
No. 3 – Equanimity
The third exercise is the development of balance between joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, the heights of pleasure and the depths of despair. Strive for a balanced mood. An attempt should be made not to become immoderately angry or annoyed, not to become anxious or fearful, not to become disconcerted, nor to be overcome by joy or sorrow. Rather should your natural feelings be permitted to be quietly felt. Try to maintain your composure. This leads to an inner tranquillity and purer feelings of the soul.
This exercise is the development of a positive attitude to life. Attempt to seek for the good, praiseworthy, and beautiful in all beings, all experiences and all things. Soon you will begin to notice the hidden good and beautiful that lies concealed in all things. This is connected with learning not to criticize everything. You can ask how something came to be or to act the way it is. One way to overcome the tendency to criticize is to learn to ‘characterize’ instead.
For this exercise, make the effort to confront every new experience with complete open-mindedness. The habit of saying, “I never heard that” or “I never saw that before” should be overcome. The possibility of something completely new coming into the world must be left open, even if it contradicts allyour previous knowledge and experience.
If you have been trying the earlier exercises of thinking, will, equilibrium, positivity and tolerance, you are now ready to try them together two or three at a time, in varying combinations until they become natural and harmonious.
For more information see Guidance in Esoteric Training, by Rudolf Steiner