While knowledge as theory gives us the basis for practice, we only truly “learn” (live and earn) by bringing the knowledge into practice somehow in our daily life. We only truly know what we attain through direct experience and can willfully demonstrate as a part of our normal abilities and behavior. Conceptualizing something in a purely theoretical form while frequently contemplating or discussing it will have a tendency to explore and penetrate the deeper levels of an idea, but until we “become one with an idea” and experience it in a direct way by being it, we never actually acquire or own it. Knowledge that’s contemplated or studied but never applied is merely a form of entertainment or mental hobby. Whenever we study something, we’re always using other people’s ideas and perhaps imagining them in our own way, but we only really know if something is true or produces what it claims to through the direct experience of it.
We have to always maintain a sense of equilibrium between the body, soul, and spirit by utilizing them simultaneously through an actual practice. One-sided training is not only unproductive, but it can cause an imbalance that can be destructive and produce undesirable effects. This is obvious in our modern day society’s tendency to try and educate without first teaching the ability to control compulsive, random thinking and the ability to concentrate without interruption from unwanted thoughts for an extended period of time. The only knowledge we truly maintain at the eternal level of the soul, which is our “nature” that forms our character, is what we build into our muscle by turning it into a habit that becomes a part of our natural behavior, way of perceiving, and daily lifestyle.
Applying knowledge not only requires the knowledge itself as a theory of some kind that gives you the means to start, but it also requires you to develop “qualities” that are necessary in applying it. Theory is the intellectual aspect, practice is the intuitive aspect as a process, and art is the manifestation as a result. While we think in materialistic terms that we’re acquiring the skill implied by the knowledge, from the soul perspective, which is always about “being”, it’s the qualities we have to employ and develop in order to apply it that’s the actual knowledge in energetic and intuitive terms as a form of soul conditioning. In all spiritual practices the most basic conditions for development are intention, diligence, patience, perseverance, concentration, and devotion. It’s comes as a love and desire for the knowledge by becoming one with it in spirit, mind (soul), and body. It requires diligence and a deep sense of utter devotion. While you can be kind, forgiving, and lenient towards others, you must develop an attitude of being studious, unrelenting, and pitiless on yourself. You have to exercise a stringent form of self-discipline in everything you do. Set high standards and expectations, and then push yourself to not only achieve them, but master them.
Only what’s practiced in a consistent and diligent manner becomes a habit. When something becomes a habit it arises in us naturally. It becomes a part of our natural tendencies in any given situation and forms our natural perception and behaviors. By building practices into our daily lifestyle as a part of our normal routine, we faithfully employ them and develop ourselves by way of them. Once we have become accustomed to a particular exercise, the urge for it comes naturally. It’s only when we begin doing something as a natural part of our being that we have actually “acquired it” as part of our souls memory which forms our inner nature. We have to always be disciplined and diligent in all our efforts in order to progress and thereby ascend.
The very first step in any form of spiritual development is controlling, disciplining, and mastering your thoughts. The mind has a tendency to wander constantly and operate out of autopilot most of the time. Our thoughts come so natural and automatic that even when we are disciplining ourselves, we’re often in the midst of a thought process before we even realize what we’re doing, and are able to bring ourselves back into a focused state. This is perfectly natural, and in the beginning, when first employing your will to direct and redirect your thoughts, it’ll be a constant process. However, like anything, the more you’re able to stay focused and continually realize and direct your thoughts, the easier and more natural it becomes. This is why patience and perseverance are required. So don’t let yourself become discouraged in the beginning when it can seem somewhat difficult.
In order to cultivate abilities, we need to start off with simple practices that we perform two or three times a day for five to fifteen minutes at a time. It’s recommended to do these in a balanced way in the morning upon rising, midday when relaxing, and in the evening. Start off with small time frames of 5 minutes, then as you master them, gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing them to 10 minutes. Increase the frequency you do each in whatever way is appropriate according to your daily activities. Always start with small steps and only after you have mastered each step, work your way up. Each process must be mastered before moving on to the next, because the next step requires full use of the previous step which lays the foundation for it. We have to be able to use certain abilities in order to perform other abilities that are an extension or outgrowth of it.
Equilibrium of spirit (still), soul (will), and body (automatic) are always important to maintain and practice together because they ideally operate in a cohesive manner. The problem most have with controlling and directing their thoughts is that the lower mind of the body that produces a continuous stream of automatic and redundant thoughts has been allowed to run unchecked, while the willful mind of the soul has been greatly underused or ignored completely, and the still, empty mind of the spirit is something many feel they can’t actually achieve. This is due to developing in an unbalanced way with sole emphasis on the lower mind. For this reason, development that’s undertaken intentionally must always be conducted in a balanced way, exercising all 3 levels of the mind and body. So for this exercise, which is in 3 parts, we’ll work on developing the ability to observe or simply witness your own thoughts and bring them under control, discipline and direct your thoughts through concentration, and the ability to master your thoughts by stilling and emptying your mind of verbal thoughts altogether and entering into the experience of pure being.
Preparation for each step: All exercises should be done in a private and quiet environment where you won’t be disturbed for 5 to 15 minutes, while in a fully relaxed position. Don’t do them when feeling tired, as you must remain fully awake and aware throughout the process. Awareness is key. It may be a good idea to splash your face and upper body with cold water before you begin. Do not fall asleep during these exercises or they won’t be beneficial.
- Sit or lay down with your body fully supported.
- Close your eyes to block out distraction, and focus on the rhythm of your breathing. Let your mind enter into the rhythm.
- Relax your entire body by setting the intention to relax, then mentally directing it to relax, and then feeling it relax.
Step 1) Thought Control
This step allows you to begin gaining an awareness of thoughts that normally operate in a completely automatic and unconscious fashion. This is the habitual and compulsive aspect of the subconscious mind controlling the conscious and willful mind. Whatever we focus on and think about we become, and we act to create more of in our present situation. When thoughts are allowed to run in an unchecked manner, we lend our will to them and we create in our life in an unconscious manner. On the spiritual plane “thought is action”, and thoughts are how we create in the most fundamental sense on the material plane. So the first step to any form of conscious development is gaining control over our thoughts through self-awareness and being able to intentionally guide and determine our thoughts in a willful manner.
- Allow a natural train of thought to form and spontaneously begin free-flowing. Make no attempt to control these thoughts, simply observe them to become aware of what they are.
- Notice that most pertain to whatever is happening in your life at the moment, issues that have a strong emotional content, family or relationship issues, job related issues, whatever is weighing on your mind, and simply redundant meaningless thoughts that are purely habitual and automatic in nature.
- When thoughts arise that tend to “pull you into them” where you begin dwelling in them, simply stop, pull your attention away, and allow them to continue in a free-flowing stream of thought while silently observing them from a detached perspective of not being “in them as a part of them”, but rather remaining free and independent of them, observing them from a distance watching them as they flow by, or as they rise and fall.
- Don’t try to control your train of thought or lose sight of yourself by getting side-tracked and dwelling in any one thought, but simply observe them in as attentive way as possible gaining an awareness of them.
- Be conscious of everything, and don’t try to hurry the exercise. Let it flow naturally while giving it your full attention.
- You’ll notice that in the beginning you’re bombarded with thoughts in an almost chaotic manner as they quickly pass by. Pay close attention to them and try to remember them.
- As you become aware of what normally operates as an unconscious and automatic process, you’ll also gain a natural form of control over it. Awareness itself brings a sense of control as the natural use of your will.
- You’ll notice from one exercise to the next that these thoughts appear less chaotic and will gradually begin diminishing until only a few thoughts emerge in your consciousness as if coming from afar.
Practice this first step until you gain the ability to easily control your thoughts by becoming aware of them. Mastering this first step is critical to the development of all other steps. In all forms of self-development nothing is more important than gaining control over your thoughts and being able to direct them in a willful and intentional manner. Only move on to the next step when you have completed this step sufficiently and have mastered it.
2) Thought Discipline and Developing Concentration
This step deals with being able to concentrate our thoughts without letting other thoughts obtrude. What usually prevents us from concentrating solely on one idea for an extended period of time is that other thoughts having to do with our daily chores and annoyances spontaneously arise and distract us away from what we were thinking about. We must learn how to avoid thoughts that do not belong in our personal life while only entertaining those that do, and in doing so, we’ll become a different person altogether. In this exercise we will develop our ability to be present in our daily life in a fully attentive manner, and be able to concentrate our mind solely on one idea for an extended period of time without interruption from unwanted and meaningless thoughts.
- Pick an idea, subject, or concept and direct all of your attention into that thought alone. As you concentrate on it and other thoughts obtrusively arise, redirecting your attention in an automatic fashion, become aware of them, and then simply remove you attention from them and place it back on your chosen subject. Resist all distractions repeatedly until they begin subsiding and you no longer have a problem staying focused for extended periods of time by maintaining full control of your attention.
- Move this same idea out into your daily life and apply it in a broader sense. Whatever it is that you’re doing, be fully present in it with your full attention on it, and anytime a distraction arises as a thought that doesn’t pertain to the moment, become aware of it, and redirect your attention back into your present situation.
- Remain present in your daily situations and only allow thoughts that pertain to the moment or situation occupy your mind. Anytime thoughts of the past or another situation arise and steal your attention, realize it, and redirect your attention back into the moment.
- When you’re at work, block out thoughts of your personal life and focus all of your attention on work. When you leave work and go home to your private life, leave all thoughts of work behind, and think only about what pertains to your private life. As thoughts of work arise while in your private life, become aware of them, and consciously redirect your attention back into your present situation.
- The more you practice the ability to control your attention, the easier and more natural it becomes.
This practice when mastered will have a huge impact on all areas of your life, and will greatly improve your ability to enter into a truly creative mode. The only time we can actually create in our life in an intentional and meaningful manner is in the “present moment”. Do not move on to the next step until this one has been mastered. Each step is required in order to be able to achieve the next.
3) Mastery of Thoughts and Residing in Eternal Peace
This step teaches you how to create a complete vacancy of mind that’s void of thought and fully present in your inner sense of pure being. By subduing all active thought you enter into a fully relaxed state of inner peace and calmness. All stress subsides and you’re able to experience everything in a direct and actual manner rather than through the commentary of your thoughts. When all thought subsides we enter into a form of rapport with the present and we experience everything as it is in this moment without filtering it through the past and reshaping it to be like us through how we think about it. In this way, we form an entirely different relationship with life and become an entirely different person as a result.
- Create a complete vacancy of mind while resisting all thoughts that try to command your attention. Empty your mind completely, and enter into a state of presence and pure being.
- Rigorously reject any thought that competes for attention, and return to a complete mental vacancy. Do this repeatedly until thoughts begin completely subsiding and you exist in a state of pure beingness for an extended period of time.
- Bring this same practice into the ordinary moments of your daily life by becoming fully present in whatever you’re doing, empty your mind of mental commentary and habitual thinking, and simply perceive things as they are in that moment. Form an expanded awareness of everything around you without letting thoughts about it enter your mind.
When you are able to stay in this state for a full 10 minutes, the purpose of this exercise has been achieved. This is important because it lays the foundation necessary for continued development.
Once you have mastered these three basic mind exercises and learned how to control and direct your attention and thoughts, you’ll be ready to move on to other steps in self-mastery that require self-control and your ability to use your will in an intentional and deliberate manner. By learning how to perceive things without a mental commentary or by bringing past ideas into the present and using them to create your experience of the present, you’ll be able to naturally correct perceptual errors that have become automatic and perceive things in a new light as they actually are a part from you and your preconceived judgments about them.
Integrative Mind-Body Health Consultant and Spiritual Mentor
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