Working Out in the Soul Gym
By Dennis Klocek 4 min read
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 of life.
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.
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 task.
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 it.
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.
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.
Dennis Klocek, MFA, is co-founder of the Coros Institute, an internationally renowned lecturer, and teacher. He is the author of nine books, including the newly released Colors of the Soul; Esoteric Physiology and also Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics. He regularly shares his alchemical, spiritual, and scientific insights at dennisklocek.com.
“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing” Meister Eckhart In Rudolf Steiner’s work, the backwards review of the day in images is known in German as Ruchschau, loosely translated as looking at movement. We could call the exercise the Backwards Review. The backwards review is a practical and potent alchemical force for…