Preliminary Steps

“The first requisite,” says Mr. Atkinson, “of concentering is the ability to shut out outside thoughts, sights and sounds; to conquer inattention; to obtain perfect control over the body and mind. The body must be brought under the control of the mind; the mind under the direct control of the Will. The Will is strong enough, but the mind needs strengthening by being brought under the direct influence of the will. The mind, strengthened by the impulse of the will, becomes a much more powerful projector of thought vibrations than otherwise and the vibrations have much greater force and effect.”

The first four exercises are meant to train the mind to readily obey the commands of the mind. Take them in the privacy of your own room and never talk of them to others. Also do not let their apparent simplicity lead you to neglect them. If you are one of those empty-brained men who go about talking of their exercises hoping in this way to win praise, you will never succeed. Be serious, earnest and sincere in your work. Give up, once for ever, all fickle-mindedness and learn to accumulate Power in silence and through work. Prayer gives you strength to “work”–the answer comes from your Larger Self–which is the Spirit of God “brooding” over all and pouring strength into all. But do not fly in the face of DEITY by expecting it to “do the work” for you while you go about loafing after offering your prayer. Nonsense. That man prays who works constantly, silently, patiently, unceasingly and intelligently.

Exercise 1.

Sit still; relax your body all over and then neck, chest, and head held in a straight line; legs crossed one under the other and weight of the body resting easily upon the ribs; right hand on right leg, left hand on left leg. There should not be a single movement of the muscles in any part of the body. Mind, you must avoid all rigidness and tension of the body. There should not be the least strain on muscles. You should be able to “relax” completely. Start with 5 minutes. Continue till you can accomplish the 5 minutes sitting without any conscious effort, increase to 15 minutes which is about all you need. The aim is to give you absolute dominion over all involuntary muscular movements. It is also an ideal “rest-cure” after fatiguing physical and mental exercise or exertion. The principal thing is “STILLNESS” and you can, if you like, practise it even sitting on a chair or anywhere else; the idea is one of “relaxation” and physical and mental quietude. Let not the apparent simplicity of this exercise deceive you. It is not so very easy after all. You will find that by concentrating the mind upon a particular train of thoughts or ideas or by joining the mind to the Larger Self, you can easily lose all idea of the body and thus maintain this stillness for a considerable length of time. Genius, inspiration and intuition are more or less the scientific and psychological results of self-forgetfulness. “When he sits down to meditate,” it was said of Vivekananda, “in 10 minutes he becomes quite unconscious of the body although it may be black with mosquitoes.” Do you understand now? Absolute physical self-forgetfulness is essential to deep concentration. Dr. Fahnestock called it the “STATUVOLIC” condition or that state in which the Will-Power is really active and the ‘outer-self’ is totally in abeyance and forgotten.

Exercise 2.

Cultivate a self-poised attitude and demeanour in your everyday life. Avoid a tense, strained, nervous, fidgety manner and an over-anxious appearance. Be easy, self-possessed and dignified in your bearing. Be courteous, thoughtful and quiet. Mental exercise and Will-Culture will enable you to acquire the proper carriage and demeanour. Stop swinging your feet and moving your hands or rocking your self backwards in your chair while talking or sitting. Stop biting your nails, chewing your moustaches, rolling your tongue in your mouth or any other unnecessary movement such as may have become “second nature” with you while studying, reading or writing. Never twitch or jerk your body.

Never wink your eyes or look blank. Train yourself to stand sudden and loud noises with equanimity and composure. Such things betray lack of control. Do not let anything outside (or even within you) disturb your composure. When engaged in conversation let your speech be calm and measured and your voice well-controlled and even. A certain degree of reserve should always be observed. In short, keep yourself well under control on all occasions. You can acquire this poise by always carrying the thoughts of “Firmness,” “Self-Control”, and “Self-Respect” in your mind and letting these express themselves in your outward bearing. Avoid bluster, self-assertion, gossip, levity or light talk, too much laughter, excitement and so forth. Too much laughter weakens the will. Be a quiet, earnest-thinking being. Be serious. Regard “solitude” as the greatest medium of self-development.

Exercise 3.

Fill a wine glass full of water and taking the glass between the fingers, extend arm directly in front of you. Fix your eyes upon the glass and endeavour to hold your arm so steady that no quiver will be noticeable. Commence with one minute exercise and increase until the 5 minutes limit is reached. Alternate right and left arms. Increase to 15 minutes.

Exercise 4.

Sit erect in your chair, with your head up, chin out and shoulders back. Raise your right arm until it is level with your shoulders, pointing to the right. Turn your head and fix your gaze on your hand and hold the arm perfectly steady for one minute. Repeat with left arm. Increase the time gradually to 5 minutes. The palms of the hands should be turned downwards.

The following exercises are meant to aid you in getting under control, such mental faculties will produce voluntary movements.

Exercise 5.

Sit in front of a table, placing your hands upon the table, the fists clinched and lying with the back of the hand upon the table, the thumb being doubled over the fingers. Fix your gaze upon the fist for awhile and then slowly extend the thumb, keeping your whole attention fixed upon the act, just as if it was of the greatest importance. Then slowly extend your first finger, then your second and so on, until they are all open and extended. Then reverse the process, closing first the little finger and continuing the closing until the fist is again in its original position, with the thumb closed over the fingers. Repeat with left hand. Continue this exercise 5 times at a sitting, then increase to 10 times. Don’t forget to keep your attention closely fixed upon the finger movements. That is the main point.

Exercise 6.

Place the fingers of one hand between the fingers of the other, leaving the thumbs free. Then slowly twirl the thumbs one over the other, with a circular motion. Be sure to keep the attention firmly fixed upon the end of the thumbs.

»N.B.« Exercises Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 have been culled (with slight modifications by me) from the works of Yogi Ramacharaka.

Exercise 7.

Forty-eight hours after the full moon in each month, go by yourself into a darkened chamber and quietly concentrate your mind upon one thing. Do this as long as possible without allowing other thoughts to enter your mind. At first you will find that your thoughts will fly from one thing to another and it will be hard for you to accomplish this, but by continued practice you will be able to think of one thing for a long time. This should be continued for 5 nights in succession and one hour each night.

Exercise 8.

Go out into the open air each evening when the sky is clear and see how many stars you can count without allowing any other thoughts to enter your mind. The more stars you can count without thinking of anything the greater the degree of development produced. Quite an interesting exercise.

Exercise 9.

Take 12 ordinary pebbles. Place them in your left hand. Then with your right hand pick up one pebble, hold it at arm’s length and concentrate your mind thereupon without allowing other thoughts for full 60 seconds. So with all the pebbles. Then start picking up with left hand. Do this for one hour daily.

Exercise 10.

Concentrate your mind determinedly upon some one at a distance without allowing other thoughts. Will that he do get strong, healthy and spiritual. Get up a mental picture of your subject as if sitting before you. Then give earnest, positive, forceful suggestions to his sub-conscious mind. Will that he get into sympathy with you, write you on the subject and earnestly co-operate with you in his spiritual regeneration. Do it calmly and earnestly.

Exercise 11.

Get some moistened sand spread over the surface about a yard square. Make it perfectly smooth. Then with your index finger draw any characters or pictures in the sand. For instance, a square, a triangle or any other figure. Fasten your gaze upon this figure. Concentrate your mind calmly thereupon and will that the thought-form so created by your concentration be transmitted to someone (whom you know to be sensitive to your will). Do this for 15 minutes daily at the same time till your subject gets the impression. Ask him to sit relaxed at the same time in the »silence« in a receptive mental attitude. Face the direction, North, South, East or West in which you send your thought. Imagine a psychic wire connecting you with your subject and aim straight. Remember, the Will-Power is represented in symbology by a straight line because it goes straight to its mark.

Exercise 12.

Every night before retiring, concentrate upon your passive mind: “»When I get up in morning, my Will-power and Thought-Force will have increased. I expect you to bring about a thorough change in my Will-Force. It will gain in vigour, resolution, firmness and confidence. It must grow strong, strong, strong«.” Project these positive suggestions into your subjective self earnestly, confidently and concentratedly. You will progress quickly by leaps and bounds. Every morning shall find you stronger and full of vim, sap and energy. Persevere, persevere. In following up such ideals to a successful conclusion you must have an (i) overpowering desire; (ii) a strong belief in your ability to accomplish anything; (iii) an invincible determination not a backboneless ‘I will try to’; (iv) earnest expectation. This is an important and an infallible method in Will-development.

Exercise 13.

Go by yourself into a room where you will not be disturbed. At the beginning ‘relax’ all over. Then count from one to ten without allowing any other thoughts. As soon as you accomplish this, your mind is in a receptive state. Concentrate as before and order your sub-conscious self to evolve a strong, infallible memory. Form your own auto-suggestions.

Exercise 14.

Pick out half a dozen unfamiliar faces. Vividly impress them upon your subjective mind. Then recall them at least once each day for full one year, each day impressing at least one more new face. Should you find you are forgetting any of your older faces, do not add new ones but firmly fix the other old faces in your mind through concentration. This is a very interesting exercise. Memory belongs to the sub-conscious mind, remember.

Exercise 15.

Concentrate the mind on a paragraph in some holy book and commit to memory. Learn by heart one paragraph daily taking care not to forget the old ones. In time, you will improve wonderfully.

Exercise 16.

People with weak memories always lack concentrative ability. Concentration is the key to all mind-power. You will find the above exercises quite ‘tedious’ and monotonous. But you can train your ‘attention’ only by giving it trivial and ‘dry’ exercises. The strong will can cope with the most ‘monotonous’ and uninteresting tasks without experiencing fatigue. You must set yourself such tasks as might seem like ‘work’ to your attention. Remember, the effort required to concentrate attention voluntarily on uninteresting, dry and monotonous works strengthens and develops Will-Power and gives you ‘mental muscle.’ You will thereby acquire firm control over mind and body and be ‘Master’ over your lower impulses. Power over self will express outwardly as power over others. If you can control yourself, you will find no difficulty in impressing your will on others. But, mark you, this sacred power should be used only to elevate, stimulate and strengthen others. Try your Will upon your personality in all possible ways and be satisfied with nothing short of perfect control. The absolute mastery of ‘self’ ought to be your aim. I have given you the real secrets. You must exercise your own ingenuity and intelligence in utilising them towards your Self-development. I leave you to finish the fight for yourself. Get up and start in to work at your task from to-day and not to-morrow. Back of all efforts, always have this positive incentive and auto-suggestion:

“THIS IS TO DEVELOP MY WILL-POWER AND NO TEMPORARY PAIN CAN EQUAL THE POWER AND HAPPINESS ARISING OUT OF SELF-CONTROL.”

Get firm control over your emotions. Use this natural force but be not used by it. Control over speech will lead to Emotion-control. Always talk to the point. Cultivate silence. Repress volubility. Be brief in speech and writing. Keep a cool head. Be level-headed and concentrative