1. Preparatory Exercise

This exercise is about emptiness, becoming an empty cup. Consider a building. Is it not the empty spaces which make it habitable? Where there is nothing a doorway can alllow access and egress. Where there is nothing a window can let in the light. Where there is nothing an air vent can allow fresh air to flow.

These images and metaphors are about a certain quietness and stillness which is more like a sense than an intellectual understanding. A common complaint these day is "s/he didn't listen to me." The reason s/he didn't listen was that s/he was preoccupied engaging thoughts (I.e. thinking). Everyone is too busy already to hear or really see anything not in their immediate (egoic) interest.

The Exercise: Become an empty cup.

Sit in an upright posture (avoid slumping as that prevents full release of exhalation which causes a build up of carbon dioxide which makes one drowsy).

Shift your attention to the tip of your nose so that you notice the air coming in and the air going out.

Depending on your climate the air coming in is often cool compared to the exhalation.

If you are a visual being then you can imagine blue coming in, pink going out.

Simply noticing is enough however.

Thoughts will drift across your attention, like clouds across the sky. If you don't engage these thougths they will pass. They came by themselves and will leave by themselves. The problem is a habit of engagement.

When that which is aware notices engagement with thoughts just start again, back to the tip of the nose; air coming in, air going out.

Chances are you have, from about age 4 or 5, developed a strong habit of engaging thought. This is due to our cultural prejudice which has held that rational thinking is the highest function. So be patient. Start again.

The Aim

The aim or task is to:

a. discover that you do not need to engage thought and

b. simply to rest.

After some practice there will be a sense of 'that which is aware', the same observer which notices when thoughts are engaged. Let that awareness simply notice thoughts floating across the screen of awareness.

The screen is like the movie screen. It doesn't discriminate about what is projected and will show everything without prejudice. Also the screen remains unchanged regardless of the content of any particular thought.

This is not mystical or hocus pocus.... it is simply reclaiming the natural state of mind. Also there is nothing to expect; no bright light, no heavenly music ... What happens is a sense of peace and quiet which is refreshing. That is all!

Experiment with eyes slightly open (just slits) and with eyes closed. Find which works best. There are no rules but as the hands have lots nerve receptors then to avoid unecessary stimulation place your right hand inside the palm of your left.

You will learn that your mind is not your friend. It will tell you this exercise is nonsense, it will deride, criticise, carry on like a spoiled 2 year old in order to have its way. It will try to convince you to give up, that it's hopeless, you can't do it blah blah blah. In fact it can continue blah blah blahing all day. Form a rational intention to do this exercise every day and by and large, stick to that intention as well as circumstances permit. It takes about a month to change a habit and after that first 30 days or so you will find it becomes much easier as the unconscious has now learned to expect this exercise.

Finally, it takes about 15 minutes for the nervous system to change so it's useful to practice for at least 20 minutes.