MEDITATIONAL EXERCISES FOR GROUP WORK

Can be adapted for individual guidance.

Prepared by Geoffrey Farthing

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A Resource for Group Leaders

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1 Meditation Guide Contents
2 Meditation Guide Introduction
3 Meditation Guide: Content of Sessions
   
4 Meditation Guide Course Leaders
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  H.P. Blavatsky Diagram of Meditation

In addition to Geoffrey Farthing's material on meditation, attention is drawn to H.P. Blavatsky's Diagram of Meditation and a commentary published in The Theosophist May 2003

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MEDITATION GUIDE
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EXERCISE MATERIAL
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GROUP III
CLASSICAL, MISCELLANEOUS


 

1.   Breathing Exercise.

'Become aware ... of yourself ... inwardly.'
  
'Just BE at your centre of awareness.'
  
'Feel self-possessed and as if you had complete control over your body.'

  
'Now notice your breathing; in ... (slowly); out ... (slowly); and so on in your own time for two minutes or so.'
  
'Just keep your attention on your breathing; do not attempt to change its depth or rhythm.'

Leader: Allow enough time for, say, a minimum of 10 breaths. Explain to the group that breathing should be easy. There should be no straining. Say, "Now we are going to make pauses between breaths."  Then explain, during pauses, no air passages should be 'blocked', control should be by chest and abdominal muscles or if necessary by a slight contraction of the back of the nose or throat.
  
'Now assume control - regulate breathing to make a short pause between in-breath and out-breath and between out-breath and in-breath.'
  
'Establish a rhythm and keep your attention on it for the time being.'
  
'Notice particularly the silent stillness in the pauses.'  

Leader: Do this exercise for 2 or 3 minutes. Then proceed:-  

'Maintain your rhythm, but now imagine that with every breath you are drawing in the very breath of life, living, vital energy.'
  
'Imagine yourself surrounded by it, immersed in it. Breathe it in. Maintain your normal rhythm.  In ... pause; out ... pause; in your own time.'

  
Leader: Do this for 2 minutes only. Period overall ... about 5 minutes

2.   'Body' Exercise.
  
'Close your eyes.'
  
'Become aware of your body.'

Leader: Then mention its parts, slowly, as follows:
  
'Be aware of its overall pattern, then its detail; feet, two legs, trunk, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, throat, face and head.'

Leader: Leave proper pauses between each item.
  
'Reflect on the body's overall suitability for its purpose.'
  
'Reflect on the ingenious design of its parts, and their suitability for their purpose.'
  
'Go over all your body, be aware of every part, as a living thing.'

  
Leader:  This takes time. You could mention some parts randomly at intervals.
 
'Then go all over your body in your mind's eye, from the outside.'
  
'Then go over your body from, as it were, inside.'

  
Leader: Leave at least one minute for reviewing the body from inside. Commands to be spread evenly over the period.

'End of exercise.'               

Leader: allow 5 to 7 minutes.

3.   Feeling Exercise. Physical Sensations.

Leader:  Tell the group that this is an exercise in evoking and dispelling common bodily feelings. Leave time for the class to get impressions as real as they can.  Other physical sensations can be thought up, but be careful to finish on a pleasant theme. Use only a few 'feelings' each session.
  
'Check over your body for feeling.'
  
'Is it comfortable, relaxed?'
  
'Get the feeling of
e.g. combing your hair ...; of washing and wiping your hands ... etc.'

'Get the taste of e.g. drinking cool, clear water ...; the sensation of biting crisp toast ...; the taste of ice cream ... etc.'
  
'Get the idea of being hungry ...; of being thirsty ...'

'Get the feeling of being cold ...; of sitting in front of a warm fire ...; of lying on a sandy beach ... etc.'  

'Get the idea of being tickled.'
  
'Get the idea of not responding to being tickled - of controlling yourself.'

'Get the feeling of your body being tired - of your body being rested.'
 
'Get the feeling of being very well.'
  
'Feel the thrill of moving very fast, as in running or skating, or being in a car or on a horse.'
  
'Feel the easy stride of walking unhurriedly.'
  
'Stop whatever you are doing ... get the feeling of just having a body, well and at peace'.
  . . . Pause.

'End of exercise'

Leader: allow 5 or more mins.  

Leader:  The idea of this meditation is to inculcate the idea that these sensations come and go. Like everything else, we only know about them because they register in our consciousness. We are not our feelings, we are merely aware of them. This explanation can be made occasionally.

4.   Feeling Exercise.  Emotional.

Leader: These are exercises in learning to evoke and dispel emotional states and feelings. They are based on the fact that, in the same way that we are not our bodies or sensations, so we are not our emotions. We have them, we are aware of them, but they are not us. We can control them. Give this explanation the first time of doing the exercise and periodically thereafter.

The emotional states should be dealt with in pairs: positive, negative and positive again. When you have asked the group to be in a particular emotional state, leave at least one or two minutes for them to evoke it and be in it. It is important always to finish each of these exercises on a positive emotion, e.g. happiness, well-being, liking, being brave, etc.

i)  Happiness and Sadness.

'Get the idea of happiness.'
  
'Remember a time when all was well with you and the world. Get the feeling of happiness.'

'Let that feeling fade right away.'
  
'Get the idea of sadness, or deprivation, or bereavement. Just get the idea of one of these.'
  
'Recall a time when you felt sadness or loss.  Feel sadness now ... really.'
  
'Let the feeling of sadness go ... completely.'
  
'Now remember again a time when you were happy, when, for example, you had got or achieved something you wanted.'
  
'Feel that happiness now.'
  
'Be ... just be ... happy.'
  
'End of exercise.'

Leader: allow at least 5 mins.  

ii)  Liking and Disliking
  
'Think about liking ... liking something or someone.'  
  
'Imagine meeting a new acquaintance and liking him or her immediately.'
  
'Get the feeling of like, of attraction, of being unselfconscious ... of mutual confidence.'
  
'Allow the feeling of liking to fade.'
  
'Get the idea of disliking ... of disliking someone or something.'
  
'Remember something or someone you dislike ... try to see why.'
  
'Put yourself in an imaginary situation which evokes dislike ... get the feeling of disliking something strongly, e.g. feel aversion, repugnance, wanting to be out of a situation ...
etc.'
  
'Allow the feeling of dislike or aversion to fade ...'

'Now conjure up again the feeling of liking, of confidence, attraction, etc.'
  
'Really get the feeling of liking someone or something ... sense the freedom and ease which this confers.'
  
'End of exercise.'

Leader: allow at least 5 mins.  

iii) Love and Hate

Nature works in opposites. We cannot have 'good' without 'evil' nor light without darkness, and so on. Our emotions follow this rule.

Leader: Some individuals react strongly against the idea of their being able to hate. This exercise should preferably be done with an established group who are used to looking honestly at themselves. Notice that the group is not asked to conjure up a present-time hate situation, only to imagine one. Give more time to loving than hating in the exercise.

'Get the idea of love, or of loving someone, or something, in as real a situation as you can imagine.'  

'Dwell on that feeling, make it as strong as you can.'  

'Let the feeling fade ... dispel it altogether.'
  
'Get the idea of hate.'
  
'Imagine a situation where you hate someone or something ... notice your feelings that are aroused ... feel them as strongly as you can.'
  
'Notice the effect of this hatred in that situation on yourself and your relationships with other persons or things.'
  
'Now let all feelings of hate go ... dissipate them completely.'
  
'Get the idea of love again ... of a loving situation.'  

'Recall a real time when you loved someone or something ... get the feeling of the love you then felt.'
  
'Notice the effect of loving on your total mood ... the trust, the joy ... the generosity, the self-forgetfulness ... the lack of reserve that is engendered.'
  
'End of exercise.'

Leader: allow at least 5 mins.

iv)  Joy and Despair.
  
'Get the idea of joy.'
  
'Remember a circumstance which made you joyful.'
  
'Dwell on that circumstance.'
  
'Feel all that real joy brings, the feeling of well-being, of lightness, happiness, all reflected onto others.'
  
'Now let the feeling fade.'
  
'Get the idea of despair.'
  
'Remember or imagine a situation when you were in despair.'
  
'Imagine a condition of total despair; really feel it; feel the isolation, the abject despondency, the hopelessness, when all effort seems fruitless.'
  
'Let the feeling of despair fade ... let it go completely.'
  
'Now get the idea of joy again ... of uplift, hope and so on.'
  
'Imagine a situation wherein you can become completely joyous - a situation of fulfilment ... of freedom ... of abundant life.'

'End of exercise.'

Leader: allow at least 5 mins.   

Leader: Other emotional exercises can be done on similar lines, e.g.

Courage and Fear
Desire and Aversion
Security and Insecurity

5.   Thinking Exercise.

i)  Imagination

Leader: Explain that the mind is another of our faculties. It is essentially not us. We can control it. We can think of what we like. As explained earlier, the Mind has two aspects, a) the personal and b) the impersonal or spiritual mind. It is the lower aspect we can learn to control, to concentrate on a given subject, but we cannot control our higher mind because it is, in a sense, us. It is the source of our individual consciousness and thus our very "I-ness". It is one aspect of our triple Divine Being, or Ego.

Note:  This could take the place of a Group II Concentration exercise.
    
a) 'Get the idea of a rosy apple. Get the impression of a shiny fresh apple with a stalk.  Imagine you are holding it. Get the feel of it. Can you smell it? Try.'
  
'Take an imaginary bite out of it. Taste the cool sweet juice?'
  
'Eat it all up.' (Leader: leave enough time for this.)
  
'Throw away the core. Let there be nothing left.'
  
'End of exercise.'

Leader: allowup to 5 mins.

b) 'Imagine the whole process of an apple coming into being.'
  
'An apple falling from a tree ... and rotting on the ground.'
  
'A pip beginning to sprout. A little root growing down into the earth. Some rain, some sunshine.'
  
'A very young apple tree appears.  A few seasons' growth, some springs, summers, autumns and winters. One spring a little shoot on the tree and some blossoms. A bee gathering honey from them. The petals fall. A little apple begins to grow, hard and green. It grows bigger and bigger. It begins to turn colour in the warm sunshine. It gets really red. It is late August. You pay a visit to the tree. The apple is ripe. You pluck it and have it in your hand.'
  
'End of exercise.'

Leader: allow up to 10 mins.
    
ii)  Memory.

Leader: Do one of a), b) or c) only.

a) 'Recall the names of as many of your school friends as you can.'
  
b) 'Recall as fully as you can what you did in the last seven days, beginning with yesterday.'
  
c) 'Recall as much as you can about the last a) play, b) television show, c) football match, d) walk in the country, e) game you saw, enjoyed or were involved in. Pick only one subject and concentrate on it.'
  
'End of exercise.'

Leader: allow up to 15 mins.

iii) Thinking.
  
Leader: Do only one of a), b), c) or d).
  
a) 'Think about a newspaper with which you are familiar. Think about every aspect of it ... its raw materials, making the paper, the printing, the collection of news, etc.'
    

'Think about all the kinds of people involved in its production.
  
'How much has this newspaper in common with all others - the editorials, articles, pictures - how does it differ from them?'
  
b) 'Think about your house - where it is, how it came to be, its design, its construction, its rooms, its locality, etc. everything you can think of about your house.'
  
c) 'Think of a pet - any pet you have or would like to have, or one of your neighbours' pets. Think of every aspect and attribute of it and what it does, eats, etc.'
  
d) 'Think of the events of this day in reverse, up to now.'
  
'End of exercise.'

Leader: allow up to 15 mins.

6.   Character Exercises.

Leader:  Read, "Our character determines what we put into life and so what we get out of it. It determines our circumstances, relationships, successes, failures, our joys and our miseries." Read a few of the following, according to the time available:

     Strength and weakness
     Generosity and meanness
     Courtesy and rudeness
     Perseverance and infirmity of purpose
     Kindness and unkindness
     Mercy and severity
     Concern and indifference
     Courage and cowardliness
     Loyalty and disloyalty
     Humility and pride
     Unselfishness and selfishness
     Carefulness and carelessness
     Industriousness and laziness
     Independence and servility
     Helpfulness and unhelpfulness
     Cheerfulness and gloominess
     Thriftiness and extravagance
     Punctiliousness and sloppiness
     Self-control and self-indulgence
     Refinement and crudity
     Sensitiveness and insensitiveness
     Patience and impatience
     Gentleness and harshness
     Goodness and badness (evil)
     Truthfulness and untruthfulness
     Integrity (wholeness) and lack of integrity
     Dependability and unreliability
     Abstemiousness and gluttony
     Trustworthiness and untrustworthiness
     Honesty and dishonesty
     Justice and injustice

Ask the group to get the idea of their having each aspect of character as it is mentioned. Leave time for them to do this. The standard instruction for each pair of character elements is as follows, using generosity and meanness as an example:-

i) 'Think about generosity.'
  
'Think of a generous person.'

'Think of the effect of his generosity on his associates, his surroundings, his circumstances, what people think of him.'

'Get the idea of being generous. You be generous. See the effect of this on your associates, surroundings and circumstances.'

Allow 1½ minutes at least for this.
  
'Think of meanness.'
  
'Think of a mean person.'
  
'Think of the effect of his meanness on his associates, his surroundings, his circumstances, what people think of him.'

'Get the idea of being mean. You be mean. See the effect of this on your associates, surroundings and circumstances.'

Allow 1½ minutes at least for this.
  
Leader: These exercises must end on a positive aspect, i.e. the virtue.
'Get the idea again of your being generous.'
  
'Feel generous.'
  
'Be generous.'

                                          'End of exercise.' . . . not less than 5 mins.
  
Leader:  One character aspect is enough for a normal exercise.

Leader:  Use this exercise on a number of successive occasions as a 'course' in character building.

ii) 'Think about character in people.'
  
'Think of character applied to yourself.'
  
'Think how every element of character has its opposite.'

Leader: Give a few examples from the list above.
  
'Think of some of the bad aspects of your character - honestly.'
  
'Think of some of the good aspects of your character - honestly.'
  
'End of exercise.'                  . . . 5 to 10 mins.
  

iii) 'Think dispassionately of the defects and deficiencies of your character as if they were someone else's.'
  
'Do this extensively and in depth. See the effects of these defects.'
  
'Imagine your being possessed of the corresponding good aspects.'
  
'End of exercise.'                 . . . 10 to 20 mins.

 

Leader:  The following exercise is one in applied virtue. Mention a few of the recognized virtues from the list, e.g. truthfulness (honesty), courage, independence (self-reliance), kindness, humility, etc. The exercise is to put one's self into an imaginary situation which may call for the exercise of a particular virtue. The effectiveness of these exercises depends on how far the members of the group can identify with the situation.

iv)

a) 'Imagine you get on a bus. There is no-one on it, the  conductor is upstairs, you have only a very little money on you, the conductor comes down and asks you where you got on. You know the stop before last was a fare stage but you got on three stops back. What (honestly) do you tell the conductor?'
 
b)  'In your mail you notice a letter with an unfranked stamp, not very well stuck on. You could easily use it again. Would you?'
 
c)  'You are fairly recently married and hard up; you have a child. You are the bread winner. Work is very hard to get where you live. You have a job as a storeman. One day you fail to check properly the receipt of a consignment of parts needed to fulfil a valuable rush order in the works. The parts received are of the wrong kind. There are others who might have checked the stores in when you were off duty but you know the goods came in during your shift. The matter is so serious you might be dismissed if you own up. Would you?'
 
d)  'There is a war on. The small town of a few thousand people where you live is beleaguered and short of food. You are entrusted with a message to a contingent of  your own army not too far away requesting relief. You set out but are captured by an unexpected enemy patrol. You are offered your freedom and food for information  about the defences of the town and whether there are any of your troops near. They give you a few hours to make up your mind. To refuse the information may lead to long imprisonment or death. You know the place where you are held very well. There is a just possible escape route. You could then go two ways; a relatively easy one back to your town or a very perilous one to your own troops to whom you should have delivered your message. You have a perfect excuse for returning to  your town. Will you try to escape, and which route will you take if you succeed? '
 
e)  'You are in a chemist's shop. An elderly woman is collecting life-saving drugs for her ailing husband, so you hear. She leaves the shop. You make a purchase and leave. On your way home you see the old woman being set on by muggers bent on getting her bag which, among other things, contains the drugs. There is a phone box nearby. No-one would know if you do not go to her aid. Would you?'

 
Leader: The above are sample incidents. Many others can be thought up for the other virtues.

7.   Abstract Exercises.

Leader: These are 'mind' exercises but using the higher aspects of mind. They develop the faculty of being able to deal with concepts for which we have no ready thinking symbols, with any form. We have words but we have to supply their meaning, e.g. harmony, beauty, tranquillity, stillness, silence, freedom, light, truth, eternity, time, space. Pick one subject only for an exercise period. Instance some subjects for these exercises:-

a)   'Think about (say) beauty. See how many things beauty relates to, e.g. scenes, objects of art, poetry, prose, movement, behaviour, character and so on.'
 
'Get the idea of and think about a beautiful flower.'
 
'Get the idea of and think about a beautiful creature.'
 
'Think about beautiful colours.'
 
'Think about a beautiful shape.'
 
'Think about beauty in your life, and in your living.'
 
'What is beauty related to these things?'
 
Leader: Leave some time to consider this.

'End of exercise.'

b)   'Think of harmony. Think of it, for example, as balance, symmetry, equilibrium, rhythm, concord, etc.'
 
'Think of harmony in things; think of it in shape, in colour, in movement.'
 
'Think of harmony in sound.'
 
'Think of harmony as between the parts of our bodies, the heavenly bodies in space, etc.'

'Think of the effect of harmony in your life, and in your living.'

'Think of harmony in personal, in group, in national relationships.'

'Think of harmony as applying to all human affairs.'

Leader: To conclude the exercise, if time permits and the group is practised on these abstracts, just ask, and leave time for consideration:

'What is beauty or harmony (as the case may be)?'
 
'End of exercise.' . . . 5 to 10 minutes for each abstraction.

Leader:  Do not do more than one subject in an exercise. Where applicable apply the 'abstract' to the members of the group as may be appropriate; for example, at the end of an exercise on freedom say:

'Be free, get the feeling of freedom, complete freedom.'
 or
'Be still, just be still, quite still.'
 or
'Be silent, perfectly silent, inwardly.'
 
     Allow group at least 2 minutes for this.
 
Leader: Repeat each instruction two or three times, slowly and quietly. Allow plenty of time for each item.

     Make up appropriate exercises for other abstract subjects, as required.
                  . . . 5 to 15 minutes with these additions

8.   Thoughts on 'The Elements'.

Leader: Read, "The ancients classified the essential Elements of existing things as Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Various 'gods', in the inner worlds, were assigned to these Elements, as personifying fundamental characteristics, qualities and powers in nature, that reflect from the invisible realms into the visible.

i)   'Earth is the quality of solidity, of mass, of matter, of form bearing, of constraint, of tangibility at physical level.'
 
     'Water is the quality of fluidity, of movement, of shapelessness; the 'solvent' quality.'
 
     'Air is the quality of gaseousness, invisibility, the vapour condition, also shapeless in itself.'
 
'Fire is the element of warmth, present to a greater or lesser degree in everything. It is energy without which nothing can exist. It relates closely to Light.'
 

a) 'Think on these qualities severally : Fire - Air - Water - Earth.'
         
Allow at least 2 minutes on each Element; use only 2 or 3 in an exercise.

OR

b) Think of something in Nature, say a tree, see how each of the elements is a constituent of its being.'
    
'See how each Element of Earth, Water, Air and Fire is a constituent of your being.'
    
'End of exercise.'                 . . . 10 to 15 mins.
    

ii) 'Consider the essence of the Elements, slowly, one at a time, in your own time: the fieriness of Fire ... the airiness of Air ... the  fluidity of Water ... the solidity of Earth.'
    
'Can you imagine anything that does not contain at least one of these Elements?'

                                          'End of exercise.' . . . 15 to 20 mins.
  
Leader:  This exercise (ii) can require a long time for significant insights to come. It is for later 2nd or 3rd Stage students

9.   Transcendental' Exercises.

Leader: Explain that this material is of the kind that uses  words and ideas paradoxically to express the inexpressible. It is a very particular use of the mind in an endeavour to  transcend it - in consciousness. In theosophical terms we are trying to enter the realm of higher mind (manas). In a manner of speaking, when attention is orientated upwards to the impersonal, to the realm of principles and abstract ideas, the connection begins to be made with the higher mind, and our consciousness can then be 'elevated' to the upper reaches of spiritual awareness and power.

The techniques for this are various. All require strenuous effort, courage and right attitude, a mixture of devotion, love and demanding determination. It seems these higher reaches of being must be importuned - but in the right way, in all humility, purity of motive and honesty.

One of the techniques which can succeed - if all other conditions are fulfilled - is the repetitive mantra type of phrase repeated over and over again, with alert attention - no dulled awareness even if the 'mind' is driven to an extremity of boredom.

Another technique is wonder - prolonged, deep wonder. One sets the process going for one's self but some of the following questions could lead to a start.

These meditations are generally for more practised students who are at least acquainted from reading or otherwise with the underlying ideas involved. Ask the following questions slowly, repeat them and give time before moving on to the next.

i)   'Think about yourself, all you are, in all your aspects.'
  
'Become aware of the process of thinking?'  
  
'Who is doing the thinking?'
  
'What is awareness? Ask yourself: What is my awareness? Where is it?

     'End of exercise                   . . . 10 to 20 mins.

ii)  'Think about a point. A point has location but no dimension. Think about a point.'
  
'Think of a point in space.'
  
'Find one, a definite point, in your 'subjective' space.'

(Leader, leave time for this.)
  
'Imagine moving - very slowly - nearer to that point.'
  
'Approach it - slowly.'
  
'Get very near to it.'
  
'Now merge with it. Become that point. You be that dimensionless point - and nothing else.'

(Leader, leave plenty of time for this.)
  
'Stay there in space, still, silent, but very much awake ... and do not think.'
  
'End of exercise.'                 . . . 10 to 20 mins.

iii)      'Think about consciousness.'

'Are you conscious?''
  
'What is consciousness?.

'Where is your consciousness relative to you?'
  
'Where are you?'
  
'End of exercise.'                 . . . 10 to 20 mins.
  
iv) 'Empty your field of awareness of all images.'
  
'Regard the empty void of subjective space.'
  
'How big is that internal subjective space?'
  
'How big are you?'
  
'What distinguishes you from that space?'
  
'End of exercise.'                 . . . 10 to 20 mins.

Leader, read this material slowly, pause 2 or 3 minutes, then repeat it.
  
v)   'The Spirit - the Universal Spirit - the Divine Self of man never enters into his physical body. It is said to float just above his head.'
'Get this idea.'

'As far as you are concerned, where is the Spirit?
    
'End of exercise.'                 . . . 10 to 20 mins.

Leader, read this material slowly, repeat it after a few minutes.
  
vi)  'Think of all the qualities of your subjective nature, in their full richness - your responses to life, your joys, your likes, your ecstasies, your loves  - all these are but reflections of the full powers of the Self - your Self - your 'home' - your immediate, true,  transcendent Self - ultimate and complete love, compassion and understanding.'

'Sense the close intimacy of that Self.'
  
'Recognize its inseverable identity - for ever - with you.'
  
'Contemplate these things in silence.'

'End of exercise.'                 . . . 10 to 20 mins.

 


This document has been reproduced from Geoffrey Farthing's digital copy created in 2002,
and currently in the archive material of The Blavatsky Trust.



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