How ordinary imagination can be intensified to become an an organ of cognition—a path of development to real knowing.

Six Exercises for Discovering Hope

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Adapted from A Way of Seeing, by John Allison, an Aussie poet (Lindisfarne Books, 2003).

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Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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described five distinct stages before one can accept death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

In an essay called “Discovering Hope,” by John Davy, the author observed that Kubler-Ross’s five stages to accepting death are actually very similar to six exercises by Rudolph Steiner

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that will lead a person to harmony and hope! If, like most of us, you need more of a sense of hope in your life, consider these thoughtful exercises:

  • The 1st exercise concerns the life of thinking. We are asked to spend a few minutes each day (for about a month) focusing our attention upon a single thought. We must exclude from consciousness all thoughts which do not relate directly to the object of our thinking. This exercise can be seen as a fitness program in the “soul-gym” for dealing with denial. Whenever we refuse to admit the possibility of something, our thinking skates and slithers about on the thin ice of rationality, inventing explanations and excuses.
  • The 2nd exercise brings self-disciple into the will. We choose to do a simple and quite unnecessary act at the same time each day (perhaps for a month). The task may consist of transferring keys from one pocket to another, or of untying and retying a shoelace. The value of this exercise is that it is essentially “useless,” of no significance outwardly; it is then free of all compulsion. In disciplining our will-forces, we form a basis for the reining-in of anger, so that instead of lashing out we may attend to the issue.
  • The 3rd exercise requires us to find a relationship to personal experiences through which we can view them with complete equanimity. It is better at first to look at some event in the past than a present issue; but essentially we must learn to regard joys and sorrows equally as the weather of the soul. At each time each day a mood of inner tranquility is established in the soul, and in these moments we become able to contemplate reality without being swept back and forth emotionally. We then learn to “own” whatever is ours, and to let go of whatever is not.
  • The 4th exercise is a challenge to view everything with positives, to say “yes” to every experience which comes to us. This exercise aims toward the development of a positive gesture toward every aspect of life. Every situation is an opportunity for learning; even the deepest experience of depression then becomes a parable.
  • The 5th exercise extends this positivity further, to develop an open-minded attitude to the whole world. This implies having no prejudices, and being able to imagine that anything might be possible. Hence this particular exercise, through which we develop open-mindedness toward life in all its forms as it streams toward us. To arrive at acceptance requires such an open gesture.
  • The 6th exercise involves balancing the soul’s developmental needs through our continued practice of these exercises in relation with one another, an activity which is different in the case of every individual.
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