© 2004 By Richard
[Originally posted to the FranzBardonMagi yahoo! group and posted here with the author's kind permission.]
Early last week I promised T. that I would share a few select ideas that I've been working on, as regards trying to enhance the quality of my practice. The abstract principle underlying his question i.e., quantity x quality = success, has proven a fruitful seed topic for reflection.
It's best to view what follows as a `work-in-progress', it reflects my uniquely slow approach to Bardon, and my relative inexperience, plus ideas I've borrowed from Rawn Clark, Bill Mistele & others. Hopefully, bits of it may prove useful.
Quality can be perceived and experienced on at least two levels:
1. The actual performance of the exercises themselves, along with the psychological factors that play a part in that, and 2. The `context' in which the exercises are performed.
Quality of performance
As indicated by Rawn, ideally, both aspects of practice (quantity & quality) are emphasized, and steady progress can ensue.
However, some practitioners find themselves more constrained on the time-dependent `quantity' side of the equation. To offset this disadvantage, particular attention and emphasis on the quality aspect may be one way to maintain progress.
With this in mind I've tried to think up, or collate, ways that the average student of Bardon, myself included, can improve the quality of their training, as well as become more aware of any unconscious habits or blocks that may unknowingly undermine the quality of practice.
A model I'm borrowing from Bill runs as follows:
To get the most out of an exercise, all four levels of ourselves, need to be engaged thus:
1. Akashic - pure conviction that you already embody the power the exercise features
2. Mental - focus your mind exclusively on the task at hand, don't wander
3. Astral - embody positive feelings about the exercise and what you're trying to achieve, don't simply go through the motions.
4. Physical - maintain awareness of the physical sensations (if appropriate for the exercise) that accompany what you're working on.
Other factors that may affect quality:
- conceptual understanding
- concentration / focus
- elemental balance
- energy levels / alertness
- calm / emotionally centred
- physical relaxation
- pre-exercise preparation
- good record keeping / journal
- brain nutrition / diet / biochemistry / neuronal efficiency
- empowered remembering
1. Conceptual understanding - Rawn handles this aspect wonderfully. If you fail to understand an exercise technique correctly, no amount of practice will bring the results aimed for.
2. Concentration / focus - as a key component of Step I, after reaching Step II, this shouldn't be an issue. `Energy follows thought', with exercises as delicate as Bardon's, they require your full attention. Others may disagree, but I reckon that 5mins of an exercise each day with full focus will take you further than 20mins with plenty of mind wandering.
3. Elemental balance - Rawn covers this topic extensively, I've included it for completeness.
4. Energy levels / alertness - goes back to the issue of getting enough sleep and how to make the necessary time for the exercises. If you're either physically or mentally exhausted by the time you get to the exercises then you're unlikely to get too far or maintain the discipline.
5. Calm / emotionally centred - if your exercises are performed towards the end of the day, after work, you'll need to find a way to switch off and release any emotional issues that may be playing on your mind, otherwise, concentration will suffer.
6. Physical relaxation - plays a part in point 5, but it's also a key skill that Bardon failed to emphasize, though Rawn has made up for this shortfall. Under deep relaxation, the doorway to the subconscious opens, any exercise performed in a state of deep relaxation is likely to be learnt faster and become second-nature sooner than if performed in state of tension.
7. Pre-exercise preparation - rather than jumping head long into the exercise, a little recap serves to focus the mind and place one into the right frame of mind.
8. Good record keeping / journal - both Rawn and Bardon emphasize this, generally it speaks for itself, with good records you can track your progress and if need be backtrack and see where you've been going wrong. It's also an affirmation that you take your training seriously, and that it will take time and practice to make progress.
9. Brain nutrition / diet / biochemistry / neuronal efficiency - the brain is the tool of the mind, and it's best to keep it in good working order. An act of intense thinking demands greater protein for the additional neuronal connections to be made, so a sensible diet is helpful. Also, I believe the brain uses up to 80% of the body's oxygen requirements - a well ventilated room will aide also. I'm not a great fan of synthetic supplements but omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve attention span, given that the brain is made up of lipids, a deficiency in the diet will affect concentration. Also, safe, well-researched herbal supplements like Gingko Biloba, Siberian Ginseng, etc., may assist. I've found `Ron Teegarden' an excellent author on the subject of Chinese tonic herbs (as opposed to the medicinal Chinese herbs, of which some are potentially quite dangerous and require expert handling). Bardon also recommends a daily regimen of flexing, recourse to yoga-like exercises here is likely. One regimen of exercises I like are the 5 Tibetan Rites. They're mentioned in various places, but Rite 1 offers benefits most people are not aware of. Lack of bodily circular motion leads to actual deterioration in brain neuronal function (something to do with the electro-magnetic fields surrounding the earth)- perhaps one reason children instinctively spin around in the garden or in the playground. As one grows older the act of spinning is rarely engaged - Rite 1 will overcome this shortfall.
10. Empowered remembering - Rawn & emc cover this topic extensively, mentioned here for completeness.
Practical training, unlike theoretical studies, requires additional character traits to maintain. This touches on the topic of Soul Mirrors. However, the emphasis within Bardon tends to be, firstly, the removal of the most negative soul-mirror traits. This is a vital preliminary to work on Step III. However, I maintain that certain positive character traits are necessary to actually reach Step III. Without them, that degree of success may prove either elusive or take longer than it need do so.
Bardon raised the issue of the 4 fundamental traits of Knowledge, Volition, Courage & Silence. Of the four, I find Silence to be the most interesting, but for the topic at hand, Knowledge must also include self-knowledge, including that of knowing what positive character traits are needed to achieve the success one seeks.
The following are a few ideas.
Possible psychological factors:
- self-awareness / picking up subtleties in exercise form
- patience / expectations
- desire & acceptance
- short-term goal orientation
- avoiding multiplicity
- consistency- set routine / organised
- conviction / self belief
- control of ego
1. Self-awareness - if an exercise isn't working out or you're failing to approach the training correctly, you need to be sufficiently self-aware to observe what you're doing wrong and correct it. Stubbornness and relying upon will-power alone may not solve the problem.
2. Larvae - rather than a positive trait, this is a negative trait but is worthy of mention to avoid future problems. Bardon doesn't mention these until quite late in IIH, yet if any appreciable larvae exist in the students mind, the Step II & III visualisation exercises will only likely make them worse. These should come up in the Soul Mirror work, but should perhaps be given their due attention before finishing Step I.
3. Patience / expectations - nothing ruins exercise quality better than impatience. Either your expectations are too high and unrealistic (time-wise) or a lack of self-honesty and self-acceptance means you're refusing to accept your true starting point. Impatience prevents our being fully in the moment, subtleties are missed, and progress slowed.
4. Self-acceptance - in my mind this quality goes a step beyond self-honesty, it implies fully accepting and psychologically integrating what one finds. It feeds through into expectations, and serves as the bedrock onto which progress can be built.
5. Desire & acceptance - you really need to want to succeed with Bardon, given the sheer amount of work involved. Perhaps more subtly, you also need to `accept' that success, a willingness to accept the `product' of the training. If a part of your psyche is afraid to succeed, unconscious self-sabotage will undermine your training, and quality will drop off, either gradually or intermittently.
6. Maturity - beyond a `willingness' to accept the results of the training, is the maturity to actually `handle' the results of the training. The Soul mirror work may aide this process, often life itself rather than magical training is the best school. The section I've included later, on the issue of context, is a reflection of my attempts to clarify my own levels of maturity.
7. Short-term goal orientation - in contrast to unrealistic expectations, some measure of time-defined expectation serve as an impetus. It should be sensible, defined in terms of the specific exercise, the amount of time one can devote to practice, etc. Furthermore, it's not about success or failure within a prescribed time limit, it's a guide to channel ones emotional energy. Staying flexible is important.
8. Enthusiasm - looking forwards to each training session shouldn't be overlooked. You don't want it to turn into a chore, especially if it's going to be a lifelong practice. Enthusiasm often arises from short-term, emotional satisfaction. Long-term aspirations are good, but you need at least one pursuit that offers tangible results in a short space of time.
9. Avoiding multiplicity - a big problem I have - being interested in too many things and trying to focus on all of them, all at the same time. Too many foci of attention, split's your focus, your will, and leaves your emotional energy scattered across too many fields. The net result is little progress in any area. The same sort of focus that's required by the mind must also feature in the emotional focus.
10. Consistency - whatever ones latent potential, or the benefits an exercise may bestow, without consistency in practice, those results won't be forthcoming. This isn't the same as discipline or persistence, it's a behavioral characteristic towards the exercises themselves. The difference is subtle but worth mentioning.
11. Set routine / organised - if you're anything like me, without a fixed routine decided beforehand, there's always so many other things going off that demand your attention. No reason to make the training anymore difficult than it already is.
12. Conviction / self-belief - of all the qualities that seem to play a role in achieving success, I reckon this is perhaps the most important one. It doesn't matter what obstacles come along, how much resistance life may throw at you, a strong firm conviction will prove to be the foundation of all other personal qualities. Without it, the qualities of will-power, discipline, persistence, etc. are undermined from within. Developing a firm conviction that you will succeed in the training is crucial.
13. Control of ego - the ego tends to demand satisfaction now, even if waiting a little offers the prospect of an even greater reward. Keeping it in check is vital, though I don't think fighting it is necessary. Persuasion, that will not accept `no', is perhaps best.
14. Discipline - perhaps my favorite topic of meditation at present. Most people take a rather opposing view to discipline, that it's somehow hard work. I reckon that's the wrong approach and will only undermine practice. I like to define discipline as always maintaining a connection to ones purpose or goal, both consciously and sub-consciously. That way discipline isn't something we do against our desires, it simply arises naturally, it's what we want to do. If our goal has been chosen well, and we keep it naturally uppermost in our minds, we'll be itching to practice, not the opposite. Also, the sub-conscious connection is very important, doing only becomes an effort if we have conflicting beliefs about an activity - the soul mirror work will resolve these.
15. Self-confidence - this comes from the doing and is cumulative.
16. Perseverance - fairly self-explanatory, many results only accrue over time. I like to think of those oriental bamboo water features that tip over when they've filled up beyond a certain level, but before that they don't move. On the surface nothing may appear to be happening, until the breakthrough happens. Sometimes only persistence brings the results.
17. Courage - sometimes it takes great courage to look within and face up to our inner demons and flaws.
Quality Defined by Context
This is an area I've spent quite a bit of time on since discovering Bardon - that of defining for myself the context in which I'm doing the training. Despite spending many years searching for a safe, comprehensive system like Bardon's IIH, this was still an area that intuitively I felt needed far more attention, before I step up the intensity of practical training.
It doesn't constitute a part of the Bardon Hermetic training, and it certainly doesn't promote rapid progress through the IIH Steps, but it does touch upon important issues of maturity and motive. For that reason I've included it here. It enables me to add quality to my training in a somewhat broader fashion than that discussed earlier.
How one deals with these particular issues is a very personal matter, and specific to each individual. Nonetheless, over time, I've developed certain mental `constructs' that I've found useful in this aspect of things. Perhaps as I progress, they will be become obsolete or replaced, but for now, I find they hold value.
Adding context to ones training can be helped by defining the following:
1. Spiritual Ideal
2. Personal Ideal (long-term)
3. Current-self Ideal
1. Spiritual Ideal - this construct I use to define the highest, most noble reflection of spirituality that I can respond to on a personal level. Strangely, by that I don't mean God, or any overt reference to God, rather I mean spiritual `values' presented in a form that touch me personally on an emotional, mental and inspirational level. It's my attempt to connect with my conscience, a yardstick to judge my behaviour & motives.
2. Personal Ideal - given that Hermetics is long-term work and continues across lifetimes, I've tried to define the highest personal ideal I can aspire to (as I stand at present). It exceeds what can be achieved in a single life-span, but serves as long-term aspiration/inspiration. Mine is a composite ideal, drawing on various sources, but like the spiritual ideal, also a private matter, so I will offer an interesting model that Bill Mistele mentioned in an email to a correspondent, rather inspiring:
".to become an individual who is so satisfied, complete, and fulfilled in him or herself that you then are able to focus the incredible, incomprehensible powers at your disposal in service of the world without having personal karma and personal agendas or unfinished business from the past interfering with or limiting your clarity and freedom of action".
3. Current Self Ideal - bringing the aspirations down to a current life framework, I use a timeline of 2yrs, 5yrs, 10yrs, and 20yrs. The further out in time, the more abstract it becomes. If one defines success as `becoming what you want to be', then it becomes worthwhile to know exactly what you want to become.
One final point concerns how one approaches the full ten steps of the IIH, and how one perceives them. For motivational reasons, I've split the training into sections. I guess most people would, as there's so much of it, and the ten steps viewed as a whole can be quite daunting, if not a little de-motivating.
The split that I've found useful has been Steps I - III, Steps I - V, Steps I - VIII, & Steps I - X. Divided by the significance of the training and what benefits and potential applications the training has up to that point has, as I perceive it.
If anyone is still looking at IIH is terms of ten Steps, one step at a time, the above structure may prove useful.
Well, times run out, I'll have to leave it there. As I said earlier, this is a reflection of my own personal approach to Bardon, I wouldn't recommend it to anybody else en masse, for the simple reason I'm not experienced enough to know whether it holds any value beyond
myself, but there may be one or two bits within that people may find of interest.
Either way, best of luck with the training!