The Seeker’s Guide by Elizabeth Lesser
Awakening Excercises for Stillness
Set aside a certain amount of time when you can be alone and undisturbed. Five to 10 minutes is a good amount of time for those who are just beginning meditation practice; eventually you may settle on 20 or 30 minutes. Sit on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, and feel a sense of balance and alertness in your posture. Rest your hands on your thighs or knees, and close your eyes. Now, bring your attention to your breath. Take a deep inhalation and release it with a sigh. Relax your shoulders, your jaw, and your belly. Release anything you are holding on to and give yourself permission to take these few minutes for yourself.
Staying alert yet relaxed, bring your attention to your breathing. Observe your natural inhalations and exhalations. Witness each in-breath as it enters your body and fills it with energy. Witness each out-breath as it leaves your body and dissipates into space. Then start again, bringing your alertness to each breath.
In less than one minute your mind will probably be flooded with thoughts. You may become aware of pain in your body. Perhaps you will feel restless, anxious, or bored. You will begin to tell yourself stories about your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
Congratulations! You are meditating. The purpose of meditation is to become aware of your thoughts without judging or fighting them. Your goal is not to get rid of your thoughts, but rather to witness each thought as it comes and goes, like clouds passing in the sky. In this way, you begin to identify less with your thoughts—the “voice in your head”—and more with the still and alert Presence that is your essence.
Awakening Exercise for Chapter 1: Free Yourself from Your Mind
The best way of assimilating the teachings of A New Earth is through reading, contemplating and slowly digesting the concepts in the book. You can also take any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and give it your fullest attention.
Choose one or two activities you do routinely and bring your attention to them. Here are three examples.
Every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house or place of work, pay close attention to every step, every movement…even your breathing. Be totally present.
When you wash your hands, pay attention to all the sensory perceptions associated with the activity: the sound and feel of the water, the movement of your hands, the scent of the soap and so on.
When you get into your car, after you close the door, pause for a few seconds and observe the flow of your breath. Become aware of a silent but powerful sense of presence.
Awakening Exercise for Chapter 2: Listen for the Voice in Your Head
A few times a day, listen quietly for the voice in your head, the stream of continuous self-talk. Then ponder the following questions. Just be with the questions. Don’t necessarily try to answer them
Am I the thoughts that are going through my head?
Or, am I the one who is aware that these thoughts are going through my head?Pay attention to the gap between your thoughts—when one thought subsides and before another arises. In this way, you draw consciousness away from mind activity and create a gap of no-mind in which you are highly alert and aware but not thinking. When these gaps occur, you disidentify from your mind and feel a certain stillness and peace inside you. This is the essence of meditation and the single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment.
Awakening Exercise for Chapter 3: Exercises to Help You Grow in Presence
Are you so busy getting to the future that the present is reduced to a means of getting there? There are simple things you can do to bring your attention to the here and now. You can measure your success in this practice by the degree of peace that you feel within.
Be patient. It is not easy at first to be there as the witnessing Presence, especially when the ego is in survival mode, but once you have had a taste of it, you will grow in Presence power, and the ego will lose its grip on you. The ultimate purpose of human existence, which is to say, your purpose, is to bring that power into the world.
Become aware of your breathing. Feel the air flowing in and out of your body. Feel your inner energy field. All that you ever have to deal with, cope with, in real life—as opposed to imaginary mind projections—is this moment. Ask yourself what “problem” you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or five minutes from now. What is wrong with this moment?
Give up waiting as a state of mind. When you catch yourself slipping into waiting…snap out of it. Come into the present moment. Just be, and enjoy being. If you are present, there is never any need for you to wait for anything. So, next time somebody says, “Sorry to have kept you waiting.” You can reply: “That’s all right, I wasn’t waiting. I was just standing here enjoying myself.”
Awakening Exercise for Chapter 4: Using and Relinquishing Negativity
Recurring negative emotions do sometimes contain a message. Any changes that you make, whether they have to do with your work, your relationships or your surroundings, are ultimately only cosmetic unless they arise out of a change in your level of consciousness. When you reach a certain degree of presence, you won’t need negativity anymore to tell you what is needed in your life situation. But as long as negativity is there, use it. Use it as a kind of signal that reminds you to be more present.
Whenever you feel negativity arising within you, whether caused by an external factor, a thought or even nothing in particular that you are aware of, look on it as a voice saying, “Attention. Here and now. Wake up. Get out of your mind. Be present.”
Feel yourself becoming transparent, without the solidity of a material body. Now allow whatever you are reacting negatively to—the noise of the car alarm, the dog barking, the traffic jam—to pass right through you. It is no longer hitting a solid “wall” inside you.
Become like a deep lake. The outer situation of your life, whatever happens there is like the surface of the lake—sometimes calm, sometimes windy and rough. Deep down, however, the lake is always undisturbed. You are the whole lake, not just the surface. Practice being in touch with your own depth, which remains absolutely still.
Awakening Exercise for Chapter 5: Dissolving the Pain-Body
The pain-body doesn’t want you to observe it directly. The moment you observe the pain-body, feel its energy field within you and take your attention into it, the identification is broken. A higher dimension of consciousness comes in. It is called Presence. You are now the witness or the watcher of the pain-body.
Here are three ways to observe and dissolve the pain-body:
Watch out for any sign of unhappiness in yourself in whatever form—it may be the awakening pain-body. This can take the form of irritation, impatience, a somber mood, a desire to hurt, anger, rage, depression, a need to have some drama in your relationship and so on. Catch the pain-body the moment it awakens from its dormant stage.
Observe the resistance within yourself. Observe the attachment to your pain. Be very alert. Observe the peculiar pleasure you derive from being unhappy. Observe the compulsion to talk or think about it. The resistance will cease if you make it conscious.
Focus attention on the negative feeling inside you. Know that it is the pain-body. Accept that it is there. Don’t think about it—don’t let the feeling turn into thinking. Don’t judge yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you.