We love this exercise, but it is not uncommon for people to say – ‘why? I have better things to do with my five minutes than look at a pin!’ But people, this is the inner gym – this is a five-minute exercise for your mind. In a world that is full of distractions – fostering the capacity to concentrate through focused attention is vital to our well-being.

First, we choose a simple everyday man-made object as the subject of our attention. It should be something we have no interest in such as a pin, or button, or paper clip etc. The aim is to maintain a flow of thoughts on something mundane, and thereby strengthen our powers of concentration, rather than choosing an object we have an attraction to – where we would be carried along by an existing interest in the thing.

To choose the same time each day is good or you can employ an otherwise ‘empty’ moment of the day – such as waiting for a bus. Emily does it just before her morning meditation. We start by placing the object before us and describe everything about this object – the texture, colour, form, the way the light reflects on it. We may then begin asking questions – What is it’s use? Why does it have this form? What materials is it made of? How was it made? Could I describe it to someone, without their having seen it before?

One of the aims is to keep our thoughts as vital and alive as possible every time we do this five-minute exercise. In the first attempt, everything is new and interesting – all one’s forces are freshly harnessed and can easily bring a successful result. But with ongoing exercise sessions, the sense of newness will have gone, and the enterprise will be less interesting, even a little boring. It is then that irrelevant, distracting thoughts arise which interrupt the flow of the exercise, therefore interest and focus must be generated anew, wholly out of the strength of our inner thought-forces. That is the workout part – it is here that the true value and efficacy of the exercise will bear fruit.

These three words [attention = interest = love] describe the numinous fruits of working with the thinking exercise from The Six Basic Exercises (see our previous posts). Along with an increased power of concentration, you will find that giving a thing attention will lead to interest in it, and it is from this interest that love for it becomes a real possibility. Thinking then becomes a stairway to love!

You can then take this exercise to the next stage by giving your undivided attention to another person. We may think we do this already, but how about trying it with a colleague that we rarely interact with, or with someone that usually frustrates us a little. If we do it in a warm and mindful way – where we allow the other person to speak, while we are totally present in what they are saying – suspending our own judgements and responses – then in this space, our attention can become interest where understanding, empathy, and love for the other may arise.


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