Exercise to get the right idea at the right time

There is another exercise that is to be practiced especially by those to whom the right idea usually does not occur at the right time.

Such people should try above all things to stop their thinking from being forever influenced and controlled by the ordinary course of worldly events and whatever else may come with them. As a rule, when a person lies down for half an hour’s rest, his thoughts are allowed to play freely in a thousand different directions, or on the other hand he may become absorbed with some trouble in his life. Before he realizes it such things will have crept into his consciousness and claimed his entire attention. If this habit persists, such a person will never experience the occasion when the right idea occurs to him at the right moment.

If he really wants this to happen, he must say to himself whenever he can spare a half hour for rest, “Whenever I can spare the time, I will think about something I myself have chosen and I will bring it into my consciousness arbitrarily of my own free will. For example, I will think of something that occurred two years ago during a walk. I will deliberately recall what occurred then and I will think about it if only for five minutes. During these five minutes I will banish everything else from my mind and will myself choose the subject about which I wish to think.”

He need not even choose so difficult a subject as this one. The point is not at all to change one’s mental process through difficult exercises, but to get away from the ordinary routine of life in one’s thinking. He must think of something quite apart from what enmeshes him during the ordinary course of the day. If nothing occurs to him to think about, he might open a book at random and occupy his thoughts with whatever first catches his eye. Or he may choose to think of something he saw at a particular time that morning on his way to work and to which he would otherwise have paid no attention. The main point is that it should be something totally different from the ordinary run of daily events, something that otherwise would not have occupied his thoughts.

If such exercises are practiced systematically again and again, it will soon be noticed that ideas come at the right moments, and the right thoughts occur when needed. Through these exercises thinking will become activated and mobile — something of immense importance in practical life.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 108 – Practical training in thought – Carlsruhe, January 18, 1909

This translation is by Henry B. Monges in 1949, and was revised by Gilbert Church, Ph.D. in 1966