About the exercises
The following instructions apply to all the exercises in the series Create a Better World. To maximize your benefit from the books, it is crucial that you do the exercises, either on your own or with a reflective conversation partner. In my experience, advice alone is not enough to achieve transformation. What really makes a difference is reflective, engaging and personal processes based on relevant, targeted questions.
By ‘going in, we can work it out’. That is a simple path to insight. Reflection and understanding require time, a calm space and focus. It requires us to ‘get in touch’ with ourselves to discover what matters most for us in relation to the individual questions. Phrases such as ‘sensing yourself’ and ‘getting in touch’ with yourself may sound like abstract concepts, but to those who understand their significance and are able to practise them, they are essential skills to master. To ‘sense yourself’ means to focus your attention inward, going deep inside the body where our emotions are most clearly manifested. Find a calm space where you are not going to be disturbed. Silence your mobile phone and place it face down to avoid being distracted.
Give yourself time and attention.
For many people, this will likely be a novel experience, as most of us are driven by the urge to deliver, focus on others and meet their needs. If you are not experienced in sensing yourself, read the first question of the exercise and close your eyes. Give yourself time to settle in and to sense yourself.
Sense yourself the way you might do when you have just awakened after a good night’s sleep, your pulse slow and, your breathing calm. In this state, you can sense your body and the emotions inside. It is a state that may be rare in a busy everyday life, as it is superseded by other people’s demands and expectations. A state where your thoughts will come and go. When you have just awakened, you may ‘get in touch with’ an urge to pee or a sensation of hunger, desire, joy, gratitude towards life, love. You may also sense that there is something weighing you down. After just waking up, you have excellent conditions for getting in touch with some of the emotional processes unfolding inside your body.
It is important to acknowledge and understand that parts of your brain excels at different things than your body. For example, your mind – driven by reason – knows that smoking is bad for you, while your body – driven by emotion – craves the experience. Somewhat simply put, your body represents the emotional and sensory domain, while your brain represents the rational and reflective domain. Our emotional defences are established from an early age. Consequently, they are often maladaptive and obsolete by the time we reach adulthood, when our personal resources are greater, and our life rests on a different foundation. Thus, it takes focused attention, reflection and development efforts to update our defences to make them more adaptive and helpful.
The development processes I initiate are based on observation, exercises, reflection, empirical and acquired knowledge. The processes lead to insights and, in turn, to awareness, which is translated into wisdom when it reaches a certain level and crystallizes into simplicity. I therefore recommend that you read the chapters carefully and take the time to reflect on the exercise questions one by one and to sense whether the answers you arrive at feel right.
Reflect on the questions one at a time and take the time to answer them one at a time. Write down your answers. When you have done that for all the exercises, compare your answers with the knowledge you have acquired by reading the chapter. Now make that knowledge your own by relating it to your answers to the exercise questions and through reflection, consideration and action.
If you discuss the questions with a conversation partner, you should similarly address one question at a time. Discuss each of the questions in a contactful and reflective manner. Not by quickly running through the questions but in a contactful review of your answers, first all of one person’s answers and then all the other person’s answers. Listen, listen, listen – and ask follow-up questions whenever relevant, but make sure to stay on track without going off on a tangent. When you are the listener, it is important that you help your conversation partner to achieve insights through your persistent focus, follow-up questions and genuine interest. Also, make sure that you also get your turn to be heard.