From Chapter 1:
There is a lot of talk about right action in various self help, spiritual, and new age circles. Right action is an important concept, but … what is it?....
We’re breaking it down outside of the mold of being subservient to, or bound to, a specific group morality or set of goals. What we are after is achieving a higher degree of right action in your own life, for your own goals or purposes. (I’m not saying anything is wrong with any given set of morals or goals, they just aren’t applicable right here.)
Right action in this sense tends to flow- without much worry, without much distraction, without self recrimination or self sabotage.
From Chapter 2:
Why self help? The basic answer is - because YOU can! You don’t need an authority to give you permission to change yourself or your life, or control you so that you do it “right.”
A person comes into the self help field because they are incongruent. Meaning that parts of themselves seem disparate or discordant. Something isn’t right. The key, whether your self help journey is alone or with the benefit of others- including counselors- is that the solution lies within you. Everyone is potentially a self actualizing and competent individual.
From (well, ALL OF) Chapter 4, with the exercises:
Meditation is a big word. Full of different meanings and purposes and rules for different practices. There’s no need right now to get into anything really heavy on the “right” way to meditate, the “wrong” way to meditate, or a big goal of (for example) reaching a changed state of being or getting outside of the body. Right now, for purposes of self help, we want some basic psychological and physiological benefits and the benefits of taking the time and control of our own lives in doing some meditation.
Psychology and physiology.
It’s very well known - and has been since the 1970s, that meditation has a direct physiological (body) effect. One of the primary mechanisms is the reduction of activity in the sympathetic nervous system- which is generally running way too high for our health. We constantly learn more about the effects. But here’s a list of some of the benefits:
Improved circulation of blood and lymph.
Lower heart rate and blood pressure.
Lower blood cortisol levels and sometimes lower epinephrine production (stress hormones)
Psychologically (and some of this is naturally related to physiology)
Lower anxiety levels
Feelings of deeper relaxation
Lower stress levels.
(I could go on for an entire book on the benefits. As if these aren’t enough!)
There is also a control factor in doing a daily meditation. And you don’t have to be any “good” at meditation to benefit from this increase in control of your life. You are making the time, taking the time, owning the time, to set aside to do this. It’s yours, nobody else’s.
For some, this can be the first important step in sensing control over one’s own life.
Meditation also influences Right Action. Right action can be planned, or often appear intuitive. Right action flows out of a calm mind, which is a key benefit of meditation practice.
I’ll present two basic meditations for now:
1: The 2 minute retreat:
One of the quickest and simplest ways to meditate is to sit comfortably (you can even do this standing), close your eyes, and count 20 long slow breaths.
There’s really no “wrong” way to do this. If you can maintain enough focus to breathe slowly for 20 breaths, you are doing fine.
Once you start doing this- better a few times a day, but even a few times a week- you will gain in ability to focus on just counting breaths, without distracting thoughts.
One of the things about “distracting thoughts” is that there will nearly always be some thoughts. What you want to do is learn to first control the distraction level. Accepting that the thought happened and letting it go is probably the best way to reduce the distraction level, and the stresses, that thoughts input into your life. Trying to ignore it or push it away won’t work as well. It’s like Aikido, you can’t let go of something you are pushing on.
Recording that you did these in your notebook will help build momentum and your internal horsepower, as well as give you some sense of how often you do.
2: Timer meditation.
A structured meditation practice for the beginning level would be to set aside a time in the morning (morning is probably best, but anytime will work, try to avoid right after big meals) to sit down and meditate for a time.
This version is a variation of what is commonly called mindfullness meditation. The primary goal isn’t to eliminate the mind, or still it completely, but to quiet down the frantic nature.
Sit comfortably and set a timer. You may want to start with 5 minutes, but push up to 15 minutes as quickly as you can (beyond fifteen minutes is great, too).
Focus on your breath, the ticking of a clock or a slow metronome, or if you prefer having your eyes open, focus on a still object. Iif doing an open eyes meditation, make sure the space around you is visually empty as possible, and definitely uncluttered and aesthetically pleasing.
Maintain that focus as well as you can. Thoughts are going to come up. The goal here is to recognize the thought, acknowledge or thank it, and let it go, maintaining attention on the breathing or focus.
That’s it! It isn’t quite as easy to do as it is to know about, as simple as this is. But it wouldn’t work very well if it was overly complicated, anyway.
From Chapter 9, one of the signature mini-projects
1: No Negatives.
I’m going to lead off with a Big One. This is a huge project, and can have some really profound effects. The project goal is to say nothing negative to yourself or anyone else for a week.
To illustrate this, I’ll use a counter example. I have a neighbor who is pretty much the exact opposite of this goal. I have to limit my exposure, because while I do think good of and for her, and find actual enjoyment in playing the game of “find the positive in the negative” with her, she’s so conditioned to this that conversations can get off track and I lose my center a bit.
This is what she does: she says EVERYTHING in a negative way. Often enough it’s just pure negatives. What we could call “bitchin for the sake of bitchin.” But when she has something nice to say or positive to report, it is bracketed between negatives. EVERY SINGLE TIME. First something negative, then the positive, then the negative spin. Every time.
So, the project is actually to get to that level of positive statements. Make even a justified complaint into a positive. no negatives!
(It’s not that hard. It does take more confidence to state “my coffee order is wrong” without blame or negatives than it does to whine or bitch about it. But it’s perfectly possible.)
You will slip on this. Probably within minutes of starting the project (with negative self talk). But pay attention and do your best and you will find some pretty cool changes.
If you get the hang of this, you may want to extend it for another week and then make it a personal reminder whenever you do find yourself communicating or thinking in negatives.
Again, while it may seem wimpy, or you may want to hold onto blame, give this a try. And no cheating! underhanded negativity couched in positive terms is still negative!
From the Conclusion:
This small manual is just a beginning, but it’s an important beginning. In reality, you can go far with just the few simple activities in this book.
In future manuals I will describe many other topics and exercises, feel free to pick and choose. Remember that some things you shy away from or have a negative reaction to trying out can be the most important.
These exercises will help develop momentum and “horsepower.” Horsepower being the ability to reach deeper into yourself and improve more. You may be starting out with a blank on what to do, a blockage on finding goals or your inner purposes. The only way to make progress clearing up whatever is blocking you is to start Doing.
This is, in essence, a spiritual journey. Working with the brain and body does clear up the access and input/output lines between your mind, essence (or soul), and the universe. This is because the brain and body are the interface point for the three.
As you develop your access and broaden your input/output pipelines, you can delve deeper into spiritual aspects and the Big Wins. But place plenty of importance on these smaller exercises and projects, sometimes the deeper spiritual exercises are the same ones, just done with more horsepower and bigger I/O pipes.
Like what you see? The book is available on amazon, with the second and third volumes nearly done now.