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Serenity, equanimity, the overcoming of joy and suffering, inner peace, tranquillity or calmness of mind consists in the ability to remain calm and level-headed even in difficult, emotionally stressful situations. However, this in no way means that joy and suffering should be suppressed or even banished into the unconscious. This would only strengthen the desires, emotions and affects that have been repressed into the depths of the soul and would be detrimental to mental health. Rather, it is first and foremost a matter of the I retaining complete control over itself even in the strongest surges of emotions and not being carried away by them, but rather facing them as a sovereign observer at rest in itself. In the next step, one has to willfully ensure that that which deeply moves the soul no longer takes hold of the body shells, i.e. no longer lives itself out in the physical body, in the etheric body and in the unconscious parts of the astral body. The inner, purely spiritual experience is thereby considerably strengthened and becomes more and more conscious. Finally, the I has become strong enough to establish complete peace of mind within, the so-called "stillness of the sea" in the soul. Only then will heaven, i.e. the spiritual world, be reflected undisturbed in the soul. If you practise this ability regularly, you will also develop endurance and tolerance.

Serenity - The Third Subsidiary Exercise

Serenity is the third of the subsidiary exercises which, according to Rudolf Steiner, are indispensable prerequisites for being able to follow a path of spiritual training. It achieves equanimity of feeling and awakens awareness of the astral body.

„In the third month, the training of a certain equanimity in relation to the fluctuations of pleasure and sorrow, joy and pain, and the conscious substitution of an equable mood for the "rejoicing in heaven and saddened to death", should become the focus of life as a new exercise. One should take care that no joy runs away with one, no pain presses one to the ground, no experience drives one to excessive anger or annoyance, no expectation fills one with anxiety or fear, no situation leaves one stunned, etc., etc. Do not fear that such an exercise will make one sober and poor in life; rather, one will soon notice that in place of what occurs through this exercise, more purified qualities of the soul will appear; above all, one will one day be able to feel an inner peace in the body through subtle attention; this one pours into the body, similar to the two cases above, by letting it radiate from the heart to the hands, the feet and finally to the head. In this case, of course, this cannot be done after each individual exercise, since one is not dealing with a single exercise, but with a continuous attention to one's inner soul life. One must call this inner peace before the soul at least once every day and then do the exercise of the outpouring from the heart. With the exercises of the first and second month one behaves as with that of the first month in the second.“ (Lit.:GA 245, p. 15ff)

This exercise is in no way about suppressing or even diminishing emotions. Primarily, it is about deliberately restraining their physical expression, for example through heavy breathing, increased pulse rate, various vocalisations, gestures, facial expressions, body movements, etc., as they occur especially with strong emotions. Blind emotions are thus transformed into very clearly and consciously experienced pure feelings. The purely mental inner experience is not weakened by this, but on the contrary even strengthened.

„With regard to the world of feelings, the soul should achieve a certain composure for the training of the spirit. For this purpose it is necessary that this soul becomes a master over the expression of pleasure and suffering, joy and pain. Many a prejudice can arise against the acquisition of this quality. One might think that one would become dull and apathetic towards one's fellow world if one were not to "rejoice over what is pleasurable and feel pain over what is painful". But this is not the case. A pleasant thing should please the soul, a sad thing should pain it. It should only come to control the expression of joy and pain, of pleasure and displeasure. If one strives for this, one will soon notice that one does not become duller, but on the contrary, more receptive to everything pleasurable and painful in one's surroundings than one was before. However, it requires careful attention to oneself over a longer period of time if one wants to acquire the quality we are talking about here. One must see to it that one can fully experience pleasure and suffering without losing oneself in such a way that one gives an involuntary expression to what one feels. One should not suppress justified pain, but involuntary weeping; not disgust at a bad action, but the blind raging of anger; not paying attention to a danger, but the fruitless "being afraid" and so on. - Only through such practice does the student of the spirit attain to that calmness in his mind which is necessary lest, when he is born and especially when the higher ego is active, the soul should lead a second unhealthy life like a kind of doppelganger beside this higher ego. Precisely with regard to these things one should not indulge in self-deception. It may seem to some that they already have a certain equanimity in ordinary life and that they therefore do not need this exercise. Such a person needs it twice over. For one can be quite serene when confronted with the things of ordinary life; and then, when ascending to a higher world, the lack of equilibrium, which had only been repressed, can assert itself all the more. It must be realised that for the training of the spirit it is not so much a question of what one seems to have before as of practising quite lawfully what one needs. As contradictory as this sentence may seem, it is correct. Even if life has taught you this or that, the qualities that you have taught yourself serve to train your mind. If life has taught you excitement, then you should withdraw your excitement; but if life has taught you equanimity, then you should shake yourself up by self-education so that the expression of the soul corresponds to the impression received. He who can laugh at nothing has no more control over his life than he who, without controlling himself, is continually provoked to laughter.“ (Lit.:GA 13, p. 248ff)

„In the third subsidiary exercise, the balancing of joy and sorrow, we should find our way completely into everything that is happening. Then our etheric body will gradually expand into the expanse of the heavens. We will then no longer feel ourselves inside our body and the whole world around us, but we will feel our body spread out into the whole periphery; we will feel ourselves expanded and poured into the spiritual worlds. One feels, one 'knows' oneself in the spiritual world.“ (Lit.:GA 266c, p. 258)

In Buddhism, equanimity (Sanskritउपेक्षा upekkhā) is one of the "Four Immeasurables", along with love (Sanskritमैत्री maitri; Pali: metta), compassion (Sanskritकरुणा karuna) and sympathetic joy (Sanskritमुदिता mudita), which form the solid basis for all training of the mind.

Inner Peace as a Prerequisite for Spiritual Training

„One initiates meditation by placing the feeling of calm before the soul for about two minutes. Calm is a word that holds great occult power. Gradually a feeling of calm will make itself felt throughout the body.“ (Lit.:GA 266a, p. 240)

„Now let us consider how life is. It is not possible to be entirely free from external impressions. Therefore it is necessary to separate out a short time each day. The short time that is necessary without coming into collision with one's duties is enough - even if it is only five minutes, or even less, it is enough. But then man must be able to tear himself out of all that the sensory impressions have offered him, what he has taken in through his eyes, through his ears, through his sense of touch. He must become blind and deaf for a while to all his surroundings. Everything that flows in on us from outside connects us with the sensual, with everyday life. This must be silenced for a while. A complete inner silence must occur. And then, when this inner peace, this stripping away of all sensory impressions has occurred, something else must come: then all memory of previous sensory impressions must be silent. Consider for a moment how man, through everything I have just mentioned, is always in connection with the temporal and the spatial, in connection with that which comes into being and passes away. Try to examine this for a short while. Take the thought that went through your head a minute ago and check whether it does not lean on the transient. Such thoughts are no good for inner development.

All thoughts that connect us with the finite, with the passing, must be silent. When this silence has been established in the soul, when that which surrounds us as age, tribe, people, century, has been eliminated, when the inner silence has occurred for a while, then the soul begins to speak of its own accord. Not immediately, but it is necessary that the human being should first make it speak, and for this purpose there are means and instructions which call forth this inner language of the soul. Man must give himself over to thoughts, ideas and feelings which do not originate in the temporal but in the eternal, which have not only been true today, yesterday and tomorrow, not only a century ago, but will always be true. You will find such thoughts in the most diverse religious books of all peoples. You will find them, for example, in the Bhagavad Gita, the song of human perfection. Also in the New and Old Testaments, but especially in the Gospel of John from the thirteenth chapter onwards. Such thoughts, which are especially effective for people who belong to the Theosophical Movement and are given to them in the booklet "Light on the Path", you also have in the first four sentences of this book. These four sentences, which are engraved on the inner walls of every initiation temple, these four sayings are not dependent on time and space; they do not belong to one person, not to one family, not to one century, not even to one generation; they reach across the whole evolution. They were true millennia ago and will be true after millennia. They awaken the dormant forces and bring them out from within. However, this must be done correctly. It is not enough to think that one understands the sentence. Man must let such a sentence come to life in his inner being. He must let the whole power of such a sentence radiate within him, he must give himself completely to it. He must learn to love such a sentence. When he believes he understands it, then the right time has come to let it shine in him again and again. It is not a matter of intellectual understanding, but of loving the spiritual truth. The more love for such inner truths flows through us, the more power of inner seeing we gain. Such a sentence does not have to occupy us for one or two days, but for weeks, months and years; then such powers of the soul awaken in us. And then comes a very specific moment when yet another illumination occurs.

He who proclaims theosophical truths through his own experience knows this inner contemplative life. He proclaims theosophical truths to you today, tomorrow. They are a part of a great theosophical picture of the world, which he sees with the inner strength of his spirit and soul. He turns his gaze into the world of the soul and into the spirit-land; he turns his gaze away from the earth to the solar systems in order to explore them. But this power would soon be extinguished in him if he did not give it new nourishment every morning. That is the secret of the secret researcher.“ (Lit.:GA 53, p. 193ff)

Rest in the Spiritual World

„In the spiritual world everything is in perpetual moving activity, in ceaseless creation. There is no rest, no staying in one place, as there is in the physical world. For the archetypes are creative beings. They are the masters of all that comes into being in the physical and spiritual world. Their forms are rapidly changing; and in every archetype lies the possibility of assuming innumerable special forms. They let the special forms sprout from themselves, as it were; and no sooner is one produced than the archetype prepares to let another spring from itself. And the archetypes are more or less related to each other. They do not work in isolation. One needs the help of the other to create. Innumerable archetypes often work together so that this or that entity comes into being in the spiritual or physical world.“ (Lit.:GA 9, p. 122f)

„It would be incorrect to assume a restless restlessness in the spiritual world for this reason, because in it there is no "rest, a dwelling in one place, as they exist in the physical world". Where "the archetypes are creating beings", there is not what can be called "rest in one place", but there is that rest which is of a spiritual kind and which is compatible with active mobility. It can be compared with the quiet satisfaction and contentment of the spirit, which reveal themselves in action, not in inactivity.“ (Lit.:GA 9, p. 202)

Awareness of the Astral Body

The third subsidiary exercise also awakens awareness of the astral body:

„In order to become conscious of our astral body, we must do exactly the opposite. We have to hold back the desires surging in the astral body, we have to develop composure and equanimity towards them. We must establish absolute calm, absolute tranquillity within ourselves. Only then do we feel the outer astral world push against our inner astral world. Just as we come up against the ethereal world by interfering with it in our will, so we feel the outer astral world by remaining calm within ourselves, by putting all our desires and wishes to rest.

Before the astral body is ready, it numbs itself through the cry. We know that pain arises when the physical body and the etheric body are not in proper contact. The astral body feels this as pain. The little child, when it feels pain, cries out. It tries to drown out the pain by crying. The adult may call out: "Ouch! If man were able to let his pain flow completely in the vibrations of sound, then such changes would occur in the formation of the etheric body through its vibrations that he would not feel the pain, but that it would sink down into the subconscious.

But the good gods have predisposed man to be weaker, and it is good that way, for otherwise there would be no suffering and also no articulate language. The esotericist must come to bear all pain, in general everything that is stimulated in him by the outer world, everything that goes on in him, calmly, serenely, equanimously. Then he will not make attacks (through his astral body) upon the outer world, but the attacks will turn upon him from without. But since he has developed complete composure, they only touch his physical and etheric body. The astral body remains untouched. It becomes free, so to speak, and can be observed. So through the exercise in serenity I come to know my astral body.“ (Lit.:GA 266c, p. 244)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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