Do not let your attention flag towards the end and you will complete your task.
All that is truly great is achieved slowly, imperceptibly.
Attend To Attention
- First steps in Auto-Training.
- Improve attention, imagination, memory and stamina.
- Using rhythm.
- Dispersing attention.
The preliminaries over, we can now get down to Auto-Training proper. This chapter introduces the basic exercises that will enable you to progress to more advanced stages of Auto-Training. It gives a general psychological training similar to the all-round physical training athletes undertake irrespective of their particular field. There is still relatively little Auto-Suggestion in the exercises but they nevertheless require a fair amount of concentration. This chapter is not a straightforward session of keep-fit, even of the psychological variety, since there are additional explanations and digressions here and in subsequent chapters, that may sometimes interrupt the logical flow. This section, therefore, should be seen as a guide to independent practice rather than a textbook to be followed religiously.
You may find some of the techniques have a more general application beyond your Auto-Training sessions.
A TypicalL Session of Auto-Training
Suppose you get home from work at about six o'clock. If you do not want anything to eat then, if possible, have a bath or shower, change into something comfortable, and you are ready to begin. If you want to have a meal first then it is better to take a short stroll afterwards before starting Auto-Training or you are likely to simply fall asleep (although this, too, can be very helpful at times).
You might like to organise your Auto-Training along these lines:
The first three boxes are to be filled in before and the last two after the session. Notes of this sort are not essential but they can be useful.
Once you have decided on your aims, the time you have set aside is yours to use as you please. If your time is limited, however, before getting settled down to practise, it can be helpful to set an analogue alarm clock to go off, say, after about 15 minutes, but with the button switched to "off". The click will tell you when to finish so you need not worry about being late.
You are now ready to start Auto-Training. Get comfortable. Have trust yourself and concentrate hard.
Do exercises of concentration, relaxation and suggestion in the order you planned before starting. Feel that you are doing something that is both necessary and enjoyable: it is something for yourself as well as a well-earned rest. You are getting to know yourself. Everything that happens in these moments is very valuable.
A Rough Plan for an Auto-Training session (Week Five)
- Prepare a place for training. Determine your aims. (1 minute)
- Get into a comfortable position. General and localised relaxation; relaxed breathing. (2-3 minutes)
- Auto-Suggestion of warmth in the body. (5 minutes)
- Goal-oriented Auto-Suggestion: "I'm calm"; "I like talking to people". (5 minutes)
- Coming out of Auto-Suggestion and toning up. (1 -2 minutes)
- Stretching and energising exercises. (3-4 minutes)
Total: approximately 20 minutes.
Taming Your Attention
And now for the first digression. “I should be busy writing by now but I'm still just sitting here doodling. A few more minutes to get my imagination working and I'll start. I’ll just try a few faces. Must get the eyebrows straight. What about a beard… There we are… He looks just like me now… A few more strokes here… Fine, a demon with fiendish horns. Oops, nearly forgot! Must ring B. to find out how his move went. Engaged.
Oh goodness, I ought to ring the neighbours as well, and X. This is hopeless! There’s just too much to do! It’s absolutely impossible to concentrate! ...
Our attention occasionally does what it is told, but at other times it has a will of its own. Anyone who has ever tried to concentrate on something knows this all too well.
You can almost feel an inner force pushing your attention away if you try to fixate it for too long on something; the longer you try to hold it, the more persistent the interference. For example, it is often more difficult listening for a long time than it is speaking. Clearly it is natural for our attention to be in a state of movement; one of the first things we learn as children is to focus our concentration selectively.
However, it is very tiring if we keep switching our attention very quickly from one object to another; we all evidently have our own natural rhythm for doing this. When our attention starts to wander it latches onto something else, anything rather than what we ought to be considering. It is very hard work having to concentrate on something: only our emotions can easily command our attention.
The quality of our concentration is eroded if we are indifferent to the subject matter. We need some emotional commitment to it, whether positive (listening to our favourite music, for example,), negative (we cannot stop thinking about an impending exam or an important meeting we have next day), or neutral, information-seeking (we are being told an important piece of news that does not affect us personally).
Attention feeds either on something that instantly stimulates our emotions, that is to say, something that already holds some significance for us, or on something of potential significance, that is, something novel. Having "consumed" one novelty, our attention then seeks a second helping. After a time, a lack of novelty triggers an impulse to switch to something different; if this does not happen, then the quality of our attention deteriorates, in other words, our level of arousal drops (asleep, we pay zero attention). In fact, you can formulate a law that holds for our waking life similar to that concerning the conservation of energy: attention is always conserved (if it wanders from one object it will inevitably latch onto another). Boredom requires us to either fall asleep or switch our attention onto something else. There is, however, a third possibility: invention, or the triumph of the imagination.
At the moment it is just an ordinary ink blot and, as such, is fairly boring, but the moment we start trying to see things in it (faces, objects, whatever you like), it takes on a fascinating life of its own and has an enlivening effect on us.
Our attention is not just a searchlight illuminating everything within its range, it is also a builder collecting the individual bricks produced by our mind and building them into walls, buildings and cities, using whatever it is focused on asfoundations. We can hold it on something for a long time if we create novelty around the target object, in other words, by using imagination and Auto-Suggestion. Fixating our attention in this way produces an unusual but not always an unpleasant state of mind that can sometimes be extremely positive and productive. People working in the arts and religious thinkers discovered this long ago: for centuries, chanting, rhythmic swaying, meditation and introspective concentration have been used to induce states of ecstasy and trance.
Auto-Training, too, begins with attention exercises. At first they are as straightforward, or perhaps even more elementary, than the demands made on our concentration in everyday life, but they differ from this semi-spontaneous redirection of attention in that they have a very clear aim and order. The aim is to control the duration and intensity of our concentration. Although complete success is unrealistic, the mere fact of trying will take us ever closer to our goal.
An average ability to concentrate is quite adequate and will develop with practice. However, some beginners experience difficulty because they have poor control over their attention and find it hard to concentrate with the necessary intensity for the required period; the object they are supposed to be concentrating on floats away and dissolves, and something else replaces it unbidden.
Others find their concentration inert, that is, they cannot switch it easily onto something new.
Auto-Suggestion for Concentration
So we end up with a vicious circle: Auto-Suggestion would help us concentrate but in order to use Auto-Suggestion effectively we need to concentrate well.
Where do we start?
Our aim is to be able to concentrate without it being an unpleasant experience since we are not doing Auto-Training to torment ourselves, quite the reverse. The ideal is to be able to learn to make concentration enjoyable, to take a pleasure in single-pointed concentration that borders on inspiration. Being realistic, however, we will opt for something easy to start with: we shall learn how to concentrate on new information. This is what we do many times a day in answer to the command:
Even if you are the most unresponsive person alive you will know what it is like to prick up your ears at these words and to prepare yourself to listen or watch, that is, you are already familiar with this feeling of concentrating on new information, or concentrating on concentrating.
ATTENTION! ACHTUNG! ATTENZIONE! VNIMANIE!
The Four Concentric Circles
As an actor, Stanislavsky* realised that the secret of self-regulation lies in knowing how to control your attention. He consequently devised a simple diagram to help actors regulate the range of their attention and, through this, their feelings and actions.
He divided the whole of Attention Space into three circles:
• The large circle: the whole of visual and perceptual space (in the theatre, this is the auditorium).
• The medium circle: the region of personal experience and relationship with others (in the theatre, this is the stage and the actors).
• The small circle: the actor him or herself and the space immediately around in which he or she moves and acts.
This may be a fairly simplistic plan but it is useful nonetheless. In daily life our attention is divided among approximately the same three circles. I would add only one more,
• The inner circle: the part of our attention concerned with the events occurring inside us, since we can also be occupied with our own thoughts and feelings.
The direction of our attention depends primarily on what we are doing and on the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Although this is subject to variation, we could say that, in general, when we are out fell-walking, for example, our attention is directed primarily on the large circle, in a shop, on the middle circle, in the bathroom, on the small circle, and at the dining table or a desk, on the small and inner circles. When we are eating something delicious, for example, coughing, sneezing or performing other natural functions, our attention is concentrated almost exclusively on the inner circle. Our circle of attention is minimal when we are falling asleep.
In some psychological conditions, attention is directed predominantly towards one of the four circles, the same is true of some character types. People who are introverted, for example, are more inclined to concentrate on the small and inner circles than extraverts. In some abnormal states, hypochondria in particular, the attention is fixated almost exclusively on the inner circle, since sufferers are constantly occupied with physiological sensations, fearfully watching out for the least change in their condition.
Regulating the focus of our attention is obviously important for us all, not just for actors; and so to the first exercise.
"Pay attention! My mind's a searchlight. It has the power to illuminate anything with amazing clarity and brilliance. Nothing exists other than whatever it illuminates. Everything else is shrouded in darkness. The searchlight is my attention. I can direct it wherever I like. It can move everywhere and penetrate anything. I can easily direct it to illuminate anything I choose with clarity and brilliance…"
This should be the gist of the Auto-Suggestion preceding any exercise involving concentration. The searchlight is simply an image chosen for convenience. You may think of something better.
Sitting or lying in a relaxed position, choose a point in the large circle: for example, a distant light, a tree or a star (if you prefer, you could select a sound as your point of concentration, a gentle, distant sound of some kind). Choose a second point on the boundary between the small and the inner circles. This can be anything you like (for example, your little finger, the tip of your nose, the end of your chin) as long as you cannot quite see it. Next, with your eyes open or closed, or alternately open and closed, sweep the searchlight of your attention from one point to the other and back.
Remember that the searchlight must home in on both points with a maximum of concentration. Fix all your senses on these points as though you wanted to swallow, absorb or hypnotise them, feel yourself dissolving into them, and relax. You are now inseparably bound to the points, without exerting any effort whatsoever. Vary the rhythm as you sweep the searchlight to and fro: one second on each point, ten seconds, a minute, ‘n’ seconds, sweep in time to your breathing.
Und wenn ich jetzt vom Buch die Augen hebe,
wird nichts befremdlich sein und alles gross.
Dort draussen ist, was ich hier drinnen lebe,
und hier und dort ist alles grenzenos;
nur dass ich mich noch mehr damit verwebe,
wenn meine Blicke an die Dinge passen.
Rainer Marie Rilke**
It is very important to be able to determine where your attention is and to change its direction at will. If, for example, you have been concentrating on the small circle for a long time (you have been typing, or studying), then to rest you should switch to an occupation in the medium circle, (sport, say). Games like chess, cards or even a fairly energetic party of billiards will not do since your attention remains primarily in the small circle. Alternatively, you can rest by switching to the inner circle (Auto-Training, relaxation, or sleep).
Learning to Look (uninterrupted contemplation)
Assume a comfortable, relaxed position, and for a few minutes (no more than 5) stare intently at any object (a coin, a box of matches, a pencil, your finger, a cup, etc.). Illuminate it with the searchlight of your attention. You can blink, but keep your gaze fixed on the object. You may notice that, although you are still staring at it, your attention keeps trying to wander off along various chains of associations. Keep bringing it back. Examine the object carefully, moving your gaze over its surface and trying to spot new details the whole time. Repeat the exercise until your attention rests on it without undue
Sit down facing a wall 2-5 yards away. Choose two points on the wall one above the other, about 18 inches apart. Move your gaze very slowly from one point to the other, moving slower and slower all the time. You will notice that your eyelids gradually relax and feel heavy, whilst it becomes more and more difficult to raise your eyes. Note and recall this sensation and it will help you when you are sinking into deep self-hypnosis or controlling the process of falling asleep.
Contemplating a point 5 yards distant (for 10-20 minutes) is a technique used in yoga for rest and meditation.
Learning to Attend (rhythmic contemplation)
Choose an object and concentrate on it. Continuing to examine it intently, breathe in lightly. Breathe out gently, closing your eyes and erasing the image from your mind. Breathe in again, opening your eyes, and again concentrate on the object. Repeat up to 50 times. Repeat in reverse: contemplate on exhalation and erase on inhalation. Choose a different rhythm, for example, keep your eyes fixed on the object to a silent count of five, then close your eyes for a count of two. Combine counting with breathing: you will notice that it is much easier to concentrate when you do so rhythmically.
These exercises are useful as a basic training for concentration. The second is a preparation for the technique of Auto-Suggestion using rhythmic breathing which is described in chapter 10.
Learning to Absorb (contemplating a mental image)
Contemplate an object for at least 3-4 minutes either continuously or rhythmically. Then close your eyes for the same amount of time and try to reproduce a detailed picture of the object in your head. Open your eyes and compare the mental "photo" with the real object. Repeat 5-10 times. The aim is to visualise the object as clearly as possible. The picture will not, of course, be as clear-cut as in reality: at first the outline will be indistinct, rather like a silhouette in the twilight, but persistence will be rewarded.
Once you have learnt how to absorb simple objects and shapes in this way, you can progress to wider panoramas. Your visual memory will improve significantly and you will be able to assimilate any amount of information by mentally contemplating it in small successive doses.
Some Renaissance artists practised this technique for controlling the visual memory. It can subsequently be used in Auto-Suggestion.
Our Internal Video Scope
For anything from 30 seconds to 3 minutes concentrate very hard, first on one object (a match box, for example), and then on another (a glass, say), so that they imprint themselves distinctly on your brain. Then imagine the box is in the glass. Perform similar operations: for example, imagine a glass falling and smashing on the floor. Collect the pieces and try to put the glass together again. You will find that, even in your imagination, it is much more difficult to mend the glass than to break it. (This exercise, incidentally, is a good way of getting rid of pent up aggression, if no other outlet is to hand).
The last three types of exercise are particularly useful for anyone wishing to develop a powerful visual and spatial imagination. Once you have mastered them you will be able to manipulate images freely and create your own internal video scope, a powerful tool for Auto-Suggestion. Some people cannot conjure up visual images however hard they try. Do not be disheartened if you find this difficult: it simply means you will find some other exercises particularly easy, for example, those involving sound, feeling or movement.
Get Inside Your Finger
As we have already established, our skin marks the border between the internal and external circles of our attention. We can concentrate on any point on this surface, as we do involuntarily when we knock into something, want to scratch, or experience sensual pleasure. Our aim is now to learn how to fix our attention on any point of our body at will.
Fixation of the finger: a simple exercise which can serve as the key to all Auto-Training techniques.
For the first exercise use the index finger of your right hand (or of your left if you are left-handed. This applies to any further exercises in which the right arm, hand or leg etc., is mentioned).
Eyes open (preparatory stage).
Look carefully at the end of your index finger as if you were seeing it for the first time and were intending to study it thoroughly, in other ,words, treat it as an interesting unfamiliar object (see ex. 3). Use rhythmic contemplation, too, if you like. If at this stage you can already begin to feel a pulsating warmth in your finger, you are doing very well.
Eyes closed (basic exercise).
Assume a relaxed and comfortable pose, sitting or lying, the important thing being that your finger is supported (on your knee, the bed, the arm of a chair, whatever is most convenient). Close your eyes and, without thinking about anything, concentrate on the tip of your index finger. You are not interested in anything apart from this small area of skin lying on its support. It is demanding your full attention: the whole world consists of nothing but your concentrated attention and the end of your finger. It is your single point of contact with the world, your one channel of perception.
Breathe more freely, try not to tense or move your hand and your finger, although you should not be holding them too stiffly either. Concentrate on your finger, the end of your finger and nothing else. Enjoy feeling where it touches its support. Try to visualise every millimetre of your skin and its contact with its support as though you were examining them under a microscope. Imagine the impulses sent from your finger to your brain. Imagine a fire smouldering on the tip of your finger. Improvise, invent anything you like to hold your attention.
The final stage of the exercise is a distinct feeling of warmth and a pulsating in the finger, and often the illusion that it has grown or even changed shape.
This technique is useful in itself, and is the first step in vascular Auto-Training which will be discussed subsequently. Like all exercises of intense concentration, it induces a state of partial hypnosis.
To release the fixation:
In order to switch your selective attention from the end of your finger, sweep your searchlight into the large circle.
You will have perfected the exercise when the pulsating begins within 30 seconds and disappears just as quickly when you relax your attention. Then you can repeat it with your other fingers and toes, singly, together, and in combinations of two's and three's. The next step is to concentrate on other parts of the body in the same way: there are endless variations.
My experience of practical psychotherapy has shown that concentrating on different parts of the body often enables us to Auto-Suggest varying psychological states. This is explained by the fact that our overall mood is reflected in the body picture we present, and this is determined by the state of our muscles, skin, ligaments, etc. When we are confident, for example, we involuntarily square our shoulders, when we are being decisive we tend to clench our fists slightly and stand with our legs firmly apart. Our involuntary attention categorises all these alternatives as changes in our mental body picture. I will not go into details since the physical exponents of psychological states vary greatly from individual to individual; but if you experiment bearing this in mind you may well discover something useful.
“It just has to cross my mind that I could get a headache (or have a pain in my chest, stomach or back), and I immediately have one; the worse it gets the more I think about it, and the more I think about it the worse it gets. If I can just manage to stop thinking about myself for a while I'm okay."
You may be familiar with this difficulty and may have suffered from it yourself at times. This undesirable preoccupation with ourselves is one of the paradoxical states discussed earlier.
Just stop reading for a few minutes and try not to think about black cats: anything you like but not black cats! You will probably find that the harder you try not to, the more insistently your mind returns to our dark feline friends. So what can you do to stop thinking about them?
In fact, it is very simple: rather than trying to stop thinking about them, think about something else instead: green crocodiles, spotted giraffes, striped zebras, purple parrots, anything you like. If you want to stop concentrating on one particular object the only way to do so is to transfer your attention to something different. Auto-Training can divert concentration away from many neurotic states.
Oscillating Concentration (An observation on the optimum rhythm of our attention)
Let us go back to our biorhythms and recall that our bodies are constantly moving and pulsating. Even if a sentry has gone numb standing on guard duty in the cold for hours on end, with the right apparatus it is nevertheless possible to detect tiny rhythmic movements in his stiffened body. Although he has been staring fixedly at one spot, his eyes have been making micro-movements the whole time. If you examine him closely, even his tightly-clenched fists have been clenching and unclenching so quickly as to be imperceptible.
Our attention oscillates in exactly the same way, even when it seems to be firmly fixed on something. Concentration is never immobile and keeps returning to the object under scrutiny. It is only when this oscillation has attained its optimum rhythm that there arises a sensation of continuity. Anything that holds our attention effectively is rhythmic, from simple physiological functions to art. Consequently, Auto-Suggestion is most effective if it, too, is rhythmic.
The main point to remember about concentration is that it is perfectly normal for your attention to wander, you only need to worry if it does not return!
Really Get Into the Taste and Colour of Things
Exercises that help to develop a feeling for words and a lively imagination can later be used for goal-orientated Auto-Suggestion. These exercises are best practised when you are already relaxed. (If you are reading in the third way then you will have read the previous chapter and should have a fairly good idea of how to get rid of tension). Concentrate on each image for between 1-10 minutes.
Try to visualise and hold in your imagination as vivid a picture as possible, almost a hallucination, of:
• snow-white whitewash,
• gnarled brown bark,
• egg-yellow egg yolk,
• ruby-red wine,
• beautiful black grapes,
• green grass.
Visualise and taste:
• a tart thin slice of lemon,
• a mug of steaming hot chocolate.
Visualise and feel:
• a sharp needle,
• fluffy cotton wool,
• soft down
(From the last two images you can easily progress to that of sinking into a soft feather bed, a good complement to general relaxation. Relax into a bath, sway gently in a slowly rocking boat or hammock, etc.)
Imagine as vividly as possible, using all your senses:
• the cold blade of a knife,
• dry leaves and twigs crackling on a bonfire,
• a cold wet handkerchief on your forehead,
• a summer shower of rain,
• a coffee percolator bubbling away.
Imagine whole scenes, for example:
• You are stretched out lazily on the beach listening to the crash of the surf and soaking up the welcome hot sunshine. You sit up and gaze out to sea at the heads of swimmers bobbing up and down amidst the playful white horses.
• Look at the horizon, the dark silhouette of a ship gliding silently by and black storm clouds gathering; a plane bisects the sky. Watch the other people on the beach: some children are building sand castles; others are playing ball; a dog is chasing around barking; a family is having a picnic. The sun is so strong that you keep having to shift your position because you are too hot. You would love a swim. You run down the sandy beach and into the cool, refreshing water.
The ability to conjure up vivid impressions at will is usually considered a more advanced stage of Auto-Training. However, some people attain it very early on and it can then speed your mastery of more elementary stages, (for example, you can use the Auto-Suggestion " On the beach" to induce a feeling of warmth). Success depends on the way you think and perceive as well as the quality of your concentration. People who think in a very visual and concrete way can easily conjure up scenes for the Auto-Suggestion of various states; those with more abstract, auditory, tactile or kinaesthetic thought processes find it easier to evoke individual sensations out of context.
How to Think about Nothing
(Special exercises for dispersing the concentration)
The aim of these exercises is the exact opposite, that is, to disperse your concentration completely, to let your attention wander and to prevent it from settling on any one thing. (This is similar to a baby's state when he or she is alert but does not want anything).
The exercises should last from 1-5 minutes.
"Skimming, eyes open.
Lying or sitting, fix your gaze on one point (on the wall two yards in front of you, for instance). Using this as the central point, draw with your eyes a circle about a yard in diameter. Move your eyes randomly from one point in the circle to another, resting on each for a second. Drive all thoughts and ideas from your mind: you are completely absorbed in skimming from one spot to another.
As above, except that you do not direct your gaze but let it move anywhere within the circle. Nothing else interests you.
Skimming, eyes closed.
Sitting or lying, simply close your eyes and try to think of nothing. You will probably not succeed since thoughts, recollections and ideas will come into your head of their own accord. Do the same as in the first variant above: as soon as one thought or image comes to mind try to "skim" gently onto another, from this onto a third, and so on (a cat, a scarf, a shoe). You are now thinking about nothing because you are thinking about everything. Your attention leaps tangentially from one idea to another. Continue for 2-5 minutes and then let your attention wander freely. Repeat each stage in turn. You may feel drowsy during these exercises and they can help you fall asleep.
This is only possible if you have already grasped the essence of Auto-Suggestion.
Close your eyes. Order yourself to forget everything, to feel that you know nothing, and that everything is unfamiliar. For 2-3 minutes perform the tangential leaps described above and then open your eyes suddenly.
If the Auto-Suggestion has worked, you will see familiar surroundings anew, as something quite unfamiliar. Repeat about 5 times and each time the effect will be more powerful. You will be approaching the first perception of the world you experienced as a young a child and which, as an adult, you experience for only a few fractions of a second on waking: smooth unfamiliar surfaces, strange shapes and colours, their significance vague and the connection between then incomprehensible. It is impossible to retain this vision for long and you have done well if it lasts for even a few seconds.
Exercises for dispersing the concentration, especially "re-birth", are useful when you are engaged in intensive creative work (writing, painting, etc.) since they are conducive to rest and help new ideas emerge from your subconscious.
Pulsation of the attention (a special exercise for people engaged in mental work who would like to develop their mental agility).
Concentrate on an object, an idea or a calculation: an equilateral triangle or a sum like 359 x 648 will do. Concentrate intensively for 15-30 seconds, stop abruptly and plunge into a state of total prostration and relaxation for about 10 seconds. Repeat, alternating, 10 times. (Also see the "Echo-Magnet, Chapter 9). Think up your own variations. This exercise is intended to mobilise your subconscious reserves of concentration.
Auto-Suggestion to Develop Memory and Imagination
If it is particularly important for you to develop your memory then, in addition to the general techniques for strengthening your mind and body discussed subsequently (primarily in Chapter 9) you can always adopt the method Asturel proposed at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is best to practise all three basic techniques together, although they can be taken separately. The Asturel method does not prevent you from trying other means of improving your memory (mnemonic methods for example). I have tried it myself with some success and have added to it in a few places.
Tell your memory what to do
Shortly before going to bed in the evening, make sure you can have a few minutes to yourself undisturbed; sit or lie down (you can do all this when you are already in bed if you like) relax and close your eyes. Suggest to yourself (mentally, in a whisper or out loud):
Every day my memory’s much sharper,
Every day my memory’s much more powerful,
Every day my memory’s much more reliable, I recall things with increasing ease,
I remember everything I have to,
I remember all I want to,
Every day my memory's more obedient, my memory works perfectly,
My memory works calmly, precisely, efficiently.
I trust my memory,
I control my memory,
I love my memory,
I order you, memory, always to do what I say!
and so on, with improvisations, for 5-8 minutes.
Do the same in the morning as soon as you wake up (see Coué's method, Chapter 12) and, if possible, also at some time during the day. Continue with this regularly even though, at first, your memory will not show any signs of responding. You will see the desired results, however, sooner or later.
The film of the day
Every evening a short time before going to sleep or when you are just dropping off, relax, close your eyes and play back the memories of the day, starting from the most immediate events (you got into bed, before that you cleaned your teeth, and before that you had a bath, you had already put one foot in when you remembered there was no soap, so you had to dry your foot and go into the kitchen for a new bar…) right through till the time you woke up. Recall everything in as much detail as you can, vividly and with all your senses: hear, smell, and see everything again; recall what your thoughts and feelings were at the time. Watching the film of the day, you will be surprised that everything is so clear, much more clear, detailed and ordered than you would have thought possible, that the capacity of your memory is, in fact, vast and that you can wind it backwards and forwards like a film reel. It is not advisable to dwell too long on unpleasant memories, concentrate on the good moments. (There are bound to have been some even on a really unsuccessful day and you will discover them easily enough as long as you are not too demanding.) Take your time and enjoy dwelling on them. The whole point of the exercise, however, is to develop your memory and not simply to enjoy yourself: end the film show with the Auto-Suggestion above (8). If you sometimes fall asleep during the show do not be too concerned; it might mean it was a fairly boring film that day, or you might be very tired.
The film of life
After a while, you will find you can run through the whole day quickly and without any gaps. Finally you will be able to see the whole day from morning till night and vice versa in a flash (similar to the way Mozart could hear his music). When you can do this fairly well you can turn to the more distant past: the events of a day, a week, or a month ago and so on back to your earliest childhood memories. You will again find you can remember a great deal more than you expected. This could come in very handy if you ever try to write your memoirs or want to analyse your life carefully. However, it is not advisable to get too carried away with it: if you are hoping to lead an ordered and active life you would do better to direct most of your attention to the present and future.
Three great men defined the essence of genius in three completely different ways: good concentration, hard work, and imagination. All three were no doubt correct in part. Not claiming to give an exhaustive definition, I would say that genius is the sum of everything or, in more specialised terminology, it is perfect self-regulation: the highest form of freedom. I am not giving any guarantees that, after the above exercises, you will become a genius, but I am not discounting the possibility entirely either: none of us knows the limits of his or her own potential.
I can be more definite in saying that these exercises will help you to change your attention from an unreliable partner into an obedient servant ready to come to your aid if you want to increase your knowledge and self-regulation to a level closer to your potential maximum. Deep concentration and instantaneous reactions are the tools that, for example, made it possible for Nelson to win at Trafalger and Einstein to work out the theory of relatively. Anyone who has suffered prolonged physical or psychological pain probably already knows the relief that comes when your attention is diverted for a while, even by something as apparently trivial as a good joke. Once you have learnt to control your attention you will be able to be less reliant on painkillers or tranquillisers; once you have developed your imagination you will be liberated in how you spend your time, free from the need to watch TV or to be with people you may sometimes find tiresome: at the very least, you will never have to worry about being bored.
How long have you to do concentration exercises before you can see any change?
In this course, at least 3-4 weeks of these exercises done together or alternating with the relaxation exercises described in the following chapter will be sufficient to help you master subsequent stages of Auto-Training, although scarcely enough to give any tangible improvement in your intellectual capabilities. For this you will need to continue the exercises regularly over a longer period, both separately and with other Auto-Training exercises. After 6-12 months you will notice a substantial improvement.
I would like to remind you that you will only be able to gain a comprehensive view of Auto-Training if you read the whole book carefully, returning to this chapter from time to time.
*Stanislavsky, Constantin Sergeevich, (1863-1958), a leading Soviet theatre director and founder of "method acting." (Trans.).
**And if I lift my eyes and pause from reading,
then nothing's strange, then everything seems huge.
And outside life is like the life I'm leading,
inside and out infinity flows on;
but now to feel myself full free dissolving
in shifting gaze that rests on shapes of darkness.