1/ Sit down somewhere comfortable where you are not likely to be disturbed. Give yourself permission to sit there and take ‘time out’ from the normal pattern of your life.
2/ Do ‘nothing in particular’ for ten minutes. Acknowledge whatever thoughts or feelings come along, but don’t try to alter or control them. Accept them for what they are, do not evaluate or judge them. Simply allow them to be what they already are – witness them, but let them go. This takes no energy, there is nothing to ‘do’.
3/ If you feel strange or uncomfortable or bored or guilty at ‘wasting time’, acknowledge your feelings but remind yourself that you have given yourself permission to be in this space for ten minutes. It is okay – you are allowed!
4/ After ten minutes the exercise can be brought to a halt. There is no way to either fail or succeed at this exercise – failure and success are no more than evaluations or judgements that are superimposed from the outside, and in this exercise there is no winning or losing because there are no aims, no agenda, no game-plan. Everything is allowed to be what it is.
ABOUT THE EXERCISE
The ‘agenda-dropping exercise’ is an exercise that is not done to serve a specific purpose, or to realize a particular aim. It is not done to facilitate any plan or idea or belief that we might have, which is of course why we call it an ‘agenda-dropping’ exercise.
But then, we tend to ask, what it the need for us to do the exercise, if there isn’t a specific point to it? The answer to this question is very simple – by getting good at doing this exercise what we are really getting good at is looking at ourselves, and the world in general, without any prejudice.
Prejudice – by which we mean ‘unconscious biasing factor’ – is our problem really, it is the invisible problem that lies behind all of our more visible behavioural and psychological problems. We end up in difficulties that we can’t fix because our attempts to fix the problem contain the same invisible ‘distortions’ (or ‘errors’) that actually caused the problem that we are trying to fix in the first place.
In other words, there is a sort of blind-spot in our thinking, a blind-spot in our way of looking at things, and so the more we try to ‘think our way out of the hole that we are in’ the deeper we dig ourselves into it. Thinking, goals, agendas, plans and ‘rationalizing’ in general is the problem itself, and so what we need is a way to free ourselves from all of that. What we really need is an increase in the amount of insight, intuition, and perspective that we have available to us, and none of these come about as a result of thinking.
There is no method to free ourselves from the web of our own thinking however because methods always come out of the rational mind. I cannot instruct myself to be free from my thinking because it is my thinking that does the instructing – the thinking is an essential irreducible part of the ‘instructing’ process and so how on earth can I instruct myself not to think?
‘Instructing’ means prejudice, it means wanting one thing and not wanting another, liking one thing and disliking another, which is the way in which our unconscious conditioning shows itself in our lives. The way to become free from our thinking is not by being prejudicial to thinking (or to particular types of thinking) but by being equally open to whatever comes along, equally open to all possibilities. Therefore, I do not judge what comes along (and act accordingly by reflex) which is my normal way, but rather I notice what comes along and allow it to be what it is. I notice everything equally.
Now it is still possible that, having said all this, the actual ‘benefit’ of the exercise is still unclear. So far we have said that the agenda-dropping exercise is done for no ‘reason’ (obviously enough) but we have also suggested that it is highly beneficial all the same. So what exactly is the benefit, in the most basic terms possible?
The explanation that we gave already was that the agenda-dropping exercise allows us to develop the ability to look at ourselves and the world in an unprejudiced way. The benefit in this can be stated as follows:
Seeing the world without any inbuilt prejudice means that we are free to perceive reality as it is, not as we think it is.
Prejudice means favouring one possibility over another (or ‘preferring to find that one thing is true rather than another’) and as long as this is the case we can never see reality straight. Whatever we believe to be true, we only believe because we secretly want it to be true, in other words, and so what possible good is that?
Our normal way of looking at the world is through the distorting mirror of our prejudiced mind, and this mirror never shows the truth. In order for our mind to reflect the truth, it needs to be undistorted, without bias, equally open to everything. There is no way to force this state, but it arises naturally when we allow ourselves to observe the biased nature of our normal thoughts and feelings, without trying to ‘correct’ them. We just allow them to be the way that they are, and see that this is the way that they are, and in this ‘seeing of the distortion’ there is no distortion. In the seeing of prejudice there is no prejudice, and in the seeing of an agenda there is no agenda.