I received this email from a fellow who is studying The Master Key System. I actually receive quite a few emails asking very similar questions about the exercises in Week One and Week Two. Here is his email to me –
I came across your website and had a question if you have the time. For exercise #1 you are to stay still for 15 minutes and let your mind wonder. Do you keep your eyes closed or does that not make a difference?
For exercise #2, you are to not allow any thoughts into your mind. The book mentioned this would be difficult and most would only be able to do this for a few moments. But how long should each exercise session be? Should I try to do this over and over again for 15 mins to a half hour or literally just try it for a moment? This one is going to be tough for me (lol).
For those who don’t know (or who don’t remember), here are what Haanel provides as exercises for Week One and Week Two.
Week One Exercise
44. Now make the application: Select a room where you can be alone and undisturbed. Sit erect, comfortably, but do not lounge. Let your thoughts roam where they will but be perfectly still for ?fteen minutes to half an hour. Continue this for three or four days or for a week until you secure full control of your physical being.
45. Many will ?nd this extremely difficult; others will conquer with ease, but it is absolutely essential to secure complete control of the body before you are ready to progress. Next week you will receive instructions for the next step. In the meantime, you must have mastered this one.
Week Two Exercise
30. Last week I gave you an exercise for the purpose of securing control of the physical body. If you have accomplished this you are ready to advance. This time you will begin to control your thought. Always take the same room, the same chair, and the same position, if possible. In some cases it is not convenient to take the same room. In this case simply make the best use of such conditions as may be available. Now be perfectly still as before, but inhibit all thought. This will give you control over all thoughts of care, worry, and fear, and will enable you to entertain only the kind of thoughts you desire. Continue this exercise until you gain complete mastery.
31. You will not be able to do this for more than a few moments at a time, but the exercise is valuable because it will be a very practical demonstration of the great number of thoughts which are constantly trying to gain access to your mental world.
Regarding the first exercise, it is probably easier to do it with eyes closed, since you won’t have to worry about blinking, which I would consider movement and you are supposed to keep perfectly still. So just sit, relax, and not move a muscle for as long as possible.
This exercise should illustrate to you a couple of things.
First, it will show you how many of your body’s movements happen practically subconsciously (or unconsciously). In other words, it will show just how little control we truly have at times over our own body! And if we can’t control ourselves to any significant degree, how can we control anything else?
To illustrate this point, think of a time when you witnessed a person who just could not control them self. They fidgeted, they fiddled with their hair, they kicked their feet, they swayed, they rocked back and forth. Whatever they did, you could just tell that they were a mess. They were not composed.
Just by looking at them we could tell something was … not quite right with them.
Don’t let that be you! We can tell a lot about a person (and we usually do tell ourselves a lot about a person!) by the way that person handles them self. So, on a very practical level this exercise has an application.
Second, since ALL of our actions begins with a thought, either conscious or subconscious, these unconscious movements indicate that there are unbidden and unknown thoughts occurring in our heads. Thus, by keeping ourselves still, we are limiting those thoughts, perhaps acknowledging that they are there, and setting the way for us to truly control our “inner world.”
Just to make things clear, while it is important to master this exercise as much as possible, as I like to tell people, there is no need for you to become a monk! Do your best. Make sure that you can still your self, but by no means do you have to work to the “Zen monk” level of sitting still.
For the Week Two exercise, yes, you are supposed to quell all of your thoughts. Frankly, it is doubtful that you will reach fifteen minutes. Even five minutes may be pushing it! I think it is optimal to go for as long as you can, be that five seconds or five minutes.
While it would be nice to quell your thoughts for as long as you like in the “Zen monk” fashion, I think the main point of the exercise is to show you that you can notice when errant thoughts are there and that you can quell them at will. For me, the bigger point is when you put it into action in everyday life.
For example, we all run into those situations where we get into a mental log jam because too many thoughts are hitting us at the same time, thus causing our actions to be erratic or clumsy. That is when this exercise comes into play. You should be able to quell those thoughts, clear your head, and choose the best action for the situation–all at the flick of a switch. A mental switch, of course.
So, for the Week Two exercise, it’s not so important that you can quiet your thoughts indefinitely. The important thing to take away from this is that you can quiet those unbidden thoughts at will. That, my friend, is the key point you should take away from this exercise.