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Weekly Theme

When Mr. Bennett began working with themes at Sherborne House, he gave the introduction reproduced below:

"The technique of theme consists in this: in persistently and with great determination occupying one's mind with a specific clear notion so that one can penetrate into it in depth. There are various techniques that involve this persistent directing of the mental attention towards one object. There are various kinds of meditation. There is the Zen Koan exercise where the attention is persistently directed towards something incongruous or impossible and because the incongruity and impossibility of the Koan is clear, the mind can be occupied with it with less risk of wandering off into imaginary solutions to the problem. Another kind of persistent occupation of the mind is described in the talks I had with the Shivapuri Babai. He said: 'Think of God alone, put every other thought from your mind. Think only of God and then eventually you will come to the realization of the meaning of life.' The way we shall work with this particular technique, which is one of very great value and which, when combined with the other things that we shall be doing can be very fruitful indeed, is that every Monday I will put before you one theme with which you should, as far as possible, occupy your attention during the week, when your attention is not required for the external activities in which you are engaged. There are subsidiary benefits of this thematic technique. For one thing, you have something positive to put in the place of the idle associations that ordinarily occupy our minds. You have something to which you can turn your attention when you find you are disturbed, irritated, etc. But these are, as I say, subsidiary benefits."

"The main purpose is to go through the verbal and conceptual level of understanding to a direct perception of the real world to which it belongs. I use the words 'real world' because we can look at it in this way: there is a gradient between states of subjective illusion where one is connected with no reality except the immediate transient experience, passing through various states of awakening to contact or full realization of the meaning of life and one's own real being. These gradations do correspond to different worlds. Ordinarily people speak about 'this world' and the 'other world.' But in reality there are more than two worlds, each one so different from the other that all we can know about one world does not prepare us for the experience of the next world."

At the conclusion of the week, on Saturday or Sunday, make time to commit in writing what has come from the time spent in reflection. It need not be lengthy; however, the action of committing something in writing is an important step.

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