“Something may here be said concerning the environment in which this [spiritual] training should be undertaken, for this is not without some importance. … Anyone practicing in an environment filled only with self-seeking interests, as for example, the modern struggle for existence, must be conscious of the fact that these interests are not without their effect on the development of his spiritual organs. It is true that the inner laws of these organs are so powerful that this influence cannot be fatally injurious. Just as a lily can never grow into a thistle, however inappropriate its environment, so, too, the eye of the soul can never grow to anything but its destined shape … .
“Especially fortunate is the student who can carry out his esoteric training surrounded by the green world of plants, or among the sunny hills, where nature weaves her web of sweet simplicity. This environment develops the inner organs in a harmony which can never ensue in a modern city.” ~Rudolf Steiner

By Harold Boulette

Location, Location, Location

The environment in which we practice spiritual development techniques is important. The reason ancient holy people like the Essenes went to mountain tops or open fields to do their practices was not just to avoid being seen, but also to get away from the materialistic thought vibrations found in the crowded cities and towns. We did find an interesting exception to the idea that cities are bad places to conduct spiritual techniques. A few years ago a group of us took a trip to Greece where we visited many ancient religious and spiritual sites, but we also spent several nights in the crowded and bustling city of Athens. In the morning, we would go to the rooftop patio to do a few minutes of spiritual sun gazing (gazing at the spiritual sun, not the material one) before breakfast at the hotel restaurant, which was also on top of the hotel. In most big cities, the sun feels harsh when you do this, but it was surprisingly mellow in Athens.

A Compromise

Unfortunately we cannot all live in rural area or on mountain tops. Most of us must live in big cities, or at least in the suburbs of those cities. This doesn’t mean we should avoid spiritual development. As Mr. Steiner says, the lily will still grow into a lily in a harsh environment, but it’s growth may be limited and stunted. We can overcome this difficulty in a number of ways. One is that by doing our spiritual practices with a group of like-minded people, we reduce the influence of the negativity of the materialistic cities. Second, we can occasionally make a trip to the country, to the mountains, or sail the seas. It doesn’t have to be some declared holy place or spiritual place, any open, natural area is good, though mountaintops seem to work best. And when we can’t do that, we can at least make trips regularly to a nearby park or garden, even if it is located in the city, and do our practices there. Doing that once a month is enough to make a difference. And combining all of those suggestions works even better. Some say that just closing your eyes and visualizing yourself in a quiet country setting is helpful-which it might be—but not as helpful as actually visiting a quiet rural area, garden, or mountaintop.

This post was previously published on the Solar Wind blog.