There was a phase in my studies when I was listening to one recorded lecture or chapter from Rudolf Steiner every day, as recorded by Dale Brunsvold, and made available on his site. At this point, I was conveniently living right next to a walking trail, as I was the owner of a samoyed whom I needed to walk every day.
The teachings of Steiner are not at all easy to learn or understand, as they are aimed towards a form of cognition which needs to be cultivated, and is not simply given to us by virtue of being born into this world. Our ‘ordinary’ cognition, which is so practical for most of the tasks and duties we have in daily life, is entirely incapable of understanding the thought forms presented by Steiner. They require a different form of cognition which he termed ‘etheric thinking’. The difference between ‘ordinary’ cognition, or ‘physical thinking’, and ‘etheric thinking’ is about the same as the difference between the activity of our physical body (lifeless matter), and our etheric body (all of our life and energy functions). Our ‘ordinary’ cognition is abstract, and lifeless, and does not contain any energy of life or movement.
This brings me to my point, which is that the phase of walking my dog every day while listening to a Steiner lecture on my iPod helped me to start to ‘see’ these new thought forms, as it was easier for me to take them in while I was in motion, in a walking rhythm. Over time, this daily rhythmical process created a condition in which I could start to make living connections and associations between thoughts that were not easy for me when I had originally tried to read the same words from a static piece of paper or computer monitor.
I am still in the process of acquiring and digesting the etheric thought forms in Steiner, and other writers, and from this original experience, I am now able to translate this process back to the typical mode of reading the words on page or screen. Like building up muscle mass, the capacity for etheric thinking needs to be developed over time and attended to regularly. This growing capacity helps me in numerous ways in terms of the process of diagnosing my patients, where it is the living (etheric) functions and their disturbances which are much more useful to be able to see and know, than the dead (physical / matter) aspect of their health.