Self-Observation - Part 1
Updated: Mar 26
In this post I would like to start talking about an ancient and efficient technique called Self-observation to help whoever is interested in getting out of its comfort zone to embrace the magic of life in order to live a more joyful, open, satisfying and conscious life.
Before you get started, you own the journey.
After you start, the journey owns you.
- Malidoma Somè -
One of the goal and power in doing Consciousness's work relies in making you realize that there is no real self. That whatever identity you are currently identifying with represents a mask you have decided to consciously or unconsciously wear in order to survive in the social environment you are living in. This realization can be quite freaky and destabilizing due to its implications but with time it has to become the starting point to become the best version of yourself as a human being.
There are many techniques that can break the illusion of being a physical individual behind the eyes, looking and experiencing a world existing out there. Self-observation represents an incredible door through which our true nature (what in previous posts I call Consciousness or Nothingness) can be revealed. Nothing is needed to get started: no mantra to be learnt, no holy books to be read, no tools to be bought. You only need you. I have already talked about something similar in my post about Vipassana, but in this post I would like to delve more into the incredible power hidden in this technique.
Self-observation has been defined as "a prayer with no words, a meditation in action". Whether or not you are interested in discovering your true nature, self-observation can help you in improving your earthly life by removing your self-created limitations and to do whatever you love doing in life in a more joyful, efficient and courageous way.
Be aware that this work, no matter how deep you go, will change your life and the relationship with whoever you are currently living with ("Truth Is Radical"). Self-observation will make you detach from the herd, it will make you question everything that is socially accepted and it will make you taking decisions that are incomprehensible by the most but that are an inevitable consequences of your inner work in becoming more aligned with your true nature. You will lose pieces of your current life along the journey but be brave in keep going. Being part of the herd is definitely a more logical, rational, secure and comfy choice but by doing this work you will learn to accept instinct to be your guide and to embrace fear as the driving force to push you to the next level.
Without even realizing it we keep behaving as puppets, pulled here and there by mechanical habits that rule and often ruin our life. Each of us has some kind of belief, assumption or idea about our self that act as a sort of a spell within our life. I got quite well acquainted with such a modus operandi during my teenager years ("First Glimpses Towards My True Nature") and fortunately for me I could break my self-inflicted chains. Looking back, it was easy for me to recognize these patterns as dysfunctional and to do something about it but many other patterns are so rooted and shared among humans that fall into the category of being "normal".
What is then Self-observation?
Self-observation consists in simply letting the mind, alias you, doing and thinking whatever it wants but being conscious of it. You have to become a careful witness, an external observer that looks the mind doing whatever has been trained to do over years of conditioning. By doing so, you will not anymore be identified with it and over time you will be able to change the content of mind that you consider not doing any good to you as a human.
Mind habits includes intellectual, emotional and physical patterns that repeated over and over make what you currently call "you". Each of us has different habits and they do represent the ground that is necessary to participate and interact in the world. As long as these patterns and you are one, you will never be able to change them and you are bound to suffer. By becoming the witness of them, that is, by self-observation you will be able to change or transform them at your will. As they were created, they can be dismantled.
Even tough self-observation seems to be an easy and painless process, it demands an enormous amount of effort from your side because it forces you looking at all the dysfunctional patterns present in you as a human being, accepting them and ultimately letting them go. And if you decide to commit yourself along this path you will discover to be your worst enemy in attaining tangible results. As I said in my previous post "The Importance Of Mind", you, relatively speaking, are your mind and you will not allow yourself to shed light over your sneaky mechanisms of survival so easily. Self-observation functions as a sort of medicine to cure all the devilry manipulations you are constantly doing to accomplish your self-agenda.
How can you break the vicious cycle?
As I said each mind needs to be grounded with some sort of intellectual, emotional and physical patterns that create the identity of "you". Therefore mind will not like to change those patterns and it will mostly repeat them continuously with a precise order making them predictable. Self-observation has to be the tool to become very well acquainted with these patterns and to learn how mind reacts and behaves in any situation. By witnessing a certain pattern hundreds of times, you can know when, where, and how a specific pattern will appear to get ready to break the cycle.
Find an habit of which you are slave of. Something that you consider to be dysfunctional and that you would like to change such as eating snacks any time you feel hungry, looking at your phone while eating, thinking negatively every time something not expected happens or getting distracted by trying to do several things at once. Your goal is to stop a second before. Best would be not doing anything at all and simply observing the inner resistance growing within you to force you doing what you were expected to do. Be aware of the incredible forces working within you in pushing you in doing whatever you have been programmed to do.
You might go through moments of emotional and physical discomfort by simply refrain yourself from looking at the phone. Stay with whatever arises, be aware of any experience present in your body, breath and witness the mind fighting back to keep you in chain. You might be surprise how difficult is to win this simple battle. Your own life will feel threatened, mind will come up with all sort of tricks to make you desist. It will judge you, blame you, blackmail you, manipulate you, it will create negative thoughts, strong emotions, physical pain and most of the time you will lose. It does not matter. Simply become aware of the power of mind in keeping you grounded in being in a certain way. Become aware of how all the emotional and physical distresses disappear once you have lost the battle since mind does not feel threaten anymore. Realize your being a puppet of the mind. Acknowledge its power and keep working.
Self-observation invites you to challenge yourself by direct and personal experience in order to firstly get to know all your mind habits (that make you) and eventually free yourself from all the dysfunctional habits that have been created and rooted in you over a lifetime of not questioning the obvious, of blindly believing and accepting anything was told to you. By doing this work your entire vision of the world will collapse and it will erode the most rooted ideas you have about yourself, others, and the Universe you live in.
These realizations might touch aspect of your simple mundane daily life but they can also question existential assumptions. Since you were a child you have been probably brainwashed with ideas about yourself that do not correspond at all to the truth. You have been told to be a physical human being named X that has this and that features, one of which is to have a mind and a consciousness generated by your brain. Not only this assumption is wrong but it represents the root of all human suffering.
Self-observation will make you realize that you are Consciousness, that you have no particular shape, feature and limitation until the moment you, Consciousness, forget to be as such and start identifying with the mind that takes ownership over a body that from now on you will call "me". In this exact moment many limitations get created that, if not questioned, will rule your life.
You need to awake to the Truth that what you call mind and body are Consciousness and that you, Consciousness, felt under the spell of mind by thinking to ultimately be a body with a mind and a consciousness. As I said in my previous post "Like Water", Consciousness is like an infinite field of water that thinks to be a wave when in reality water is all there is. Over time our mind has created a web of concepts, ideas, labels that have literally created our reality. Being a physical human is only true from the point of view of the mind that needs to ground itself in a way or in another to be able to experience the world but by accepting this limited perspective as the ultimate truth you will mostly live life in fear to protect yourself from any possible danger threatening yourself agenda.
Awakening consists in seeing Consciousness everywhere and to realize that each mind is a dissociated form of Consciousness that believes to be a separate individual living in a world made out of objects.
Let's be clear: you, Consciousness, could not do anything without this process of identification with a body and a mind. This is the way how you can interact, participate and investigate the world. The process of falling asleep is necessary to make us believe that each of us is a separate individual interacting with an external world but it is fundamental to awake to the truth that in reality there is only You interacting with Yourself. This realization is huge, quite moving and life changing when deeply realized.
When born we have been given a powerful tool that is mind that was supposed to be used as a tool to achieve the best in our life. Unfortunately most of us became one with the tool and suffering has raised in our life. Instead of using the hammer to consciously shape our life we became it and we kept hammering everything without control. Self-observation and Consciousness's work in general will help you to detach from your mind and to use it for creating and shaping your life at best.
By identifying yourself with the mind you become constrained by its own limitations and remember: you, Consciousness, have no limits ("You Are Nothing, You Are Zero: An Effective Path Towards Real Change"). Mind is the creation of a genius, no doubts. It is amazing what mind can do but it has to serve you without you being veiled by it. Mind without being shed with the light of Consciousness can be fed with all sort of egocentric ideas and it can become destructive and the origin of many devilries.
I would like to stop here for the moment to let you contemplate by yourself about these personal conclusions and leave the rest of the topic for future post(s). In the meantime, I invite you to become the observer of your own mind to start knowing how it works, to start knowing which dress you are likely wearing unconsciously.
PS: If your reaction is "I know who I am, I do not need to observe myself", well this is the mind at work preventing You doing Consciousness's work. Be aware, always.
Thanks for reading.