In the last month I have received many emails about what is the practice of self- observation, why it is so difficult to practice, and if there are some “tricks” for improving it. Self- observation is surely the main tool for self- development (at least for the administrator of this Blog page).
Indeed, this is the mean through which the practitioner performs what is known as inner work, the work for self-development, and through observation, integrated in a serious and well-structured system of teaching, there are practically no limitations about what we can discover concerning ourselves and life.
There are two things we have to consider: the first is, that in order to perform an efficient observation, we need energy and awareness. This would appear to be an obvious statement, but it also seems that it is not well understood. Observe not in a non -occasional and superficial way, but with a “focussed will”, and not remaining in the field of philosophizing and intellectualizing this action as a concept. What we need to observe, is to develop a certain degree of awareness and a nice quality “fuel”.
The first difficulty we have to face concerning observation, is that we usually don’t know what it is about. We are convinced we possess this skill, but only through direct experimentation will we realize that this is not true, and only then we’ll have the possibility (which depends only on our interest) to dedicate ourselves to studying and practicing it in a serious way.
Observation can bring self-consciousness, a degree that can’t be achieved through merely theoretical study or only the practice in daily life: we have to synchronize and alternate the theoretical study with the observation of ourselves and our functions which could bring the extraordinary aim of the awakening of an individual consciousness.
In order to observe ourselves in an efficient way, we have to develop a great and rare skill – sincerity. Being honest means not speaking tales to ourselves and others with the only aim of maintaining alive the fictitious and nonexistent character who emerges from the various fragments of personality. If we are not sincere and we don’t recognize that we can’t maintain a continuity of awakened consciousness, we haven’t any possibility to succeed.
The first step in the education of self- observation has, in the first place, the aim of becoming aware of our “absence”, and this is a thing that should not be understimated: our bodies are here, in the present, but our minds are somewhere else. Whoever wishes to forge ahead and take for granted to have understood his situation from the beginning, most usually doesn’t achieve anything in this field.
There are many methods for observation, and some of them have been shown on this blog, but in the first place, we must understand what it is about, apart from the techniques we use. In order to accomplish the process of observation, there must be someone who guides it. The observer and the observed (the object of observation) are not the same thing: we can see a tree, because it is external to us, but we can’t see our face if we are not looking in a mirror. So, at the beginning, the field of observation should be the most exterior part of ourselves which exists, and that is the reason why we should begin a practice of self- observation starting from our body: observing our gestures, becoming more aware of the way we interact with external objects, reducing gradually, mechanical and habitual acts.
Afterwards, we’ll begin to observe the intellectual and emotional functions, but at the beginning it is best to begin from the body and its mechanicity. Even breath, which is an instinctive action, is a good starting point to focus our attention in a conscious way, and it’s very useful to develop the skill of observation.
Through observation, it is possible to reach control of our functions (intellectual, emotional, motoric, instinctive) that are part of ourselves. In this way, we’ll gain not only an understanding of the condition of “sleep”, so that we notice that we are unaware, but we’ll also gain the power to regain our natural functions, emancipating ourselves from mechnicity.
The capacity of observation also gives us the possibility to understand others in a deeper way, and this can allow us to establish better relations and to give our help to whoever finds himself in difficulty.
Concerning observation, there is a traditional practice called “natural awareness” which consists in “fighting” to eliminate mechanical habits. We can perform such a practice , for example, in the way that when we lean a glass on the table or we sit on a chair, we transform these habitual acts in conscious actions. In this way, we begin to find an aesthetic of gestures, and through placing an object (or ourselves) in the space in a way determined by us. So, for example, putting the cigarette lighter in a purposeful way near the pack of cigarettes becomes a conscious aesthetic act.