To begin with there are 3 main areas to focus on: the body, the emotions, and the mind. All 3 of course will be active, to certain degrees, all the time and this can be a little overwhelming in the beginning, so it might be helpful to start your practice by observing one at a time. As you become more practiced, it will seem as though the Observer flicks to whichever is more prominent at the time, although the less prominent aspects will still be observed in the background.
To that end, here's a breakdown of these first three areas and what you can do to cultivate the Observer within them.
This is probably the easiest area to start with as it's the most tangible to observe. It also doesn't change at such a fast rate as the emotions and especially our thoughts.
Here are some things you can do to develop awareness of the body:
These are slightly subtler than the body, not tangible enough to touch but still often very prominent. There will of course be times of extreme emotion and times of more neutral emotion, but even in times of neutral emotion it is helpful to just be aware of subtle feelings which may arise here and there.
Here are some things you can do to develop awareness of the emotions:
This is probably the hardest of the three to observe. It is the least tangible, the most interchangeable, and can be quite overwhelming in the beginning. Not to mention the observer is likely to be coming form the mind in the beginning. This is the last step towards to true observer (what I call 'Witness Consciousness') which is beyond the mind. The mind is the closest step to 'witness consciousness' and yet probably the hardest to pass through.
Here are some practices to help develop awareness of the mind:
Putting it all together
After practicing these methods they will begin to become easier and you can start observing multiple areas at once. This can occur through intention or may begin to arise spontaneously, which is great!
At this point you will really begin to become aware of the relationships between mind, body and emotions. How does one affect the others? For example, something triggers anxiety - lets say a job interview- all 3 areas will be reacting. You may get a strong emotion, which will trigger tension in the body - where is the tension? Then your mind will likely start going over scenarios or asking "what if I don't do well?" Observe the spiral effect as each thought triggers more anxiety and more tension in the body and vise versa.
Of course, there is no need to get yourself worked up. Once these have been observed for a time and accepted you can work to reduce the feelings in order to be calmer and clearer. Breathing is a great bridge between all these planes and it will do wonders to work with it.
A note on soft drugs
We have all experienced expanded or satisfied feelings from soft drugs and entertainment. However, they tend to have the effect of reducing awareness and so it may be beneficial to keep them to a minimum while you are still cultivating the 'Observer'.
Meditation is a great method to use when cultivating the 'Observer'. Sitting and focusing on the inner will mean that the inner landscape somehow becomes brighter and more navigable. It is also great to do while doing simple tasks such as washing dishes or eating. Of course meditation is really all about observing the inner landscape so I can't recommend it enough. Whether sitting in silence or going for a walk, it is sure to help you a great deal.
Going beyond the mind
I have hinted on something called 'witness consciousness' throughout this article. It is the term I use to describe the true observer which is beyond the mind. This will surely come with the practices that I have set out in this article. More on 'witness consciousness' in the next article.
Finally, here's a great meditation to get you started.
If you need help or support with being the observer or any other spiritual issues, please book a session.
My name is Richard. I love to write, and here you can find my general musings, observations and articles. Enjoy!
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