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  • Rene Frey-Jennings

Developing the 'Observer'

The last time I added to this blog was November 2015…

2016 has been a busy year for me in terms of further developing my Observer. In January I did a seven-day, silent retreat at Chandrakirti Buddhist Meditation Centre in Nelson with a wonderful teacher, Tenzin Tsaphel. In February I was in the North Island for summer holidays, and in March I went to a nine-day, silent retreat at Te Moata Meditation Centre in the Coromandel with two wonderful teachers, Jeremy Logan and Sharda Rogell.

By the way, when I talk about retreats these are not retreats in the luxury and pampering sense, no. These opportunities for long-term meditation are called retreats because they are a means to withdraw from the busy, modern world for time enough to go ‘inward’ and have a look to see what’s there. These retreats are more like ‘workshops’ where those who know the methods of inward observation provide guidance and you have an opportunity to explore the teachings and put them into practice.

So with the first quarter of the year gone it’s now April and I feel like I can plant my feet a little more firmly on the ground. I feel more stable not only because I’m not going anywhere for a while but also because due to the two recent retreats my Observer is more in the forefront of my awareness than ever.

In the last blog post I referred to the Observer as an aspect of Self which if developed leads to mental stability and more contentment with life. Yes, yes, it does.

So how does one develop the Observer? Firstly, just as you would do as if you were on retreat, you would make an intention to begin to take an interest in how your mind works. Then you watch… When you watch you begin to see what your mind does when you’re relaxed, when you’re stressed, happy, sad… You just watch and see what you find.

Most important is that you don’t try to change anything, you don’t judge what’s there and you certainly don’t criticise yourself for what you find. When you watch your mind you begin to discover how you commonly deal with situations in your life. You continue to watch and do nothing, just watch.

The impulse is to change something or react to something. But if you do try to change what your mind is doing when you observe then you begin to fabricate your patterns and then you’re really none-the-wiser about how you truly operate. And if you make judgments you just might end up making yourself feel worse than when you started observing. So you don’t want to make judgments or change anything because that would mean you really couldn’t see the truth of what your mind does.

When you truly watch at some point you’ll eventually begin to get a sense of how busy, how muddled, how fickle, worried, judging, angry, pestering, harassing…your mind is and how much your mind wants to abuse you or others, and how it wants to live in the past or the future, instead of living in the present.

You might now be thinking that it’s ridiculous not to think about the past or future, and that’s true. We sometimes do have to deal with past or future but the problem is that our minds automatically tend to take us where our minds want to go, and that's usually to the past or future. You see, most of the time we’re on autopilot and our minds are just doing their own thing because we don’t know how to manage and focus our minds, instead our minds manage us.

If you sat for a few moments in silence and observed your mind you’d see that it’s a wee bit tricky to keep your mind focused on, say, your breath without your mind taking you into some drama about past or future.

Go ahead, try it :)

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