As suggested in my last post learning mindfulness and developing the Observer often starts with finding something to focus on, such as the breath, which helps us practice directing our concentration to wherever WE want it to go. So you practice bringing your mind back to the breath over and over and over again
At first your mind will go wherever IT wants to go. Then after ten minutes you might notice that you’ve been thinking about your next holiday, and before that you were wondering how to make better coffee, and before that you were thinking about the time you sat on Santa’s lap as a five-year-old and you screamed, “Monster!!!”, and before that you were thinking about how fascinating it is that humans evolved from fish… You get my drift? Our minds are all over the place!!
At some point you’ll realise you haven’t been focussing on your breath, so you’ll start again, and again, and again…when suddenly you realise that for maybe four whole seconds you’re aware you’ve been focussing on your breath!! This might not seem a big deal as you read this but it is a HUGE deal when you realise those four seconds are the exact length of time you need to become aware of a thought which normally leads to a pattern of behaviour which is unhelpful and destabilising to your mind and your life, your relationships, etc.
The best way to understand what the Observer does is to imagine watching someone cooking or fixing a car on TV. You’re watching someone on the screen doing an activity and you’re not involved in the activity at all – it’s not happening to you, you’re just simply watching it happen.
Say someone on the TV gets their hand too close to the stove or drops a wrench on their foot and they react with a shout. From your perspective on the couch you don’t react because you can’t feel the pain and there’s really nothing you can do – your mind, emotions, sensations don’t become involved. You’re simply watching what’s taking place and you’re only interested as far as being a witness to what is taking place.
The watching part of you is the Observer within. With practice you can begin to develop the Observer who is only involved to the extent that it can watch the human – YOU – have a human experience.
As you develop the ability to watch without getting emotionally involved you begin to see your patterns of behaviour. You begin to see where you get foiled by your thoughts. You begin to see how your random thoughts cause you to react emotionally and/or to do things your conscious self doesn't really do want to do -- this is how our random, unconscious thoughts drag us over and over again into unhelpful, unhealthy patterns of behaviour. You begin to see how your unplanned, fleeting thoughts can actually set you off and turn a good mood into a dark mood.
When you watch your thoughts from the standpoint of the Observer you begin to see what normally happens when you think certain thoughts and the behaviour that follows. Your awareness builds to the point where you can choose to react or not to react, and you can choose how to respond to the situation. That’s when your awareness has really started to create a solid relationship with your Observer. It's important to understand though the Observer does not do the choosing because the Observer is absolutely just observing. It's the awareness gleaned from the Observer observing that can be used by the practical, rational part of your brain to choose how to respond.
The most important thing is rather than automatically reacting because you didn’t have the awareness to stop the reaction, you now have the freedom to choose your behaviour and respond in a healthy, stable way. Healthy choices, healthy responses build a more stable mind. You begin to experience yourself as more stable, more reliable so you can be in the world in a more confident way and your self-esteem grows.
You begin to see yourself – and others in your world – through different eyes. You are less defensive, more comfortable with yourself so others don’t feel as threatening and because of this your world becomes more stable, more consistent, more reliably comfortable.
Imagine the benefits to your relationships, to your enjoyment and functioning within your workplace, to your life all around...
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