“Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity of self-change.
And in observing himself, a man notices that self-observation itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening.”
― George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
What Came First, The Chicken or The Egg
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Same kind of question here with observation and awareness. Some teachers say one must be awake and “aware” before you can really observe properly. Others say one progresses in observation to where one becomes aware. This is when we finally reveal the Observer.
The unobserved mind allows our personality and instincts to be in control. These are the elements of Ego. The Ego is a necessary component. It connects our consciousness to our minds. This is our default setting. This default setting allows us to acclimate to our bodies.
So, when we are aware or present, this allows the real you to show up. This is the person you are talking to inside your head. This is the entity that is experiencing your life. How to we reach the Observer and keep it online?
So, what comes first, observation or awakening? Look at it this way. If awakening depends on the basic level observation, then everyone should be awake. However, we know this certainly isn’t the case.
Does it matter which we do first? Or, are they both working at the same time? We know we can increase awareness through specific types of moving and seated meditation. These techniques are in the domain of what we call spiritual exploration.
Similarly, one can learn skills to be more observant. You can practice observational tactics to improve your ability. Both sets of tools of observation and awareness work together. Depending on how you categorize the tactics of observation, they may also part of the tools for inner work or spiritual exploration.
Observation Skill Sets
Interactive Self-Observation Tactics
Observation revolves around conflict management. In other words, you observe in order to control the outcome of a particular encounter. This is a skill set often taught to those in law enforcement. And, we can all benefit from this basic mindset. It involves four key areas when interacting with another person:
- Active Listening This is listening to understand what is being said instead of planning a response.
- Building Trust This involves following through with promises. Supporting people.
- Adaptability This is a quality that we can cultivate. It involves learning how to learn. It means learning to have an open mind and seeing things from different perspectives.
- Critical Observation This is another skill you can develop. It involves seeing things with a wide-angle lens. Learning to interpret non-verbal communication.
Situational Self-Observation Tactics
- Basic observation can be as simple as being more self-aware of your immediate surroundings. Watch people in crowded areas: If the first thing you do when you sit down in a crowded place is to pull out your phone, stop.
- You can enhance this quality of perception by Assigning yourself a scavenger hunt: Pick something and look for it throughout your day. For instance, red on a sign or shirt. A spiral form, etc.
- Learn and practice the waking mindfulness technique. This is a way of keeping the Observer in the drivers’ seat instead of operating from the default settings of Ego. When we are present, we will see and hear things that we would otherwise overlook.
- Learn and practice forest bathing and tree grounding techniques. These will help you connect with nature, your source. In fact, any type of grounding technique will help you be present.
Ocular and Breath Training Tactics
This is perhaps one of the most powerful observational skills. It is powerful in the respect that it facilitates the conscious control of the nervous system. Normally, the sympathetic and parasympathetic modes of the nervous system are activated involuntarily in response to some stimulus.
This type of practice is the domain of advanced martial arts. It is found in the alignment practices of Silat. Here we find several strategies used to control the “fight, flight or freeze” reaction of the Sympathetic Nervous system. The practice of this technque takes the form of what looks like a dance. It’s really the practice of very sophisticated physical and mental processes with martial arts purpose. The untrained eye sees what appears to be a somewhat awkward dance performed to music with frequently changing rhythms.
Breathing and centering are components of this self-observation technique. This is because they can help direct attention inward. So, the warrior learns to combine several components together. This includes the use of ocular training to engage the use of peripheral vision, music, and rhythm along with specific breathing techniques.
This combination gives the warrior a greater degree of control of their emotional reactions. Thus, enabling the use of higher cortical functioning necessary to assess a rapidly changing conflict. The breath is a critical aspect of this technique. We cannot exist without oxygen. As the breath deepens we feel more grounded.
Use of the Enneagram
Another level of observation is learning to monitor our thought-life. One of the best tools for this is the Enneagram of Personality. By identifying our default personality and instinctual stack we see that these mechanisms have specific thought and value patterns. These patterns are simply a way of making navigating our environment easier. When we encounter something we don’t have to “think” about how to react or how to value the stimulus. We’ve already “decided” what to do ahead of time via our personality.
What this means is that we can spend much of our lives on autopilot. You’ve probably experienced this. If you’ve driven a car or traveled somewhere you go routinely, you can make the trip and not have any recollection of the trip itself. You were on autopilot. Your mind was somewhere else. Thus, your personality and instincts were fully in charge of your body. This autopilot syndrome is something we can fall into easily, especially when we are not “present” or “grounded”.
So, we use the Enneagram to identify our default settings. Then we look at the tendencies for our particular personality and instincts including our wing type. This gives us the patterns of our default thoughts and value settings. Now we have the power to recognize them and change them. We discover that we can move into other aspects of Being.
Allowing The Observer to Observe
The goal of these techniques is to bring the real you into the place of conscious observation. Doing so will increase both internal and external perception. It will expand our awareness.
Interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their own path.
Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s Book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, Wikipedia