Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity of self-change.
― George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
Tools for Positive Change
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 observe properly. Others say one progresses in observation when one becomes self-aware. Being self-aware is being present. This is when we finally reveal the Observer.
And in observing himself, a man notices that self-observation itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes. ― George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
The unobserved mind allows our personality and instincts to be in control. These are the elements of the 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. We simply need to learn how to use it wisely. The Ego can be one of the tools for positive change, if we understand how it works.
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?
He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening.
― George Ivanovich Gurdjieff
So, what comes first, observation, or awakening? Look at it this way. If awakening depends on the basic level of observation, then everyone should be awake. We know this 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 the skills to be more observant. You can practice observational skills to improve your ability to perceive. The 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.
It is important to remember that everything we experience happens in the mind. The information we get through our external senses is filtered through our worldview. So we don’t actually perceive the world.
Our worldview interprets the input from our senses. This is why several people can see the same event but describe it in different ways. This also explains why eyewitness accounts often misidentify people.
So, observing oneself starts with cleaning the internal lens of our worldview. We must identify and remove as many preconceptions as possible. Any prejudice or bias will taint our experience. That means to improve observational skills we start with the inward journey.
Interactive Self-Observation Tools
Observation revolves around conflict management. In other words, you observe 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:
1) Engage in Active Listening. This is listening to understand what is being said instead of planning a response.
2) Build Trust. This involves following through with promises big and small. Supporting others will increase your social acumen. Some people wonder how this increase your observational skills. It is simple. To help others, you become more empathetic. You cultivate the skills of an Empath. This helps you to sense the emotional energy of others. This extends to places and things.
3) Increase Adaptability. This is a quality of the mind that we can cultivate. It involves learning how to learn. It means learning to have an open mind and seeing things from fresh perspectives.
4) Sensory self-observation skills. It involves learning how to engage the peripheral vision to see things with a wide-angle lens. And it also involves using controlled breathing along with this ocular technique. Together they are powerful tools that enable us to control our nervous system. This skill set helps respond to critical situations in the appropriate way. We’ll discuss this more later on.
Situational Self-Observation Tools
1) Become more self-aware of your surroundings. Enhancing observation starts with training your awareness. Practice watching and listening. We don’t do this because we are too used to being entertained. Instead, watch people in crowded areas. Stop tunnel vision. Stop the habitual use of your smartphone. If the first thing you do when you sit down in a crowded place is to pull out your phone, stop.
2) Learn to keep your internal radar on. 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.
3) Become more mindful and attentive. 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.
4) Learn to connect with nature. Learn and practice forest bathing and tree grounding techniques. These will help you connect with your source. Any type of grounding technique will help you be present.
Eye and Breath Training Tactics
The senses are the tools of outward observation. You can use these tactics at the same time you are cleaning the lens of your worldview. Learning how to use them together will enhance your observational skills and inward awareness.
The key is learning to control your nervous system with the eyes and breath. Here’s how it works. In threat situations, the sympathetic and parasympathetic (SN) activates involuntarily. This is our “fight, flight or freeze” reaction. This allows to react quickly, but it also shuts off the higher functioning brain center. So, we move fast, but not necessarily in the right ways. The goal is to control this reaction through ocular training and controlled breathing.
This type of practice is the domain of advanced martial arts like the alignment practices of Silat. The practice of this technique takes the form of what looks like a dance. It’s the practice of very sophisticated physical and mental processes with martial arts a purpose. The untrained eye sees what appears to be a somewhat awkward dance performed to music with frequently changing rhythms.
Breathing and centering are two other major components of these self-observation tools. They help us direct attention inward, even when engaging in physical activity. So, the warrior learns to combine several components. This involves training the eyes. One learns to engage peripheral vision while in combat. The mind focuses on music and rhythm. The last element is the use of specific breathing techniques. We can use these same tools for positive change in perception and awareness.
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.
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.
Understanding these patterns helps is see the hard coded scripts of the personality. These scripts are short cuts designed to make life easier. So, 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. Now we have the power to recognize them and change them. It’s one of the most powerful tools for positive change.
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 perceptions. It will expand our awareness.
We hope you found this article helpful, maybe even thought-provoking. You will find more interesting posts on our blog page. Use the “search” option on the blog page to find articles by key terms, topics, or category.
Does spiritual exploration interest you? If so, we offer both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. We use a blended learning process to get the best learning outcomes. This blended approach aligns with what Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey.
Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, Wikipedia