Thursday, May 25, 2006

Exercise: The Observer Self

I've posted about this before, but no one read this blog back then. Also, I think this is a great preliminary exercise beforw working to identify subpersonalites. I plan to post an exercise or two on how to identify subpersonalities either later today or sometime this weekend.

An Exercise to Identify the Observer Self

The observer self is that aspect of consciousness which can watch us act like fools and stand back at a safe distance, shaking its head in disbelief. It is capable of observing our behaviors with an even, unattached point of view. The observer can help us see our wounded areas, our habitual patterns, and our inner selves more clearly, without the interference of the ego and its desire to maintain the status quo. The observer self is an invaluable ally in personal growth that can lead us into higher levels of consciousness.

The following exercise, adapted from Roberto Assagioli’s disidentification process in Psychosynthesis and Ken Wilber’s meditations in One Taste, can help us detach from ego-consciousness and step back into the observer self. For each of the steps there is a mantra that some people find quite useful in detaching from each element of the ego-self.

Practicing Detachment

Get into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. Take a few deep, centering breaths, allowing the body to relax. Closing the eyes can help focus attention. Feel the air moving in an out of your lungs as you breathe. Become aware of your body, its position, how your limbs feel, where you are holding tension. Become aware of your whole body and all the sensations it experiences. If you are comfortable with mantras, the one for this step is, "I have a body, but I am not my body." Repeat aloud or in your thoughts.

Take three deep cleansing breaths. Now leave your body and move to your emotions. What feelings do you notice? Are you bored, anxious, happy? Notice your current feelings, and then think about the most common feelings in your life. Do not dwell on those feelings -- just recall them and then release them. Mantra: "I have feelings, but I am not my feelings." This mantra works well as a reminder when you are angry or afraid that you are frozen in an emotion.

Take three deep cleansing breaths. Move from your feelings to your desires. Desires are those things that motivate us. We all have many things that motivate our behaviors, such as simplicity, comfort, quiet, money, health, or others. Observe the things that motivate you, but do not judge them. Simply call them up and notice them. Mantra: "I have desires, but I am not my desires."

Take three deep cleansing breaths. Now move to your thoughts. As each thought rises to consciousness, observe it but do not dwell on it. Then watch as the next one rises to replace it, over and over again. This is the state of consciousness most of us experience. However, we often get stuck on a handful of thoughts that return over and over again in our lives. Notice the pattern, but do not hold on to it. Notice the flotsam and jetsam of consciousness, the memories, the ideas, the fears, the opinions, and the ways you tell yourself who you are as a person. Mantra: "I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts." This mantra works in meditation to return a wandering mind to the breath.

Take three deep cleansing breaths. Finally, become aware of that part of you that has been observing your body, your feelings, your desires, and your thoughts. Having detached from the basic elements of consciousness, repeat the mantras: I have a body, but I am not my body; I have feelings, but I am not my feelings; I have desires, but I am not my desires; I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts.

What is the source of your awareness? Who is that self behind all these realms of ego? The self is not an image or a thought, but a deeper essence. The self is at the core of our humanity.

The one who has been watching your sensations, feelings, desires, and thoughts is not the same as the object it observes. WHO IS IT THAT HAS BEEN OBSERVING ALL THESE REALMS? It is your SELF. The Self is not an image or a thought; it is that ESSENCE which has been observing all these realms and yet is distinct from all of them. Mantra: "I am the self, a center of pure consciousness."

Whatever comes into awareness is fine. You are none of those things, so just watch them pass like clouds across a blue sky. "And this witnessing awareness is not itself anything specific you can see. It is just a vast, background sense of Freedom – or pure Emptiness – and in that pure Emptiness, which you are, the entire manifest world arises. You are that Freedom, Openness, Emptiness – and not any itty bitty thing that arises in it" (Ken Wilber, One Taste, 88).
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5 comments:

Love Freed said...

Hey there,

I really like this post as I'm practicing strengthening my awareness of my Observer Self.

Thanks for posting,

M

Anonymous said...

I like how simple and to the point your suggestion. I'm going to try it.

H

de dibyendu said...

Seeing this emptiness of the self is so simple yet I find people struggling to realize this simple truth or fail to see it.

Anonymous said...

A well written and informative article. I do have one query: You say "Now leave your body and move to your emotions." I consider my emotions to come from my body.


Bernard

William Harryman said...

Good question Bernard -

In psychology and neuroscience, we tend to distinguish between feelings (body-based sensations) and emotions (how the brain interprets those feelings based on context and previous experience). So, yes, emotions rise from the body.

What the exercise is asking is that we focus our awareness on the subjective experience of emotions (fear, joy, anger, etc) and not the somatic feelings/sensations that give rise to those emotions.

This is a very preliminary exercise. A later goal may be to identify an emotion, find it in the body, explore that somatic experience and allow it to have a voice, a color, a shape/form, a scent, a movement, or anything else that arises.

Once that is accessible, we can then relate to it and dialogue with it as a "part" of us, a subpersonality.

I hope that clarifies a bit.