The Observer Within - Harnessing the Power of Meditation
The Union Path Podcast
"The Observer Within - Harnessing the Power of Meditation"
One of the unique benefits of a practice like meditation is that we get to see ourselves in our ideal state, that is, just walking around, just living our lives. It's pretty easy to witness that we actually contain multitudes within ourselves. We are not one thing In most of our daily lives. I think we can kind of sense ourselves as being a dual being and of course these aren't new ideas. This is pretty obvious if we just apply a little bit of awareness to our life Things like thinking and feeling, mind and body, head and heart it really seems like we're walking around as this creature, trapped in this duality, sometimes in a bit of a battle between these two forces. What our head wants, what our heart wants, what we think, what we feel. When we enter a practice like meditation, I believe one of the greatest gifts of it, or the greatest value, is that we can see ourselves in our most true form. We can see ourselves in our most ideal form. At least in my experience, that form includes a third, that we're not just mind and body, head and heart. There's a third presence within us. There's an observer, there's a presence that lives above those other two and then when we make contact with this third presence. It really seems like it's this third presence that I can actually bring order to the other two. I can actually bring peace between the other two. Of course, lots of different religions talk about this in terms of different states of being, but when we go into a practice like meditation, we can really connect with this observer, with this knower. It can really help us make sense of our lives. It can really help us live a better life because we can step outside of ourselves for a minute, because so often our thinking or our feeling, or both, can be completely overwhelming. We can get completely lost in them. We can get carried away by whatever we're thinking about or whatever we're feeling. But it isn't until we're able to access this third presence. Can we actually kind of step aside our thinking and our feeling? Can we remove ourselves from direct involvement and have kind of a more objective point of view to be able to see our thinking and our feeling for what it really is? And then, when we make contact with this observer, with this knower, and knowing that this exists within us, just this awareness often changes our lives, changes how we do things. Because this is consciousness, this is our own consciousness that we're making contact with. And the more we make contact with our own consciousness, the more we expand it. The more time we experience in this observer state, the more that observer state is expanded within us and we experience and embody this observer state. It allows us to see things how they are, to see things, at least, from a different perspective.
But we're not so lost not being able to see the forest through the trees. We can actually rise above what's happening. We can break the momentum of our thinking and the momentum of our feeling and hold it in front of ourselves to really be able to see it, really be able to feel it, really be able to be aware of it, of what's actually happening within us. Because I've seen some really interesting things happen when we start to become aware, when we start to really befriend these three aspects of ourselves. Because there's all sorts of different ways we can define these aspects and, of course, these aspects aren't 100% separate. They really bleed into each other. They really are three separate aspects. From the way we think about them, but from the way we experience them, we can actually see that the three aspects flow into one another. Even though it seems like three, it's actually one, it's actually a whole the observer, the observed and the energy of that observation, awareness, thinking and feeling that these three aspects of ourselves are working at our present all the time. But we may not be 100% conscious and 100% aware of all three. Especially when we're overwhelmed or we're overly involved with ourselves, we can really get lost in one part of ourselves. We can build these habits of preference. We can build habits of preferring to think all the time. We can build habits of preferring to feel all the time and when one of these aspects of ourselves becomes dominant, kind of runs roughshod over the rest of our being. It often takes being able to access the state of being the observer to really bring this back into balance, to really be able to witness and acknowledge and appreciate the imbalance in the first place.
Because what do we do when we go into a meditative practice? In simple terms, I think the most common understanding is we just try to stop thinking. And a lot of times this practice, if we go into it with that simple of a dictate and demand, can be highly frustrating because that instruction is negative, that instruction is what we're not supposed to do, which, as far as instructions go, usually aren't actually all that helpful. It's kind of like if we ask a good friend how do we get to their house and they say, well, just drive down the street and never turn left. That's not really that helpful. It could be helpful if that's added onto other directions, but if we only know what we're not supposed to do, that isn't terribly helpful in knowing what we are supposed to do.
And, of course, with any sort of activity, with any sort of action, we don't engage with it negatively, we engage with it positively. What we do is what we do, it isn't what we don't do. The negative aspect of any sort of action is our thinking, is our analysis, but it isn't action itself. Action itself can only be positive. There isn't such thing as negative action. Of course. There is such a thing as inaction. We can choose to not do something through our own inaction, but that still isn't actually negative. That isn't erasing action from our life. No matter how inactive we think we are, we're still doing something. As part of being alive. There's always a doing happening. It goes hand in hand with being. As long as we're being, we're doing something.
And so if we think about our meditative practice of okay, let's not think about it when I'm not supposed to do, the thing about when I am supposed to do becomes a lot more helpful, a lot more useful. And so what are we supposed to do? Well, simply put, we're supposed to occupy, we're supposed to assume the role of observer. We're supposed to let go of our over-involvement in our own thinking and just bear witness, just observe, be aware, adopt kind of a third-person awareness of ourselves, become the observer, allow our thinking and our feeling to become the observed and then bear witness to the energy of both, to the energy that connects the two, because it's only when we adopt this role, it's only when we assume the role of the observer, we can actually see the relationships going on within us, we can actually start to glean and garner some meaning, some clarity. It's kind of like if we're driving in a car, going on any sort of journey, we'll never really know where we're going until we rise above that journey and consult a map, consult some direction, think about where we're going, think about our journey as larger than the present moment, awareness of just our own driving, just our own current forward progress. We have to bring observation into our journey, be able to actually understand it, and one of the benefits of having this sort of practice, where we drop into the role of observer, where we sit in a chair, sit in a quiet place, go for a walk and, for 20 minutes or so, be aware, step out of our own thinking, step out of our own feeling and just watch the thoughts, watch the feelings, observe all of it, bring our awareness to ourselves.
Or we might be going into something like a meditation practice, thinking only about outcomes, thinking only about what we're going to get from it, that we want to feel better, that we want to cut down our stress, that we want to elevate our mood, we want to be a better person, we want to be a person who meditates because that's valuable, I suppose. But really, when we're going into any kind of action only focused on the outcome, that separates us from the action itself. In fact, that's usually pretty detrimental to our awareness, because we automatically focus ourselves to only be aware of things that are in service of our desired outcomes, of our expectations. We're in the experience, where in the experience is filtered through our own expectations, and in order to really occupy, to really assume the role of observer, we have to go into it fully. In order to experience anything fully. We have to be in that experience fully, that as long as we're standing to the side waiting for some outcome, waiting for some measurable, tangible gain, we're not really in the experience, we're in the gain, we're in the outcome, we're separate.
Even though these instructions sound simple of oh well, just go into a meditation practice and be aware, just observe, well, if we've never really done this, if we've never really experienced this, this can actually be a difficult thing to do for the first time. This can be a bit of a challenge because if we haven't really made contact with this observer presence, this observer being within us, we don't really know what it's like. If we've been overly wrapped up in our own thinking or overly wrapped up in our own emotions, we don't really know what it's like to step out of our own thinking or step out of our own emotions. We have to experience something different in order to really comprehend and really to identify something different. So what can we actually do? How can we actually go into a meditative practice and get somewhere? How can we kind of know what to do, have a clear set of instructions?
Well, one of the things that we can do is let go of these mental models of observer, of observed, of energy, and instead really try to feel. Try to feel after what's inside of us, try to feel after the soul of creation lying within us and go into a meditative practice with that sort of objective. Can I feel the creative source within me? Can I feel the animating source within me? Can I feel what seems to be underneath all of this thinking, all of these emotions, all of these feelings, and feel after what's underneath? Can I feel my own being? Can I feel what it feels like to be? Is there a hum? Is there a buzz? Is there a warm sensation? Is there an image that comes to mind of who and what I am at the core of my being? Can I attempt, can I endeavor to make contact with that? Can I feel my own being? Can I feel my own life force? Can I feel life, energy emanating from within me? Can I feel life?
Because any instruction that we can follow that gets us under our own thinking, that gets us under our own emotions, is useful, is grounding, and that's the role of the observer. The observer choosing what to be aware of, what to look for, what to try to find, what to connect with. This is a useful exercise. In fact, I think we can have a pretty useful, pretty effective, pretty helpful meditation practice, doing nothing else, having no other objective than to feel our own life energy, to feel our own essence, to feel the I am within us, to feel our own being the root of everything.
And yes, to do this it is necessary for our thoughts to be silenced, it is necessary for our emotions, for our feelings to subside. At least, it's been my experience that these things happen naturally with practice. Our thoughts and our emotions subside when we become less focused on them, when we become less involved with them, when we have less of their influence. In our current state of being, and by plunging down, by exploring after ourselves in our own fundamental, we naturally drop below our thinking and our emotions. When we make contact with the source of our own being, we know it. And we don't know it from a logical perspective. We actually know it from a feeling perspective.
It's kind of one of those things that, even though there are practically infinity books written on the subject, it's kind of ineffable, but on the other hand, you know it when you encounter it. It's obvious, it's self-evident. It's one of those things that when you know, you know, especially if we've lived a lot of our lives only in our head, or if we've lived a lot of our lives only in our emotional reactions, it can take a little bit of time to get underneath all of the thinking and all of these emotions. These are well-worn habits, these are ways we've gotten very used to being and so to be any other way takes a little bit of time, takes a little bit of patience, takes a little bit of grace, takes a little bit of persistence to seek after it, to look for something deeper, to look for something more fundamental, to look for something more real.
And usually we decide to do this because we find a life overly dominated by thinking, a life overly dominated by emotion, isn't really that pleasant over the long term, isn't really that peaceful, isn't really that enjoyable to actually live. Because, yes, our thinking can be thrilling and magnificent, our emotions can be sublime and exciting and passionate. But the opposite is also true. And if we're completely invested, completely living through only our minds or only our emotions, then we're going to live a life being whipped around by them, because part of what makes them so enjoyable is that they're so dynamic. But with every high, high, there's an equal and opposite, low, low.
Or we may find when we're overly attached to our thinking or overly attached to our emotions that we start to intentionally try to construct a life in service of that attachment, kind of like an addict seeking the fruit of their addiction. We start making choices to kind of rev up our thinking, to amplify our emotion. We start working life in service of our thinking and service of our emotion and lose sight and lose contact and lose touch with the deeper, more fundamental part of ourselves. And living this kind of life can be exhausting, like any addiction to anything. It's taxing. In order to maintain that level of control it takes a tremendous amount of energy. Often it takes a tremendous amount of mental energy just to maintain the delusion that's necessary to continue on with our addiction. But whatever the negative effects are from being overly involved in our own emotions and our own thinking, we can break this cycle. We can break this pattern whenever we wish.
Because ultimately, when we're overly involved with our own emotions or overly involved with our own thinking, it's a very least a little whiff of self centeredness there, a little whiff of kind of losing the thread on who we really are, of getting a little overly involved in gratification of ourselves, which in and of itself isn't inherently bad. It's just not really that fulfilling, it's not really that nourishing, which, if persisted in long enough, ultimately will lead us back to the desire, to the hunger to connect to something deeper, to something more fundamental, to something more sustaining, to something more nourishing, to something more tenable, to something more durable, to something more real, to something that feels more like the truth. And we experience more truth in our life as we pursue it, as we prioritize it. And one of the ways we can choose and prioritize it is by seeking after who and what we really are is doing practices in order to make contact, to establish a relationship with ourselves on the most fundamental level, knowing that we are more than our thinking, we are more than our emotions, that those aspects of ourselves are manifest, those aspects of ourselves are created.
But what's creating it, what's animating it? What is the energy within us, what is the life force within us that's animating this creation? What are we and who are we really at our core, at our most fundamental? If we strip away our thinking, we strip away our emotions. Who are we? Because I think we all have a sense, even if we haven't encountered it directly, that there's more going on than just our thinking and just our emotions, that those are effects of some other cause. Those are manifestations that are animated by something else flowing through us and, of course, this something else, this animating energy, is what every religion and spiritual practice in the world is pursuing, is attempting to identify, is attempting to define and establish a relationship with, and we can explore this for ourselves. We can make contact with this ourselves because it exists within all of us, and we can use a practice like meditation to make contact, to establish a relationship with a full version of ourselves.
We can bring clarity to our experience by adopting the role, by assuming the role of the observer, because no matter how complicated our internal situation is, eventually, with enough observation, it will make sense. That's kind of like a Buddhist idea that I really like, that if the answer isn't obvious, we don't really understand the question. Well, if we're walking around confused, if we're walking around unsure, one of the ways we can gain clarity is to become more aware, is to really try to understand the question that we're trying to answer. You really try to understand that question, bringing to bear our own awareness, our own focus, really striving to understand ourselves, to bringing our awareness internally, to break our compulsion with being overly aware of everything on the outside and bring our awareness home, bring our awareness within, and doing so by assuming the observer Paying attention, being aware and knowing that through the accumulation of that awareness, the clarity will come, the questions will be answered, to allow ourselves the opportunity to reestablish relationship with our entire selves, with our entire being, and doing this through observation, getting to know ourselves through being aware of ourselves, becoming familiar with who and what we really are, by spending time and focus and attention on who and what we really are, gaining a familiarity over time, gaining a relationship over time, knowing that we are more than our thoughts, knowing that we are more than our emotions, knowing that we are more than what we see in the mirror, knowing that we are more than what others think of us.
We are spirit, we are being. At our most fundamental, we are a ham. If we need a reference point, contact our being, to really establish contact with who and what we really are at our most fundamental. That's a really good mantra to use Focus on the idea of I am, focus on the idea of our own being, focus our awareness on the fact that we exist, focus on awareness, on the fact that life energy flows through all of us our own being, our own I am and realize this is the source of our entire existence. This is the animating energy for our entire life. This is what gives our emotions their feeling, this is what gives our thoughts their substance. This is the animating energy within all of us. This is the thing that makes our life go, this is the thing that our entire life grows out of, this fundamental energy of I am.
And we can make contact with this fundamental energy by focusing on this idea, because it isn't so much the words that we say Mantras are things that we repeat are really much more of a doorway into a feeling, and it's the feeling we're after, it's the feeling that we want to make contact with. It's the ground state of our own being that feels a certain way, that feels fundamental, that feels animating, that feels like the core creative energy within us. And so, whatever we call it, that's what we're after. And, again, we know it when we feel it. And if we don't know it, then we need to continue feeling after it, feeling for it, knowing that when we come in contact with it we'll know, and that by making contact with this fundamental part of ourselves we can realize that our emotions and our thinking are animated by this fundamental source and that we can choose to channel and express this fundamental force however we wish.
But just the sheer act of making contact is worthwhile, is valuable. Just the sheer act of adopting the role of the observer is calming, is clarifying, is reassuring, is helpful. And that's why we do these sorts of practices because they're actually helpful, because they actually do the things that we want, the things that we've heard that they do. But we experience those outcomes by going into it fully. We experience those outcomes by letting go of our expectations, letting go of our resistance to what is, and fully going into the experience with observing, making contact with ourselves at the most fundamental level, spending time with our own being, spending time with who and what we really are, spending time in the presence and the awareness of I am.