Tag Archives: observer

Love, and Reason

Once we’ve had profound realizations on love and intuition, we have to watch for the ego taking these over and saying, “look how special I am, I can now do whatever I want”. You’re not special. This feeling just leads you into another trap that can be seen in the following two different ways: One, is we can think we’re special, and can do whatever we want without consequences. We treat other people however we feel with impunity, because we’re special, “I’m me” and me knows all about love.

Heart of Little Wild Horse
Heart of Little Wild Horse

The other one is, we think we are special and know about love, so we have to save everybody. The ego now has to fix, correct, and save everyone we meet. We forget about taking care of ourselves because we’re too busy rushing around doing everything to everyone, for ‘love’.

These two reactions basically come about from a lack of reason, brought on by base infatuation with ourselves. We have to allow reason to come into our decision-making process to double-check what the emotions, and our ego’s love, are up to. We don’t have to have reason as the final arbiter, the final decision-maker, but we should allow it into the process. It’s very easy to get tricked if we lose our heads, but not our egos, and start running around in love, thinking we’re infallible.


Mind Breakers: Experiments in the Listening Attention

” The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitude of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” – William James

When we first start out in this business of finding the Self, the Truth of who or what we really are, we are forced to use the only tools at hand: our thinking and feeling. After a few years of trial and error with emotion-based cogitation, we may stumble upon the intuition that there’s another tool available: direct seeing, or the listening attention. Our personal heredity, environment, and karma, will lead our thinking and feeling around and around in a never-ending circle of ego-fueled projections. This mechanical tail chasing may become more and more astute as we grow older and more crystallized, but never leads us to Truth. How can we blow a hole in this armored box of mind and emotion? Is it possible to perceive without coloring the perception?

Let’s get to really know ourselves by playing some games. Drop the heavy learned pose of knowing, and instead return to the lighthearted innocence of simple seeing. Take the sense of “I” from your thinking and feeling, and allow the ever-present inner silence to be your center. We will now become, as Douglas Harding says, headless, alert idiots. Like taking a mini-vacation from yourself, drop the “you” you try so hard to be, and just listen and look. Does it sound like fun? You bet it is.

Put your conceptual thinking, precious feelings, and clever intellect aside and try the following trick: pick an object in front of you, say the tip of your finger. Where is this object in relation to you, as awareness? Now pick one behind you, the same finger if you like, and see where it is (the memory or feeling) in relation to you. Now, close your eyes, and scratch your nose. Where is this happening, in relation to you? Now, scratch the back of your neck. Look closely. Where is this taking place, in relation to you, as awareness? (Hint: having a double arrow of attention is imperative: one pointed outward towards the object, one inward towards the Unknown.)

Now, let’s play a modified version of the same little game. Close your eyes, and, while looking inside with your inner eye, scratch the back of your neck with your finger. In your mind, which do you label as “me,” and which as “object”: the finger, or your neck? If you’d like, you can try switching the subject/object relationship. If you see the finger as object, and the neck, or body, as “me,” try becoming the finger, and let the body be the object.

Let’s revert back to thinking for a bit, a relapse, so to speak, and see what just happened. The feeling of “me,” and the feeling of the “world” or “objects,” is an arbitrary designation brought about by what we call learning, another name for hypnosis. It is not a fact of our own seeing, based on present evidence. If we look a bit closer, with our eyes closed, we see that what we call the finger and body are simply tensions in the field of our awareness. They are both what we call objects, mind-made, whether we have been induced to call them “me” or “I,” the body or the world.

To illustrate this even further, let’s try this trick. Remember to keep focused, in silence, out of worded thought and the internal dialogue, and only watch what you’re seeing with the mind’s eye, on present evidence. Try and remember a moment when you were offended or hurt by someone. C’mon, this isn’t hard, we all have many such moments, I’m sure. Relive the event just as it happened. Now, on present evidence, what is it in you that is hurt? And what is the form of the offending party, right now, as you see it? Remember, this is all now only in memory, so you can look clearly into your mind, and simply watch. What is the make up of the subject/object relationship in this play of victim and perpetrator? Who is doing what to whom? Where are you in all of this?

Now, for all you intellectuals, pick up a pencil or pen, and take a good look at it. Give a thorough, verbal description of the object before you. You may even list any associations the pen/pencil has for you. Now quick, who was talking? Who was listening? Who was being spoken to? Remember, this internal dialogue is happening inside your own head. Look carefully: in which voice is the “I” usually placed?

Now, let’s finish up by giving ourselves a break, and get up and get a drink. But before we go to the kitchen for our drink, let’s prepare ourselves. First, let’s take a look at our aim, simple as it may be. We wish to get up, go to the kitchen and get a drink. This is our desire of the moment. You might even call it our longing. Now, without thinking, but by just observing in the present moment, watch what actually happens as we allow our longing to unfold. As we begin, the desk with its computer swings back and out of the way, and the view of our desired destination, the kitchen, swings into view. As our longing continues, the kitchen magically gets closer and closer. Realigning itself to our vision, it eventually presents itself to us, even if a hallway or another room has to first pass by. The water glass we need comes into view. A hand reaches out and picks it up. Then, the glass and the hand go under the faucet. Another hand appears, and turns on the faucet. The water appears and fills the glass. A hand puts the glass to a mouth and the water flows inside, becoming a feeling or tension somewhere within our mind’s field of view. Somewhere, desire is replaced by satisfaction.

Now, what did we really have to do with any of this? Nothing. It just happened as an answer to our longing. The only part we actively played, in truth, was that of observer. The ever-still awareness we really are was witness to a play of desire and fulfillment. The play was created from nothing, out of nowhere, to miraculously appear in the aware space that is Us.

All spiritual work relies on the same basic principle. Our true longing eventually brings us to that which fulfills. We can now also see how the simple aim of reading this paper was not interfered with by the smaller aims of conducting the individual experiments. The end goal was achieved by progressing from one small goal to another, with our longing as the guide. As long as we didn’t cater to a conflicting desire, and thus were not distracted, we came to the goal.

Any question asked with absolute sincerity, honesty, and commitment will be answered. If we want the world of form and images, along with its corresponding pleasure and pain, we will have it. If we wish to gaze upon the miracle of existence right before our eyes, created from nothing, moment by moment, we may have that, too. If you want to know what your true desire is, look truthfully at the life before your eyes. There is your true longing, playing out before you in the events of your day-to-day life. If there is static and pain, worldly desire and anxiety, then find out why you long for it. The answers are there, in the present moment. Bravely clear your vision, and turn the subjective world of your unconscious desires and fears into a simple clear longing for Truth.

Bob Fergeson

Experiments, in Isolation

” What I suspect we need is not any kind of path or discipline, but a collection of tricks or devices for catching the Dark at the corner of the eye, as it were, and learning how to spot its just-waiting-to-be-seen presence, combined with strategies for stopping the hyperactive survival-programmes from immediately explaining the perception away. D. E. Harding’s exercises for discovering one’s own essential ‘headlessness’ are the best ideas I’ve yet come across for the first half of this process, but, by his own admission, most people ‘get it but simply don’t believe it’ .” – John Wren-Lewis

” Anything that pays the bills or works in the everyday world, including psychological systems, is never able to be rejected or seen for its errors. As long as you pay the bills, you have little chance of escaping your thought patterns. You never get to see how things are on the other side of the street, so to speak. If it works, it is self-maintaining, including all the mistakes built into the mind set.” – Jim Burns

In the above quote, Wren-Lewis has outlined a method for seeing our own ineffable awareness, the first part of which is Douglas Harding’s ‘experiments’ or tricks.  He outlines the second part as the need for a strategy ‘for stopping the hyperactive survival-programs from immediately explaining the perception away’, but only gives a hint as to how to proceed.

The Harding experiments are simple and direct, but must be practiced rather than read about for any effect to occur. I’ve noticed through the years what Wren-Lewis describes as the survival programs immediately explaining the trick away occur again and again, in myself as well as others: someone has a breakthrough at a Harding workshop, after practicing the experiments at home, or even after a spontaneous event while driving or eating, but soon the ego grabs hold of the ‘experience’ and lays claim to it. “Look what ‘I’ did,” it boasts, “’I’ saw what ‘I’ was looking out of, as now I’m seeing it, as I always see it, and so now don’t have to do anything more, so lets get back to the real business of doing whatever we were doing before this seeing nonsense came up.” This last part about getting back to business isn’t actually admitted, even in private, nor announced in public. Soon the person has no connection with the anterior seeing other than a vague memory and a new storyline about how they’ve finally made it to the promised land, end of the road, they’re off the hook.

There is nothing unusual about this. It’s the valuation that’s wrong, for it’s placed on observing a projected memory, rather than on actual seeing in the moment. The person believes that one instance of seeing what they are looking out of has somehow made the seeing permanent, when actually they are being fooled by the ego’s penchant for taking unconsciously referenced and projected memory, as reality. This process happens much faster than conscious worded thought. In a manic mind fraught with the demands of modern living, it is for practical purposes, invisible. The person thinks he is ‘seeing’ when he is actually remembering his seeing, and thus is fooled into never seeing again. How can this survival program of the ego be seen through, and how can we stop it from fooling us so completely? Can we admit our seeing is something that we must practice, perhaps for years, before it becomes an actual real time spontaneous state?

A possible answer occurred to me when I remembered the above quote by Jim Burns. We must somehow still the mind from its pressing quest to believe it has day-to-day life under control in every aspect just long enough to allow the survival program to relax. Then, when a breakthrough such as a moment of seeing what you’re looking out of occurs, you can observe the entire event without the ego’s overwhelming need to add it to its bag of survival tricks, thus relegating it to memory, projection and self-trickery.

A plan of action would require a period of isolation, a time set aside with no human contact. Especially no contact with the human system of emotional reactions such as family, the workplace, and all media, including the news, cell phones and email. Once isolated from outside influence, a person’s hyperactive reaction pattern will lose steam, and any event such as a glimpse into the anterior realm will not be immediately rationalized as a deed of the ego, but can be seen for what it is. The entire pattern of self-deception can be noticed, without identification, from the moment of ‘seeing’ to it’s relegation to memory and the ego’s attempt to claim it, and henceforth project it as proof of its accomplishment. This combination of isolation from outside influence long enough to still the mind, coupled with a earnest desire to perform experiments designed to see our own awareness at work, is a possible scenario for upping our chances at a breakthrough. For some a few days might be enough to break the pattern of mind chatter, for others, several weeks may be necessary. Aids such as fasting, meditation, and a resolve to watch for the need for distraction however it tempts, will help to calm the mind. It is getting harder and harder to find a place where one can be free from the mind’s manic reflections, and still stay reasonably comfortable so as not to spend all one’s time and energy battling the elements and other irritations, but it’s necessity has never been greater. Any effort towards this would be beneficial, any actual practice of it invaluable. The greater the resistance, the greater the reward.



Osprey and Full Moon
Osprey and Full Moon

Learning to observe, or watch oneself without attachment, is so easy that most of us overlook it, thinking that we must need to be doing something more complicated.

Try a little experiment.Take your watch or a clock with a sweep second hand, and see how long you can watch the hand as it moves. Without thinking, just concentrate on observing the hand, without thoughts. Not very easy, eh, but so simple. If the thought comes “I’m watching the hand”, or if you find you’re trying to help it move by willing it, i.e. being the doer, or think, “What an idiot, I’m watching my watch!”, then you’ve lost the observer and are now creating a scene through visualization.
Now, find some task you perform as a habit, something simple you do everyday. Watch yourself as this task unfolds. If the thought comes, “I’m watching myself do this”, or “I’m watching myself, watching myself do this”, then you’ve lost the thread, and created another observer or self with which you become identified: the subject-object visualization trap. Just realize this, and go back to observing the scene, without a sense of involvement, even as the watcher. After you’ve had a bit of success with this, move on to something more complicated, and see if you can again observe the scene without the sense of the doer, or self.
Also, begin to remember what thoughts brought you out of the observer and back into identification, and what the hidden motivation was behind them. This free association, following the thoughts back to the desire or fear that caused the loss of the listening attention and brought back the sense of attachment, will show you your pattern. Then, go back to observing until the circle of distraction and loss of the listening attention spins around again.
Practice the above meditation for awhile, and put what you’ve found in clear, concise language.

Buzz Ball or Essence?

“I want to become so lost in experience that I forget myself.  I’ve always got things to think about, lots to do, it saves me from being in the moment. Something in me doesn’t want to face the moment, because it thinks it’s missing out, it’s going to miss something.  Like needing to watch movies, or social networking, browsing endlessly on the web, channel surfing even though I can’t find anything I care about. I like to think that if I would just go home at night and sit in the dark, be quiet, stay away from the endless

Observant Osprey
Observant Osprey

electronic chatter, that I’d be calmer, happier. But when it’s that time, I find myself doing the same old same old,  because I feel that I’m going to miss something.  That if I watch the movie, browse the web, I’ll have done something.  It’s the same way with thinking.  I don’t like to just walk along, or just sit and be empty of reaction.  Something in me wants to be thinking, thinking, thinking all the time because it’s so afraid it’s going to miss something by being quiet.  It’s really strange, I think my mind is like a sort of buzz ball of static, trying to assert itself and stay alive, rather than letting what’s essential, my inner self, come forth and grow. “

If the above statement rings a bell for you, you’ve begun the big battle, the war of the selves. The inner fight between the outer and inner man. This is a huge step on the path, for it shows we’ve come to realize that the battle is within, not with circumstance or others, but with ourselves.

This buzz ball, the mind of static and habit, is opposed to our essence. It is all a matter of identification: what do I see I am? If you’re identified with the buzz ball, then you have to think, plan, do, be nervous, think you’re missing out all the time.  If you’re identified with Essence, then experience doesn’t have to be so regulated or enticed.  It’s just your awareness of existence, and what creates it, that matters. You simply enjoy watching whatever it is that’s there.

Then, words such as those in the Serenity Prayer take on meaning, for we begin to see we may not be the doer after all, but an observer who has very little to do with what’s going on in the play of our lives.

Lord, grant me
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.