“Life can only take place in the present moment. If we lose the present moment, we lose life.” Buddha
How often do you observe yourself and your sensations from events that happen to you every day? Or is your average day so monotonous that you don’t notice what’s happening around you?
In fact, “living in the moment” is such that while we live our lives, we should keep our observer within always active and alert. If the observer within sleeps, we live our lives without understanding, like a sleepy stupor. But if the observer is alert, we experience a life where we are aware of each passing moment and its effect on us.
So how can we observe ourselves?
During my efforts to develop my own awareness, I attended a course on meditation called Vipassana at the beginning of December 2010. Thanks to practicing Vipassana meditation in noble silence for 10 days, I learned to observe myself and my sensations.
In order to observe yourself, does everyone have to go to a camp like this? Can’t we learn how to observe ourselves without attending a camp? Of course we can. Ultimately, Vipassana is just a technique. Since it is a very intense program of meditation, it is easier to learn a lot in a short period. However, this does not mean the only way of learning is Vipassana.
Vipassana basically tells us to be aware of everything happening around us through our sensations. This way, everything happening outside is known first by our senses. These are then sent to the brain by electrical signals to be processed. After they are understood, they turn into emotions. Finally, we react according to these emotions.
For example, we hear sounds outside us through our ears. Our ears record these sounds. When they are analyzed by the brain, we understand what these sounds mean. If the sounds have a negative meaning to us, we feel anger. Finally, these feelings turn into verbal or physical reactions, or sometimes our reactions are suppressed by our feelings within.
Vipassana comes into the reaction phase. Instead of reacting automatically, it tells us that it is possible to be an observer of the situation. Instead of being reactive, we can make a different choice and act more consciously.
Take me for example. During the whole day today, I dealt with technical issues concerning my blog, such as FTP-permission problems, website-publishing problems, and many more. Despite many conversations with customer service at the web-hosting company, a complete solution couldn’t be achieved. I was so angry that I found myself grumbling on my own. When I looked at the mail I was writing to customer service, I noticed that I used many incriminating statements against them. Once I was aware of what I was doing, I stopped and started observing myself. Here were my sensations: accelerated breath, a beetle-browed face, and tense shoulders and neck. Indeed, my whole body was very tense. All these sensations had already turned into anger, and I had a tendency to react with incriminating statements.
I came to my senses just as I was about to give a reaction. I stopped for a moment and decided not to react. The words I was writing would not help solve the problem. On the contrary, they would provoke the other side and the problem would persist longer. Instead, I wrote a balanced email that described the current situation and expressed the desired solution one more time.
I then felt the need to release the tension in my body. I got up from my seat, took care of my other jobs, and prepared some tea for myself. I then turned back to writing my articles. Instead of waiting for a response in a frustrated manner, the best thing I could do was direct my energy to positive matters.
As you can see, when we feel emotions such as anger, we react unconsciously and automatically. We supposedly release anger by reacting, but as we react more, our anger grows and spreads to the rest of the day, even affecting matters unrelated to the source of the anger. Unfortunately, our loved ones are affected most by these situations.
However, if we can observe our emotions and sensations without suppressing them, we can make conscious choices to act rather than react. We can then reach solutions easier by preventing the opposing reaction. This means we can direct our energy toward matters that benefit us.
The simplest technique I use to keep my observer within awake is to watch my breathing. You should try it. After observing your breath for a while by focusing on it, you will notice that your mind turns back to the present moment, regardless of your original mood or whatever was on your mind. Once the observer within is active in the present moment, you can observe your sensations. It then becomes so much easier to take conscious actions instead of reacting automatically.
If the observer within were active and alert all the time, we would always make our choices consciously. We would live in awareness and enjoy every moment. It would be easier to realize what we really needed and take necessary actions instead of merely reacting. When we go to bed at night, we would think of how good the day has been and sleep in peace.
Wouldn’t you want your day to pass like this? Come on then. Let’s wake the observer within and never let it fall asleep again…
“Awake. Be the witness of your thoughts. You are what observes, not what you observe.” Buddha