Self Observation Summary

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Read more about Self Observation from the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

What is Self-Observation?

Self observation is to know what stands behind one’s surface nature and personality. To observe oneself is to become conscious of oneself, of the different parts of one’s being and their respective activities. It is to know one’s inner mental, vital, physical and psychic being and its powers and movements... In its advanced stages where one takes an impersonal poise, Self-observation also consists of knowing the universal laws and processes of the occult Mind and Life which stand behind the material-front of the universe. [1] [2]

Why is Self-Observation Important?

To Overcome Ignorance

In our everyday life, we always look outwards into the appearance of things and get trapped into the surface ignorance and rarely turn inwards. Amongst other things, this comes with ignorance, unconsciousness, egoism. If we wish to overcome these limitations and discover & utilise our potentialities beyond the surface appearances, we need to observe ourselves. [3]

Self-awareness

Through self-observation, one learns to distinguish different parts one from another, so that one may become clearly aware of the origin of the movements that occur in oneself, the many impulses, reactions and conflicting wills that drive one to action. [4]

To Utilise One’s Full Potential

Man must know himself and discover and utilise all his potentialities: but to know himself and the world completely he must go behind his own and its exterior, he must dive deep below his own mental surface and the physical surface of Nature. This he can only do by observing oneself. [5]

How to Observe Oneself?

By Cultivating the Inner Attitude of Witness

To observe oneself, first & foremost is cultivating an inner attitude of witnessing. Witness attitude is not the same as introspection. In introspection, one looks with one part of the surface mind at what happens in another part of the same surface mind. Whereas when we have the witness attitude, our consciousness frees itself from habitual entanglements in thoughts, feelings and sense-perceptions and becomes peaceful, silent, and capable of watching whatever happens in nature as a pure witness, sakshi, without bias, reaction or involvement.

However, in the beginning, it helps to use the introspective mind, especially if a human has a well-development introspective mind. It helps in not getting carried away by thoughts and feelings. A man with a very developed with very identifies with this part of his mind and observes his own thoughts and studies their nature. That is a beginning which makes it easy for the full detachment to come.

Further, to develop the witness attitude it helps to Project oneself on a screen and then observe and see all that is moving there and how it moves and what happens. [6]

Look at oneself objectively as a third person engaging in the surface level activities. One need not like or dislike the activity but sincerely observe the movements of nature.

By Developing the Contact with the Psychic Being

The mental being within watches, observes and passes judgment on all that happens in you. The psychic does not watch and observe in this way like a witness, but it feels and knows spontaneously in a much more direct and luminous way by the very purity of its own nature and the divine instinct within it, and so, whenever it comes to the front it reveals at once what are the right and what the wrong movements in one’s nature. [7]

By Being Vigilant

Secondly, vigilance helps in self-observation. If one remains vigilant, not fearful, then with the increase of the Force upholding oneself, a power of seeing and self-observation comes. The power of seeing is accompanied by the power of self-control and the power to reject the wrong turn or the wrong reaction when it comes. [8]

By Developing a Quiet Mind

Thirdly, quietude and detachment of the mind helps in self-observation. If the whole mind remains quiet and detached, then to observe the vital movement without giving assent and rejecting it becomes more easy. [9]

By Exercising the Will to Change

By putting each element that enters our consciousness before the will to change while remaining awake, comparing, observing, studying and slowly acting, we are able to hone our ability at self-observation and make interesting discoveries within oneself.

By Educating the Senses

By the education of the senses the growth of one's general education is aided. The senses can, in particular, be used as instruments of observation, control and knowledge. For instance, the way one keeps one’s room is often a reflection of where one is in one’s consciousness. Taking this feedback, and consciously trying to use the sense of colour and form, order and organisation helps develop the ability to use one’s senses a logical, rational, useful way. Going further, it also helps discover who one is in the conscious way of designing one’s room. [10]

Difficulties in Self-Observation

Escape Attitude

Man always rushes into external action and looks for reasons to not have time to observe himself and turn inward, thus it is important to be wary of the “escape attitude” within oneself.

Ego

The second is the “danger of ego” in observing the movements and attaching the sense of ‘I’’ to the process of self-observing and not going behind the surface level I.

Focussing on the Negative

To be always observing faults and wrong movements brings depression and discourages the faith. [11] One has to observe them, of course, but not stress them. [12]

Instead it is important to focus on the good part and give it strength, whilst not denying the limitations and the wrong movements. .


Content curated by Aditi Kaul

Read more about Self Observation from the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

References