“You can observe a lot just by watching” — Yogi Berra
I have become a voyeur-a silent witness of my inner self. I can watch my thoughts, my emotions, and my bodily sensations. I am a voyeur of “me.” It is as if there are two “Mes”, there is one that is watching, and there is one that is being watched. I can watch all of “me” dispassionately, like a scientist. This is the single biggest step forward in my journey of self-discovery. One small step for the new me and one giant leap for the old me. Apologies to Neil Armstrong.
It has taken me many years to develop the ability to watch my thoughts and emotions without judging them. I have learned a lot about myself just by watching my thoughts, emotions, and sensations in my body. It is a skill I developed through practice. Normally, I get swept up in my thoughts, one thought leads to another and another, and the mind wanders off. I had to work at breaking this habit. I had to learn to let go of thought as soon as it appears. I had to train myself to look at a thought as a cloud wafting through the sky, watch without attachment, and see it as an object as it drifts. Slowly the thoughts stop coming when I do this now. My mind becomes still.
The act of watching, non-judgmentally, quietens my mind, quells my emotions, and removes tension in my body. My mind, body, and emotions become harmonized. Borrowing the language from the Vedas, my chakras become aligned, my nadis[i] open up, and I feel connected to the universe. In this state, there is no “I.” There is just emptiness. I am like an empty vessel, open, spacious, and accepting. And attuned to the wisdom of the universe.
Paraphrasing Yogi Berra, I observe a lot just by watching. There is no need for a guru; there is wisdom within us. There is a knowing beyond knowledge. We can access this wisdom. Unfortunately, we are not taught to get in touch with the wisdom within us. Some, like me, stumble into it, many turn to religion, and most never discover it.
Scientific methods cleave the observer from the observed. But the voyeur in us, or the silent witness, turns us, the observer, into the observed. Only humans have this capacity to observe themselves. I am an object to the voyeur in me that can be watched and studied “scientifically.” I can gather data on the workings of my mind and analyze it like a scientist. Equally importantly, I change the contents of my mind by watching and witnessing them. Quantum physics has proven that the very act of observing a phenomenon changes it. By observing my thoughts, I release the baggage associated with any negative thoughts I may be holding on to. Observing one’s thoughts erases the associated network of thoughts from the memory bank, leaving less material for the mind to dredge up. Over time this practice empties the mind and frees it from past conditioning. It opens the mind to experiencing life fresh and anew in each moment.
The Vedic sages were scientists of a kind. Their method of inquiry was from the inside out. Their starting point of inquiry was their mind (and emotions). Through this process, they transcended their minds and accessed “truths” that western science is just beginning to approach. The process of the sages was the inverse of the process of western science. The Vedic sages started with the subjective self and discovered that the rest was a projection of the self (mind). Modern scientific methods exclude the personal, the self, from their study of the phenomenological world. Thus, western science has not yet made the connection between the subjective and the objective — the world inside and the world outside.
“Science describes accurately from the outside; poetry describes accurately from the inside. Science explicates, and poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe.” Ursula K. Le Guin.[ii]
The voyeur in me is a scientist. The voyeur observes and collects data on me, just like a scientist. The very act of observing “me” changes me. The change happens automatically without additional effort. By watching one’s thoughts, the entire structure of related thoughts and beliefs is uprooted; it is like pulling out the root structure underneath a weed-. The practice of witnessing one’s thoughts and feelings is transformational because it empties our minds of past conditioning.
[i] (yogapedia, n.d.)
[ii] (Brainpickings, n.d.)