Allow me to take you by the hand and pull you back from the world and introduce you to the art of observation. Let’s retreat a little. Now, from afar, let’s look at what’s going on. Can you see it? The chaos? The confusion? The noise? The fear? Also, the hive of activity, the pace, the constant change. There’s also joy, love, progress and creativity all over the place. Perhaps you can also observe from afar, nature taking its course. The trees in the wind, the birds flying, the ocean roaring and crashing against the shore. What about looking up? At the stars, the sky, the clouds, the moon. And, what about the people and situations in your personal life, what if you just stand back and observe them, too?


How does it make you feel?

Does the difficult stuff make you fearful, anxious and angry to observe? Does it make you want to leap in and fix things or run away and hide? What about the peaceful natural scenes, do they bring you joy and pleasantness, do you want to immerse yourself in them?

Is there also a point at which you can observe all of it and just… see it, impartially? Can you see it without wanting to be in it, without getting dragged into it or being emotionally riled by it? Just see it as ‘information’? Can you stop judging it as good, bad, right or wrong? It just is?

Try this. Practise it. Stand in calm, stillness and just observe. Don’t judge, don’t try to fix, don’t fight or feel, don’t run towards or run away. Just stop and watch.


This is the art of observation

To see life for what it is, pure and simple. No judgement, no projections, no engagement or emotional entanglement, it just is what it is.

This isn’t a state of being that you stay in continuously, ceasing to feel or engage in life at all. That’s probably impossible anyway. And it’s not a state of being that I think is easy to attain. But it is possible and it is a worthwhile practise. It can bring a lot of peace and clarity to your life.


Most of us observe through our emotions

Humans are emotional, that’s just a fact. But, when you are in a highly emotional state, whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’, you are observing through your emotions and they cloud your view.

Have you ever felt worried that someone was doing something wrong – maybe you were convinced they were cheating on you. In this pain and fear, you started making stories and meanings about how they don’t love you, how you’re not good enough, how you must get revenge. And then later, you found out they weren’t cheating at all.

Or, have you failed at one thing and felt so low that it made you perceive your whole life as a failure? Every way you looked you could only see yourself in a negative light, how you look, your lifestyle, your personality – it all starts to look like a wreck. You may have achieved a million great things, but you just couldn’t see it in that moment of pain.

This is how emotions skew our view. When we see through our emotions we are not living in reality. We’re in our heads, observing what we believe is reality, but is in fact, an illusion.

What about positive emotions? They must be good, right? Think again.

When in a state of elation and high pleasure, you also miss reality! This time, reality is obscured by your rose-tinted glasses which filter out the ugly bits.

You know that honeymoon phase of a relationship where we only see the good stuff in the other person? That’s us getting high on our own emotions and missing the downsides which we then get surprised and sad about when they creep in later! But they didn’t creep in, they were there, we just missed them because we were seeing through the veil of highly positive emotion.

Seeing from an elevated emotion might seem preferable because it feels better, but you’re still not seeing objective reality. And that’s what the art of observation is about. Objectivity. Seeing reality, exactly as it is.


See what you see, and then let it be

Objective reality is usually a simple and straightforward truth. In objective reality, you can see what you can see, right here and now, and that’s all.

Your partner is out late every night – that’s objective reality.

Your project failed – objective reality.

You ran out of money – objective reality.

You don’t have all the answers – that’s also an objective reality.

It’s raining – that’s an objective reality.

You need not go further and make up stories about these objective realities, about what they mean about you, your life, other people or the world – which is what emotional entanglement makes you do.

When observing objective reality, you see what is. And then you can decide what to do with it. Seeing the world in this way really simplifies life. You may decide to talk to your partner, restart that project, take a new job, admit you don’t know something or, put your umbrella up in the rain. It’s quite simple. Most things in life do not have to be any more complex than this. It’s only your emotions, stories, illusions and delusions that make things overly complex and painful.


The art of observation helps us to be more calm, functional and effective in life

I am by no means a Buddhist monk or enlightened being – I fail at the art of observation every day! But, I keep practising. It helps me stay grounded and take useful actions based in the real world, rather than the illusory world in my head. I’m also learning to stop taking things personally because I don’t create meanings and stories about everything that happens to me. It just is. It’s just life.

The art of observation clears out a lot of noise, internally and externally. It creates a lot of space and frees up your energy. That space and energy can then be used in much more productive ways. I am making it one of my intentions for 2022 to practise the art of observation. I hope you will too.

Read more about Pinky Jangra and her other articles HERE


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