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It can be easier, sometimes, to anticipate and accept the current waves of life; than to fully embrace the blissful, hopeful and joyful things that come.

It may just be that it requires an equal amount of courage, faith and bravery to face the light as well as the dark.

……why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine to see what these appearances in us really are?

Plato

Ever reflected on what these mind-boggling words from the great Plato Implied? Hmmm…..

One of the keys to personal development and ultimate self-awareness is observing how your mind works, how your heart feels, and what your body experiences. This self-observing faculty is the centre for managing personality and our personal enhancement.

Just as physical exercise is important to our well-being, regular self-observation practice is beneficial to our mental well-being.

Simply put, there comes a time when a call to reflection about one’s self in the present moment is required; the time to expose one’s true self to self without judgements and attention wanderings and evaluations; the time to gain insight into yourself about yourself.

This is simply called Self-Observation.

Self Observation is a process of examining one’s true self-based on his or her thoughts, actions and emotions, or as Amit Ray puts it, “the first step of inner unfolding”. Therefore, it could be based on mindfulness, self-analysis or Insight.

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This is a practice of digging or excavating through the inner happenings or seeking out sources and clues of inner meaning.

Self-observation is spaciousness. An opening within, where you witness all as it is being. No desire to change, manipulate or participate in what you find. It is you, simply sitting with yourself.

Mindfulness in Self-Observation encompasses paying attention to one’s self at the moment without the pull of judgement, analysis and evaluations. A judgemental approach might not be the intention for the practice, but acceptance will come as a natural by-product of the observation itself. 

You come to see a part of you that you may never have seen; a part of you witnesses everything you do without trying to define why you act the way you do; you set yourself free, feel better and have a deeper sense of connection with yourself. It goes beyond just your positive attributes; it reaches your values, traits and abilities. 

Self-observation as meditation can work like an untangling of knots. As your awareness of your inner workings grows, slowly the knots untangle through the power of your presence.

There is no great effort that needs to be made. You are the great witness, turning your inner eye back on itself, observing your inner flowering. Amit Ray said, “Self-observation is the first step of inner unfolding”.

Now let’s untangle a knot.

Self Observation is the Genesis of knowledge. It challenges us to non-judgmentally watch our thoughts, actions and emotions, giving us access to our inner self.

Knowledge, they say is power; although man can never attain the status of all-knowing, it is still quite inevitable that man has to continue the quest for knowledge. The day a man stops learning, he dies inwardly. Therefore, before a man studies others or his world, he has to study himself. After all, it is said,

Before you remove the speck of dust in another’s eyes, why not remove the log of wood in yours. 

Bible

Practising self-observation allows you to note whether you are behaving in alignment with your goals and our values and when you are not.

You notice when you are putting on a show for someone rather than aligning your behaviour with the truth.

You notice when you are smiling even though you are sad, or when you say you are fine even though you are not.

You may notice you are pretending to be mad when you aren’t, just to manipulate someone else’s behaviour.

Or, you realise that you are thinking negative thoughts about yourselves, making you feel insecure.

You may also notice you are truly content, peaceful, and joyful.

Sometimes, there is a need to go deeper into understanding the past you and in line with the present you. This is what Self Analysis in Self Observation is.

Self Analysis is broader in its scope than mindfulness because it encompasses thinking about the self that is not tied to the present moment.

Amina Muazzam

Thereafter, you gain an understanding of who you are, why you possibly act the way you do, what you are capable of……. Wow, Insight!!!

So then, Insight is the result of successfully and gradually understanding one’s self based on the practices of mindfulness and self-analysis. It is like finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But in all of these things, the end goal is – Self Observation. 

Why then do we have to peel back the layers of our self, “expose ourself to self” or “untie the knots of you to you”?

Self Observation brings man to the realization of the necessity of self change. And in observing himself, a man notices that self observation itself brings about certain change in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self observation is an instrument of change, a means of awakening.

G.I. Gurdjieff

Wow, what insightful words from the great man himself!

Through dedicated practice, you’ll eventually be able to bring this level of presence increasingly into your daily activities.

The understanding of yourself, your habits, patterns get triggered as this compassionate understanding of yourself will hopefully extend to those around you, as empathy for our own and others complexities grow.

Slowly the way we relate to everybody and everything will be done with a little more self-awareness and clarity.

Slightly over time, the opportunity for reflection gets maximized through self-observation. You gradually watch and understand what you do, think and feel neutral. You become the inward spectator of yourselves. This may lead to some transformation, which is another importance of Self-Observation.

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Self-Observation enacts a gradual process of change in our thoughts and behaviours. As an instrument, it gradually awakens us and gives us entry into a more Conscious state that could positively impact our lives if channelled the right way.

When we carefully observe ourselves through the process of mindfulness and self-analysis, we gradually gain insight into the rights and wrongs of our thinkings, doings and even our shortcomings.

Therefore, we can change positively, channel our energy into the right course, and open up wondrous opportunities for ourselves like never before.

It entails gazing at the self without judgement, leaving thoughts of disapproval and labels of good and bad at the door and watching the full self, in its most minuscule movements and grandest feelings, with honest awareness.

As a Skill, Self-Observation can be developed and cultivated, although it requires a lot of patience and persistent effort. And just like every great building has a foundation, so also does Self-Observation. 

The Foundation of Self-Observation is Self-Awareness. To be Self Aware, you need to define yourself based on your constant thoughts, actions and feelings. 

Typically a self-observation exercise consists of a question or a series of questions around a focus topic. Thought kindling questions like, “What made me act like this? What is my biggest weakness? What is my biggest strength? What are my worst fears? What are some key life experiences that have made me who I am?” can be a pointer to identifying your values, traits and actions on life.

“Remember, when trying to be Self Aware, keep nothing away from thy self.”

Also, learn to reflect on your past self, your present self and your ideal self. Remember that Self-Awareness is a changing process. So try to spend time each day reflecting on what has happened and how close it brings you into your ideal self.

Woman with shite shirt closing her eyes and reminiscing
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You could even create a journal, where you input your actions, thoughts, feelings, and lessons learnt for today into writing.

“Remember, writing is more therapeutic than people give it credit for.”

You can certainly take up a more rigorous study of yourself any time, wherever you feel stuck. Here’s one way to start. Think of a habit or behaviour you wish to change: lateness, overeating, interrupting, avoiding a particular task, saying “yes” too often, finding yourself in the same circular conversation… anything that is consistently ‘up’ for you

Observing yourself in Action is another step to Self Observation. Observe the things you do, the way you act, celebrate yourself in good times, see yourself from your own lens. While doing that, you never can tell………Bad traits and actions can be dropped while developing Positive ones!

Meditation is one very important key to Self-Observation. Find a quiet spot without distractions, practice the five mindful breathings (it’s advisable to close your eyes, channel your inner focus), and ponder your visions, blind spots, and all without judgements and inhibitions. Free yourself and allow your mind to roam freely.

To help sustain the integrity of the process, I think that the ideal self-observation implementation would include periodic “3rd party” observations by either peers or leadership. You can fix it as an appointment, or leaders can schedule “ride alongs” that allow for independent observations.

This will help channel proper monitoring and the independent observation data with self-observations to see if you are appropriately correlated or in need of calibration.

In conclusion, ponder on these words,

The study of the way requires self encounter along the way. You have not met yourself yet.

rumi

Share some of your experiences and tips or ideas that can facilitate self-development in the comments section below!

~

References 

  • Teachers Perception of Self Observation
  • Self Monitoring by Dr Amina Muazzam

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