Being an Observer

When we are willing to observe, we are willing to develop a relationship with the world that has no judgement in it. To observe is to choose to not react to what we receive through our senses, but to feel a deeper understanding of what is around us.

Yesterday I went to town with my son. I had a meeting with a friend and my son had a drawing class to go to. He does not have an amicable relationship with his teacher and therefore has expressed to me his reluctance to go to the class. We have come a long way in our relationship with each other for him to be able to share his feelings this honestly with me.

I immediately appreciated how far we have come and the quality of the connection between us.

This deeper connection between us developed with understanding and acceptance of each other. Coming to a deeper understanding and appreciation of myself, as well as my son’s development, is a very beautiful surrender. It dissolved the picture of how we have to be and freed the both of us to simply be ourselves and, with each choice we make, to continue to trust more deeply who we are. In this process there is an absence of a picture or an expectation of what this development looks like, especially in regards to having a time frame.

So yesterday, after we parted ways, I simply felt a very solid trust with myself and with him. A few hours later, into the evening, when I was having dinner with a group of friends, I received a text message from my son’s art teacher informing me that he did not show up for the class.

Immediately many thoughts flooded my mind, such as “How could he?”, “What?!?”, “Is he okay?” etc., but without reacting to these thoughts I stayed with myself and simply observed. I allowed myself a moment, and as I was still having dinner with friends, I simply allowed myself to sit with the feelings.

I felt the time I needed to leave, did not rush or delay it, said goodbye to my friends and throughout the walk towards the pier where I was going to take the ferry home, I continued to observe the feelings that arose. I could feel that there was a very faint lingering of a pattern of going into sadness from the reaction of being let down, which I simply surrendered more deeply into feeling.

After the ferry ride I had to take a bus home, and I received a phone call from my son. His voice was not audible in the call and I told him so, although I knew he was talking to me. When his voice did come through momentarily, it was a high-pitched shout, in reaction to him not being heard. And yet, as I was already in observation mode from the restaurant, I was still able to simply observe and no feelings of hurt arose as a result of the tone of his voice.

The moment I walked into the door of my home, my son came out to greet me in a joyful mood. Without judgement, I simply expressed, “There must be something you are feeling very stressed about if you chose not to go to class today, and I would like to understand what it is.” I also expressed how I felt finding this out from a third party. Because there was no judgement, my son communicated openly that he did go to his class, but while he was walking in he suddenly remembered a hurtful episode from his last class when he felt the teacher was not understanding and respectful of him, so he decided to go home.

This was probably the first communication between us that, even though we were touching on a topic that felt hurtful, we chose to express without reaction. Immediately with our choice to communicate in this way, our connection deepened even more. I was let into my son’s world more deeply, a side he has never verbalised or shared with me, and immediately my understanding of him deepened because we were communicating with words rather than with just outbursts of emotions followed with periods of non-communication.

An observation I have gathered from my relationship with the city I grew up in is that communicating from reactions – for example, speaking with sarcasm, frustration, outrage and with a sense of withdrawal – is an ingrained and normalised way of being.

Hence, my son’s previous reactions of frustration and anger would have seemed quite normal to him as they were very often mirrored in the world around him, to the likely detriment of us all.

… In essence, speaking in reaction like this is our unwillingness to admit that we are hurt.

It was by being present and being honest about my hurts that I found I could return to being observant by choice. Therefore it is very clear that this is what I will move into next in communication with my son and, from there, all others.

Inspired by the body’s wisdom to continuously feel and express deeper in commitment to observing, understanding and not absorbing life.

By Anonymous

Further Reading:
Learning to Observe and Not Absorb Life
The Science of hurts
To Observe and Not absorb

981 thoughts on “Being an Observer

  1. The other thing that can get in the way of a solid relationship is ‘expectations’ – when we have certain expectations placed upon another, then this can cloud the true relationship. I have been exploring all the expectations that I have on myself and other and can feel how imposing this is on myself and others. Expectations to behave in a particular way, ecpectations to do certain things or to say certain things etc. It does not leave space for anyone to just be.

  2. Observations change nothing about a situation, but they change everything in terms of how we are in the situation and how we respond. It is very powerful to do this, though not always easy.

  3. Observation is super powerful, but the reality is that in certain situations where we have investments it can be very difficult to do this. I too have had a recent situation with me son where I have come to realise that I have been judging him for certain choices and behaviours. As a result of feeling this judgement, he has withdrawn from me and hence we have created a barrier to communication. But as I have learned to look at this and drop the judgement, then I have learned to allow him more space and then express how I am feeling without pushing judgement on him – this has allowed more honesty in our relationship and we can feel where we are truly at.

  4. We are in a very odd place in the world when we all relate to each other via pictures, expectations and investments in how we want others to act and be – it’s something to deeply question as to why we are like this. We are not born as babies relating to others by pictures, instead we are deeply aware and sensitive to everything and everyone around us and connected to our essence which we share with joy. To me it seems that the systems we have in place, including the education system, develop human beings away from how we are born, into something else which is quite painful and confusing at times, and is in disconnection to self and others.

    1. Just observing the world, no pictures, is the way forth, ‘When we are willing to observe, we are willing to develop a relationship with the world that has no judgement in it.’ How beautiful.

  5. Relearning to respond in life delivers the ability to be the observer, or being able to be in observation allows us the ability to respond, and both give us the space to feel what is required in a situation.

    1. Observing, and responding to life allows more understanding, ‘To observe is to choose to not react to what we receive through our senses, but to feel a deeper understanding of what is around us.’

  6. We live in a way that we are in constant reaction to life and this does place a huge stress on our nervous system. So is it possible this is why we rely so much on coffee as a drug that keeps us stimulated because if we stopped to feel the exhaustion we would all be in bed for days. There can be no deeper understanding of life when we are in constant reaction.

  7. Taking a step back from our reactions and expressing what we feel/felt is super supportive of us moving past the situation. If we don’t and speak from reaction we stay in the hurtful experience.

  8. It was a great point about staying with your feelings and going deeper into them, instead of reacting or avoiding feeling them. Reactions often assume a picture or outcome that brings on even more emotion. “It was by being present and being honest about my hurts that I found I could return to being observant by choice.”

    1. The honesty of the body that calls us back to the present – which is a real gift in the path of healing.

  9. Being willing to understand is so vital in relationships. Also, if we are not meeting and valuing the essence of the person and ourselves we are more likely to view others as something to fit into a picture and make demands on their behaviour. In simple terms, without being the love we are and honouring others as that same love, regardless of whether they are living that love or not, it is likely that we will be imposing.

    1. Bringing understanding to relationships is vital, ‘ It dissolved the picture of how we have to be and freed the both of us to simply be ourselves and, with each choice we make, to continue to trust more deeply who we are.’

  10. When in the company of another, it pays to sit, listen and observe. What do we do when views are expressed different to our own? Can we accept what is real for that person, yet offer another view or ask questions to deepen understanding? Sometimes the only true support is to listen and allow another to express openly their feelings with minimal interference from us.

    1. Well said Kehinde, and hence why it is often easier to express to someone else about our feelings rather than a close family member or friend with whom we might have investments and hence are not able to have that space of observation with.

  11. When someone reacts to something we’ve said or done, we’re offered an opportunity to understand the purpose of the communication for self and other. It is not for us to not reply in the same quality of energy received, but respond in a way that is not personal but infused with the wisdom and love of the Soul. This requires self awareness and ability to be the observer.

  12. The observer offers space to another. If we’re not observing, we’ve entered ‘their’ space with judgement, reaction or hurt and no longer able to see them cleanly and fully or offer support. Wherever we are, be aware of what we’re modelling to others.

    1. Offering space to another is a loving way of being, ‘In this process there is an absence of a picture or an expectation of what this development looks like, especially in regards to having a time frame.’

  13. This is an amazing blog. I’ve been reacting a fair bit this last week and uncovered the hurts that have been there to let go of. Observation at any juncture along the way has felt super loving and supportive – even in the midst of a reaction I’ve taken space to actually feel what’s going on and appreciated the old hurts I’d been harbouring and trying to explain away through intellectual understanding. Observation is physical experience of love.

    1. Unfortunately a lot of the world still behave in this unloving way, ‘An observation I have gathered from my relationship with the city I grew up in is that communicating from reactions – for example, speaking with sarcasm, frustration, outrage and with a sense of withdrawal – is an ingrained and normalised way of being.’

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