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

967 thoughts on “Being an Observer

  1. How to truly observe and not react is a huge lesson in it self and there are so many of these life lessons that we don’t get taught when we are young and I wonder why it is that we put more emphasis on learning our times table than learning how to interact with one another with decency and respect.

  2. Responding without reacting is an amazing feeling, especially when both parties do the same and so much healing can occur.

  3. Learning to not react is an essential key to living a true and joyful life. When we react we merge with whatever we are reacting to which then allows no space to feel what is going on and how we may be able to deal with it.

  4. So take any situation in life, we have one or two ways to go – we can get caught up in it, want to change it and get super frustrated that it is not the way we want it to be – or it is perfect and spot on – but how often do we give ourselves the space to observe it and get the understanding of why every situation so-called “good or bad” is occurring, the more we do that, the greater I’ve come to enjoy life as it starts to make sense. Without true observation, life makes little sense.

  5. Being an observer. A lesson for us all. I could feel that by you observing just how much this changed the situation and deepened the communication and intimacy with you and your son.

  6. The power of observation is hugely underestimated by most people because most don’t know that it has the ability to set us free from the chains that bind us from all sorts of beliefs and ideals that we might carry.

  7. When I observe my feelings, which is to feel them rather than following a mental commentary. Feelings of hurt tend to be more openly expressed as they are allowed to clear. This also lets others separate who they are from their hurts, which are not one and the same.

  8. The wealth that is offered to us all when we choose to be the observer in life brings in lessons for us to learn about ourselves and how we live and contribute to the world – allowing observation without perfection.

  9. We have so many ideals and beliefs around what happens when we feel hurt. Today I noticed in myself a feeling of ‘never being able to get over it’ and ‘my whole day will be governed by this’. Yet as you share by observing and feeling what I am feeling in my body this does not need to be my reality.

  10. When we react to something it can set up a chain of other reactions, like a domino effect, so staying steady, as you did,allows for us to stay present with what is really going on and not get swept away by our thoughts or emotions.

  11. ‘It was by being present and being honest about my hurts that I found I could return to being observant by choice.’ I’m realising running away from feelings whatever it is I’m feeling in whatever moment allows me the grace of observation.

  12. It is revealing to observe where and when we react to something and how key this is to understanding where we still hold attachments or expectations that people or the world need be different.

  13. ‘Inspired by the body’s wisdom to continuously feel and express deeper in commitment to observing, understanding and not absorbing life.’ Yes this completely changes the quality of our experiences.

  14. To observe and not absorb life has been one of the most powerful lessons of my lifetime and a key to arresting anxious, stress-full and reactive responses to certain situations. This has led to a far greater settlement in my body that has not only allowed me to experience more confidence, joy and love but also to realise that reaction is an addiction I can indulge in that affords me an excuse to hold back my love, care and genuine understanding of others.

  15. If we project our own needs or issues onto someone else then asking a question like, “how are you” or “what’s going on” comes loaded and can cause the other person to shut down massively. If we are wanting to provide support for another person then we have a responsibility to not project onto them and being open to genuinely understand what they are feeling.

  16. A great reminder of how communicating without reaction or judgment opens up space for honesty and through that honesty we get to know what is truly going on, which in turn builds relationships to a deeper level where honesty becomes the norm.

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