Monday, 15 September 2014

Part 1: Experience, Experiencer and Observer

Something simple but very practical that actually works in meditation:

Be the Observer of both Experience and the Experiencer

Everything that takes place in life can be called experience. Experience goes on all the time through the senses. Usually we only call it 'an experience' when it leaves a particular impression. But even in moments of stillness, experiences still continue whether they are acknowledged or not. This is the first point: Experience. 

What makes an experience particular, what makes the difference, is me the Experiencer. And experience comes to me and my attempt to make sense of it turns me into the Experiencer. Very often that Experiencer reacts to Experience. Experience is usually considered to be either pleasant or unpleasant. And we react to the pleasant with a desire and the search for more of the same. And we react to unpleasant experience with a desire to avoid and withdraw from what is painful. So the second point is the Experiencer. 

Most of life takes place through an interaction between these two - Experience and Experiencer - an experience happening and an experiencer who then reacts to it. 

The Observer

Then we come to a third point: the Observer. The Observer is a presence we try to cultivate in meditation. The process of developing that connection is called awareness - that is maintaining a neutral observation of what we observe. 

But consider this: When we first try to cultivate the connection with the Observer we think therefore that the Experiencer who reacts to Experience must also be suppressed, or I will lose the sense of being an observer; that being neutral means not allowing the reaction of the Experiencer. This really need not, and should not, be the case. And this is the main thing to get straight in actual practice

The best and in the end the only position for the Observer is to observe both the Experience and the Experiencer. That means it is quite possible to have a very lively experience, have a reaction to it, however strong, however extreme, and still be able to maintain the position of the Observer of both Experience and the Experiencer who is having the reaction at the same time. 

The result

On the one hand it gives total freedom of expression, by allowing all inner experience to take place unhindered through its final expression. 

And at the same time, through the practice of awareness, by remaining the Observer, there begins to develop, almost naturally, the recognition of a deeper wiser one within who is much closer to our own original nature than all that it observes. We are in fact much closer to our true self as Observer than as Experiencer. It is this gradual separation of Observer from Experiencer which is at the heart of the process in meditation.

The awareness learns by just observing, by not buying into the reaction even as it takes place. Then the reason behind, the cause of the reaction, gradually begins to reveal itself. This cannot happen if the Observer interferes with the reaction and begins to identify with it. The Observer has to remain uninvolved. There is a different sense of identity there.

So there is Experience and the Experiencer, but it is the presence of the Observer of both that rearranges the sense of the priority of the whole of life, that makes living into an expression of yoga. If this can happen, through our own effort, dedication to it and continued practice, everything begins to look different, as if coming more into focus and beginning to make more sense.

Putting it into practice

There is more to this than just the words used here. This will work if you think about it carefully, take it in, let it sit for a while perhaps, find your own position on it, then put it gradually into practice. It won’t be automatic. But consider every time awareness is lost as knowledge gained in how awareness can be maintained more effectively. When we are able to avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy that it can’t be done, and therefore coming with the right state of mind, awareness will always succeed

Finally, what has been described here is a three-way relationship that develops in the inner world of meditation. In the outer world a little caution is needed. Meditation can be considered to be like a training ground where we are free, to experiment, to recognise and understand. In the outer world, some discipline is needed to manage and contain individual reaction. That is our responsibility. The full expression takes place in the inner world. Meanwhile we take total responsibility for reaction and behaviour that takes place in the outer world. It can be practised in the outer world but only when there is clear separation between the Experiencer and the Observer because then everything changes anyway and you are operating on a different level of understanding.

More on this relationship between in the inner world and outer world another time.

Further reading:

Part 2: The Observer Itself

Part 3: What Does the Observer Observe?

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