• July 29, 2015

    I notice that when I engage in observation of self, I have an opinion about everything.

    Observation becomes opinion when it passes through the prism of the personality.

    One of the great discoveries of work on self is that perception can be uncoupled from the personal preferences of the human apparatus. Sensation is an electro-chemical phenomenon. Sensation-based experience is exactly what it is. The human machine then supplies all sorts of reactions…commentary, opinion, like/dislike and other emotions based on its less-than-perfect recordings of past experience.

    It is possible to be neutral about sensations, to take them as data. It is also possible to take the reactions as data, just more phenomena to observe. Or you can get caught up in reacting and reacting to the reactions, a loop of increasing subjectivity which wastes energy and obscures perception.

    Identifying with your reactions is the issue. I see that someone has reacted with what I interpret to be dislike to something I have said. Do I need to have an opinion about this? Do I need to justify or defend whatever I did to cause this reaction? Do I need to judge the person as wrong or silly? Do I need to experience guilt? Every one of these reactions is likely to engage further reactions, limiting the possibilities of the next moment and the one after that, perhaps wasting the whole day by the time that I finally discharge, forget and move on. Perhaps my interpretation of their reaction is incorrect to begin with. Can I withhold my opinion and related reactions and wait to see more?

    What makes my personal opinions and preferences so important? Perhaps it has something to do with my love of personal history. I have all these stories that I like to tell about myself…the places I have been, the people I have met, the things I have done. These stories are my personal history, they explain who I am to others and especially to myself. They satisfy my need for identity. And they cement in place the preferences, opinions and reactions that form my personality.

    Of course, past experience is valuable. The scope of perception is widened by experience…what I have seen may enable me to see more. Furthermore, some of my reactions are programmed by experiences which are best not repeated. But an ability to be neutral, to be a man of no opinion, cannot be underestimated. Most of my dependency on the past is psychological and completely useless in the present. Much of my personal history is just made up nonsense that is typically at variance with the recollection of others.

    Can personal history be erased? Perhaps you could begin by observing your story-telling. Can you sense the ease and familiarity of starting the recitation? Who is the person you are describing? What picture do you paint for yourself and others?  Can you then voluntarize the telling, consciously entering into the sensations, gestures, imagery and tone of voice that would otherwise be automatic? Perhaps your love of the story cannot survive exposure to impartial attention.

    To be neutral, objective, impartial, lets in the light of new perceptions. Perhaps you think such a state is cold, unfeeling, disengaged. First, see if it is possible before you form an opinion. Perhaps you will find it is a compassionate state, shot through with beauty.

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