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I'm sure that we can all agree that no intelligent, conscious man or woman would ever intentionally hurt him or herself. It is important that we are in agreement about this precept. No one would choose to ache. Yet the fact remains that all of us do hurt ourselves every day with bursts of anger or fits of depression or anxiety. Even at the simplest level there can be no doubt: fear and worry take an immeasurable toll on our health and well-being.
However, there is real intelligence. An inwardly awake person would never intentionally hurt himself. Self-observation is the key to developing this higher order of awareness; it is how we learn to become inwardly vigilant to our own thoughts and feelings, even as they pass through us. When we can observe ourselves in this new way our higher nature naturally prevails over any troubling thoughts or feelings that want to drag us down into their lower world.
Self-observation allows us to understand what we witness in ourselves, instead of being washed away by our reaction to it. This new and higher interior “position” – as the observer of what unfolds around and within us – is at once a part of the proceedings and, at the same time, untouched by them. Recall what the Christ said about “being in the world, but not of it,” and you have a small idea about this most unique inner-sanctuary. When we are awake this way, we always make the right choices because we are acting from a level of consciousness that has no past investment in any event or its possible outcome. This means that it is free to select what is intelligent.
Higher intelligence cannot be bound by the momentum of accumulated desires. The silent observer within us does not think; it sees. This is an important point because in order to observe ourselves means that we can’t be self-absorbed. Higher awareness through self-observation increases our field of choices, because this elevated inner-position places you high above the game and lets you see all of the players.
On the other hand, self-absorption is like being on the field. Not only can't you see all of the players, but those that you can see are more often than not slamming into you, turning you around and around until you don't know which way to run. That's the whole point: Stop running and bumping, and start seeing.
There is no greater power for self-change than self-observation because this new inner-vision alone can provide you with true self-knowledge. Being self-liberated is the same as living fully from your Higher Nature. In this lofty state you enjoy the freedom that comes with having let go of your false self. This Higher Nature rests above you. Join it. Let it guide you all the way back to your true home within yourself.
As you persist each day with this important and practical task of adding more inner light to yourself – of making it your aim to stay up in the grandstand and out of the brawls on the field – you may find yourself becoming increasingly disturbed by some of the negativities you are seeing within yourself down on the field. This is a good indication that you are making real progress.
You must apply the principles you have learned even to this new kind of disturbance. This uproar you are experiencing is the false self trying its best to get you into the free-for-all down on the field. Stay in the stands in your observation post. Don't be concerned with anything you may see. Remember, light need never fear any shadow, and anything you may discover within you that is frightening comes from the shadow world. Your only task is to bring it into the light of your new understanding and let it handle the rest.
Let's review this royal principle: to see yourself in this new way means that at the same moment of being aware of your physical self, you are also watching your thoughts and feelings. Your old inclination to jump in and judge yourself is also suspended in this new awareness of yourself.
Said slightly differently, self-observation is a way of being fully aware of yourself that includes being watchful of any self-concern that comes up as a result of what you see in yourself. In this unique psychological posture you remain effortlessly apart from all wrong concerns because, should any of them arise, they are treated as just something else you are seeing, not as something you are.
At first, this idea of expanded self-awareness may sound to you like a little too much going on all at once. I assure you that it is not. Once you get the feel for it, self-observation is not any more difficult than leisurely watching a juggler under the Big Top. He may have as many as six or seven assorted objects flipping and spinning all at once, but that is of no concern to you. Seeing takes no effort. You are just enjoying the performance!
And while we're speaking of performances, you will be happy to know that nothing brings the curtain down faster on the false self than this special kind of inner attention. You will see that self-observation is to our lower nature what sunlight is to a cave-dwelling bat. Just as the bat cannot stand the sun's bright rays, neither can the false self live in the light of this new and self-healing awareness.
(Excerpted from The Secret of Letting Go, Rev. Edition, Llewellyn, 2007)