And for some time I practiced this exercise. I can remember initially driving through the countryside and instead of reacting with labels to everything I saw, trying to see things without labels. It was not easy. But it was a good exercise because it made me very aware of how without thinking we apply labels to everything. In this case, the labels were “good” or “neutral” labels. These labels didn’t agitate me. But the point is the same.
But after a few weeks or perhaps months (this was a long time ago), I stopped the exercise. It was a lot of work. And I didn’t think about this instruction for many years.
Then recently, a spiritual book we are reading said that when you are in moments of great stress, when your emotions are tearing you apart, to “ask yourselves who it is that is experiencing this. And the ‘who’ that is aware of the experiencing, not lost in it, but aware of it, will be the bearer of the Light.”
As soon as I read those words, I recalled the monk’s instruction about observing. Because the “who” who is aware of what is happening, not lost in it, is the observer. And I also realized that, without thinking of it in those terms, that is what I have been increasingly doing the past few years as my practice has deepened.
When I say my intent is to observe with my heart, not my ego-mind. And if my mind asserts itself to say, “no,” and return to my heart. That is only possible if in fact I am observing myself and thus am aware.
When I test every guidance I receive and if it is not right for me, if it causes me suffering, then I reject it … that again requires the awareness of observing. Because if I am not observing myself, I don’t have the awareness to test anything. I am lost in it.
When I am aware that I feel blah, and bring myself home to my heart by chanting or “seeing” the smiling toddler that is the vision of my true Buddha nature, again that is only possible because I am observing myself and thus am aware that I feel blah.
And so it goes with almost every aspect of my current practice which has enabled me to experience peace and happiness, and even joy, throughout much of the day. It all stems from the ability to observe myself and thus be aware