“To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” – Marilyn Vos Savant
“If you go to a very busy place and simply observe, you will learn a great deal about the world, and a great deal about yourself.” – Jody B. Miller, author of The MISOGI Method
One of the hardest things to learn to do sometimes, but also the best thing that we can do for ourselves, is to learn to be the silent observer.
What do I mean by that?
First let’s clarify: observing is not about judging. Judging means we put ourselves above the person or situation as if we’re better than. Observing is simply stepping back and watching what is going on. Observing is being aware of what is going on both for the other person/thing and within ourselves.
We are often so wrapped up in trying to judge what we are seeing, trying to process it and make it fit into our box, that we miss what is really happening. Being a silent observer allows us to view situations and see the bigger picture. Much like flying in an airplane and being able to see a wide area versus being in a car and only being able to see your immediate surroundings.
For a lot of people, one of the most stressful times of the year is coming up: the holidays. This is true for many different reasons, but one of them is because we tend to take things that people say and do as a personal attack. Even if they are attacking us, it is important to know that it is almost always about them and their own insecurities, rather than about you.
This is much easier said than done for most people, myself included. It has taken me a very long time to learn this lesson, and I still slip up sometimes.
If you go to your family’s house for a holiday meal and a relative is on your case about something, put your observers hat on. If they are on your case about something then you can almost guarantee that it’s something that they are either insecure about, something they don’t like about themselves, or it’s something that they have no clue about and they are just spouting off. Sometimes it can be a misguided attempt at showing they care.
When this happens, step back and pretend that you’re watching a movie. Look at the cast of characters. Remember that each person there has a role to play, including you.
It sounds cliché, but you choose how you let things affect you. Someone can say anything they want to you, but you choose what you let in. You choose to see that cashier as hateful rather than hurting, and you respond accordingly. You choose to see that weird aunt as critical and unbearable rather than someone who regrets most of her decisions throughout her life. It starts with reminding ourselves on a daily (maybe even hourly) basis, that everyone is dealing with their own set of issues and how they treat us is about them, not about us.
Looking at people through the lens of an observer doesn’t change how people act. It will change how those actions affect us and our overall state of being.
We also have to remind ourselves that just because someone says something, doesn’t mean that we have to have a reaction to it. Often the reaction is what they are wanting. If we don’t give them that reaction, if we do the opposite and don’t react, they generally lose their steam. No matter what is thrown at us we simply refuse to swing at it.
“When you realize it’s not personal, there is no longer a compulsion to react as if it were” — Eckhart Tolle
In addition to helping us deal with outward things coming in, being observant helps us to see if we are imposing our own insecurities onto a situation. Maybe you think everyone is judging you for not having a better job because you feel bad about yourself for not having what you deem a “better job”. Maybe you think everyone is making fun of you because you are feeling insecure about how you look. To take it one step deeper, maybe you think people are judging how you look, what you wear, where you work, etc. because you judge other people for those things.
A few years back I kept finding myself feeling like everyone around was judging me for my life choices. I felt like what I did was never good enough for anyone. What I finally realized was that I wasn’t happy with my life choices and I was projecting those feelings onto everyone around me. Once I realized this, I started to see most of the comments people made as an effort to help rather than judge.
So not only am I asking you to observe your situations and what is going on around you, I’m asking you to observe what is going on within yourself.
If you place yourself in the role of the observer then you will find yourself being happier more often. You will also find that your mind is freed up to think about the things you would like to do and become, rather than being bogged down by negativity. You can allow yourself to see the good in the people and the things around you, rather than only seeing the bad. You will begin to see the possibilities that exist, rather than all of the obstacles.
The key to all of this is doing it on a daily basis. Start being observant with the small things. That way, when you get into a more heated situation (at a family meal, at the store, or at work) you have practiced being the silent observer and it makes it easier. It’s like training for a marathon. You can’t just jump off of your couch and go run a full marathon, you have to train for it. Train yourself daily to be an observer and when the marathon comes, you’ll be able to handle it.
Read our post, “What is An Attitude of Gratitude?” for more ideas.
A few things you can do to help you to deal with the negative energies that may be swirling around you this time of year:
This is from zennedout.com. Click here to read the article.
- Try the Kashyapa Mudra: Mudras are a way of holding your hands that allows you to encourage or prohibit certain energy movement around you or within your body. I used to use this one a lot when I worked retail. Before going out to deal with an angry customer I would hold my hands in this position. It would remind me to be an observer rather than reacting based on my assumptions.
- Do Qigong to release the negative emotions that you are feeling towards others or yourself. Click here to see Chris and Parisa Shelton’s video on YouTube “How to Let IT Go”. In it they give you several ideas about how to deal with the stress and negative energy of the holidays (and life in general).
- Give yourself time to just get away and be alone. Even if it’s 5 minutes in the day, take the time to have some alone time. Leave your cell phone in the other room, or put it on silent, and just take some deep cleansing breaths. Doing this will work wonders for your mental and physical state.
- Sleep! Most of us go through life running on empty. Try to arrange things so that you can actually get some rest this holiday season. When you’re rested you are less likely to be grumpy, stressed, and have a short fuse with people.