Saturday, September 26, 2009

How To Expand Your Perspective

Here is an exercise to help you see your life from a broader perspective and give you clarity in times of challenge. Relax into this exercise playfully, so that it becomes appealing to use.

First, set aside a little time for yourself and sit in a quiet and comfortable place. Then, look at something as simple as a pencil.

Contemplate the pencil and take a moment to see all of its parts clearly: the paint on the outside of the pencil . . . the lead in the center . . . the eraser on the end . . . the wood in-between.

Let your mind begin to stretch, to uncurl and wander.

How many things had to happen to create the simple pencil?

How many components went into simply making the paint? Where did they each come from? How did the paint get applied to the pencil? How many machines and people did just that one step take? Where did they all come from?

Then consider the wood: who grew the trees? Who sold the wood? How was it cut and transported? Who made the trucks that carried it? Who built the roads the trucks used? Where did the fuel come from?

Let your mind expand.

The lead, the eraser, the metal band around the pencil . . . contemplate each component in the same way and then consider how they all came into one form which we call 'pencil'. And then consider the factory where the pencil was made. How did that arise? How many parts were made and then fit together? What did it take to make each part of the factory?

Let your mind expand.

Each person involved in each step had to be raised, nourished, educated and trained - how many components went into that?

Let your mind expand.

This process gently sets a pattern within you of shifting from a small perspective to a larger one, then to a vast one, then into one that is limitless and relaxes your mind. As you practice, you will find you can shift back and forth, at will.

Your mind, when faced with the limitless, is released from a sense that it must understand, define, control. Released, it can relax and simply observe in wonder.

Can you begin to look at yourself in the same way, creatively understanding all the myriad factors that have influenced you and helped you become who you are? You can change and expand your relationship to everything in your life, including yourself, by shifting your perspective in this way.

As you allow your mind to relax in this way, deeper levels of wisdom and compassion can arise in you.

Say a person or situation comes into your life that would ordinarily throw you into reaction. Now you can pause and see the limitless intermixing of circumstances that created the situation. Taking a moment to gain that expansive view releases you from a constricting reaction and gives you more freedom of choice. You begin to see things in terms of possibilities, of finding points where you might intervene to create change. Your mind expands and your heart softens.

Gaining the ability to see from a perspective that is at once both vast, and precise, relaxes the mind and stimulates creativity. This will carry over quickly into many areas, supporting your ability to see choices and opportunities; to explore, rather than remain in the grip of habitually patterned limitations.

Voyaging into the space of infinitely interdependent reality allows you to see clearly, calmly, and compassionately.

This is a very traditional Buddhist practice. If anyone is interested in finding out more about Tibetan Buddhism, you may contact Tenzin Lhamo, an ordained Tibetan Buddhist nun at

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Becoming An Objective Observer

What does it mean to become an objective observer? Why should you want to?

Let’s illuminate the value of learning to do this. Specific reasons underlie the advice to develop this ability. Most important, becoming an objective observer liberates you from constrictions and restrictions such as fear, shame, and resentment, and offers you the freedom of true choice, of achieving true alignment with your ultimate goals.

The first reason to pursue becoming an objective observer is that you can better understand any given situation, truly and clearly, without being confused by emotions.

Second, when you are not controlled by emotions, you’ll make better and more beneficial choices.

And third, you will gradually gain peace. Turbulent emotions will not be in control. When you look back, because your decisions were better, there will be more peace because there will be fewer regrets. With trust in your ability to make the best choice, you will be confident that you see a situation clearly, without the entrapments and turbulence of being controlled by an emotionally upset state.

The fourth reason? By becoming an objective observer, you more efficiently step out of judgment. You will see situations from a position of understanding rather than being blinded by a knee-jerk response or default reaction set by earlier, unthinking experiences. You’ll be able to identify what is “just an emotion” passing through temporarily rather than some sort of solid, lasting reality.

Fifth, and possibly most important: choices generated from clarity are more likely to produce beneficial results for you to enjoy. Emotion-based choices, made on the basis of feelings such as fear, usually bring about additional fear-based results or equally distorted perceptions.

As you become an objective observer, you experience becoming a watcher. In observing and watching your emotions arise, and becoming more interested in how they arise, and why they arise, you’ll gradually achieve freedom from being controlled by them.

This is not a process of becoming detached from emotions. Instead, this is becoming more aware, freed from the constrictions and distortions imposed by primarily emotional responses. This is becoming free to live in alignment with your true self, rich in experience and awareness, warm-hearted and free from bullying emotional dynamics.

By practicing this technique, you will learn a great deal about how emotions create perceptions. Perceptions are often quickly and powerfully distorted by emotional associations and obscure the neutral objective reality.

Most experience of existence is based upon our perception of conditions and situations. How can you see clearly and have the ability to make decisions responsibly and productively, particularly in this current time of fear and confusion? This matters a lot, especially in our interdependent world, when how you decide things really affects others. An essential pathway that allows you to decide with clarity is to observe yourself and others objectively, rather than through distorted emotional lenses of fear, need, anger, etc.

By gaining this ability to observe yourself and others objectively, you gain understanding at the level of seeing why you make certain decisions or react in the way you do, and what results usually follow, when you act in those patterns. You can demonstrate reliably to yourself, through observing, that if your reaction is fear-based, and your subsequent decisions are fear-based, you will actually tend to create more fear-based experiences rather than freeing yourself from fear.

As an objective observer, no longer controlled by fear or confusion or other distorted states, you can make choices based on factors more stable and trust-worthy than ever-changing emotions. By giving yourself time to contemplate and understand yourself and your patterns more lucidly, it becomes clear to you what is truly motivating a certain decision; gradually, your decisions become more in alignment with your ultimate goals.

This also affects how you perceive others. You gain freedom from judging not only yourself, but from judging others. This creates less constriction, less blaming and guilt, and more freedom and warm-heartedness.

A Little Practice

Watch your emotional reactions, notice how you feel and then ask yourself these questions:

  1. How old do you feel?
  2. What does this feeling remind you of?

These simple questions will help you become more aware of why certain emotions arise under certain conditions. With this level of understanding it is much easier to see yourself and others more compassionately.

Are You A Harsh Judge? This is not being an Objective Observer

Judgment is one of the least productive experiences you can have. If one of your ultimate goals is to understand yourself, it is necessary to look at those aspects of yourself which prove, through repeated experience, to be detrimental if seen objectively. It is important to know these aspects of yourself from this viewpoint: you want to understand why those less-than-desirable aspects arose within you. Usually such aspects were used as tools; you were trying to achieve something, but the tools might not have produced the result you wanted.

Try this exercise:

Write down all the qualities or aspects of yourself you do not like. List them one by one. Then ask yourself these questions, as you consider each, one by one:

  1. Is this quality arising at times to protect me? If so, how do I see it protecting me? What does it try to protect me from?
  2. Does this quality arise out of anger? If so, is that anger being supported by fear?
Then try to identify, one by one, if there are ways these "qualities" have truly benefited and supported you.

Identify exactly how these qualities have served you as tools. What did you want them to do? Were they successful tools?

When you break down these aspects of yourself that seem detrimental, you can gain a different perspective of why they exist and how you have used them to support and protect yourself.

In realizing that, then, how can you remain in judgment of yourself? These were just specific tools used at the time when needed, when they appeared helpful. So now, it will also be easier to say, “All right, I have used these ‘tools’ in the past, and yet have seen results that were not ultimately of benefit to all. I have new ‘tools’ now.”

Therein arises a perception of choices, of freedom to choose a new way over the old detrimental tool. Now understand, please, that often times under stress, it is easy to default back into old "choices" for that is what you are familiar with and that is, at times, where you might feel safer. In the case of finding that you default back into old thought patterns and reactions, be patient with yourself and the experience. It takes time to shift and achieve a level of trusting the new "tools" as much as you have trusted the effectiveness of the old "tools.”

Remember, most children and adults are not taught actual coping skills; instead they learn from what they are exposed to, without being able to judge what is helpful and what is detrimental. Only when older, gaining in clarity and objectivity, can they begin to assess and evaluate what is truly helpful, and then gain choice to pursue a new course.

Controlling What?

We have noticed people asking us how can they control themselves?

We would encourage you to change your language to "how do I understand myself"?

Ask yourself: is it the situation I want to control? If so, why do I want to control it?
Then ask: or rather, is it myself I want to control?
Why do I want to control myself?
What in myself do I want to control?

Asking such questions will help identify if you are in fear. If you detect fear in yourself, what then are you truly afraid of? Is it a tangible fear or a perceived fear, a fear of something that often never actually arises? Using your logic at this time helps to counterbalance any emotion that is not realistic.

As long as you are still wanting to control yourself in a way that does not acknowledge your needs, fears, and conflicts, attempts will meet inner resistance. Other qualities which resist being controlled arise strongly. As the saying goes, “What you resist, persists.”

Using the word “control,” while lacking a deeper understanding of the processes at work in yourself, usually sets up an experience of fear, with associations of being inappropriately vulnerable, etc. Control also has a sense of judgment to it which usually obscures the ability of seeing situations clearly, factually.

Instead, if you think about becoming more compassionate with yourself, you can avoid that resistance which arises. By gaining the ability to objectively see yourself and the way you work, your patterns of needs and reactions, you will release the need to judge or to control. You will experience more and more choice, more clarity, more peace. You will be at ease with your emotions, rather than at the mercy of them.