Whatever it is that stops us in our tracks matters less than what we are being asked to notice. Whether it be malady, loss, impasse, disturbance or discontent, our emotional system is the indicator that data exists for us to decipher. To be able to examine the data we need to move into the role of observer. This capacity illustrates that it is possible to be both the experiencer and the observer of our own life.
To be one without the other may create a singularity of self absorption or cold detachment. However, when held together a balance point occurs: To experience – I am part of, and, To observe – I am separate from. This balance point enables movement between the two states, thereby acting as an enabler of conscious choice.
Conscious choice is alchemised in the crucible of purposeful attention. It arises from the process of separation. Through an observant eye, experience is observed thereby allowing the experiencer to separate from the experience and become the observer. Once observed the experience itself can be: held, considered, turned through perspectives, evaluated, tested for meaning, relevance and usefulness. Hence the pattern of the experience is revealed.
We think and behave in patterns. The human brain is a pattern making instrument. Neurologically everything that exists in memory is a pattern. That which is learned becomes a pattern. In some cases our patterns have run so long and so deep that we have become blind to them. The thing that stops us in our tracks, sometimes felt as an emotional ‘derailment’, or ‘ailment’ can act as the inciting incident that eventually causes us to discover the unseen pattern.
The benefit of such an experience is that it can catalyse an exploration of self enquiry that leads to the discovery of patterns of thinking or behaving that have hitherto gone unobserved. This is referred to as a ‘blind spot’. Our emotional system acts as an indicator of blind spots, particularly when we repeatedly experience emotions that we do not enjoy. These emotions accompany the story: ‘I am unhappy’, or ‘I am unwell’, or even ‘I am a failure’.
The benefit that derailment offers us, cannot be explored while we remain locked into the pain of: defeated expectations, beliefs, rules, or judgements that no longer serve us. The first movement that will offer respite and facilitate the ability to observe ourselves is to practice acceptance of what is happening. If we remain in non-acceptance of what we are experiencing we remain stuck within our patterns. Unable to separate from them, we experience emotions of non-acceptance such as: resentment, resignation and depression. Achieving acceptance ultimately brings relief and a deeper state of peace.
To ask ‘Why is the pattern happening?’ is not as useful as ‘What is the pattern I need to see?’. When we ask ‘why’ we are seeking to find the answer from within the pattern and the answer remains elusive. The ‘what’ question invites us to sit outside the pattern. To watch, reflect and learn. To watch and separate from the pattern allows new data to emerge. With new data and new perspectives we move to insight. These ‘aha’ moments set us free. We see with clarity the pattern that our habitual, experiential selves had not allowed us to witness.
Once seen and evaluated the old pattern can fall away and a new pattern can emerge; one that is more consciously and deliberately developed. To find the element of conscious choice we sit at the balance point between being the experiencer and the observer. It is possible to move between them and embrace both simultaneously. By practicing acceptance of what is happening we are ready to evaluate what is useful and what is not. Whatever it is that stops us in our tracks matters less than what we are being asked to notice.
Martin Challis © 2011