Learning to Observe the Invisible Level I The Wave Function

As the observer of the contents of my mind (thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, associations), I am more than the contents of my mind.

Before you can do anything about how you feel, you have to be able to observe or witness it. The moment you attempt to see what's going on inside of you, part of you separates off to make this observation. In philosophical terms, it's called "self-reflection"; in psvchosynthesis terms, it's called "disidentification." G. I. Gurdjieff called it "self-observation," the Hindus and Buddhists called it "witnessing" and the Zen Buddhists, "mindfulness". In the last 25 years it has not been uncommon in psychotherapy circles, like Gestalt, to ask a client to "be aware" of a pattern. In Hakomi therapy recently developed by Ron Kurtz, mindfulness is emphasized. Certainly, whether we called it awareness, mindfulness, observation, or witnessing, disciplines of the East, West, and Middle East have employed it in some way to help the individual enhance personal freedom.

Whatever the name, the essence is observation. Thus the purpose of this first quantum level is to teach you how to observe your internal experience rather than fusing with it and being consumed by it.

This observation gives you an experience of looking at your life events without judgment, evaluation, significance or preference. For most of us, judgments, likes, and dislikes pop up automatically, so that we "find ourselves" disliking a person, or we "find ourselves" loathing a particular event. Rather than consciously choosing a response, reactions happen to us, often beyond our control. These automatic reactions greatly color and shape how we perceive and experience the world around us, and as long as the reactions remain on "automatic," we remain unable to choose how we feel, how we live.

The moment you use part of your awareness to observe a reaction, in essence you are putting a distance between you and the response. In that space, you are not consumed by the reaction. Even as the reaction runs its course, the space of observation creates a distance that diminishes your sense of attachment to it.

Because Quantum Consciousness is an experience more than it is a concept, it is useful to create an environment in which to experience this response/reaction phenomenon. In this spirit, Quantum exercises and contemplations (which can be practiced alone, in pairs, or in small groups) accompany each quantum Level.

Quantum Exercise 1

Sit comfortably and let your eyes close gently. Intentionally recall an incident that upset you. It might or might not involve other people. It could be the toilet overflowing while you're home alone, or it could involve an angry, nonverbal exchange with a motorist, a misunderstanding with a clerk, or a clash with a loved one.

Visualize the incident, seeing yourself in the middle of it. Be in the middle of it, recreating the scene with all the turmoil and annoyance with which you originally experienced it.

Next, continue to see the very same scene, but also notice that you are watching it. Now there is a you in the scene, experiencing all the emotions and upset, and there is a you outside the scene, in the experience of observation, noticing all the emotions, thoughts, and sensations.

Notice if there is any difference between how you experience the two visualizations.

You might not experience the feeling of objectivity and no preference in the beginning. Most of us are very attached to our responses to things. If we feel we have been insulted, misunder stood, or belittled, we are not usually willing to step outside our righteous emotions too quickly. If you find yourself unable to move to the second visualization, stay with the first part, being in the middle of it, until some of the charge of the event is drained off. Eventually, you will begin to feel willing to let part of your awareness move into the neutrality of observation.

You can also imagine yourself inside an empty theater with a large screen, on which you project your visualization of the upsetting experience. The you sitting in the theater chair observes the you in the middle of the experience. As you watch your own "movie," ideally you become less fused with the story. If the story remains upsetting—for example, you are picturing yourself as a "bad" mother losing your temper with your child—then intentionally allow yourself to feel the "bad mother" feelings. Do this intensely for a minute, then release the visualization, relax for a few minutes, and then create it again. Each and every human being is drawn back to experience those events, feelings, and traumas that were resisted initially. Most of us resist feeling bad, in general. Sometimes, the need to experience something is so great, that it is not possible to move to the observation mode without first allowing yourself to be submerged in whatever has been resisted.

However, the moment you intentionally allow yourself to experience a resisted emotion or event, no matter how submerged you may feel in it, the very fact that you consciously chose to experience it creates the pathway to the freeing, neutral space of observation.* As you shift in and out of submerging yourself in the experience and then observing yourself in the experience, you begin to actually sense the you that is present for both levels. As you recall the emotional experience, realize that prior to it you were there and that after its affects had fully spent themselves you were still there. The You, or observer of your experience, is always there; it notices all the thoughts, sensations, and feelings that come and go.

I had one client who described the difference between being completely submerged in the experience versus having part of herself in the observation space as "having more room to breathe:"

* Although this is not the time to delve deeply into another realm of physics called "chaos theory," it is important to note that what most of us resist more than anything in our lives is chaos. You can give chaos other names—feeling overwhelmed, anxiety, confusion, being out of control, feeling crazy—but its essence is resisted experience. This resisted experience causes the formation of chronic identity patterns. The relationship between chaos theory and resisted experience is discussed in detail in my forthcoming book, The Too of Chaos: Quantum Consciousness Vol. 2.

"When I'm all wrapped up in the experience, there is a feeling of contraction and narrowness—kind of like I'm trapped in long corridors with no windows and no doors. Once I move part of myself into observation, there's more room to move—the corridors widen immediately, and I get a feeling of space, of air, even of light coming in."

Observation leads to an experience of the self as being more than the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations that frequently buffet it. If we remain tightly identified with the comings and going of the mind, there is no room for experiencing things in any other way. We are, in essence, captives of a very narrow, entrenched set of beliefs and viewpoints. Learning to observe opens our psychological windows, letting in the light and air of expanded perspectives.

The experience of Level 1 is the experience of being more than what troubles you. If a part of you can witness or observe your feeling of sadness over the breakup of a relationship, then that means that you are not just your sadness—just as you are not the picture you draw to image your sadness. There is the feeling of sadness—perhaps there is the picture of sadness—and behind or beyond both is the you that observes these different facets of experience we call sadness.

Consider the same event from two different modes of experiencing it. The scenario is: I have turned in a monthly report to my boss, which he usually approves and compliments. This time I am called into his office, the door is shut, and he impatiently tells me there is a major oversight in my report, which will have to be completely redone. I flush in surprise and embarrassment, my palms sprout beads of perspiration, and my stomach feels like it was hit with a two-by-four. I mutter my apologies and return to my embarrassment breaking over me. My breathing is shallow, my heart is beating rapidly, and all I want to do is run out of the building. I feel stupid, I feel grossly inadequate, and I also feel enraged.

If I choose to practice the quantum principle of Level 1,1 will have a very different experience of the same event. Anything I can witness, I can go beyond. Philosopher Alfred Korsybski stated it as "anything you know about cannot be you." If I can begin to observe and witness my reactions, than I will feel freer and more at peace.

It is only by the identification and fusion with a thought or feeling that I limit myself from being the observer to becoming the experience itself. In my previous book, Trances People Live : Healing Approaches in Quantum Psychology, I describe this as the process of going into trance, "the fusion and merging with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and past associations."

In the above experience, if I totally identify with the feelings of humiliation and embarrassment, and if I couple this psycho-emotional process with the decision that "this is me," then I am confined to the parameters and boundaries of the experience labeled "humiliation and embarrassment." However, if I shift part of my attention to the level of observation, then other options become available. If I can observe my reactions, then I can go beyond them. I can step out of "my" reactions and begin to notice them. Then I can begin to choose, observe, notice the pattern, and so on. As I comprehend, even for a moment, that I exist outside of my thoughts and emotions, they have less effect on me.

This truth became profoundly real for me in June of 1980 in India. At about 6 o'clock in the morning as I was walking to a bus station, my mind was holding its usual banter of conversation. Suddenly I experienced myself outside of, or larger than, or beyond what I was thinking or feeling.

What was more astounding was that an observing "I," which was me was always there. The smaller I's of "i feel good" or "i feel bad," or "i love myself' or "i hate my self," were transient. The observing "I" was always present. I realized at that time, that no wonder "I" felt so insecure. I was identifying with an "i" that came and went, rather than the observing I, or witnessing presence. I asked myself, who has witnessed all my thoughts, feelings, and happenings of "my" life? I laughed as I realized "I" was the witness. I asked myself who came first, me the observing "I," or the emotional upset that had been bothering me. Again, obviously, the same observing "I" was there before, during, and after the upset. My experience of myself was permanently transformed as I laughed at myself for missing what was so obvious—me—the observing "I" that was always there watching all the transient i's.

The realness of that new consciousness never left me and continued to solidify and deepen for me on an experiential level— the first level of Quantum Psychology.

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