Meditation and Experiencing the Observer within us
Updated: Jul 6, 2021
From "The inwarders Podcast" serie n°12, available on all major podcast apps and providers. You can also listen via: https://www.theinwarders.com/podcast
In this new serie, “Meditation and Experiencing the Observer within us” I share with you my experience with meditation and subsequently staying with the Observer within me over a sustained period of time.
If you haven’t yet listened to Serie n°8 “How to find the Observer within us” you might get lost here. Before you experience the Observer, I would advise to know what it is and how to find it within yourself. Then, you can come back to this serie.
Basically, in Serie n°8, I shared what happened when I found the Observer within me. I experienced my thoughts and storytelling in my mind, on one side, and reality that I could observed on the other side. Almost like if I split in two. What surprised me the most is that reality is far nicer than what’s going on in my mind.
Prior to finding the Observer within me, I meditated, at least I thought I did. But the reality was that I got lost in my mind, identifying with all my thoughts and personal stories. And that might be the mean reason why I never been consistent with my meditation practice before as it felt tiring. I was just paying more attention to what was going on in my mind….and the meditation I do today is the opposite.
Now that I am aware of the Observer within me, I can observe what is happening inward. It doesn’t matter what is happening as long as I fully stay present to it. I am no longer caught up in my thoughts as my attention is on the Observer instead.
My understanding is that there are two ways of finding the answers about who we are:
- either we fully focus our attention on our experience (and having a thought is one of them),
- or we fully focus our attention on the Observer, instead of the thoughts.
What we focus on, we become. Based on the type of thoughts I had, I have chosen the second option.
Here is what I found:
My meditation practice before finding the Observer within me:
The term “meditation” is fashionable. We use it when we need to relax and have a quiet time. That is what first attracted me toward meditation. I started a decade ago, but I don’t recall it was for spiritual purpose. At that time, I thought meditation was about sitting in a lotus position in a quiet place. And that alone would help me to quiet down.
Quickly I realized that sitting down, doing nothing, wasn’t going to work for me. I could easily spend 30 min lost in my thoughts or imaginary world…and that didn’t provide the rest I imagined I would get.
Then, I tried guided meditation, some short mantras, counting and breathing technics, to focus my attention away from the thoughts. The thoughts were not the main issue. Actually what bothered me where the feelings that quickly followed them. That was very overwhelming and tiring.
For example, I used to count to 100. And most of the time, I couldn’t tell where I got lost in track. So, I had to start over again. This exercise made me realize how much noisy my mind was.
Same with Mantras. It can have a relaxing effect, thanks to the repetition, but I just replace my thoughts with something else. So that didn’t provide me with the peace that I feel when my mind is entirely empty.
Nevertheless, those meditation technics are very good practice to quiet our mind. I suffered my “Monkey Mind” as Buddhist call it. It helps us to quiet down and access the Presence within. Otherwise it is covered up by all the internal noise.
Now, I understand that those steps prepared me to meditate. As at the time I didn’t know what to be looking for, I get lot in my thoughts, believing it was me, and giving them too much importance.
My meditation practice after finding the Observer within me:
My meditation practice changed after I became aware of the Observer within me. Especially after practicing for a certain period of time.
The purpose here is to show you my experience evolved over time and once I knew, meditation was about staying “in the now”, by opposition to being carried out by my internal stories, it all became clearer. But, I still had to keep at it long enough to make a difference between what I am not (neti neti process), or referring to all the experiences that are impermanent and what I am, the Presence itself, that stays unchanged through all meditations or even outside my practices.
First, I could barely notice the Presence within as I was experiencing so much noise.
At the beginning, that’s not too easy. My experience of the Observer was quite weak. I could barely feel its presence. The main reason is that I ignored it for so long, it was almost like it disappeared. I often referred it at “being in the background”. What is at “the front” is all the noise. All our thoughts and stories. That tend to cover up the Presence.
Of course, it is impossible to lose the Presence within us as it is US. But you can become unaware of its existence. And when that happens, we identify with something else. That’s the core of all our problems and unhappiness.
I used the technic I shared with you in serie 8, to strengthen the awareness of my own Observer. Before entering into a meditation, I asked the question: “who within me, knows with certainty I exist”. Wherever we find the answer, that’s the Presence. That helped me to “locate” the Presence within me when its presence was weak. After sometimes, I dropped that question it was no longer necessary.
When I sat down, I felt overwhelmed with stress, anxiety, thoughts, many reasons why I should get up, sometimes I did, sometimes I was strong enough to ignore that…I became aware of thoughts, emotions, heaviness and pressure in my body… In all honesty, that might be why people drop out quickly if they are unprepared. It’s almost like if I opened a Pandora box and all I could find inside was dirt.
There is nothing to do, just stay with whatever we find. Whatever it is, it is not permanent. It is an experience. Some can be really unpleasant but nothing last forever. When the experience draws our attention, we need to move it back to our Presence or Observer within us again. Of course, we keep thinking, feeling and sensing whatever there is. But by staying Present, we avoid being caught up in the story / identification part. We just observe it. If we keep at it long enough, the noise starts to quiet down. And because we pay sufficient attention to our thoughts, emotions and sensations they dissolve. And it feels good.
Second, by drawing away my attention from the noise, it quieted down and I experienced Peace and Calm through the Presence.
I am not saying that experiencing my thoughts, feelings and sensations stopped for good. But it became easier. And it moves in the background when the Presence moves at the front.
Rupert Spira says our experience belongs to duality. I personally experienced peace by opposition to the noise and craziness of my thoughts and mind. If for example, you are a very peaceful person already, you might have a very different experience. But the intrinsic quality of the Presence is to Be, to exist. Not Peace. Peace was my experience of it.
Third, my body started to dissolve. Of course my body didn’t disappear, I am describing my experience of it. I could see my body, when I opened my eyes, but I couldn’t feel it, the frame, the limitation of being in a body.
I experienced an infinite space, with no limitation. For example, a tingling in my arm, was felt in the entire space, with the knowledge that is was located in my arm. The conscious Presence is also where knowledge occurs. We know we exist, the same way we know our arm is tingling. The Presence is knowing.
It is probably hard to comprehend without trying for yourselves. So I would advise not to take my words for granted and just give it a try. Unfortunately this cannot be informative. The objective is just to comfort you in the existence of a wider version of you. That is something you can validate for you only, if that resonate with you of course.
In that space, I couldn’t validate the usual identifications. Like I am a woman in my 30s (at the time). This space cannot be limited in time. There was no beginning and no end to it. No confirmation of gender either, nor race or whatever we usually identify with.
At that stage, I could no longer have certainty about what I was. That’s why we call this the Neti-Neti process. I was no longer aware of a mind with thoughts, as it dried out (empty), and I was not aware of a body. So, I could no longer identify as a Body-Mind.
All I was aware of, was an infinite space with no limitation, filled with what I personally describe as “potential creativity”. First the space appeared empty, but after further meditation, I became aware of the substance that filled that space.
I remember I struggled with the characteristics of the Presence because it perfectly matched God’s characteristics. Infinite, all potential, all knowing… You see where I am heading. But nonetheless I couldn’t reconcile it. The main reason was layers upon layers of patterns and contradictory believes I had to deal with first. That discussion is definitely for another time.
What it is important to keep in mind is that I had to do some extra work to be able to experience the last stage.
Fourth, I felt love and contentment.
Again, I am talking about my experience. Not sure it will or has to be experienced like this by others. I am not keen on using the word “Happiness”. This word is too associated with an experience and not what we are. We believe we have to do something or get something or someone to be happy. My experience is the contrary. In my meditation I felt content. By that I mean I felt content with what I was, what I had, and with the way things were. I knew I needed nothing more. Now, I am sharing my experience and the vocabulary I have chosen to express it. It is up to you to find the words that are the most relevant for your own experience. If you want to use the term happiness, by all means do it.
Finally, what also evolved during years of meditation is my identification to the Observer. At the beginning I experienced the Presence as a separate entity. But I became that Presence and when I merged with it, it created a shift. I am not saying I didn’t identify any longer with my body and mind, but at least, when I meditate, I am Being, and Being only.
When we are Being, the experience is wonderful. And practicing meditation is no longer something we need to do. But it is something I am looking forward to.
As much wonderful it feels, meditation occurs over a short amount of time in our days. My next work, was to stretch the meditation state to the rest of my day. When not meditating. Staying Present is not something we do once in a while, it is what we ARE. So I practiced being Present all day long. That’s an interesting experience too as it’s still going on today. But I will share it another time, I promise.
Now, please understand this is just my experience. I am an inwarder like you and I only can share what I have experienced so far. My understanding is that the reality of what we are is NOTHING. The absence of everything, including the Presence itself. At least that’s what I have been able to grasp from fully realized being. All I can say is that feedback has been consistent across what I read and people I meet. Let’s not worry too much about that.
So, let’s speak about usual questions about meditation:
I have been asked about duration, frequency, location, time of the day, or position while we meditate? Those are valid questions. One ofmy friend with 3 kids “How can I meditate if I cannot find a quiet place to be alone?”
For a very long time, I felt frustrated as I feared I couldn’t awaken because I lived in the modern world and I had so many things to attend, it is hard to find a quiet place to sit, but in the end, my best advice is to start where you are. It is unlikely we will move to the top of a Himalayan Mountain the day we decide to go inward. If you cannot find a quiet time to sit down, just practice while doing the house cores or in the middle of a busy office. Wherever you are, the Presence within you comes along, because it is you.
My best advice is forget about silence, or even sitting in a lotus position if that’s not something you can do. It doesn’t matter as much as staying with the Presence within. That’s what is important. Not so much what your meditation looks like from outside.
If our believes of what we need to do in order to heal, grow and awaken, are not supporting us. Let them go. Wherever you are, in whatever you do, that’s where you need to be, and that’s what you need to be doing. We can heal, grow and awaken regardless of our circumstances as it is inward. Don’t worry. If that resonates with you, just give it a try anyway. And overtime, you will experience who you are too. In whatever forms that might be. No mistakes possible with Being who we are.
Contact Annabelle Foussier, "The inwarders Podcast" host, coach and author via www.theinwarders.com.