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pic    We are all familiar with our thinking selves, our thoughts, our emotional selves, our spiritual selves, and our functional selves. But according to author Charlotte Joko Beck, "There is ... another aspect of ourself that we [can] slowly get in touch with: ... the observing self ."  ("Everyday Zen" p. 123)

“In practice we observe - or make conscious - as much as we can of our describable selves. Most therapies do this to some degree... We observe how we work, how we make love, how we are at a party, how we are in a new situation with strange people. There is nothing about ourselves that shouldn’t come under scrutiny. ... Even when we are completely absorbed in our daily life the observing function continues. Any aspect of ourselves that is not observed will remain muddy, confusing, mysterious.” (Ibid)

According to Beck, most of the thoughts that whirl around in our minds are meaningless. For example, for me, today I observed myself worrying about whether my landlord heard me swear (I talk to myself, and he was sitting outside in the garden reading, and my window was open), then I thought about whether my son would be angry with me if I got to his house late, then I had an angry thought because there is construction going on nearby, etc. etc.  

Oh my gosh! I’m glad I was observing my thoughts because life is a precious gift and I really don’t want to live my whole life grinding my teeth, creating worry wrinkles between my eyebrows, and carrying my shoulders up around my ears.

Apparently, though, it’s not that hard to fix. The key is remembering to do it.

Beck says all we have to do to reduce the impact of these continuous, non-functional, worry/anger/self-depricating thoughts is to be aware of them when they occur. Name them. Note where in our body these thoughts create stress.  

By bringing negative or unwanted thoughts to light, we automatically reduce their impact on us.  

They create stress in our lives when we are not aware that we are thinking them, and then we notice little aches and pains cropping up and start in with the Advil.

We can’t “get rid of” the thoughts - but we can stop paying so much attention to them. And by observing them we can even, sometimes, laugh at them.

So I’m taking a deep breath and trying to remember to be aware of stuff galloping through my brain. I think it also has something to do with not judging everything so much. There’s construction going on near me. It’s loud. The trucks make that backing up noise all day. That’s simply what’s going on - I can live a better life if I just leave it at that and don’t “add on” any judgements and extra negativity.  

(I’m not talking doormat-dom. If something comes my way that needs fixing, like my neighbor’s cat the other day who needed some care, yes, you have to take action. But then again, the action can be done without huge flurries of negative thoughts flying around.)

What’s your experience with this?

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Linda L wrote Aug 18, 2010
    • Thanks Suzann for this post.  My #1 problem is stressing over things I don’t have control of, such as if people don’t accept me then something must be wrong with me.  Negative messages derrived from family come and go.  When the pain comes, instead of letting it go, it becomes an obsession and I get angry and cry.  In my younger days, I’ve confronted hoping to remedy the problems, but mom is in denial of any pain she caused.  We are both still having a hard time accepting each other and that shouldn’t be.

      Through my journey here on fab40, so many have inspired me such as you and at this old age, I hope to find peace in my inner self.

      Linda heart

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cynthia Schmidt wrote Aug 18, 2010
    • Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, labels these thoughts as she is meditating. When thoughts come into her head she simply says in her mind “thinking” and then lets the thought float on by and out.

      I’ve learned the power of the word “but”

      It negates just about any statement that came before it. So...when I’m having a pitty party or I’m in a real negative mood I then say “but, the flowers smell so pretty today.” “but, I had a wonderful workout.” “but, he really does love me even though he’s stressed right now.”

      I don’t know if this falls into the same category as what you‘re saying about the observing self, Suzann.Thank you for the information. It was very interesting and something I’d never considered before.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      J J wrote Aug 18, 2010
    • Suzann,

      I like to use Deepak’s words here. “The highest form of human intelligence is to observing one self without judgement, in that comes the transformation.”  

      It is a great tool for self realization. Thanks for sharing with us!  



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Suzann wrote Aug 18, 2010
    • What wonderful comments, thanks!  

      Linda, I’m sorry to hear about your issues with your mom. Family stuff can be so stressful. And yes, that’s what this is all about - trying to ease the stress.  

      Cynthia, I love your ideas (and Pema’s!). Yes, it has everything to do with the blog - thank you! Also, the idea about the power of “but.” Wow, what an incredible tool. I really love it and will start doing it. Love the idea to just say “thinking” instead of labeling the thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts are just too jumbled to label, or take too much time to label. So to just say “thinking” and let the thought float on out - I really like that.

      Jennifer, thanks for the wonderful Deepak quote. I’m glad you said it, because that’s such an important point - to observe ourselves without judgement.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Triggerhappy wrote Aug 19, 2010
    • I try to notice the negative thoughts I have and then consciously change them to positive ones. Positive thoughts have so much more power! Gratitude helps a lot too. Thanks for the post and good luck with your new place.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Dilara Sultan wrote Aug 19, 2010
    • Its a struggle, the stress I give myself.  It’s my own self-imposed deadlines, frustrations with others that do not have the drive I think they should—- oh I can go on.  but I won’t  

      Something that I am always working on—- your words here and me reading them today are perfect.

      thank you

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Suzann wrote Aug 20, 2010
    • Great comments and ideas, Fab Sisters! Thanks.

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