observing without mind

When I take time to observe, – do I in fact observe the spinning yarn of my mind or do I actually recognise what is presented in front of me?
Do I see what I want to see or what is there? Do I listen or do I hear what I want to hear?
Can I observe without dictating my observation?
Can I be, for a while, an observer not influenced by my ego, my mind, my emotions?

My racing mind has been in overdrive most of my life. It has conjured stories, distorted facts and has often been like a runaway train. Plenty a times my observation happened with a glass in my hand or through the green smoke of a reefer. Instead of letting impressions sink in, I was, or became, too emotionally involved to see the moment. I was not an observer. I was a participant on some drive towards a forced outcome of my determination.

But what is observing really?
I have watched a Bushman in a remote region of western Botswana that I was fortunate enough to have shared some time with. Bushmen are the people who inhabited southern Africa long before others migrated down from the northern interior of Africa, or before explorers anchored their ships along South Africa’s Indian ocean coastline. I have always been fascinated by these people who can survive and live a life entirely in nature, understanding the purpose of each plant and animal, living completely without any technology whatsoever and who are (largely) untouched by modern life.

I saw how he observed the land below him when he sat in a shady spot on a cliff or some lookout point, patiently waiting for something to happen in what we westerners would describe as a world filled with lots of nothing. And at a glance there is nothing that happens. It all looks the same. Acacia trees, bush and sand as far as the eye can see. The real observer however, who doesn’t focus on what they want to see, like wishing for an Eland or an Elephant or a Springbok, they wait, and they will eventually be rewarded with the sight of a Bateleur eagle and circling vultures, skittish duiker and Gemsbok, a snake and much more, and wont walk away from that scene saying that they saw nothing. The Bushman would sit there and let it happen upon him with the patience of Job, – he would observe. He came to look, not to put there with his mind. And, while he looks and observes, he doesn’t think because then he doesn’t see.

I create with my mind what I want my life to be. I also control and I dictate. Seldom do I take time and observe. Seldom do I relinquish control of my mind and watch what the rest of my being has to say without the ‘boss,’ my mind, constantly interfering and adjusting and knowing better.

How can I observe in this busy, tumultuous life full of demands and stress?
I take time out to meditate. In my meditation, once my mind has calmed down through focus on breathing, I have a phase when I observe. In that phase I become like a Bushman. What I see happens upon me. It comes from within, undirected, un-choreographed. It is different for every meditation. It is the source of a perennial spring that is fascinating. Every session, every observation reveals something born from deep within my soul.

Next time just observe, you’ll be amazed what transpires.


the fluidity of air

We can’t see the air. It’s ‘nothing’ to most of us, besides air. We become aware of it when we become conscious of our breath. That happens seldom. We gulp for air when we run out of air and then realise how utterly important and necessary it is. During meditation a great practice is to focus on the breathing of air. Slowly breathe in filling your lungs, over say about five seconds, hold the breath gently while the word ‘Aum’ forms in your mind and breathe out again for five seconds. That focus alone quietens the mind. We now become aware of the flow of air. At the same time if you practice a little you could associate a picture, a word and a feeling with that process of breathing. You could imagine a movie screen in your head showing those desired pictures and it could happen to the rythm of the breathing, unobtrusively. The thing about air is that it flows like water flows and surrounds us too.

We are critically aware of the air-flow when we fly close to mountains. That’s where up-drafts or waterfall-like down-drafts occur that affect our stability in the air. Air flows like water. Air is fluid. Obstructing it creates barriers causing detours that change the unhindered flow. It will still flow, but obviously not as easy. If we now associate well-being with air we will be inclined to want it to flow as natural and unobstructed as possible and stay with us. Why? Well, let’s have as much well-being as we can. Let’s have the air flow around us comfortably. Let it flow through our home peacefully and not zoom in and out like through a jet. Let the air be fresh and rich. Let’s view it as the bringer of energy and health and wealth.

I love air. It’s my medium and while I am not a bird I often wish to be able to become one at will. Imagine being a Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. Imagine being a swallow or a Gymnogene.