Since the beginning of time humans and been trying to work with their minds.
Before we can begin to look at impartial observation we have to begin by looking at two things. One is how the mind works and the second is reactivity. Let’s start with looking at the mind. How to do we deal with our thoughts. Do we have a busy mind? Many have believed that mediation was the answer to a busy mind and to some degree this is true. Usually though a person will have to meditation constantly and regularly for many, many years before the truly achieve a state of a quiet mind. Buddhist monks will meditate sometimes 10 hours a day for 10 to 20 years or more. Most of us can barely find 10 minutes in our day to meditate if that. Now I am not saying that sitting quietly for 10, 20 or an even an hour a day will not help. It can help a person get more in touch with their thoughts and help to increase overall awareness. This in itself can be a good starting point. But honestly what are we to do then since we cannot just go run off and live in a monastery or ashram?
Now let’s consider reactivity. What is it exactly? Reactivity is our immediate response to any given situation without thinking about how we respond. It happens automatically. What is happening though in that moment. We hear or read words. We make meaning from those words and unconsciously respond as though those words are real. We may get angry, feel sad or upset. But all that is happening is that we have responded to what we have read or what someone has said and had an uncontrolled response to it. We are not even fully aware of what is happening.
Impartial observation is our ability to be aware. To be able to observe without judgement, criticism or evaluation. It is simply to witness. To observe what is. This is mediation in action. It is to look at a thought impartially. Until we do this we will continue to believe we are our thoughts. To truly be able to impartially observe is to recognize that you are not your thoughts. In the act of witnessing we can begin to gain distance on our thoughts and can begin to see them separate from us. This is the first step in helping us begin to see things as they are. Because if we are judging our thoughts or wanting them to be different then they are this is not seeing them as they are. To see things as they are is the beginning of accepting our reality as it is. Let me clarify one thing. Acceptance does not mean approval. It simply we accept what is happening in that moment. In this state our resistances start to diminish. We stop fighting with life when we accept where we are at. But there is something else very important that happens. In the act of impartially observing and having distance on our thoughts we become empowered to make a new choice. We now have the freedom to respond. A choice that is not being driven by our unconscious conditioning. In fact, to impartially observe begins to put a person in a new state of awareness.
As we develop our ability to impartially observe we can begin to see how our mind works. We can begin to observe our conditioning and beliefs.
If all a person did was impartially observe their entire life would be transformed. This is that powerful of a practice.