On watchfulness: becoming the observer
A bare mind is not worried about anything and it is tied up with nothing. It is about not holding onto distractions rather than ignoring or avoiding them. Distractions will happen. Whether inner turmoil or influence by our surroundings, our lives are constantly surfing through this physical existence. Therefore, the challenge is to master ourselves to the point we may remain calm despite the inner or outer circumstances. When the Holy Scriptures say something like “Do not sin by letting your anger control you.” (Ephesians 4:26) they are simply advising us by describing the tension between self or our soul and ego. While self knows we lack nothing, ego will try to trick us into attaching ourselves to thoughts and emotions related to need.
A particular useful tool to learn how to master ourselves and to include in our daily and practice is watchfulness. It has been used for centuries by many religious traditions and is often neglected, most possibly because of its simplicity as well the discipline it requires. Indeed, watchfulness enables us to become the observer. One of the several outcomes when we become the observer is that we do not get lost in thoughts or emotions. We simply accept them as and when they come, we avoid judging them, we acknowledge them and we let them go their way. But, what is watchfulness?
Watchfulness “… signifies an attitude of attentiveness whereby one keeps watch over one’s inward thoughts and fantasies, maintaining guard over the heart and intellect.” (St Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St Makarios of Corinth, compliers, The Philokalia: The Complete Text, Volume One, translated from the Greek and edited by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware, London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1983, 367).
As there are different ways to master ourselves, there are several types of watchfulness. For example, in brief, according to religious tradition, we may become the observer:
- By closely scrutinizing of every mental image or provocation.
- By freeing the heart from all thoughts, keeping it profoundly silent and still.
- By continually and humbly calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ for help.
- By always having the thought of death in one’s mind.
- By fixing one’s gaze on heaven and by paying no attention to anything material.
A more modern take on watchfulness has to do with what it is becoming a trend: mindful meditation. Truly, mindful meditation has its roots in Ancient traditions including religious understandings. Put it simply, mindful meditation is the enabler that paves a way to become the observer but, different from Ancient tradition, is stripped down from its spiritual nature.
Watchfulness allows to catch reactivity. By not reacting it is possible to come back to our centre, to our calmness and, ultimately, to our freedom. It means we are able to anchor to stillness while still flowing.
It is important to mention watchfulness is not about putting up with what we should not be putting up (e.g. an unjust or a painful situation). It just implies we are able to transform that same energy and change it for good. In other words, watchfulness helps us find a new relationship with issues such as pain, distractions, thoughts and emotions and avoid reactivity. In a nutshell, we avoid turning that pain into mental suffering.
Watchfulness is not about fighting but grounding ourselves to our Holy essence and in doing that, shining so bright that any negativity is disintegrated. We are able to transmute energy. Therefore, take time and space to nourish yourself. Watchfulness’ end goal is to become the observer—even when we are surrounded by people. Because through watchfulness we face ourselves, we face our light and our fears. And if we want to know ourselves and in knowing ourselves, heal, we have to observe in order to be aware. Watchfulness allows us to be aware of self and ego; awareness enables us to be awake. Being awakened is the way to ignite what we already know: “All healing involves replacing fear with love.” (ACIM, T. 8. IX. 5:2)
Christ Consciousness. 8: Self-mastery: the battle towards God and inner peace
Available at: https://drjorge.world/2021/06/28/christ-consciousness-7-the-solitary-hero-and-the-false-prophets/
Saturday 11th March 2023
Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez
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