During the practice of Mindfulness Exercises, we develop the capacity of observing whatever arises in our mind without identifying with it, just being aware. To be aware is to see “what is”; to be aware is to see all of it without attaching subjective (constrictive) meaning. We develop this expanded awareness with perseverance, practicing the practice, slowly unconditioning our distorted mind.
Awareness unfolds the field of consciousness. We observe our thoughts and feelings, every single thought and feeling, seeing the totality of the thought-feeling. When we realize that we watch what happens in our own way, we become safe with that understanding. The body biochemically responds to the emotional state of safety, allowing us to deepen our experience; the observer keeps feeling safe and it grows. The observer, like a muscle, clearly gets stronger and stronger. The bigger it grows, the easier for us to see that it’s there.
To develop the “muscle” of the observer we create the right environment around the practice. If you want to learn how to play a violin, you wouldn’t go to Times Square, with all the endless noise, all the chronic chaos of life. You go to the sound proof room. You close the door. You find peace, silence, stillness. In the same way, if you want to learn how to regulate your emotions, the notes of the music in your emotional bodyif you will, and try to figure out how you feel, you wouldn’t go to Times Square because in that environment you are bombarded, and therefore in a subconscious reactive mode. So you create a place of silence, perfect stillness. And then you practice: you are the instrument; you play the notes, the notes are the emotions, and you learn to observe them and feel them as they come up. You learn about your emotional instrument in this place of stillness.
Clearly, beyond the environment, the perfect place of stillness is in the mind. We start using mental discipline, skillful practices, Mindfulness Exercises, to create a place of stillness. And then, from that place, that sound room, you observe and notice the subtleties of the emotions, the music that is played in our body–mind all the time. The infinite silence and the emotional music was always there, but we didn’t know it was there. So we learn about ourselves in this sound proof room by practicing objective awareness, by observing, noticing and letting go without attaching meaning to the music we play. And then later, after we master this instrument, we take it out into the world and we can quite successfully play a violin in Times Square. We can move out into the world with confidence and certainty that we are playing the notes correctly and we are in control of our own emotional experience.
We don’t need to accomplish freedom. We need to obtain awareness -by developing the observer- of that freedom that lies within us.