If you’ve ever read wisdom from the likes of Buddha, Osho or Eckhart Tolle, then you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “become an observer of your mind.”.
But what does it exactly mean?
Becoming the observer simply means that you take a step back from your mind and become aware of your thinking patterns and how you’re responding to things.
Why is this important?
Because we all develop patterns of thinking over our lifetime, many of which are unconscious and can undermine our mental health by trapping us in painful moods.
Our mental habits can be both useful and far from useful—to start sorting out the difference we first have to notice them.
Below we’ve found a passage from spiritual master Osho who explains exactly how to go about becoming an observer of the mind so we can liberate ourselves from conditioned patterns of thinking.
How to become an observer of your mind and liberate yourself
“Become an observer of the currents of thought that flow through your consciousness. Just like someone sitting by the side of a river watching the river flow by, sit by the side of your mind and watch. Or just as someone sits in the forest and watches a line of birds flying by, just sit and watch. Or the way someone watches the rainy sky and the moving clouds, you just watch the clouds of thoughts moving in the sky of your mind. The flying birds of thoughts, the flowing river of thoughts in the same way, silently standing on the bank, you simply sit and watch. It is the same as if you are sitting on the bank, watching the thoughts flowing by. Don’t do anything, don’t interfere, don’t stop them in any way. Don’t repress in any way. If there is a thought coming don’t stop it, if it is not coming don’t try to force it to come. You are simply to be an observer….
“In that simple observation you will see and experience that your thoughts and you are separate – because you can see that the one who is watching the thoughts is separate from the the thoughts, different from them. And you become aware of this, a strange peace will envelop you because you will not have any more worries. You can be in the midst of all kinds of worries but the worries will not be yours. You can in the midst of many problems but the problems will not be yours. You can be surrounded by thoughts but you will not be the thoughts…
“And if you become aware that you are not your thoughts, the life of these thoughts will begin to grow weaker, they will begin to become more and more lifeless. The power of your thoughts lies in the fact that you think they are yours. When you are arguing with someone you say, “My thought is”. No thought is yours. All thoughts are different from you, separate from you. You just be a witness to them.”
Some practical ways to practice being “the observer”
There are a few ways to practice what Osho mentioned above. You might like to visualize your thoughts as pictures projected up onto a move screen, while your awareness is “you” sitting in the audience watching the show. Or you might like to picture your thoughts as clouds that drift across the sky of your awareness.
Another useful technique is labeling. This is especially helpful when you are doing a breath meditation or body scan and you become involved in a stream of consciousness, a thought stream, which is a distraction from your chosen object of awareness.
When you eventually catch yourself having drifted away, you might note that fact using the label, “thinking” and saying that yourself before gently escorting your attention back to the breath or body.