Obstacles to Observing by Topi Piirainen
In my opinion, any effort that involves being aware is worthwhile. Probably all spiritual teachings, in one form or another, emphasize this.
It is a very frustrating, patience-developing, interesting thing to try and do. I remember swearing that I would start being aware and noticing, about two seconds later, that the awareness had dropped. I guess I struggled with that for some time and then gave up, the frustration was got too much for me to handle.
For whatever reason, probably because I had read it somewhere, I thought that thinking about thinking was a bad thing and had nothing to do with awareness. I thought it was “doing it wrong”. After giving up trying and tying myself in knots by denying my interest to look I came across Richard Rose through spiritualteachers.org and the funny thing was that “thinking about thinking” was exactly what he recommended and proposed people to start their path with, by thinking productively.
What a foolish decision without any common sense! Thinking about thinking in my opinion is the first step towards being more aware. When we start to examine and investigate ourselves more closely we arouse curiosity and with it a natural tendency towards being more aware. I find that the more I investigate the more that impulse appears and with it a perfect reminder to be aware.
There are times when awareness seems to be a peace of cake and times when I feel like I am just sleepwalking. My guess is that this is some sort of an unavoidable cycle and that the only thing we can do against it is to build a net of reminders that shake us so that we would daydream as less as possible.
I remember starting by making a commitment to be aware whenever I am walking the stairs. After that it has expanded and now I try my best to remain aware while driving, when on the toilet, whenever taking walks or when I am with my daughter etc. It takes a while before they become a habit but they still seem to shock me awake more often than not. The hardest time to be aware is during chores like washing the dishes or vacuum cleaning, I just don’t seem to be able to hold on to it. But that is not the point, when I started doing this exercise while driving I probably could not hold it for more than ten seconds at a time and now I get times when I feel like it is a very easy and natural thing to do, almost effortless. The point is that we need to keep at it!
One of the best reminders is emotional distress, i.e anger, sadness, disappointment or depression. They seem to more or less turn our attention within towards the problem but we tend to turn it back out by blaming the world for whatever has happened to us. Maybe even because we are afraid to look. The desire to look is there, we just need to cultivate it.
More silence, meditation, reminders alike to the ones mentioned above, less entertainment, all good ways to manipulate our circumstance to of help to us. But these are just thing to get us started, the best reminder that one could have is the desire to have an answer, that longing for something more that we realize to be there most of the time, in one form or another.
Probably the only real obstacle is the feeling that our efforts are not enough, that there is no progress. How often have I given up even before starting to try because I thought the quality of effort I was able to make was a failure.
The only thing to do is to try to outsmart it and to keep on trying.
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