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Relax. Feel your physical body. Take a few deep breaths. Once composed, examine this thought:
“Nothing I see has any meaning.”
Relax. Look around the space you are in. As your gaze crosses an object say, “You have no meaning. There is no meaning to this object.” Pause briefly before moving to the next object to feel how this statement affects your emotions and the muscles of your body.
Pay close attention to how your body feels and reacts to this statement, “You have no meaning. There is no meaning to this object.” What do you realize as you tell yourself that the object has no meaning? Do you feel your body react differently to different objects? Try a few objects before continuing to read the lesson.
Now, the purpose of this exercise is for you to see how your conscious and subconscious fills in details for you each time you look at an object. You say the object has no meaning and immediately following the statement you can feel your body and mind supply a meaning for something that you just said is meaningless.
Continue this exercise to accept all objects have no meaning. Without meaning all objects are equal—no item being more or less important than another as it has no meaning.
As you practice applying this idea today, do it randomly, skipping here and there. Do not include every single item in your space. This idea is not a belief we are trying to lock into your conscious brain; this is a felt sense of our creation you want the mind and body to be aware of. Be sure that nothing is purposely omitted or excluded. One object is like another as far as the application of this belief is concerned.
“I have learned the meaning for everything in this space.”
Relax. Feel your physical body. Take a few deep breaths. Once composed, choose an item from what you see around you that has significance for you. Looking at the item, consider these thoughts:
- I have learned many meanings for this item.
- I can remember instances where I changed or considered the meaning of items based on the meaning it has for others.
- Every meaning this item has I learned from someone or some experience.
Look at how this example unfolds:
- I have learned many things about scissors
- I remember learning that scissors were cool and could cut out Christmas decorations. I also remember learning that scissors are dangerous and I shouldn’t run with them. I remember learning that sharp scissors can cut my skin if I am not paying attention when I use them.
- I learned to love creating decorations with scissors from my brothers and mother, running with scissors is dangerous from my teacher, and how they can cut my skin all by myself when I used the grown-up scissors without permission.
Now, scan the space around you. Allow yourself to repeat this exercise for 1-3 objects. Feel the connection to your thoughts as you remember them. Afterward, move onto the next section.
Next, relax and take a few deep breaths; allow each breath to pull more of yourself into your body. Allow your gaze to wander around the room. As you cross an object say, “I have given this object and everything in this space all the meaning it has for me.”
Same as yesterday, practice applying this idea randomly, skipping here and there, not including all items and not purposely omitting any items. Do this gingerly, without pausing on any items. Avoid separating by size, value, material, or relative importance to you. All objects are equal.
“I have given this object and everything in this space all the meaning it has for me.”
Attempt to apply the exercise with equal ease to a body or a book, a chair or a plant, a cat or an apple. The sole criteria for applying the idea to anything is simply that your eyes have gazed gingerly upon it.
I know not what anything means. Nothing I see has meaning.”
Same as yesterday, practice applying this idea randomly, skipping here and there. Do not include all items and do not purposely omit any items. Do this quickly, without pause on any one item. Keep your thoughts focused. When you feel the need to question if this is the truth, release the thought and confirm
“I know not what anything means. Nothing I see has meaning.”
Anything you see can be addressed in this manner. These are not exercises in judgment. Some of the things you see may have emotionally charged meaning for you. Try to release these meanings and merely view these things exactly as you would anything else.
The point of the exercise is to help you clear your mind of all past attachments and conclusions. Without the thoughts of your past or the anticipation of your future, when you see an object only at this moment, you can realize how little you really understand about it.
Make an effort to keep your mind open. When making your item selection, one thing is like another, all things are equal and useful.
Unlike the other exercises, this one does not begin with the idea for the day. Today, begin by watching the thoughts that are crossing your mind. Do this for about a minute. Next, apply today’s idea to your thoughts. If you are already aware of uncomfortable thoughts you can use them as the subjects for the idea. Do not, however, select only the thoughts you think are “bad” or “unwanted.” After you have a minute of your thoughts in mind, continue.
“These thoughts have no meaning. They are like the things I see in this space, all around me all the time. They have no meaning.”
To use your thoughts for application of the idea for today, identify each thought in noun, idea, or verb form. For example: “This thought about (blanket, friendship, or running) does not mean anything. It is like the things I see in this space, all around me all the time. It has no meaning.”
You can use a particular thought which you recognize as harmful. “This thought about confrontation does not mean anything. It is like the things I see in this space, all around me all the time. It has no meaning.” Applying today’s idea to your harmful thought is useful, but is not a substitute for the more random process of the exercise.
Do not continue this exercise for more than a minute or so. If you indulge in this practice for more than a minute before you are comfortable with the entire process of separation from attachment, judgment, or conclusions, your continued suspension of judgment regarding your thoughts may trigger a ripping or spiraling out effect.
The aim of this exercise is to lead you in the first step toward the goal of separating a learned delusion from your inherent truth. This short-term experience will plants seeds and will begin to develop your long-range understanding. The separation from things you have always assumed as fact, as the basis of your existence and experiences, will allow you to see meaning is solely within you.
“I am never upset for the reason I think.”
This idea can be used with any person, situation, or event you believe is causing you to be upset. You can begin by looking for the source of your upset and the form that upset takes. The upset may seem to be anger, frustration, fear, disappointment, envy, anxiety, etc. Apply the same idea to each upset separately.
Today, phrase the idea this way:
“I am not disappointed with (my mother, my job) for the reason I think.”
“I am not afraid of (fire, death) for the reason I think.”
In these exercises, you may find it hard to avoid giving greater weight to some subjects than to others. If you do, try starting the exercise with the statement:
“There are no small upsets. They are all equally uncomfortable in my brain.”
Then examine your thoughts for whatever is upsetting you, regardless of how much or how little you think it is doing so.
You may also find yourself less willing to apply today’s idea to some specific experiences of upset more than to others. If so, include this: “I cannot keep this form of upset and let the others go. For the purposes of these exercises, I will consider them all the same.” Then search your thoughts for no more than a minute, identifying a number of different forms of upset that are disturbing you, regardless of the relative importance you may give them. Apply the idea for today to each of them as phrased before.
Full script: “There are no small upsets. They are all equally uncomfortable in my brain. I cannot keep one form of upset and let the others go. For the purposes of these exercises, I will consider them all the same. I am not (worrying, angry, disappointed) about (money, my partner, my weight) for the reason I think.”
“I am upset because I see something that is not there.”
This exercise is very similar to the preceding ones. Name both the form of upset (fear, anger, worry, anxiety, and so on) and the perceived source (my job, my brother, my home) very specifically when working with this idea.
“I am (disappointed) with (my income) because I see something that is not there.”
“I am (pissed) about (my weight) because I see something that is not there.”
Today’s idea is useful for application to anything that seems to upset you and can be used throughout the day for that purpose.
For the three or four practice periods you will begin with a minute or so of mind-searching, as before, and then apply the thought “I am upset because I see something that is not there.” to each idea you find in the search. Again, if you resist applying the idea to some upsetting thoughts more than to others, remind yourself of the two cautions stated in the previous lesson:
“There are no small upsets. They are all equally uncomfortable in my brain.” and “I cannot keep this form of upset and let the others go. For the purposes of these exercises, I will consider them all the same.”
“I only see the past.”
The brain processes information by using snapshots over time, comparing them, then making decisions based on the whole of the compared snapshots. “I only see the past” can be particularly difficult to believe at first. When you are in observation you are not pulling the snapshots into this moment. You cannot access historic or past information while in observation, being totally immersed in the moment.
“I only see the past” is why nothing that you see means anything. It is why you have given everything you see all the meaning that it has for you. It is why you do not understand anything you see. It is why your thoughts do not mean anything, and why they are like the things you see. It is the reason you are never upset for the reason you think. It is the reason you are upset because you see something that is not there.
Our lives are deeply rooted in time. Because of this, we move in and out of this moment in time, seeing the past and using it to predict the future.
The idea, “I only see the past”, is not as strange as it may sound at first. Consider this example of a cup: Think of a cup. Do you see a cup, or are you merely reviewing your past experiences of being thirsty, picking up a cup, drinking from a cup, feeling the cup against your lips, meals that included a cup, and so on? Consider the attachments to your cup memories. How do you see a cup if you have dropped one and it broke? You are in the past if you think of dropping it at this moment. How else would you know whether or not this kind of cup will break if you drop it? What do you know about this cup except what you learned in the past? Without the catalog of your past observations, you would have no idea what this cup is in this moment. You do not really see it at this moment.
Look around. Today’s idea is equally true for whatever you are looking at. Acknowledge this by applying the idea for today indiscriminately to whatever catches your eye. For example:
“I see only the past in this foot, this shoe.”
“I see only the past in this car.”
“I see only the past in that body, that face.”
“I see only the past in those cookies.”
Notice we do not use the possessive form of my. Do not linger over any one thing in particular, but remember to omit nothing specifically. Glance briefly at each subject, and then move on to the next.
“My past is preoccupying my thoughts.”
All thoughts, ideas, assumption, conclusion, judgment, attachment, and fears are based on the past. No one at this moment has any of these experiences; these all occur because “My past in preoccupying my thoughts”. Without your thoughts of the past, you have no active response in this moment; you have no suffering; you have no anticipation. The brain cannot grasp the present, it can only observe the present. Without a past to compare and contrast, your brain and mind cannot create a response, a behavior, a reaction for a given set of circumstances.
Today you will close your eyes, and with as little effort as possible, you will search your mind for the usual minute or so. Note the thoughts you find. Name each of your thoughts specifically. For example: “I seem to be thinking about (name of a person), about (name of the object), about (name of your emotion),” and so on. Conclude the end of the mind-searching period with: “And my mind is preoccupied with thoughts of my past. I am the only one that creates this reality.
A second approach would be to start with, “I am letting myself believe that I am upset about the dog.” or “I am letting myself predict that I cannot get to work on time.”
A third approach would be, “I am giving my brain permission to distract me with fears about failing.” or “I am giving my brain permission to misunderstand my partner’s needs.”
The purpose of the exercises is to begin to train your brain and mind to recognize when you are not really thinking at all. While thoughtless “ideas” preoccupy your brain and mind, your truth is blocked. Recognizing that your brain and mind are blank, rather than believing that they are full of ideas from this moment, is the first step to opening the way to vision, reconnecting the intuitive with the conscious so they work as one.
“I see nothing as it is now.”
A necessary step in learning to understand is to first not understand. This exercise, while you may be able to accept it intellectually, will have more meaning for you later. Learning occurs through practice. Through practice, you will understand, “I see nothing as it is now”.
Each exercise of Return to Observation brings you a step closer to understanding your control over your world. Each lesson gives you more insight into how your brain and mind have been trained. Each brings light to the depths of your darkness and allows you to escape it. As you clear away your habitual behaviors, you take responsibility for your energy. You make it possible to release the continuous enforcement of unnecessary blocks, monkey mind and circular thoughts, and habitual behaviors.
It is difficult for the socialized brain to believe that what it sees pictured before it is not there. This idea can be quite disturbing, and you may meet it with active resistance taking any number of forms. It is emphasized again that while complete inclusion should not be attempted, any specific exclusion must also be avoided. Be sure you are honest with yourself in making this distinction. Your mind may be tempted to obscure it, holding a false belief that it is protecting you. All possession belongs to the past. In the now, there is no attachment, no judgment, no assumption, and no conclusion of any kind.
Examples of today’s idea:
“I do not see this t-shirt as it is now.”
“I do not see this face as it is now.”
“I do not see this telephone as it is now.”
Begin with things that are nearest you, and then extend the range:
“I do not see that chair as it is now.”
“I do not see that door as it is now.”
“I do not see that road as it is now.”
“I see the past in everything. Nothing in this moment has meaning.”
Scan the space around you neither purposely including or specifically excluding any item. As you pass an item with your gaze that makes you “feel”, stop on that item briefly recognizing the connection it has to your past. Be vigilant of the slightest shift as you move from item to item.
“I see the past in my necklace. At this moment my necklace has no meaning. All the meaning that my necklace has I continually assign from the past to this moment.”
You are choosing to see the past in every moment. You are using the experience of the past to give meaning to this moment without living the experience of this moment.
Consider this: if the connection of the past to this moment brings you joy without effort, then the connection to the past with this moment can bring you pain without effort. Nothing in this moment has meaning. See how you use the past to create your now. See how holding your past keeps you out of your now. This behavior is a choice and can be understood. Releasing attachment, your thoughts about the past, your previous moments, and things you have been told to hold as important give you space to see your world as you choose in the now.
“I am preoccupied with the meaninglessness in the thoughts of others.”
Today’s idea introduces the concept that your thoughts determine your world. You do not see the thoughts of others. You only see what you choose to see—what you imagine are the thoughts of others.
As you realize the outside world cannot control your thinking, give yourself the freedom to release each thought that does not serve you. Look for your joy in practicing this, as you release your thoughts, your pressure of false responsibility, and your action of assuming the thoughts of others. Your thoughts are your preoccupation with what you think others are thinking.
The practice periods for today’s idea are to be undertaken somewhat differently from the previous ones. Begin with your eyes closed and repeat the idea slowly to yourself.
“I am preoccupied with the meaninglessness I see in the thoughts of others. The meaning I assign to their thoughts is not as I see it now.”
Then open your eyes and look about. Look near or far, up or down. Look anywhere. During the minute or so you spend using the idea, merely repeat it to yourself.
To do these exercises for maximum benefit, your eyes should move rapidly from one thing to another. They should not linger on anything in particular. The words, however, should be used in an unhurried, even leisurely fashion. The words of this idea should be practiced as casually as possible. They contain the foundation for the peace, relaxation, and freedom that you are trying to achieve. Upon concluding the exercise, close your eyes and repeat the idea once more, slowly to yourself.
“I am inspired because I recognize my creation inside of a meaningless world.”
The importance of this idea lies in the fact that it contains a correction for a significant perceptual distortion. You think that what upsets you is a fearful world, or a bad world, or an unfair world. All these attributes are given to your world by you. The world as it exists outside of you is, by itself, meaningless.
Do today ’s exercises with your eyes open. Look around you, this time quite slowly. Pace yourself so that the slow shifting of your glance from one thing to another involves a fairly constant time interval. Do not allow the time of the shift to become markedly longer or shorter, but try, instead, to keep a measured, even tempo throughout. What you see does not matter. Give whatever your glance rests on equal attention and equal time as you are learning all things in your world have equal value.
As you look about you, say to yourself: “I think I see a problem where there is none; I think I see a conflict where there is none; I think I see pain where there is none” and so on, using whatever descriptive terms happen to occur to you. If terms which seem positive rather than negative occur to you, include them. For example, “I think I see a good world,” or “an exciting world.” If such terms occur to you, use them along with the rest. You may not yet understand why these “nice” adjectives belong in these exercises, but remember that “a good world” implies a “bad” one, and so on.
At the end of the practice period, finish with: “And I am inspired because I recognize my creation inside of this meaningless world.”
“Seeing a meaningless world brings about fear.”
In your attempt to make communication more complete between you and others, you are repeatedly calculating, anticipating, concluding, and expecting the meaning for others on their behalf.
Many things do not yet have, and may never have, the meaning to you that they have to others. It is essential, therefore, that you learn to recognize and accept that they create their meaningless world; you create your meaningless world.
The exercise for today should be done three times, lasting no more than a minute or so each time. This idea is to be practiced somewhat differently than the preceding ones. With your eyes closed, repeat today’s approach to yourself. “Seeing a meaningless world brings about fear.” Then open your eyes and look about you slowly, saying: “I am looking at a meaningless world.” As you look about, repeat this statement to yourself.
When done, close your eyes and conclude: “Seeing a meaningless world brings about fear because I take responsibility for how others react to the way I see my world.”
You may find it challenging to avoid resistance, in one form or another, to this concluding statement. Whatever form such resistance may take, remind yourself you are paying attention to the behavior of others. You are afraid if you release your control over the world outside of you, others can harm you. You are not expected to believe the statement at this point. Note carefully, however, any signs of specific fear which it may arouse.
“Creating a meaningful world is possible.”
Because you are responsible for your world, and your world alone, you can choose in every moment to fully experience yourself.
Pick an item, any item. Reflect on the object and everything that comes to mind about it. Recognize, “I have learned everything this item means. I can choose to keep this meaning, or I can choose to let this meaning go.” You can choose in every moment to release or continue your attachment, judgment, assumption, conclusion, or connection to your past. It is within your control. It is your free will. The only world that you create is your own.