We are often encouraged to do more, to multi-task and power through our day to day lives. Although this energy may be seen as the norm it can actually cause suffering and it disrupts our attention to life in front of us. Observing brings us into contact with the real, factual, and present moment. Observing is terminology that can be used in mindfulness practice as well as a variety of therapies including DBT, CBT, and more.
Is Observing Just Paying Attention?
Observing can be understood as simply paying attention. However, a richer understanding of observing would include paying attention to our senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell), paying attention to objects and events happening both within and outside of our body, controlling and focusing our mind, being non-judgmental to our observations and having a “non-stick” mind.
Ways to Practice Self-Compassion
The exciting news is that there are so many ways in which we can practice observing because we have a vibrant, complex and connected experience in each moment. If you are just starting your observing practice you may want to begin by breaking down each sense and noticing what you observe, for instance:
Observing Sound– take a moment to listen to the sounds around you, an air conditioner running, a person talking in the next room, notice the tone of the sounds, and if the sounds overlap with one another
Observing Sight– notice someone’s facial expression, observer the art on the walls, or look at your own hands with inquisitiveness, perhaps you might even want to practice wordless watching
Observing Smell– breathe in and out, take a moment to notice any smells that you may experience, observe the intensity or subtlety of the smell
Observing Taste– take your time while you eat and pay attention to the flavours, the texture of the food, and pay attention to how the taste changes as you chew and swallow the food, be curious about this experience of eating
Observing Touch– pay attention to the bottom of your feet and the touch with your socks, shoes, or the ground, notice how the clothing feels on your skin
How Can Observing be Helpful in my Therapy?
Observing thoughts and emotions can aid in the learning about ourselves as well as provide clarity to our experiences. Often we can get wrapped up in stories or judgments when we have a thought or feeling- by observing we create a space where we can experience our lives in a different way that can lead to a deeper understanding and peacefulness.