Observing The Observer
April 8th, 2021
Developing an observer self is a helpful vehicle for mindfulness and healing. Observing the experience and all of its thoughts, feelings and sensations, allows one to shift perspective and awareness. To notice and observe also requires connection to the prefrontal cortex and the Ventral Vagal Circuit. Learning to observe therefore is not only a helpful means to gain perspective, but it is also a neuro informed intervention to change one’s physiology.
Learning to observe can be challenging and frustrating. It is a skill that is a product of Ventral Vagal functioning and at the same time a skill to promote Ventral Vagal functioning. When we are hijacked by our survival responses, and experiencing triggers, fight, flight, or shut down responses we naturally lose perspective and the ability to observe. This is because those survival responses reduce activity in the prefrontal cortex and change the functioning of the nervous system. Therefore, the longer we’ve persisted in these hijacked states, the more practice it may take to develop this skill. Do not be dismayed though, for you are a resilient, adaptive being and you can develop new neural pathways. It just takes practice.
Here is my go-to for developing your observer self:
Zoom In/Zoom Out
- Begin by finding a state of stillness. Lie down or find a comfortable seat. Take a few moments to settle and take some deep breaths.
- Become aware of your body right here and now. Notice yourself breathing and being. Now zoom out so you are looking down on yourself from above. Watch yourself from above as you breathe and be, right here and now.
- Zoom out again, and observe yourself and your surroundings from above your house or the building you are in. Become aware of all that is around you in your immediate geographical area.
- Zoom out again, and now view your entire town or city from above. Notice all of the structures, trees, parks, streets, cars, and people that make up your town or city.
- Zoom out again, and look down on your entire state.
- Zoom out again and view your entire country.
- Zoom out, and notice the entire continent you are on.
- Zoo out, and notice the entire planet. Notice the earth, and all of the continents, oceans, clouds and colors.
- Zoom out once more, picturing the entire galaxy. Become aware of your connection to the entire galaxy, with all of its stars, planets, gases and colors. Take 5 breaths here.
- Now zoom back in, first zooming back into earth. Picture the planet earth and all of the colors, continents, and oceans.
- Zoom in, and notice the continent you are on. Picture its shape and size and characteristics.
- Zoom in, and notice the country you find yourself in right here and right now.
- Zoom in, noticing the state or providence you are in right now.
- Zoom in, and become aware of the town or city you find yourself in.
- Zoom in, and observe the building or house you find yourself in.
- Zoom in, and become aware of your body right here and now. Notice yourself sitting or lying, as you breathe in and out.
- Now connect back in with your internal awareness. Feel your body right here right now. Wiggle the fingers and toes. Notice the textures, weight, and temperature you feel and sense. Notice the breath and work to deepen your breath slightly.
- Slowly come back to the here and now.
How do you feel? What did you notice? What did you observe?