Beginning Self-Observation
by Stuart Goodnick

A strong and prosperous spiritual development is built on the foundation of consistent practice. The primary practice in Tayu teaching is the practice of Self-Observation. Self-Observation is the basis for almost all of the spiritual exercises that we do. The description of this meditation is given on pages 11-13 of The Way of Tayu booklet. One of the key points about this exercise is that the Observer does not speak. When most people turn their attention onto themselves, they engage in a process called self-analysis. In self-analysis one attempts use words to describe what it is one is experiencing. One attempts to describe oneself to oneself. This process is a function of the android (pp. 7-10). In Self-Observation, we attempt to put full attention on what it is we are experiencing without trying to name anything. We attempt to observe our thoughts, our feelings, and our body sensations all without internal dialog (internal dialog refers to the voices in our head that continue speaking most of the time). It is common when one begins practicing Self-Observation that one sometimes slips into self-analysis. When this happens, one should take a mental step back and observe the verbal thoughts that the android is using to describe oneself.

One should practice Self-Observation as often as one can. It can be done throughout the day. It can be done at work, at play, while eating, while cleaning, at any time. When one begins this practice, usually one will remember to observe only occasionally during the day. As one progresses in this practice, one will remember to observe oneself more frequently and for longer periods of time. Self-Observation is cumulative. Each time one does it, for however short a duration, one becomes more likely to self observe again. We have a saying in our tradition, "No effort is wasted." The more one practices Self-Observation, the more likely it will be that one will remember to observe. The purpose of several of our meditation exercises is to help one remember to observe oneself more frequently. We recommend that one begin by practicing the Self-Observation meditation described in the booklet on page 23 for 20 minutes each day. We have found that it is very effective to do this practice first thing in the morning, because it helps to bring one's intention to observe oneself through to the rest of the day. It is important to continue to try to observe oneself throughout the day. We recommend that one work with the other exercises listed in the booklet as one has time. The Single Thought and the Silent Mind exercises are good exercises for building the strength of attention necessary to deepen one's practice of Self-Observation. The Time Lord exercise is an especially effective way to loosen the grip with which the android ordinarily holds us in place. One should also work with the exercises for the Emotive and Motive Centers as one has time.

We practice Self-Observation for a variety of reasons. Principally, Self-Observation is the first step in the process of Self Transformation. But our purpose in the beginning is to become familiar with our own organism. We practice Self-Observation in order to study the mechanical nature of our existence. Tayu teaching and Fourth Way teachings in general make the claim that most of us are effectively asleep even in our ordinary waking state. Self-Observation is the practice to enable us to see this fact and to move beyond this fact. In Self-Observation, we intend to discover just how much of the manifestation of our being is controlled mechanically by the influence of the android. A key point here is that when we first begin this practice, we do not attempt to change anything. We are not trying to fix ourselves. So many spiritual seekers begin their work with the idea that they are "sinners" and must learn how to be "good." In our practice we begin with objective Self-Observation and emphasize that the beginning student try to observe him or her self without interfering in the functioning of their organism. The reason for this is that before one has developed the ability to experience life through one's Essence, one cannot be sure whether the impulse to change some aspect of one's being arises genuinely from one's true Self or whether it arises from some socially programmed part of one's android. In the beginning, it is best not to try to change oneself until one is sure of what one is doing.

Of course people usually find that the simple act of Self-Observation practiced consistently over time will naturally begin to cause changes in their state of being and in their day to day experiencing of life. This is natural change. When one plants a seedling, one does not have to explain to the little plant how to grow. The plan for its growth is contained in the very atoms of its being. All one need do is to provide fertile soil, water, and sunlight and the seedling will grow in accordance to its nature. Likewise one can think of one's Essence as a seedling. The spiritual school is like the soil, one's intentions and efforts like the water, and one's Self-Observation like the sunlight. When all of these elements are in place, growth will occur. One could also think of the android as the starter pot in which the seeds are first planted. At first the pot serves to protect the plant when it germinates. Later, however, the seedling cannot grow beyond the confines of the starter pot and will be forever stunted unless removed into a free space. Our goal in spiritual work is to transplant our Essences into Real Life. Our goal is to allow ourselves the freedom to grow into the beings that we are truly meant to be. But before we can hope to do this, we must clearly see where our roots end and the pot begins.

So in the beginning we simply observe ourselves. Most Fourth Way literature is not particularly clear on this point. Often one will see the notion of Self-Observation confused with the notion of Self-Remembering. When we use the term Self-Remembering, we refer to a much later stage of one's spiritual work. In a certain sense, Self-Observation becomes Self-Remembering later in the process. But these are just words at this point. Before these words can have anything more than superficial meanings, one needs to understand Self-Observation experientially. One needs to practice Self-Observation for a while and experience how it begins to transform one's life.