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How To See Things As They Are

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I’m in the back room of a coffee shop right now, switching between writing and another mental exercise: pretending I’m not here.

I don’t mean I’m wearing a disguise, or hiding behind a potted plant. I’m doing a perspective-shifting practice that I’d recommend to anyone: now and then, wherever you are, look at the scene in front of you as though it’s happening without you. 

From any seat, or standing spot, anywhere—in an office, a breakfast diner, a public square, a waiting room—see your surroundings just as they’d be if you weren’t here to see them.

Focus on the look and feel of the setting. The way the light lays across things. Take it in like a shot from a movie. Notice the movement and speech of people or animals, the soundscape and overall ambiance. It’s just a little corner of the world where things are unfolding, and you’re not here. Maybe nobody is.

When you do this, you might notice a certain lightness or simplicity arising. Things are more poignant. Everything seems less complicated, because it’s just stuff happening, not stuff happening to you.

I used to call this practice “dying on purpose” but that sounds a bit dramatic. Maybe “looking at the world as though you don’t exist” is better, but a good way to understand how to do that is to simply watch what’s happening here as though you’ve died, or maybe never existed at all.

Right now, in this back room, there’s a long communal table, with three students working in front of a spread of laptops and textbooks. There’s music playing—a band that sounds like the Cranberries. Framed by the doorway to the front of the shop is short-haired, golden dog (this place allows animals) waiting for its owner to order. No humans are visible but there’s a lot of easygoing chatter. The far wall is all window, with potted plants on hanging shelves silhouetted against the mid-day brightness outside. Someone comes to pet the dog. There’s a warm, neighborly feeling in the room. Now the not-Cranberries song is over, and a Beach House song comes on.

This vignette, seen in a certain way—as though it is happening, but not happening to me—can be just what it is, without any entanglement with my own interests. None of my reflexive moral judgments are present. The angle of the sun doesn’t remind me of everything I still have to get done today. Seeing twenty-year-old students doesn’t make me wish I was younger. Because I’m not here. It’s just life unfolding, and on its own it’s beautiful.

We have a habit of looking at what surrounds us through a self-referential lens. We don’t just see a thing, we see the way that thing fits, or doesn’t fit, into our lives. Seeing a luxury car might elicit judgment, or envy, or brand loyalty. Seeing someone enjoying what seems to be a day off might remind you that you do not have the day off.

It’s not that we all think we’re the center of the universe. But our lives do tend to feel something like The Biggest, Most Pressing Thing Ever to Happen, when it’s really only a short thread running through a vast, endless fabric of happenings that is life on Earth.

Even a short glimpse of something as it is—of any scene free from entanglement with our stories—comes with relief. What you witness in this way still has meaning, but it’s intrinsic meaning, like beauty, or some nameless quality. The meaning isn’t “What this means for me and my ongoing story.”

Those short glimpses are always available, by looking at what’s before you as though it’s happening without you. Every scene has its own signature, its own identity to express, which can only come through when it’s not mixed up with yours.

It’s not hard to achieve this perspective, for a few seconds anyway. Just see it as it would be if you weren’t there. This parking lot. This row of houses. This quiet kitchen. It looks exactly the same, but it feels different to see it this way.

When you look at a bug climbing a railing—at least for a moment, it’s nothing but a bug climbing a railing.

When you sit down with your coffee—just for a moment, the coffee shop is happening just as it does on days you’re not there, or as it might after you die.

When you look in the closet—just for a moment, it’s only clothing, hanging there quietly, as it does when nobody’s standing there choosing how they’re going to look today.

***

Photo by Luke Chesser

{ 75 Comments }

Randy August 8, 2019 at 10:35 pm

I thought this was an interesting exercise. I relaxed even thinking about doing this.

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megaver.net August 8, 2019 at 11:37 pm

You really make it seem really easy with your presentation however I to find this matter to be actually something that I believe I’d never understand.
It kind of feels too complex and very wide for me.
I’m having a look forward for your next post,
I’ll attempt to get the dangle of it!

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:11 am

Try this related exercise: when you’re in a room with other people, see if you can picture that same room empty of people. What does this space look like and feel like when nobody’s here? Just picture it at midnight, when everyone’s gone home. Look at the room itself, and see if you can get a glimpse of it as it would be empty of people.

The above exercise is similar, except you’re just looking at this same room/space as it would be if you weren’t here. Other people are present, things are happening. Just imagine you have died or were never born, but you get to see this space anyway.

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Marije August 9, 2019 at 2:22 am

Spot on. You say in prose what Mary Oliver said in a poem (October): “so this is the world. / I’m not in it. / It is beautiful” .

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Ellen Symons August 9, 2019 at 6:46 am

David, I love reading your thoughtful and poetic writing. It’s not just what you say, it’s equally that how you say it brings a compelling quality to your observations and ideas. This is why, after reading any of your articles, I feel that everything is possible, I am happy, and my life is already better. From this very positive mindset, it’s pretty easy (though hard as heck, of course) to make changes that do improve my life.

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:16 am

The power of perspective alone!

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:15 am

I didn’t know this poem, but wow it really nails it. Another passage from it:

What does the world / mean to you if you can’t trust it / to go on shining when you’re / not there?

https://coyoteprime-runningcauseicantfly.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-poet-mary-oliver-october.html

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Ashley Kung August 9, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Wow. I love this poem. Thank you.

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Ron August 9, 2019 at 2:23 am

Enjoyed this very much. Removing any mental context connecting what I’m experiencing to myself totally changes how you see it–and even what you see.

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DiscoveredJoys August 9, 2019 at 2:38 am

On a similar tack there’s a practice called ‘illeism’ where you speak quietly to yourself about yourself in the third person. So if you have had an argument with someone you might say to yourself ‘David felt frustrated…’ or in my case ‘DiscoveredJoys regretted responding angrily… ‘. Aeon have an article about it “Why speaking to yourself in the third person makes you wiser” and it is linked to ‘wisdom’ research.

The idea, like “looking at the world as though you don’t exist”, is to see things more as they are, calmly and without the emotional fog and personal biases. Which is a good thing mostly, unless you are being chased by a lion.

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:20 am

Ah I like that. I actually did a little experiment in the same vein to help with procrastination a while back. At the end of the day I would write a fake letter from an imaginary employer to his boss, describing how the “new hire” (me) was working out — what he did well and what he could improve. It really brought some objectivity to my self-evaluation, along with a helpful sense of humor.

I will check out the Aeon article.

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Vlad August 9, 2019 at 3:01 am

Knowing “dying on purpose” I asked some of my friends from improv to pretend I suddenly wasn’t there and that I never was.

It’s even better with people, I loved the experience!

Why do we put so much weight on ourselves, so that it feels so relaxing to forget ourselves?

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:23 am

We do carry around such an existential weight, almost all the time. My guess is that we’ve evolved to conceptualize ourselves and worry about the “story of me” for survival reasons, but that impulse has been made many times worse by our modern social structures, celebrity culture, social media, etc. Even a few moments of forgetting ourselves and looking outward is a relief.

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Mazen Abou Fadel August 9, 2019 at 3:20 am

Such a beautiful meditation technique !

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Christine August 9, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Agreed! This felt like a wonderful exercise in meditation for my perspective.

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Naomi August 9, 2019 at 3:26 am

Yes – very interesting idea. And it reminded me of the shots at the end of Before Sunrise. Richard Linklater must have had the same idea as you. The places that Jesse and Celine had been to overnight and how those spaces looked without them in the morning when they’d gone their separate ways.

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:25 am

There’s something about the specific phenomenon of seeing the same spaces at different times and in different contexts that is so interesting to me. Often I will imagine the room I’m in as it would look at 2am, when everyone’s gone and it’s dark. This is especially powerful when the room is at its liveliest.

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edhellos August 9, 2019 at 3:40 am

Exactly what I needed for today – thank you for this so much!

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Geoff August 9, 2019 at 5:16 am

Beautiful writing

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Anne August 9, 2019 at 6:02 am

I like this. I’ve just discovered that my overgrown garden looks really beautiful when viewed without the self-criticism about how much work it needs

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:28 am

Yes! So much of our relationship to familiar spaces in our lives gets entangled with thoughts about ourselves by association. Just looking at my desk reminds me of how much work I have to do, and worries about how it will turn out, and so on. But there are ways to see it as just a desk, and one way is to look at it as though nobody’s there at all, it’s just a desk in an empty room.

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Patricia August 9, 2019 at 7:31 am

As a teacher of A Course In Miracles for over 30 years; this type of thinking is familiar. I appreciate the value of thinking differently because it puts my erroneous thinking into a new perspective. I appreciate this blog as another way to tap into the illusion we have come to call reality.
It gives us reason to reflect on the miracles we have everyday but miss because we are so engaged with our stories and judgements. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world.

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:30 am

There is something miraculous about ordinary things, if we can see them without entanglement with the self. This exercise is one way but there are definitely others.

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Liliana August 9, 2019 at 7:32 am

I like the way you invite us to experiment with life

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Elizabeth August 9, 2019 at 7:58 am

I love this post. I do the same thing with noticing the angle of the sun and worrying about the day slipping away. What a great exercise to try out. Thank you!

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:32 am

The more I meditate the more I “catch” the rapid-fire associations that the mind makes. Seeing the sun at a certain angle generates thoughts like that really easily (“Am I forgetting something? Did I get enough done?”) The mind is constantly doing this, and most of the time we don’t see it, we just get swept into the “story implications” of what we see, and barely see the event itself.

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Elizabeth Munroe August 9, 2019 at 8:03 am

A related, but probably more urgent, line of thought is who do we treat like they are not here? What impact does it have on them? What impact does it have on us?

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:33 am

One interesting effect of this is that as soon as you can see the space as though you’re not there, the other people seem a lot more important.

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Lionel August 9, 2019 at 8:03 am

Thanks David. Another simple, but effective strategy to remind me. I’ve noticed that I often hae these moments spontaneous after major life events: the death of my father, the birth of my daughter, the end of my marriage all brought about looking at the world and marveling how there is all this churn in me, but the world doesn’t seem to notice… it just chugs along. I think it is what is relaxing about staring at the ocean waves; the idea that they just continue at their own pace, regardless of what I think is important or urgent.

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:36 am

The world does have a way of chugging along. There is a proverb, “No plow stops for the dying man.” Our stories seem so important to us, but they are blips on the radar when you consider everything that happens before, during and after our own little lives.

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Judi Walthour August 9, 2019 at 9:43 am

Thanks David,

I do this quite often and have wondered if others do too. I’m not sure when I started doing it, but I remember even as a child trying to view things from other perspectives. I think this has been partially responsible for the compassion that I feel.

I always enjoy your posts. Thank you!

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 9:55 am

Ah I love that. I had no idea if anyone else did this. It does have an interesting relationship to compassion, and appreciation.

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kiwano August 9, 2019 at 9:45 am

I’m imagining some circumstances in which this technique might be tricky and require a little adaptation — namely circumstances in which I’m necessarily actively engaging with my environment.

As an example, if I’m sitting quietly on a bus, on my way to work, this is easy to do as described, but if I were driving the car in the next lane over (ignoring the wisdom, or lack thereof, associated with meditating with a carelessly chosen technique while driving), it seems almost necessary to take a third person perspective of myself, rather than imagine my absence because “OMG, who’s driving this car? it’s going to run into someone and kill them!” :)

This all has me wondering if the applicability of this technique at any given time might be a good test of a particular degree of leisure…

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 10:00 am

Definitely. This perspective is much more available when you’re sitting or standing still, and don’t have to consider navigating with your body or interacting with anything. Driving, for example, requires us to have some sense of the space we are taking up and the potential harm we can cause be being inattentive. Stick to doing this in stillness.

That’s not to say that there aren’t ways of transcending the self in motion. There are many practices for cultivating non-dual awareness that integrate with our need to navigate through the world. But this is just a basic form of that kind of practice.

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Paul August 9, 2019 at 11:06 am

I’m so glad you are here for the time being in preparation for and acceptance of a time when and a place where one of us or all of us won’t be. Thank you, David.

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 3:49 pm

Thanks Paul :)

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PeaBiddy August 9, 2019 at 11:19 am

I was considering how my ability to love something is fairly equivalent to my ability to give it my full attention, without adding anything extra. Everytime I add my narrative to an object or moment, I am ever so slightly obscuring it. The example I’ve heard is that you can look at a flower, but as soon as you say to yourself “flower” or “red” or “lilly,” you are no longer TRULY seeing the flower, but your mind’s idea of a flower, which is always based on the past and pulls you out of this present moment.

Now, when I walk around I notice my mind’s commentary on everything. Everytime I have any opinion, whether positive or negative, I view it as something that might obscure to be in this moment, thus weakening my ability to love. Even if I am staggered by how beautiful something is, in labeling it as such I am adding a level of attachment to it, hoping, even in some small way, for more of that and less of the “ugliness” that surrounds it. I try to take notice of all of these aversions and attachments, not because I want to fix them, but because in noticing I am able to get closer to seeing things “as they truly are.”

I hope this feels related. I love your work, David.

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 3:53 pm

I think you’re right about love — appreciating something for its own sake, letting go of our interests in it, kind of “disappearing for it.”

One interesting twist on the mental commentary is that it too is a phenomenon you can notice, and have a relationship to. It is possible to disidentify from it too and just let it come and go. Theoretically there is nothing this isn’t true for — there isn’t a self at all, just experience. Big philosophical can of worms in this topic :)

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Quinn K August 9, 2019 at 6:56 pm

In the past, when people have asked me what super power I would most like to have, I have always told them I wanted the ability to turn into a fly. As a fly I’d be able to observe the world as it would behave if my presence were a non-issue. Through reading your post I have realized I already am that fly. Thanks David, you just gave me a superpower.

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Michael Rehak August 9, 2019 at 11:19 am

I thought this nicely complements your earlier post – ‘This Post Will Change Your Life’. In that one you talk about how “every moment is nothing but another culmination of the universe’s incalculable ripples.” We’re all connected to and products of the universe in ways we can’t predict or entirely piece together. So it’s impossible to remove ourselves from the universe, because we’re just part of the infinite flow.

I like the idea of “looking at the world as though you don’t exist”, but with the ‘you’ being just the cumulative image of a self that is created as a product of all those ripples. So I can witness existence without worrying about the sense of “I” that’s witnessing it. Because it’s all the same thing. Not that it’s easy to remember this very often!

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PeaBiddy August 9, 2019 at 1:24 pm

Well said!

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 3:55 pm

Yes totally. I didn’t get explicitly into anatta or non-dual seeing but that’s really what this is about. The stories too are just part of the “scenery” and can be observed like anything else.

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Katie Murphy August 9, 2019 at 11:36 am

Hi, David. I love your articles, loved Camp Calm, and the everyday tools you present for mindful behaviors to latch onto. My big question for this article, however, is how to perform the exercise when the majority of your life is home with an infant or toddler, who literally couldn’t exist without you. I’d love for you to explore this as I truly feel there’s a big sector of the population — moms — that struggle with finding the moments of peace or clarity which could keep us from collapsing into the despair of our daily Sisyphus mountains. Thanks! Cheers!

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Hi Katie. This particular exercise is one way of seeing the present moment without identifying with it, and it kind of requires that you can be completely passive for a few moments. If you have an on-all-the-time duty like parenting a toddler then those moments are few. It does only take a moment, however.

But here are also other methods of self-inquiry. I am a big fan of Douglas Harding’s technique of “headlessness”, where, using one of a few simple techniques, you notice that at all times you are looking out of empty space. This works perfectly well whether you are moving, driving, working, or interacting with another person. (These exercises can be found on headless.org.)

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Diane I. Young August 9, 2019 at 11:43 am

When I’m walking along a residential street, especially at night when lights are on in the houses, I feel that I’m not “there”. So many rooms, all different with so many people going about their lives without “me”.

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David Cain August 9, 2019 at 4:01 pm

I love that feeling. A big part of our sense of being “here” is that we are constantly being responded to by other people. When we’re alone, it’s easier to see the moment as though you’re not there.

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Shannon D. August 9, 2019 at 5:25 pm

When returning from vacation to my home, I have momentarily experienced some dis-association from the house and all the stuff in it and just looked at it with curiosity like I had never seen it before. Then life kicks in and one starts thinking, oh yeah, I have to do that, and this needs done, etc. I will try to have this experience deliberately to bring this quiet, non-judgemental, curious mind quality to more of my real life. Want to look at my place of work this way!

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David Cain August 10, 2019 at 10:01 am

I have experienced that “alien” kind of feeling since I was a kid, and absolutely loved it. But I didn’t know how to create it, or what was causing it.

It’s interesting how we can almost notice that tidal wave of self-association when it does arise again.

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Phyllis August 9, 2019 at 6:09 pm

I love this perspective. It allows me to separate myself from the world long enough to hold sadness and excitement in equal parts.

Thank you once again.

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Sujata August 10, 2019 at 1:40 am

Happens to me spontaneously, intermittently. I think it happens whenever I am in a relatively peaceful state of mind. In those few minutes, there are no other thoughts and whatever is in front of the eyes…everyday things… appear detailed, interesting and beautiful. Every thing looks like a work of art. It’s a beautiful feeling. Mind is totally at peace. The I is not in the picture. Probably this is what is known as the ‘present moment’.

Unfortunately this” happens” only intermittently and subject to my state of mind. The real thing would be to be able to do it consciously, more often, as described in your write up. That effort needs to be put. In Sanskrit it would be called Sadhana. Prolonged Sadhana then must lead to spontaneity/ habit/constancy. (Alas! Sadhana and laziness don’t go hand in hand :) )

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David Cain August 10, 2019 at 10:03 am

I think that peacefulness has something to do with having momentary freedom from self-association with sensory experience. We describe our state as “peaceful” when we’re not preoccupied with the story of our lives. That preoccupation comes and goes, and mindfulness practice definitely helps us disidentify with the story so that we’re not as often perturbed by it.

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Hugo August 10, 2019 at 2:43 am

Thank you for this perspective ! It brings me back into the present moment and the exercise of “deleting” my self really helps me staying in that serene and calm state.
On another topic, I love that every of your words seems to be carefully picked to convey its particular meaning, and the way they are so elegantly arranged. Have you ever written a book or considered write one ? Or even a compilation of this blog’s posts ? I would definitely buy it !

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David Cain August 10, 2019 at 10:06 am

Hi Hugo. I did publish an ebook compilation of blog articles (here: https://amzn.to/2HcR9rp) and I’m always working on other things behind the scenes.

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A.S. August 10, 2019 at 3:25 am

That doesn’t look like seeing things as they are – that looks like pretending to see things as they are when you’re not looking. It’s not the same.

It does not look like loosing a personal filter through which you see the world. It looks more like exchanging it for another filter – a filter of detachment. An interesting filter, but a filter nonetheless.

The post reminds me of an insightful essay I’ve just read a little while ago: https://aeon.co/essays/mindfulness-is-loaded-with-troubling-metaphysical-assumptions

To finish on a more positive note – I do enjoy reading your essays, even when I don’t agree with them :)

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David Cain August 10, 2019 at 10:28 am

The contrast between seeing a particular place with our default habit of self-projection, and seeing it as though you’re not there can give us a glimpse of what it is like without the self-projection. So it can momentarily remove one of the filters. You have to try it though and not just think about it.

I don’t believe the goggles of self-association are the only filter present (some might say it’s “filters all the way down”) but they are a major one. The title refers to the difference between seeing an object/place as it is (or appears, at least) and seeing it as it fits into one’s ongoing self-story in that moment.

Ok, now that article — the author is getting mindfulness basics wrong. Neither Buddhism nor contemporary mindfulness practice discourages introspection. Again and again they encourage you to reflect on your behavior, the causes and effects of it. This is the primary training in Buddhism, before you even get to meditation.

She also doesn’t understand annata (not-self) even on a conceptual level. It doesn’t mean there’s no self-concept or self-narrative to examine. Of course there is. We experience it all the time. Anatta means that no object, including self-concept, has an intrinsic identity that’s separate from the causes and conditions that give rise to it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t make use of concepts, for introspection and other purposes.

Also, anatta is not presented in Buddhism as a doctrine to be believed. It is an insight a person can have when they examine their experience closely, which is what mindfulness is for. This is a major point of emphasis in both Buddhism and secular mindfulness right from the start — these are not metaphysical claims to be believed, but insights to discover by examining your experience closely. They say it again and again that there’s no point in believing them.

At the beginning she says she “grew up buddhist” to establish an air of authority on the topic but she’s getting really basic stuff wrong.

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B. August 10, 2019 at 5:12 pm

I think this article also puts in perspective the habit of truly listening, to be more specific, the common erratic behavior in a conversation of waiting for your turn to talk instead of really just listen (not excluding myself hehe):

When someone is telling a story and we keep (not necessarily but many times interrupting) saying stuff to compare with ourselves: “ah, this remember me the time when something similar happened with me and that was much worse/better, blabla…” or “….if it was with me I would this/that way blabla…”. Sentences like “remembers me…” “with me, I would…, I did…, of mine…” always there. Why not just listen what people want to say without always putting ourselves in the middle?

After getting more conscious about it and trying to be a better listener, I notice this behavior pattern all around me.Ok…maybe I’m being to much rough, sometimes is cool to introduce your story or your point of view when similar to what is being talked, but I feel, most of the times, people act like this more in a egocentric way than to put more value into the conversation.

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David Cain August 11, 2019 at 12:21 pm

This is a great point… I have noticed this “selfing” tendency when I’m listening to people, and there have surely been many times when I haven’t noticed it and gone on to make someone else’s story my own :(

I like Richard Carlson’s adage “Let others have the glory… most of the time.” Just noticing those impulses to insert ourselves into another person’s moment, and letting it go.

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Nadine August 11, 2019 at 8:40 am

Thank you for sharing such a great exercise. A few years ago I was attending a yoga class with a new instructor. She started off the class by talking about how monkey’s in India were “trapped” by putting bananas in small cages. They monkey would slip it’s hand through the bars and hold onto the banana and try to take it away, but the cage was chained to the floor. So it just sat there, with it’s hand holding onto a banana, until someone came along and captured it. It shifted my perspective on attachment in a big way. I’ll be using this exercise for disentangling myself from my surroundings whenever I suspect I’m that monkey (all of the time!).

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David Cain August 11, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Classic monkey trap! May I be wise enough to recognize when I am the monkey

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anna August 11, 2019 at 9:18 am

I’m looking after a nearly blind and nearly deaf person and i feel so free of myself because i know she is not seeing me or looking into my eyes. I can actually look at her with no sense of myself because i know she is not seeing my physical appearance… just feeling my thought and presence. I feel a real connection to this lady that i dont always have with seeing and hearing people. I thought this would be the opposite with eyes being a window to the soul and all that. I think it makes me feel free to be myself not having another person maybe analysing or judging. I think the image i try to give out is not seen by her so i can go beyond that to the real me. Im not sure this goes along with what you just wrote… im writing it because it just sprung to mind.

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David Cain August 11, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Wow, thanks for sharing this. It sure says something about the pervasiveness of our self-concern and how it relates to sensory spheres. The eyes especially are so intense that we almost lose control of ourselves when we meet someone’s gaze.

I suppose it can work the other way too… I’m sure one of the reasons people can be so mean and flippant on the internet — because they don’t feel anyone’s gaze on them when they express themselves.

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Nick August 11, 2019 at 3:23 pm

Hi, David!

Reading this article reminded me of another one you’ve posted some time ago. I think it was called something like “The face to no-face communication”. It contained a similar idea – instead of being self-conscious, I should become “pure presence” and remove my “self” from the listening when the other person speaks.

Only this time you took the idea to the next level and applied it not just about having a conversation, but removing yourself in ANY situation. It feels like you are going through a maturation process that comes naturally… :)

Anyway, you’ve published another wonderful (and almost poetic) gem.

Thank you!

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David Cain August 14, 2019 at 12:03 pm
stela August 11, 2019 at 8:14 pm

I like the term dying on purpose. this is really what it feels and it’s sad, but a great thing to do. Detaching yourself from everything. Though I think it’s not possible.

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Christina August 13, 2019 at 9:11 am

My version of that exercise you describe is to step back from the situation in my mind and look at it as if I’m just a casual observer. I’ve found it to be a powerful exercise in talking me off the ledge, so to speak, during anxious moments.

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Rachel August 14, 2019 at 3:00 am

I love this idea of taking ourselves out of the equation… you stated that we don’t think we’re the centre of the universe but, actually, we are the centre of our own universe. The practice you suggest takes us out of this state momentarily. Thanks for a great article.

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sean August 14, 2019 at 8:54 am

Great article David.
Thank you.
Sounds like a classic Dzogchen practice to me.
Good stuff!

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David Cain August 14, 2019 at 12:00 pm

I don’t know much about dzogchen, but there’s definitely an overlap here between this and other self-inquiry practices. Have you heard of Douglas Harding? He has very simple practices for self-inquiry using our visual experience (headless.org).

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Financially Fit Mom August 14, 2019 at 9:13 am

This is incredible. I have yet to find the mental calmness in daily meditation that I naturally run into when I can escape to nature. This practice almost gives me a similar perspective I get when I’m lost in the mountains but applied to the things I see every day. I look forward to seeing what it evolves into!

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David Cain August 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Here is a short passage on having exactly that experience while hiking in the mountains — http://www.headless.org/on-having-no-head.htm

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Bertus! August 14, 2019 at 12:55 pm

My first time commenting here.
Just wanted to share that I had to undergo surgery on Monday, and as I was waiting for the anaesthetist in the operation room before the op, I tried this practice. It was immensely calming – the bleeps, the voices, I let it all just pass by me for a while. Eventually I could even watch the tightness in my chest as if it was just a thing happening while “I” wasn’t really there – if that makes sense.
Thanks for this.

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David Cain August 15, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Wow, good timing then!

There is a lot of potential to make a regular practice out of this. It’s not just a novelty, it’s a powerful tool for gaining perspective.

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webabzar August 15, 2019 at 11:59 am

very useful thank you

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David Howie September 5, 2019 at 3:34 pm

Just reading this moved me towards that place. Thank you.

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nina t September 8, 2019 at 1:02 pm

I did this often during my teen/college years decades ago. I’ve always been a behavior watcher, fascinating study. When I got to room interaction, it’s silly, things that happen. Everyone needs to try it! I’ve found more peace, less drama, and influence happiness around me.

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