The “Observation Technique” and Vipassana

My Self in a derelict church just a couple of minutes drive from the largest Vipassana centre in the UK – Dharma Dipa

It has been a while since I last wrote on this blog. Following the 10-day Vipassana retreat I did at Dharma Dipa in England, back in October last year, I decided to take a break from writing as well as other projects in order to allow my physical body the rest it needed. I decided due to the interest people had in the course, that it would be a good subject to start the blog with again.

My partner Åsa-Maria will also be writing articles on this blog soon, as we felt she had a lot to give with the different perspectives, advice and methods she has to offer. We will put our names at the bottom of each article if you’re wondering which of us is writing, though I’m sure you’ll see obvious differences in our writing styles 😉

The Vipassana course tied in very nicely with the advice I had been giving for years previously which I had been calling “The Observation Technique”. This is something I have been meaning to get into writing for some time now as it is an extremely powerful technique. A technique that as time has gone by, I have realised is really just another way of looking at what have been taught by eastern mystics of the past such as Buddha, and all the way up to the present, such as through Eckart Tolle. Hopefully this blog article will serve as a reference point that can help the mind understand the concept of observational techniques enough, such that you can start using them to better awaken and heal yourself.

Observation is now the main technique I use during my healing sessions to dissolve away whatever may concern you. I find that compared to all the other healing modalities I have used over the years, that this is the most powerful. It is also the most simple. I realised more and more as time went by, that healing is actually very easy and that the more I simplified the methods I used, the more powerful they got.

With the observation technique it goes one step further than that, it feels like I literally get out of the way. You could say that my ego steps aside such that my “higher Self” or source can do the work instead. People who use other techniques also often mention how their techniques improve when they step aside and let it happen.

It is interesting how much information the ego often needs before it will allow healing to happen does it not?! So lets satisfy it for the time being and explore this method in more detail.

Observation in allowance as a measure of spiritual progress

The key thing in observational techniques, in “becoming the observer” as is often quoted, is to do so in complete allowance. That is, to not judge, not react to, not resist or fight what you are observing. On the vipassana course I did, taught by the late Goenka, he calls this being “equanimous”.

Your ability of being able to be in allowance of whatever is occurring, is a better way of perceiving your spiritual progress than measuring your vibrational level alone, though of course your vibrational frequency will increase as a by-product of becoming a better observer.

As I shall write about later on, the physical, emotional and mental symptoms you are experiencing are also not a good measure of spiritual progress, as often these aspects will very often appear to get worse as your awareness of the issues within your Self improves and the resultant healing ensues.

Over time, if you practice observation diligently and persistently, it will be perceived that you will start to become the observer, or if you like your “higher Self”.

This enlightened state is the goal of what vipassana and other observational techniques were designed for. As a by-product of this journey, healing and greater awareness will also occur and so if you wish you can use the below information for those purposes and not necessarily be aiming for enlightenment itself if you wish.

Not being in allowance attracts and creates more suffering

The majority of people in the world as I write this, do not practice allowance. They are constantly fighting, resisting and reacting to the people, environments and situations around them and of course to themselves. If you do this then you simply create more energy of fight/reaction/resistance. More judgement. More ego. More problems. More suffering.

As identified by the 3rd law of the universe, you get out what you put in, or another way of putting it is like attracts like. The law of attraction (which is part of but not all of this 3rd law) has been written about by many people around the world. Despite this, I feel, as have many other spiritual writers, that people haven’t got the full story here. Many people have tried following the positive thinking type practices and have not been able to manifest what they desire.

This is mainly because they are focussing on the mental side of things alone, without realising that the other aspects of Self such as the emotional and physical parts, often hold the opposite vibration or at least a different vibration to what the mind does. This is why I teach that the beliefs you have, are not just those that your mind/ego says you have, but are actually stored within the emotional and physical bodies as well. The energy blocks and dis-harmonious energies that I and other healers talk about are the result of holding onto beliefs that are not in alignment with your physical and energetic bodies.

Observational techniques are a great way of being able to sense these energies and hence understanding what all parts of “you” truly believe. Outside of observational practices, this can be used of course to change your belief systems and hence is why I teach this as part of my Belief Removal / Limitation Removal sessions.

Being in allowance of what you observe eventually dissolves all that doesn’t serve you as you observe it.

There are many perspectives I can use here to explain why this dissolution happens. Firstly due to the 3rd law of the universe, as mentioned above, you are not adding to and “making worse” whatever form of suffering is being experienced. In a similar respect, you could say that if you are not adding energy, then entropy and hence decay is what will eventually happen.

If you look at it in terms of frequency, when you are in a state of complete allowance and so are in a higher vibrational state (compared to the state of judgement for example), then what you are observing is receiving that higher vibrational energy from you, as it flows through your consciousness. In this way, the lower vibrational energy will start to dissolve in the higher vibrational energy you supply it.

Being in complete allowance is what I view unconditional love to be. If you wish to change something or someone based on them being, worse, bad, wrong etc, then that is conditional love, not unconditional love (very different to changing things in a state of allowance or if that thing/person wishes to change). Very few people I would say as I write this love themselves and others unconditionally and so are continually creating suffering. Allowance reverses this and dissolves all that causes suffering.

From the perspective of dimensionality, you are choosing your vibratory state and so choosing what dimension you move to every single moment – literally an unlimited number of times a second. As you observe something from a different vibrational state to what created it then you will be continually choosing to exist in a reality where what you are observing does not exist.

For those that question whether observing things is actually adding and maintaining what is being observed, you will find that this happens only if you are vibrating at the same frequency band that what you are observing exists. As you continue to practice becoming the observer, you will continue to see things from a higher and higher vibrational state and so all that is of a lower vibration will cease to exist for you, or if you like, will dissolve away.

You could also say that being and sensing your “higher Self” and comparing it to a lower vibration thing that you are observing, starts to entrain that lower vibration towards the higher vibration, and so it changes.

Due to the paradoxes and contradictions the human languages bring up when talking about these sorts of subjects I have used many more perspectives in my time as a healer. Hopefully though the above will be enough to help you understanding why observation is a powerful tool to end suffering.

This process works on all levels

It does not matter whether it be a physical sensation such as pain or other symptoms of dis-ease, whether it is an emotion, whether it is mind chatter, whether it is your aura or energetic parts of Self, whether it is outside or inside of you, whether it is an energy block, parasite, implant, curse, entity etc. All things will eventually dissolve as you become more and more the observer.

Certain things that are more related to the physical realm, such as a scar from surgery, your relationship with someone you don’t get on with, or your monetary situation for example may not change in the way you might expect initially. Mostly it is because of the many other beliefs that are indirectly related to these issues still being present within you. So initially for most people the scar will look the same but you do not have any negative thoughts or emotional charge about it. The other person may not change their personality at all and yet you are comfortable being around them. You may not get more money in life but you suddenly seem to manage fine and enjoy life with the money you already have.

Eventually as you continue to observe and connect with higher Self of course, the changes will go deeper and the scar, person and monetary situation will start to change as well as your perception of them. Many people do not spend enough of their day being equanimous to reach this state of complete change. Especially if inbetween meditation sessions they continue to add to, maintain or re-create the beliefs that cause a particular form of suffering.

For things in the energetic realms, they change much more readily as they are not so bound by the laws of this physical reality we chose. This is why energy blocks, implants etc can change very quickly indeed so long as you are not applying the laws of physical reality to them 😉

In the initial stages of observation, the ego often perceives things getting worse

As you start observing various aspects of your Self, you may notice that there are many areas that you cannot sense in much detail, and other areas that you cannot seem to sense at all. If we use the physical body as an example, many people when tuning in, cannot physically feel their spleen. They cannot sense the undulations of the surface of the spleen, or even get a sense of where it is in the body at all.

So when you start to observe the body in more detail it is very often the case that as you become more aware of an organ such as the spleen, you will also become aware of pain and other uncomfortable physical symptoms. On the emotional level maybe powerlessness, and on the mental level mind chatter relating to this.

The ego will often perceive that you are getting worse or that you have now acquired a new problem. The vast majority of the time, with people on the awakening path, it is simply that you are becoming more aware of things that were already there.

On top of that, you will often get more symptoms as the body starts to heal the affected area that had been ignored in the past – what we call a “healing crisis”. You can get similar things from receiving a healing, as I have explained to many of you who have come to me complaining that another healer has made you worse 😉

You could say that people on the awakening path are going through a prolonged healing crisis as they start to become aware of layer upon layer of issues stored way and ignored – from earlier in their current life, from past lives and especially on the physical level, from their physical body’s ancestry’s experiences, often called cellular memory. What was previously sub/un-conscious then becomes conscious you could say. Note the words awareness and awakening here in relation to un/sub consciousness becoming conscious.

As you continue to observe, these issues will eventually start to dissolve, as I well know from continuing to observe my left kidney and all the related symptoms for over a year with my ego constantly saying that “this doesn’t work!” along with all sort of other thoughts too. Of course it did dissolve away eventually as I continued to watch and the fight left my body.

As you practice, it will often seem that things take time to change to start with. Trying to force change will actually slow down the healing effect – something which is common for those who wish to use this technique to overcome a disease. As you settle into truly observing more than forcing, the changes will start to happen more quickly and with more practice, some issues will appear to dissolve or leave the body in a split-second!

True observation happens in the present, the “now”

You may notice that there are many practices that could be considered observational techniques. These include, Tai Chi, Yoga, mindfulness and all the various forms of meditation. What is common to all of these is that they all guide you closer to living in the present, or “the now” as Eckart Tolle likes to describe it.

When you are holding onto the past, you continually recreate more or similar in the future. Judgements and the beliefs they create can only happen when maintaining your hold on the past. In this way, the majority of the people in the world continually recreate more of the same for their future. This is why there is so much talk about letting go.

By being in the present, the past cannot affect you and as you continue to be in the present, you lessen your association with the identity you believe you are, based on past experiences. Much more possibilities are open to you without the tunnel-vision created by your judgements of the past hence why miracles and eureka moments happen in this state. You could also say that your “higher Self” exists beyond linear time and so being present in the now is the path to connecting with and becoming one with it.

If you are judging, resisting, reacting, and fighting with what you are observing then you are not being in the now and so are not truly observing. If you are looking at something with judgement then it is like only seeing the world through different shade of green because of wearing green-tinted glasses. Dissolving those judgements and the beliefs they create opens you up to higher truths much like taking off your green glasses and being able to see more colours. Continuing to remove these lenses of judgement will eventually help you see how beautiful everything and everyone is, that the divine/god/all-that-is/oneness is within them all and they all have a wonderful purpose.

This is why it is important to learn to become “equanimous” or if you like to be in complete allowance of what you observe, such that the veil of your reality can be dropped.

Vipassana and observation

Most of the information you will come across on the internet about vipassana will be a simple meditation technique involving sitting or lying in a comfortable position and simply observing the breath in an equanimous state. Some will talk about observing another body part, but generally sitting/lying whilst observing the breath, being in allowance with whatever sensations come up and bringing your awareness gently back to the breath if thoughts or other distractions happen, is all that is required. Nothing more, nothing less.

You can get very far indeed using this technique and many things will open up to you as you continue to go deeper with this, and I very much recommend that you do this if it resonates with you.

The body scanning technique

Within the Vipassana course in did in the UK last October a variation of this technique was used. After 3 days of learning to focus the awareness, the last 7 days of the course involved scanning the body in an equanimous state. By scanning I mean, sensing whatever you can and cannot sense in each body part from top to bottom, bottom to top – coldness, heat, tickle, itch, pain, pressure, movement, numbness, “nice sensations” and of course areas you cannot sense anything at all.

As you repeat this over and over again you will start to notice that you can sense in more and more detail and that what you sense can change, often in seconds. It is common for there to be particular areas that take days, weeks, months or even longer than a year to change or get some sensation in – depending how much consciousness you have in the body, or if you like how “grounded” you are.

The advantage of this technique is that it can often help get the ego out of the way as it is slightly more proactive. Because you are learning to sense into all parts of the physical body, you are helping to become more aware of that sub or un-conscious Self I was speaking about earlier. It also means that many heavy energies relating to your judgements, beliefs, experiences that ultimately cause all your dis-eases and sufferings can “come to the surface” so to speak, in a rapid way as you learn to sense deeper and deeper.

For those who have a stronger connection to ego and so are likely to resist/react/fight the sensations that come up rather than be completely in allowance of them, it is strongly recommended to start gently. This is why during the course they asked us to scan the surface of the skin only. If you go to a deep level sooner rather than later, you will likely have to experience many physical, emotional and mental symptoms that you may find very uncomfortable – you have been warned 😉

If you feel you are ready to go deeper then you might like to start scanning roughly in this order – gross sensations within the body such as over a larger area like the chest, or an entire leg (especially if you find it hard to feel them in much detail); through the layers of the skin, the surfaces of the organs/bones/muscles; the blood vessels; the connective tissues between the organs; within the organs and muscles; within the bones; the nerves; individual tissue types within the organs/muscles/bones; fluid movements within organs; groups of cells; individual cells; cell organelles; molecules; atoms; sub-atomic particles; wave-forms – yes you can go that far with observational techniques if you wish! This is how masters from the East understood quantum physics subjects long before the invention of scientific equipment.

As you become more aware of the body, you will notice that you will also become more aware of the emotional, mental and other energetic parts of Self. Afterall they are all reciprocally related. Many of you may already have developed the ability to sense into these areas to some degree. Sensing into the physical body however is very useful for helping you ground and become more comfortable in this reality rather than escaping it, and it will help you in the other areas of Self energetically anyway.

I have to stress that what I am speaking of here is my interpretation of my experiences of vipassana and not the direct teachings of Goenka and others involved in the vipassana organisation. It just so happens that I already started doing very similar teachings to their body scanning type technique before I went on the 10-day course. The vipassana organisation does not like people outside teaching their techniques in case things are mis-interpreted and I understand what complications could ensue.

S. N. Goenka who brought the teachings of Vipassana from Burma back to India, where it was originally taught by Gautama Buddha.

If you wish to learn from the late Goenka and his instructors and also experience practicing vipassana in a supportive environment, then I suggest that you find one of their meditation centres of which there are many worldwide – https://www.dhamma.org/en/locations/directory

Reading about a technique and understanding it logically is not the same as experiencing it and therefore benefiting from it. How many times have you continually read about spiritual and healing practices and not actually used them, or continually jumped from one to another?

Observation of thoughts

Except for some cases of extreme pain, most people are easily able to settle into allowance with physical sensations. Emotions tend to be harder, thoughts even more so. Most people believe so strongly that they are their mind and the thoughts than go through it, that they struggle to step back and observe them. This attachment to mind and/or body is what creates what I and many others call the ego, or false Self if you wish.

In most traditional meditation techniques, you are either taught to watch thoughts float by in your mind (the water method) or to apply a small amount of force (the fire method) to bring your focus back to whatever you are observing in the present. Though they may say differently themselves, Eckart Tolle tends to recommend more the water method whereas I noticed during the Vipassana course I did, that the fire method is used more.

Really I see them as two side of the same coin and as such are simply a matter of perception of the mind rather than two wildly different methods. Two different ways of guiding the ego into letting go if you will, and as such have pros and cons depending on the beliefs of the ego.

If you find that observing thoughts tends to bring up even more thoughts, then you may wish to use the fire method to gently guide your Self back to the present. If this brings up more fight/reaction/resistance then you may prefer the water method. Both methods however can be used in either case depending on what helps more in each individual case.

Both Eckart and Goenka do seem to agree, as do I, that the more you learn to observe the physical body and emotions, the thoughts tend to dissipate anyway.

It might be useful to see thoughts as an expression of the body – “negative” thoughts being representative of a body part not functioning to its fullest potential, not receiving enough of your consciousness you could say. So simply by observing and thus as a by-product healing the body will reduce the amount of “negative” thoughts that occur.

This is why vipassana and other observation techniques tend to focus on the physical body as ultimately it will affect all aspects of Self in the process.

Observation outside of formal practice in everyday life

Though most people will start their awakening and/or healing journey setting aside a particular time of the day to do their practice, ideally if you wish to make progress, it should become something that you attempt to do throughout the day. Many things happen throughout your days and your body, emotions and thoughts are constantly changing in response, according to the beliefs and judgements you hold within you.

If you were to observe all these symptoms, you would be able to dissolve all that doesn’t serve you as you experience them in the now and or course bring yourself closer to the enlightened state at the same time.

Observing all the bodily sensations, emotions and thoughts that come up whilst doing the dishes, watching yet more news on the TV about war and famine, when discussing or arguing with someone, when experiencing a “psychic attack”, when craving a particular food etc call all be wonderful opportunities to heal and become more aware. Eckart Tolle speaks about this in great detail in his books and you tube clips so I suggest that you look into them for more advice on this.

For many people there is much resistance from the ego trying to do this all day and as such it can be more beneficial to start with just an hour a day performing the “body scanning technique” or basic forms of vipassana, such that too much doesn’t come up too soon for the ego to complain about.

Obviously if you have reached a state of being where you can observe the thoughts of ego then it is not a problem for things coming up to be cleared.

The Dharma Dipa

I found out about the Dharma Dipa from my mother as she likes to know about the things going on locally. It is literally only a 10 minute drive from where she lives and where I grew up but I had no idea it was there until after I returned from living in New Zealand where my first awakenings happened.

It also happens to be the biggest vipassana meditation centre in the UK and many people travel far to get there typically for the 10-day courses they offer. Speaking of which, if you would like to go there yourself, you will have to make sure you book early as places fill up fast. When myself and Åsa-Maria booked, we did it the very day registrations opened about 3 months before the course started.

Seeing as I haven’t mentioned about what it was like in similar spiritual courses I have done in the past, I thought that it might be useful to give you some idea of what they are like…

After a half day introduction. The next 10 days were spent in complete silence and not even body language, facial expressions and the like were used unless absolutely necessary, so apart from the time the fire alarm mistakenly went off in my building and I went to go find someone, and a couple of times mine and Åsa-Maria’s eyes mistakenly met in the few places we could actually see each other, I did not use any form of communication at all with anyone there. I know walking past each other like this was tough for some people but I felt right at home in this respect having done similar on many courses before.

I personally only noticed that the man who sat in front of me left on the second day and didn’t pay enough attention to the outside world enough to notice how many other people didn’t make it through the whole 10 days or even know what the person sitting right next to me looked like! He turned out to be a lovely man orignally from Finland when we were finally able to talk openly to each other.

No technology and no reading or writing materials were allowed inside, which is why I have no photos of the premises – though I notice that some people must have sneaked in a camera due to some pictures I found on the internet! Basically nothing to distract you from being present.

Male and females were kept completely seperate the entire time. We had seperate buildings, some much like huts, some old farm-house buildings and some converted from old horse stables. We had a seperate garden/wood/walking area. The dining hall had a shutter down the middle so we couldn’t see each other and apart from a few areas where there were no hedges or trees in the way we could only see the opposite sex at the other end of the room within the meditation building.

The South Herefordshire countryside

The whole course had boundaries that you were not allowed to pass so that you weren’t exposed to people and happenings outside of the course, not that you would encounter much from the farmers fields surrounding the site. There were plenty of birds and squirrels hanging around though.

Each day would start off with a bell at 4am. The first meditation would start at 4.30am and you could choose to stay in your room, be in a meditation chamber, elsewhere within the boundaries of the meditation area or in the main hall. The hour-long meditations required us to be in the hall where it was strongly encouraged to sit completely still unless movement was absolutely necessary. Longer meditations often had the option of being done outside the hall.

Apart from the meditation sessions, in the evening there were pre-recorded videos of of the late Goenka. During these sessions the teachings for the next day as well as some background information were conveyed. In all there were 10 hours of meditation done each day with breaks in between before bed at 9pm.

All meals were vegetarian and of a fantastic standard. Porridge, fruit and cereal were the mainstay for breakfast. Lunch had the most variety of main meals. Dinner was literally 2 pieces of fruit and for those who had done the course before, just one piece of fruit was advised.

Much like many others, in the first few days I had a lot of pain in certain areas from not being used to sitting in an upright sitting position for long periods. Apart from cushions, chairs were provided for those who could not sit flat on the floor. After two days of intensely sharp pain in the trapezoid muscles like knives had been stuck in them, the pain went completely and I only really had pain down the left leg the rest of the days.

The rest of the time was spent calmly bringing the mind back to sensing the body and observing the mind-chatter, emotions and other sensations that would come up regularly due to how deep I was scanning into the body – again I would recommend that if you struggle with being equanimous that you start off doing the skin rather than going into the organs like I did, so that it is not so much of a problem for the ego! I was already used to simply watching the many emotions and sensation dissolve through observation so really I didn’t really have a tough time so it seems compared to many others after chatting to them.

I certainly felt in increase in the awareness of the various body parts and it was interesting realising how numb certain areas were that I had not paid attention to before.

At the end, myself and my partner both felt like we could have continued on for longer and actually continued meditating in silence even after they announced that we were allowed to speak. At the time we were doing this, a huge proportion of people rushed outside to speak to each other and meet their friends and partners for the first time! It sounded like we were listening to a huge concert hall of people rather than just a couple of dozen people talking because we were so used to the silence.

There is an extra half day after the 10 days to allow people to settle back into speaking again, to help people clean the premises and to prepare for travel. So all-in-all you are there for 10 plus two half days either side.

Around 10 percent of the people left early we found out as they couldn’t take it, and another 20 percent had many fears come up for them but were encouraged to stay. One lady had “gotten it in her head” that her children were in danger even though she knew they were being looked after by her husband at home. In these cases the instructors do allow people to come and talk to them though ideally at specified times of the day to clarify the instructions or express fears. They had offered this lady to call home if she really wanted to but to try and watch the fear and realise that it was just an expression of what was coming up from within.

This is an example of how strong the vipassana technique is in bringing up and dissolving all that creates suffering and learning to be in allowance of that experience. Åsa-Maria certainly has some interesting stories from her experience on the women’s side, especially after they started talking again so she has decided to write about it on this blog at some point in the future.

Though it is not for some, I very much recommend going on this course if you wish to experience fully going into the practice of vipassana. It will certainly help clear much whilst giving you a practice that you can continue long afterwards, it will also give you some experience to go along with the observation technique I have been explaining.

I am happy of course to give guidance during a session if you would like to learn more about my technique and experience how I use it to create change within you. You can book a personal appointment with me here – www.grantpodesta.com/booking/.

To find out more about the Dharma Dipa you can visit: www.dipa.dhamma.org or to find other vipassana centres around the world you can visit: www.dhamma.org/en/locations/directory

Grant