“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence”, said Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti.
We have already discussed the benefits of being in the present moment. Once we become familiar with the practice of focusing on the present moment, the next step to reach a state of calm and expand our awareness is to observe our thoughts without judgement. This process can be quite difficult, as it does not come naturally for most of us. Our minds tend to judge and evaluate everything because we label our experiences notably as either positive or negative. For example, if we look at a painting, we may think it is beautiful or ugly. If we look at ourselves, we may think we are either good or bad people or, if we have children, we may think we are either good or bad parents. This is the same when we meet with other people, we often tend to label everyone’s look, attitude, or what they say so it matches something we already know.
We may interpret events according to our own judgement, but those events will happen whether we have an opinion about them or not. We get stressed when we respond to a situation with feelings of anxiety, but someone else may have a completely different reaction and stay calm throughout. The difference is in the perception and attitude we have, which in turn creates the reality we live in.
Our thoughts are like the waves on a still lake after we throw a stone in the water: we see ripples of water moving outwards for a while, and then the surface may become still again. With meditation and other practices like dynamic relaxation, we observe these ripples and let them be without trying to control them.
In nature, nothing is either good or bad: things are just the way they are. If we accept this and learn not to judge, to give more space to ourselves, people and events, we will be making progress towards reaching peace of mind. But not only that, we are giving life a chance to manifest differently; taking that step back is simply a magical way to start to transform ourselves and the world we live in.
The Power of Witnessing Your Thoughts
Can we ever be free of judgement? Not judging may not always be possible, but we can certainly aim to quieten our mental chatter: when we take a mindful moment we can observe that we are thinking without engaging with the actual content of our thoughts. You can describe your thoughts as “I am thinking” without adding further descriptions. What does observation mean? It means that we become a witness of our thoughts without engaging with them.
Author Eckhart Tolle explains that we create most of our suffering with our thoughts. In Buddhism, the ultimate aim is to end the state of self-inflicted suffering. We can choose to watch our thoughts and not allow them to take over (and potentially make us feel miserable). Tolle explained that when you observe your thoughts, a new factor comes in: a witnessing presence.
We can, therefore, choose how we react to situations: if, for example, someone is rude to us, we may feel irritated. However, we can also choose to remain indifferent. If we are angry for any reason, we can either choose to give importance to our anger and let it take over all our thoughts, or we can choose to acknowledge that we are angry and that this is just a temporary emotion.
If we are worried about giving an important presentation at work, our mind might be racing and we might feel under pressure. We can work on our feelings of discomfort and tension through dynamic relaxation exercises in the days and hours before giving a presentation. This can help us face the event without giving it a negative connotation, and feel calm and prepared.
Sophrology: Achieving a Sense of Calm through Observation
In Sophrology we learn to experience things as if it was for the first time, remaining open and limiting our judgement. For a lot of us going through a busy daily life, full of challenges and stresses, accessing this state can feel very difficult. This is why Sophrology has been uniquely designed to support you with its simple step-by-step approach to experience those new ways of being and living.
During a session, the first step may simply be to learn to connect with what is happening for you right now. As you close your eyes, you will be guided through simple exercises that include relaxation, body awareness, breathing, gentle movement. They will allow you to become aware of you feel and help you balance your body and mind. Session after session, you become more able to let go of the mind and become more grounded into a new place within. We are notably learning to become that observer, even if we may be a judgemental observer to start with. We also learn to observe our sensations and perceptions during the practice. With repetition, you will notice changes not only during your practice but also in the way you perceive and react to your daily life experience. For example, one of my clients told me that he was very surprised at himself having just done 3 weeks of daily practice. He was already noticing a big change in the way he interacts with his family at home coming back from work. He used to be snappy, impatient and overwhelmed and he already feels his perception of these family moments have changed.
The fact that Sophrology invites us to connect more with our bodies, learn to deeply relax it and deal with its tensions and messages is one of the powerful way we start to THINK LESS and BE MORE.
From daring to BE MORE, we naturally develop a sense of clarity, acceptance and compassion towards ourselves and other.
The practice of Sophrology comprises 12 levels (called Degrees), and each level lets you to discover new depths in consciousness.
Beyond a practice Sophrology become a new way of living, giving us the tools to deal with a wide variety of more specific challenges (exam preparation, fears of surgery, birth preparation to name a few), as well as discovering a more authentic self developing our personal strength and living in accordance to our life values.
You can experience Sophrology through either individual sessions, group classes, or our Online Sophrology course ‘Relax, Reset & Overcome Stress’. Online Sessions are available on Zoom or Skype, you can email us at [email protected] for more information.