"Self-Observation" by G. I. Gurdjieff
An easy-to-underestimate spiritual experiment from a mystic-philosopher
So, it comes down to the "how" question.
How does a person come to "know themselves"?
Excerpt by by G. I. Gurdjieff
"Knowledge of oneself is a very big, but a very vague and distant, aim. Man in his present state is very far from self-knowledge. Therefore, strictly speaking, his aim cannot even be defined as self-knowledge. Self-study must be his big aim. It is quite enough if a man understands that he must study himself. It must be man's aim to begin to study himself, to know himself, in the right way.
Self-study is the work or the way which leads to self-knowledge.
But in order to study oneself one must first learn how to study, where to begin, what methods to use. A man must learn how to study himself, and he must study the methods of self-study.
The chief method of self-study is self-observation.
There are two methods of self-observation:
Analysis, or attempts at analysis, that is, attempts to find the answers to the questions: upon what does a certain thing depend, and why does it happen; and the second method is registering, simply 'recording' in one's mind what is observed at the moment.
Self-observation, especially in the beginning, must on no account become analysis or attempts at analysis."
What is "self-observation"?
Self-observation is a constant effort of active, objective attention directed inwards, intentionally turning a portion of your attention inward in order to observe yourself. In a way, it is a practice of observing yourself as if another person, or even a camera or video recorder, might see you.
It is simply impartially observing, "recording" without judgment, your thoughts, emotions, feelings, moods, sensations, and even movements, tones of voice, facial expressions, and so on.
As Gurdjieff's student Peter Ouspensky describes it:
When I observe something, my attention is directed towards what I observe - a line with one arrowhead.
I --------------------------------> the observed phenomenon
When at the same time, I try to remember myself, my attention is directed both towards the object observed and towards myself.
A second arrowhead appears on the line:
I <-------------------------------> the observed phenomenon
If one continually practices self-observation, over a period of time they will come to understand themselves in a completely new way, and quite possibly discover a sense of inner freedom and knowing that they had not previously expected.