You might read some of the mindfulness articles and course descriptions and see things like ‘observing your thoughts’ and ‘watching your thoughts’. Some people wonder ‘surely I am my thoughts? Who’s watching what? It doesn’t make sense.’
Try this. Clasp your fingers gently and look at them. For the next three minutes just look at your fingers and feel them clasped. Don’t think about anything else.
What happened? My guess is this. You found yourself thinking. Maybe you were just wondering when three minutes would be up. Maybe imagining telling someone what you were doing. Maybe listening to a song in your head. Maybe wondering why you were doing this.
The point is that you noticed. And maybe you went ‘Hey, I’m thinking, I’m not supposed to be doing this, I’d better get back to the fingers.’
It may not seem like a profound and dramatic insight but it is. The constant stream of thoughts that you usually think of as your life – you saw that. You noticed you were thinking. So there’s an awareness other than the thoughts. If you like, a subject to whom the thoughts are objects.
It doesn’t really matter ‘who’ saw it, and we don’t need to get into an infinite regression of ‘I saw myself seeing myself seeing the thoughts’.
The point is that it’s possible for a second or two to gain perspective, to gain a moment’s breathing space from the constant driving inner voice, to see thoughts as events. That whole stream of thoughts is part of your life, but it’s not the whole thing. That’s the insight we’ll be working with over the eight week course.