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Long ago there lived a wealthy merchant who every year killed many of his cattle to make sacrificial offerings of them. On the verge of death he instructed his son to do likewise; and his son did so year after year.

On one occasion, when a cow was being led to the slaughter, it let out a great bellow. A monk who had reached Enlightenment, witnessed this with a sense of sadness and wonder.

"What is it?" someone asked him, and the Enlightened monk replied quietly,

"That cow that is to be slaughtered was previously the wealthy merchant who every year slaughtered cattle for sacrificial offerings and whose final wish was that this practice should be continued. He was reborn as a cow belonging to his own family. Now is the seventh time he is to be slaughtered as such."

The monk spoke to the animal, "The basis for this is that you yourself killed many cattle. So now what's the point of your loud bellowing?" (Karma Chagme 2000, 37-8. Retold)

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed. - Albert Einstein


What is this life, if full of care
We find to time to stand and stare?
  - William H. Davies (1870-1940), Leisure

Calm observation can be refined, allowing for sound variations. The butterfly has his approach, the horse his. Find out of your own learning style and strong sides too. Many who are victims of public schooling can have a store of yet unused or untapped resources.

It can pay to go for solid overviews. Experience may lead to it if the witness instance in you is up to the hard knocks.

Much learning can be had by "piercing through" public facades and then evaluate carefully.

Those who manage to observe candidly may in time raise some new standards. Those who struggled through and kept faithful to their own best outlooks deserve thanks. So many of them might be inspiring if others get to know of them. It does not happen too often, is the bet.

We may recognise, appreciate and attune to beauty where we are, and some manage to do it through elevated observation. Elevated observation may be fit in the face of parading nude beauties, for example.

You can observe a lot by just watching. - Yogi Berra

Observing: Pointers

Observing mice and men, shrubs and birds, finally you see more - a few pointers

The one who sees calmly, should make plenty of progress.

Relax or stop awhile:

Stop walking, stop talking, stop everything. Look a bit discreetly at first, keep your eye-balls moving. Don't stare all the time.

Tune in in a widespread manner - it is a yoga technique:

Sounds can help we see if we learn how to use them. Sometimes a sound is the only "look" we may get of a familiar object. Develop a roving eye.

Watch calmly without intent:

There are four or five things an active eye should be able to see instantly. They are

  • shine or colour,
  • brisk or sudden movements,
  • vivacity or standing;
  • size gliding much along with
  • predominant shape. Shapes are largely to be recognised on top of forerunners (inner models), as shape is a quite subconscious identification factor.

Note the unusual somewhat better:

Dramatic changes of speed, direction and colour are not too hard to note. Good moments go along with changes that come with the seasons too. We should be able to detect long-range changes and very slow changes later. It helps us to stay intact or in tune with where we live, in part. Many occurrences come our way out of seasons or have nothing to do with it. Also, we could develop finer substance - the ability to note fine nuances, for example - if we calmly look and then recognise something unusual or out of the ordinary. It could be a scratch on your face or a bump on a log. And be on the outlook for what's handy and professional, somehow. - Let the factors

  • colour-shine;
  • moves;
  • vivacity and standing;
  • size;
  • shape; and
  • limit(s)

assist you as you survey in calm.

Many of the factors glide into each other. Bearing that in mind, we should try to convert a lot of them into an image for our mind to see by and recall - to draw on later. Preferably we try to determine what it is we're looking at before we say anything.

Getting to the core(s)

of this and that may help good summaries and understanding - and lessons are had through that, in general.

Get handy:

We should strive to get handy on top of what we know and the handy methods that took us into it. What may pay, is to unify the strategy in a personally comfortable way.

Awareness Training in Buddhism

The guidelines are simple: Practice in accordance with your preference and skill. As you have seen, observation is a form of awareness training, and is for enriching your life too. Buddhism teaches how to go further by adjusting the focus (attentive awareness) from outer things and happenings to things inside the body first, then in the mind, and in oneself. The drift of fit awareness training is then from outside to inside, from gross to subtle (fine), and it is good to know these facets of the ancient training, so as not to get stuck in lower practices, such as looking at lit candles only.

If the mind becomes unsettled, or it is not the time or place for this practice, do something else. Sati, mindfulness, is aimed to fortify you, so practise what is suitable when suitable. In other words, benefit yourself though it.

You should develop mindfulness. - Cf. Anguttara Nikaya VI.19

We become mindful by abandoning our expectations about the way we think things should be and, out of our mindfulness, we begin to develop awareness about the way things really are.

Be sensitive to your own breathing. - Cf. Majjhima Nikaya 118

Fit mindfulness consists in remaining focused on something and leaving aside for the moment other things. - Cf. Digha Nikaya 22.

Fit mindfulness duly abandons wrong action and tends to proper livelihood. - Cf. Majjhima Nikaya 117.

From Buddhist Meditation by Edward Conze

Fit mindfulness or awareness is the seventh stretch of the Eightfold Path (Middle Path) in Buddhism. It should help sane integration and proficient consciousness.

You get into fit mindfulness by focusing and relaxing well; one of them may lead to the other. Do as best you can, and it may serve you.

Mindful awareness should be lifted in time, and allow for that sort of development. At first one can focus on body and postures. That can be great help provided he or she continues to keep the mind fixed on some thing and does not desert it too often and long.

Keeping the body straight enough is found to be vital too. Keep attuned to it.

Mindfully breathe in, mindfully breathe out - that is a common practice.

To elevate your mind, let your focus become more and more subtle as you go on.

If you want to develop yourself, learn to get aware of mental processes in the same gentle way: by focused awareness of them as they appear and remain and possibly subside too. It is the same with feelings and pleasures. Aim for the "neutral dispassion" that is asked for by "seeing phenomena as they are".

Certain urgent desires or needs and conform ways are found to be hindrances to developing these facets of oneself. Your training (at the time) is merely to recognize them in case you find them, not anything else.

Delight in friendliness good feelings and appropriate qualities as fits.

Later, if needed, work on exchanging a bad posture for a fit one, especially your most frequent sitting posture.

(Conze 2003, 61-78, passim)

Some Beginner Applications

On January 4, 2004, the news magazine "60 Minutes" presented a segment on John Stilgoe, a professor of landscape history at Harvard University. The same programme appeared on NRK 1 in Norway on January 17 that year. Professor Stilgoe told Steve Kroft, the "60 Minute" correspondent, that Harvard students were accepted to the prestigious university based largely on abilities with words and numbers. But he wanted to wake up their visual sensibilities, to tell them how to truly see things in front of them. Stilgoe wanted his students to become acute observers; he believed it one of nature's most useful learning tools.

We can train ourselves in being observant. This is in part something we do when we get bored. By walking out, relaxing and looking around, the attunement with the dear observing agent inside (also called "The Witness Consciousness") tends to come in time, if given the chance to develop. And from that inward observation instance comes acute observations, directions, perhaps tentative conclusions, and solid solutions too. That is the idea of it.

Young people had so much of their activities organized, Stilgoe added, that they had missed "a kind of self-guided . . . growing up." He called his students "visual illiterates," a result of programmed verbal and mathematical testing over the years. The speed of their lives, he contended, left little pause for close observation.

Stilgoe taught in the school of design. He had students walk through supermarkets to observe packaging, placement, and the psychological power of colour and images that marketers employed. He liked to give his students "vague" assignments and directions - and this might be hard to tackle, and maybe too hard for some.

Source: "Landscape Professor Featured on '60 Minutes'"


Training Your Awareness May Help ☼

On getting active after growing up: Professor Stilgoe thought Harvard students had missed a kind of self-guided, non-organized activity, non-sports activity, while growing up. Wandering around, getting into things.

The more speed, the less may be noticed:

People now lead high-speed lives. They need to slow down, look around, take a nice walk. Instead they go running to increase their heart rate. Stilgoe told his students, 'Why not look around while you're doing it, increase some kind of rate in your mind?" If one was jogging along in a horse and carriage, horse and buggy 100 years ago, he could look around, says Stilgoe.

Alert to colour schemes:

He paid great attention to the psychological power of colour in manipulating moods and images. Apple green was thought by a number of turn-of-the-century psychologists to be a calming color, he asserted, and research on the effect of color on emotions "continues, but it's now become a "secret science"" somehow.

Good allows for serendipity:

Most people, when they learn to read, stop looking around, he also said, trying very hard at Harvard to teach students that there's another way of knowing. He said, "This generation of Harvard students gets into Harvard by doing exactly and precisely what teacher wants. If teacher is vague about what he wants, they work a lot harder to figure out what they want, and whether or not it's good," said Stilgoe, who advocated serendipity [chance findings].

Getting alert to some manipulations of the advertising business:

Stilgoe taught in the school of design, devoting much time to the visual media and to advertising messages. Every year he sendt his students into supermarkets to study product packaging and product placement. And Harvard, he said, had some of the finest students in the world, but most of them were visual illiterates. "It's a way of living," implied one of his students, Chris Hunter - and getting aware of the influences or manipulations was another way of living, he said. Looking around was exactly what Professor Stilgoe taught: the art of exploration, and discovering the built environment - everything from architectural history to advertising and design. He introduced his students to a method of discovering a not-so-obvious world that was in plain view to the trained eye. It was part of Stilgoe's scheme to instill in his students the power of discovery and deduction - to notice formerly barely things that told them what was really going on. (4)

Losing the grip of acute, individual observation: "Almost everybody's seen a Federal Express truck, almost nobody's seen the big white arrow on its side," says Stilgoe. "It's because your eyes and your brain have been conditioned to read the letters." He has asked toddlers if they see the arrow on the truck, and they usually do, it is between the lower half of the capital E, and the X."

Getting overly manipulated in time looks like a common fate:

The design of a package is so important. He told students to duck walk down the cereal aisle at a supermarket, to get the visual impacts that tottlers get, those that the marketing was trying to reach. (6)

Gilded magazines speculate in obvious folly:

As for magazines, one of his students, Lisa Faiman, did not think she would be able to look at a fashion magazine again without thinking of him. Earlier she used to be able to flip through a fashion magazine in less than half an hour, but after him it would take her several hours.

Useful knowledge is useful if well applied:

Stilgoe's "other way of knowing" is using your eyes. The power of acute observation is one of nature's most useful tools for learning. Go outside, move deliberately, and relax. Do not jog. Forget about weight reduction and blood pressure, and look around. (7)

Relevant counter-knowledge to getting hurt and endangered within by bombardments:

Stilgoe's strong counter-knowledge to being led and possibly manipulated, and to shortcomings of personal visual observations, make him eccentric in the eyes of many poor beholders, and popular with Harvard students. Know what you are up to.

(Based on "The Eyes Have It" Jan. 4, 2004. 60 minutes, CBS News)


  1. Discover things in the world around you or "discover them anew" by paying conscious attention for a while. There are many excellent methods of paying attention in yoga.
  2. This little training helps against common manipulation from marketing guys and others - personal observation, that is.


Mementos ☼

The sound man find his true heart's home. Many oncoming lessons of house-keeping and home-life can bring on exhaustion in time - getting "older and wiser" tends to reflect that.

Because of hard lessons of home life, man learns to appreaciate a good night's sleep and time off. For most of us, good and fair study helps a more relaxed living, if things go well.

"Mind maps" can be excellent for reviewing and memorisation.

It helps soundness to be able to balance major incomes and expenses to make sure of a future fare without pain.

A daring, good perspective helps at times. 


Things change. If you live long enough you may observe that among the sound lessons of life is that when getting older, we like sleep more and more, and also like to have enough saved for rainy days too.


Observation tips, observe, observing, gazing, observations, the art of observation, self-study tips, observe calmly, observational learning and study, Literature  

Conze, Edward. 2003. Buddhist Meditation. Mineola, NY: Dover.

Karma Chagmé. 2000. Naked Awareness. Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Comm. Gyatrul Rinpoche. Tr. B. Alan Wallace. Eds. Lindy Steele and B. Alan Wallace. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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