“The Inner Observer” by Helen Palmer

Self-observation is a basic inner life practice that appears in all wisdom traditions. Also known as Witnessing Consciousness, the practice consists of focusing your attention inwardly and becoming aware of the thought and other objects of attention that arise within. There are several ways to approach this practice, but the initial experience is always one of recognizing your automatic pattern, and the tenacity with which certain preoccupations recur within your mind. The fact that you can observe and talk about your habits of thought and feeling from the perspective of a detached outsider helps to make these patterns less compulsive. Thoughts begin to seem separate from myself rather than who I really am.

Why the Inner Observer ...

"The immediate goal is to recognize the inner patterns that drive your outer behavior. These patterns vary according to the type of person you are, and can be internally witnessed by a faculty of spiritual awareness commonly called the Inner Observer." — Helen Palmer

If you continue to observe thoughts and feelings, your own preoccupations begin to feel alien and slightly irritating. When attention is grounded in a stance of an inner observer, thoughts start to seem like what I think rather than my real self. The reason is that there is a part of your own awareness that remains detached enough to watch the flow of thoughts go by. When attention is organized into a separate observing self, you are in position to be objective about who you really are. And with practice, the observer, rather than any particular thoughts or feelings that you have, begins to seem like the Self. Of course, when your attention shifts back to thinking again the sense of your identity as a separate awareness will dissolve and you are likely to lose all objectivity and go on automatic again.

Recently, S.N. Goenka, an internationally recognized teacher of meditation, gave a revolutionary speech at the UN wherein he spoke of what is needed for humanity to achieve its highest potential. According to Mr. Goenka, we must first find peace within ourselves before we can seek peace with others. He instructs that self-observation is the key, pointing to that faculty which allows for such deep self-observation and the behavioral maturity that results. It is the Inner Observer. We here at Enneagram.com are most grateful to S.N. Goenka for bringing this truth forward to the world’s leaders.

In a way, all successful psychotherapy depends upon the ability to detach attention from pervasive habits and to describe them from a perspective of a neutral outsider. Accurate selfobservation is vital to being able to recognize your own personality type, because you will need to know your own habits of heart and mind in order to recognize yourself from the stories of your similars. The function of the Inner Observer is therefore critical to cultivating self-observation.

The capacity to turn inward and witness the mechanics of our own mind as it unfolds is a defining human endowment. It demonstrates the reality of the type structure because I can watch the categories of structure occur and recede. Cultivating the capacity of the Inner Observer is foundational to recognizing personality type.

The Inner Observer is experienced as an aspect of awareness separate from the categories of type. Its distinguishing faculties are 1) it is permanent; 2) it never becomes conditioned; 3) it is benign; it has no opinion as it functions to witness without opinion; 4) it can distinguish between the object of attention flowing through that inner space as well as appear and disappear; 5) it unifies and disengages from an object of attention. Indeed the Inner Observer can become inseparable and at one with the object of attention or separate from it.

See Palmer, The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1988. pp. 4-9, 12-15.

The Inner Observer Part I: The Categories of Type/A Guided Meditation $14.95
Enneagram.com is pleased to offer Helen Palmer's guided introduction to the Inner Observer. Helen skillfully introduces the listener to the mechanics of attention while providing a direct experience of that aspect of awareness known as the Inner Observer. This 30 minute (approx) audio is a must for the daily practice of the Enneagram in service to ongoing personal transformation and spiritual development.

The Inner Observer Part II: The Faculties of the Inner Observer $14.95
Helen Palmer's latest audio download: "The Faculties of the Inner Observer" is the second half of the two part Inner Observer series, the most popular audio on Enneagram.com, and a crucial part of your understanding of the Enneagram. This newest download completes Helen's introductory teaching about the Inner Observer. Also known as Witnessing Consciousness, the Inner Observer is distinguished by certain faculties that are separate from type. Learn what they are, how they function, and why your own personal growth and development require such knowledge. In short, it's recognizing the difference between what I think and feel and who I really am.

The Inner Observer Audio Set: Parts I and II of the Inner Observer Series $26.95
The Inner Observer Audio set includes The Inner Observer Part I: The Categories of Type and Part II: Faculties of the Inner Observer. Part I is a guided introduction to the Inner Observer in which Helen skillfully introduces the listener to the mechanics of attention while providing a direct experience of that aspect of awareness known as the Inner Observer. Part II of Helen's Inner Observer teaching completes Helen's introduction to this largely overlooked faculty of spiritual consciousness.