Charlotte Selver
Charlotte Selver

Experiencing vs. Observing

Charlotte Selver

Excerpt from a Sensory Awareness class in New York, on November 12, 1959


Let me just make this clear. In experiencing you have to be very clear about the difference between kind of enumerating all kind of items which you feel. That is observation. And experience is something entirely different. This occurs to you without any enumeration.

And it occurs to you without that you watch or – what did you say? – observe. So, in other words, we would have to allow an attitude to be born in which the observing disappears. Because we don't need it anymore. Because the whole organism is awake and we don't need any observation anymore. Because we are ever so much more awake than usually when we observe.

Observing in this respect seems to me – I mean I may be mistaken but this is behind the whole work which we are doing – it seems to me a misunderstanding of the organism. Because we have never been allowed to be so genuinely awake all the way through that we don't need observation anymore. When you watch little children, when they are so at (unclear) sink with all they have, you realize that they don't observe, they experience.

And this ability, which everybody has into his death (unclear), is a magnificent one, only we are not using it. Because we are so trained to observe. All school work, everything which we had in education, has brought us to observe, you know. Because we were always afraid we would dream while we wouldn't observe. Isn't it so? We would be absentminded, as we call it, when we wouldn't observe.

But in the moment in which you are really at it here [in class] – I mean you can also be here absentminded, of course – but if you are really at it here, there would be nothing in the way to simply allow registering of that what happens.

The registering happens through the sensory nerves. In other words: all over the organism there are nerves spread which constantly feel, and then it comes to consciousness. Which isn't that the head, so to say, looks for things, that the head observes, but the whole being is open.

What happens actually in the act of becoming conscious you don't have to ask me. Because I – you would have to ask Dr. Meyers, [the neurosurgeon] Russell Meyers (incomprehensible) lecture about (incomprehensible) he has done, it's marvelous, in the Institute for General Semantics years ago.

But, you know, one thing is sure: you can't feel it. And what you feel of effort and so on in your head is misuse, if you don't mind me saying that, it's simply a misuse. This "using my head" is one of the worst expressions which one can use, you know. Because it really leads everybody to this kind of effort in the head which makes actual experience impossible, or at least lowers it to a tremendous degree. And it creates usually, let me say, a dutiful anxiety, but not genuine experiencing.


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