Life is too fast to sit, relax and observe the insides of the mind.
However, for the neophyte who is interested in becoming the master of his mind rather than the mind being the master of him, introspection is a must.
Some resources used in this article can be found for free on the Free Resources page.
What is Introspection
Introspection is the practice of analyzing the contents of one’s mind. This can be analysing your fears, trauma, strengths, weaknesses, memories and dreams and fantasies.
From the analysis of the contents of the mind, one can improve on his weaknesses, attain closure with his memories and trauma, distinguish between his fanciful dreams and his real dreams.
Study yourself. Find your strong points and make them stronger as well as your weak ones and strengthen them. Study yourself carefully and you will see yourself as you really are.William Walker Atkinson
How can one improve himself without becoming known of his shortcomings?
How can one improve himself if he does not even know himself?
How can one harness a control over his mind if he does not know the contents of his mind?
What is the Yoga Perspective on Introspection
In the Yoga tradition, Introspection could be likened to the practice of Pratyahara.
Aleister Crowley defines Pratyahara as an:
“introspection, a sort of general examination of the contents of the mind which we wish to control.”BOOK 4
Pratyahara is considerd to be one of most important practices in the yoga tradition.
Pratyahara itself is termed as yoga, as it is the most important limb in yoga sadhana.Swami Sivananda
Pratyahara enables individuals to become keen observers of the deep mind so to assist in checking for the rise of thoughts before acting on them.
We believe that this diagram from BOOK 4 explains this process effectively.
- BD represents the Control of the Mind. It starts at zero and improves nearly exponentially.
- EF represents the Power of Observation. Generally in the case of educated people, it begins above zero and slowly rises.
- The distance between H1 and what seems to be I1 represents the level of dissatisfaction of the student with his power of control over his mind. As you can see, as EF & BD rise, the level of dissatisfaction decreases.
These three factors reveal three important points:
- As the Power of Observation slowly rises, the Control of the Mind quickly rises. This shows us that a small improvement in the Power of Observation leads to a great improvement in the Control of the Mind. Clearly this signifies the importance of observation.
- As the levels of Observation and Control of the Mind increase, the amount of dissatisfaction of the student will decrease. This is an important point. Many students will be dissatisfied in the beginning with their progress and give up early. We advise the student to persist in his training as dissatisfaction will become non-existent only if the student persists in his training.
- A concluding point which is similar to the first, is the notion that improving the Power of Observation is the main exercise required. Once you observe, you can easily control. But what you cannot observe, you cannot control.
Now let us look into how we can improve the Power of Observation and the Control of the Mind.
How can you perform Self Introspection ?
1. The control of speech, action, and thought.
“The Unicorn is speech. Man, rule thy Speech! How else shalt thou master the Son, and answer the Magician at the right-hand gateway of the Crown?
The Horse is Action. Man, rule thine Action. How else shalt thou master the Father, and answer the Fool at the Left Hand Gateway of the Crown?
The Ox is Thought. Man, rule thy Thought! How else shalt thou master the Holy Spirit, and answer the High Priestess in the Middle Gateway of the Crown?”Liber III
There are two aspects to this technique.
First is the aspect of using general exercises to train the mind.
For example, this is what Crowley mentions in LIBER III:
Here are practices. Each may last for a week or more.
(a) Avoid using some common word, such as “and” or “the” or “but”; use a paraphrase.LIBER III
(b) Avoid using some letter of the alphabet, such as “t”, or “s”. or “m”; use a paraphrase.
(c) Avoid using the pronouns and adjectives of the first person; use a paraphrase.
Of thine own ingenium (genuis) devise others.
These are general exercises, and anyone can devise their own. The purpose of these types of exercises is to only train the mind.
It is recommended that you read LIBER III, which is only a few pages for the full list of exercises.
The second aspect is using specific exercises which have multiple benefits.
The main benefit would be training the mind and the additional benefits may include a decrease in stress, joy, improvement of physical and mental health and so forth.
For example, the exercise of ‘controlling your thought on a single point’ includes the main benefit of a stronger mind, but can also include benefits like, improved concentration, more positivity, better motivation and so forth.
“The man of self-control, moving among objects with his senses under restraint, and free from attachment and hate, attains serenity of mind.”Bhagavad Gita
We will put the Yoga perspective to the side and consider other occult and philosophical views of Introspection
2. Confront Your Dark Side
“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”Carl JUNG
It is of upmost importance that everyone confronts their dark side, even though if it’s extremely difficult to do so.
“It is almost unnatural for us to look inward at this side of ourselves. But remember that you are only half a human if you keep this buried.THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE
To confront your dark side look for signs of the shadow self.
Robert Greene lists some of the different signs below:
- Signs of Snobbery. If you have the extreme desire to differentiate yourself from others.
- Tough Masculinity. If you feel that you need to compete excessively and act aggressively.
- The Rigid Rationalist. If you have the need to be rational at all times and reject your emotions all the time.
There are many more, so we will advise the reader to read the full book for the full list.
Franz Bardon writes about confronting ones deepest evils as well.
“In the first days of psychic training, let us deal with the practical part of introspection or self-knowledge. Arrange for a magic diary and enter all the bad sides of your soul into it.”
“Make notes of all your weaknesses, down to the finest nuances and variations. The more you are discovering, all the better for you. Nothing must remain hidden, nothing unrevealed, however insignificant or great your faults or frailties may be.”Initiation into Hermetics
3. Stay away from the media.
Advertisers bombard us with highly effective subliminal messages. Our continual connection to social media makes us prone to new forms of viral emotional effects. These are not media designed for calm reflection. With their constant presence, we have less and less mental space to step back and think.THe LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE.
The way in which social media and other forms of media hook us on to their pages is not through deep thought and introspection.
The news spends a maximum of 2 minutes to outline a story, they mention a couple of buzzwords like, “terrorist, Arab, violent” and then they move to the next story which provokes completely different emotions than the initial story.
So people who watch the news do not get any real facts and knowledge about a situation. All they hear is a couple of buzzwords and begin to start making baseless associations in their mind.
The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behaviour that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfil this role requires systematic propaganda.Noam Chomsky
They play with your emotions, and tell you that the solution to your problems and the issues in society is in something superficial or vain.
Rather the solution to your problems and possibly all of society’s problems is introspection.
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.Carl Jung
4. Examine one thought (BONUS)
“After running over a lot of different thoughts, pick out one to be digested thoroughly that day”.Letters From A Stoic
While this may not be introspection, it is essential to focus and analyse your thoughts. Anyone who does not, is thinking on a basic level.
If you were to analyse your thoughts, you will realise you don’t need to listen to these ‘self-help gurus’ or read many books for advice.
All the answers you need are within you
Introspection is possibly the solution to most of the problems in the world.
Introspection is a catalyst for change.
Once you know of a bad habit or thought process, half of the work has already been done towards the elimination of said habit or thought process
To recap, the exercises we put forth in this article were:
- Controlling speech, thought and action.
- Confront your dark side.
- Stay away from the media.
- Examine one thought. (Bonus)