Self Transformation Through Simple Observation

 Practically speaking, our lives can take on new excitement and meaning by simple observation and directed effort.  Observation of our own mechanical actions and habits is the surest way to move from a completely robotic and painful life to one of insight and beauty. There is no need to seek beyond where you are at this moment if change is what you desire.  Seek to know what is really going on with this Self we refer to as ‘me’…  Nothing is more fun, nor more rewarding!  The following excerpt is from a chapter entitled “Commentary on Psycho-Transformism” by Maurice Nicoll from  Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of GI Gurdjieff and PD Ouspensky, Vol 3.  Do as Dr Nicoll suggests,  and you are sure to have an uplifting day!

Now the work begins with you yourself.  It starts with the observation of yourself–that is, with drawing slowly into consciousness of yourself all sorts of things that belong to your Being of which you are unaware.  This alters your idea of yourself.  A man must “know himself.”  That is, he must become more and more conscious of himself–so conscious, in fact, that, for example, when he is talking he is conscious of which ‘I’ is speaking and can notice what it is saying and not identify with it.  This is inner separation.  This is especially difficult, in this case, because when we are in action we are usually most asleep–that is, least conscious–and one of our commonest actions is talking.  If you do not believe it, watch another person using one of his typical gramophone records, such as his adventures or successes before a new audience.  Talking is the most mechanical action. But one can be conscious of this most mechanical action.  One can observe it while it is going on.  Then one is conscious of what is mechanically going on.  This seems paradoxical.  But try it and see for yourself.  It needs a very light touch.The first object is to observe oneself without criticism.  We are told to observe, not stop.  So one can observe one is talking mechanically and, as I said, notice which ‘I’ is speaking, without checking it.  If you begin to criticize it, it will stop, and so you will learn nothing further.  In this commentary, I will call this the first necessary stage in psycho-transformism–this developed power of being conscious of one’s mechanicalness and not stopping it.  If you keep on trying to stop things, you cannot see them.  Our aim at first is not to stop, but to see, to become conscious of.  Now, in this connection, as you know, the Work teaches that the realization of one’s mechanicalness is one of the first real experiences of  Self-Remembering.  It is easy to see why.  Hitherto you have taken yourself seriously.  You have identified with everything in yourself, with family, money, position, etc.  You have said ‘I’ to everything.  Then there is a brief vibration of greater consciousness and you suddenly see that all you took so seriously as yourself is machinery and not you.  You then realize your mechanicalness.  Now this introduces us to the idea of psycho-transformism.  Self-change is not possible if one can be only what one is.  I mean that, were what we are all that we could possibly be, no transformation would be possible.  But the Work says we are only at the beginning of ourselves, and calls us seeds.  Take our consciousness:  the Work says we are not conscious and that Western psychology makes a fundamental error in taking Man as  a conscious Being.  There is a ladder of Consciousness.  We seek the next rungs–called the State of Self-Remembering, Self-Consciousness or Self-Awareness.  As we ascend this ladder everything changes.  It is a magic lift.  Imagine a seed in this lift.  If it ascends it becomes a tree:  if it descends it becomes a seed again.  This is clearly not a 3-dimensional lift.  In 3-dimensional space one goes up and down and remains the same, save perhaps for being worse-tempered than ever.


Inner Life Exercise   
Pause 3 seconds before speaking, such as when answering a question or giving your opinion on a particular matter.  Become aware at this moment of yourself, in your surrounding; aware of the other person.  Then after this pause, continue consciously with what you want to say, or, choose to not say anything.  This observant effort will shed light on a normally dark experience.



  1. Melodie Machovina on May 7, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    I love these thorough and detailed explanations of how we can work under ordinary life circumstances. We can use everything at our disposal, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, to break our mechanical states.

  2. Rose Velez on May 19, 2017 at 4:46 am

    What I like about this principle the most is how almost comical it can be to watch your mechanical nature always try to jump ahead of your consciousness and say whatever it wants! When I first tried this exercise it shocked me to see how quick my mechanical nature was. Almost undetectable. This is a great principle to reflect on and a fun exercise that will always surely wake you up throughout your day.

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