Becoming an Naturalist

March 30, 2009 at 10:56 pm 1 comment

“You can observe a lot just by watching”

— Yogi Berra

Columnist and author, Marilyn vos Savant, once said, “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”  This skill of observation is the primary tool used by naturalistic researchers for the study of subjects or phenomenon:

“Naturalistic observation occurs when a scientist conducts observations in a naturally occurring situation, without becoming actively involved. In conducting naturalistic observations, a scientist makes no attempt to control or change what happens. The research task is to make a detailed record of the events that occur and of apparent relationships between events, without having any effect on their occurrence.”1

Each of us has this capability to become a naturalistic researcher.  And, in order to develop wisdom, you are actually your best laboratory for observation.  In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Observe all men, thyself most.”

You might ask, what does this ability for observation have to do with reducing my stress?  The answer is that without observing our moment-to-moment experience, we can become its victim.  Unaware of our inner experience, we are often at its mercy as we unconsciously are pulled into a reaction to it: pushing away what we don’t like or grasping onto what we don’t want to change – wanting things to be different.  These reactions cause us significant suffering and even result in physical and emotional wear and tear over time. This where the power of observation arises: once we can see and acknowledge our own experience, we are more able to respond out of choice rather than becoming engaged in these unconscious reactions.  By developing the ability to respond more effectively to our experience, out of wisdom, we can find ways to stay more balanced in our day-to-day life or return to balance when find we have been pulled away from it.  Equanimity is possible with growing awareness of your own inner experience and the wisdom that is derived from that.  The imperative: simply observe.

“Use your five senses. Learn to see, learn to hear, learn to feel, learn to smell, and know that by practice alone you can become expert.”

– William Olser 

References:
1. The City College of New York: http://www.ccny.cuny.edu/bbpsy/modules/naturalistic_obs.htm

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Breaking the Stress Habit Living in the Gray Areas

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Karen Richins  |  August 11, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    The practice of observing oneself experiencing various moods, emotions, thoughts, etc. has been extremely beneficial. I’m so glad you posted this essay. I find I can achieve detachment through self observation, and thereby not get “sucked in” to possibly detrimental emotional states. ( Or even euphoric states which will not last).
    A very wothwhile technique–possibly even life changing.

    Thank you.

    Karen Richins,
    Redwood City

    Reply

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Julie Forbes, Ph.D.

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