Goal: (1) Improving everyday habits of observation; (2) Developing intuitive understanding of other people.

Setting: Any time you have the opportunity to observe people closely -- for example, on a busy sidewalk, at a cafe, or in a meeting.

Practice: When passing people on the sidewalk (for example), notice what "messages" you receive from them. Carefully observe their expressions and other gestures, while remaining open, and being aware what feelings, thoughts, or images may arise within you.


(1) At least at first, do not try to put the messages into words. The goal is to be open and receive whatever impressions come through, without forcing them to fit your preconceptions.

(2) How can you tell which messages are really coming from the other person, vs. which are your own projections? Ultimately you cannot tell for sure. But that's OK; with time you can become more accurate.

(3) While accuracy is important, it is not the main goal here. This practice is to develop intuitive rather than objective understanding (there are other practices for that). Objectivity would mean that you are like a scientific instrument, getting an accurate reading on the other person -- ideally, everyone would get the same reading. Intuition means that you develop feelings, thoughts, or images which hopefully do reflect the other person in large part, but which also bring some of yourself. The value of objectivity is well known in this culture -- but objectivity alone does not provide a basis for a relationship, which by definition includes at least two parties. Intuition is better for this important purpose.

(4) If this exercise is useful, why aren't we already doing more of it? One reason is that the messages are often disturbing, as quite a few people are in bad shape. You get a new understanding of why the world has the problems it does.

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