Contemplation of a Person
A Philosophical Journey
The objective of this exercise is to see beyond one’s conventional view of another person, based on their name, appearance, gender, roles, one’s relationship with them and their personal characteristics, to their nature as a mysterious individual sentient organism.
Choose a person to visualize before doing this exercise.
Close your eyes and induce hypnosis if desired. Alternatively, this exercise may be done – slowly and contemplatively - with eyes open, reading from the page.
First of all, call the person to mind. Think of their name, any nicknames they may have – the name you call them by, and notice how these names connect with your image of this person.
Visualise them as they appear; their face… their eyes… their hair… their body… the clothes they wear. Think of their gender… their age… their skin colour… their ethnic and cultural background.
Now think of the sound of their voice, their accent, and the particular intonation which you know belongs to them. Imagine them speaking something you are familiar with them saying.
Now think of your relationship with this person, and the roles you both play as you interact. Think of their roles in life – maybe the type of work they do, their personal roles, and other things they may do with their time.
Now think of their personality, their character. What kind of person are they? What habits do they have? If appropriate, consider their sexuality, any religious or spiritual beliefs they may have, and their personal values - things that are important to them. Now think of anything else which you feel defines that person as who they are. Take a while to contemplate that image of the person in your mind… [Wait a while].
Now stand a little back from that image, and let’s consider each of these aspects in turn.
Begin with their name. Contemplate their name – it could be their birth name, or a nickname – a word which identifies that person to you. Notice any deep resonance that name has with your image of the person – how you feel that the name IS the person.
Yet notice also, that the name is just a sound. It is just a bunch of letters. It is merely a label. Now, I’d like you to do something with the image in your mind. Peel this label from the image, and leave the person there, without this arbitrary label.
Notice how the image appears to change when the name is removed.
Now, with their name gone, I’d like you to consider the physical appearance of this person. Begin with their face, and their eyes. Notice how important their face is as a way you identify who they are. Maybe you find them attractive, or not so attractive. Notice how they look - male or female, masculine or feminine, old or young or middle-aged. Also get a sense of how their voice sounds – whether harsh or soft, masculine or feminine.
Really get the sense of how their physical appearance and the sound of their voice resonate with your image of who they are as a person.
Now, once more, stand a little back from that image. Contemplate how their face and physical appearance are not who that person really is. They are merely the cover of the book – and as the old saying goes, it is unwise to judge a book by its cover. Observe also, that while the person is alive, a living, breathing creature, what you are looking at is merely dead skin, covering their living organs and tissues. It is not who the person really is. Notice also that the sound of their voice is merely the vibration of air as it passes through their larynx, with its particular shape and size. Notice how none of this can define the person for who they really are.
So I’d like you to take the image you have of this person, and strip away these arbitrary characteristics. Remove these physical characteristics from the image you have, knowing that they are by no means essential to who this person really is. Notice how the image changes as you remove the specific features of their face, their specific physical appearance, and the specific sound of their voice. Notice what you can see now, what is left when these are gone. How much more this person really is than merely their cover.
You can still see that this person is a unique human being, a living and sentient organism. I’d like you to contemplate now what makes them alive. Think about the inner workings of their body – their organs of various kinds which keep them healthy and alive. Think of their digestive system, which allows them to take in nutrients from the environment to keep them going. Contemplate their excretory organs, which allow them to dispel wastes and toxins to keep them alive. Consider their sexual organs, whether male or female, giving them the amazing power to reproduce and produce a whole new human being. But especially contemplate their heart and lungs, their beating heart which works so faithfully to keep them alive, and their lungs which allow them to take in vital air as a living, breathing organism.
Now keeping that image in mind as a whole, I’d like you to consider that person’s biological sex – whether male or female – in its true context. Culturally, we place an enormous importance on whether a person is male or female, and use it to define who they are. But now, I’d like you to detach from that. While it’s true that men and women have different reproductive roles, I’d like you to set these roles aside for one moment, and consider the overwhelmingly small difference their sex makes to them as a living being, when considering their physical nature as a whole. The difference is only a small piece of tissue. So, I’d like you to further remove the label of ‘male’ or ‘female’ from your image of their organism, and consider them as they really are – as a unique living, breathing, sentient being. Notice how the image changes and shifts as you continue to shed your conventional ways of looking at them.
Contemplate their physical being, free from name, surface appearance, biological sex, and any other petty and arbitrary things, such as age, which are normally used to define who the person is. Notice how much clearer the image appears now, once these shallow conventional ways of looking at things are cast aside. Notice the incredible design of the human body. Notice not only how the heart and lungs keep the person alive as a breathing creature, but notice how their brain and nervous system combine to give them consciousness, awareness, sentience. How they feel sensations from their sensory organs, really feel them, as a conscious being, and how they experience emotion – all manner of emotions, from joy to sadness, fear to calmness, anger to contentment, confusion to a sense of clarity. How they perceive the world around them, have their own inner world of thought and feeling, and how they can reason – using logic and concepts – to understand the world around them. Notice too how they are conscious of all this, and can reflect on their very existence, their joys and sorrows, their mortality, and other people too. Notice how their thoughts and feelings are connected with their behaviour – how they act.
Now, looking at this image of the person, I’d like you to consider their personality, their character, and the relationship you have with this person - the roles you both play as you interact with each other. Consider also their roles in life – such as the type of work they do, their personal roles, and any other roles you may identify them by.
Now take a step back from these characteristics, and look at them objectively. Consider how their personality, as you see it, is not who the person really IS. Notice how this person is much too unique to be pigeonholed as being ‘such-and-such a person’. Of course, such judgments have their place in life, and they might act habitually in a certain way, or be prone to certain moods or thoughts - but that is not who this person ultimately IS, and you clearly see the difference now. So, for now, set such judgments to one side, and contemplate the person simply as a unique, individual, sentient being. Set aside the roles the person plays as well, including any relationship they may have with you. Stand aside from your subjective role and view in this person’s life, and view them objectively now. Realise that if this person were born in a different time or place, their roles may be very different indeed. See them now as a unique, thinking, feeling, sentient creature.
Now stand aside further, and see through any other characteristics which your image of this person may be labelling them as actually being. Any religious or spiritual persuasion, any philosophical views, and any personal values. Set these aside now, and continue to view them further as a unique, feeling, reasoning and conscious being. If appropriate, set aside their sexuality also, seeing it as irrelevant to their true nature as a sentient organism. Any traces of their gender, too, as masculine or feminine – set these aside too. Set aside any accidental characteristics they may have, any other particular traits which they may have, and notice how, without these concepts clouding your image of who they really are, they appear to you in a clearer form than ever before. You can now see them as a totally unique, individual, living, feeling, thinking, reasoning, conscious and sentient being, how they really are under the surface.
Now take a moment to contemplate this image, as you observe them from a detached, objective perspective. Notice the full clarity of this image, of their primal uniqueness and nature. Get a sense of how this is who they really are, beneath all culturally-conditioned ways of thinking. They are not who you thought they were. They are so much more than that. Really contemplate their being, their existence, who they really are beneath the surface. Contemplate this for as long as you desire, and notice anything in particular that occurs to you about this image.
Now, when you are ready to draw this exercise to a close, gradually let that image fade, letting all you have learned about that person remain with you, taking this new insight and new ways of seeing with you into your life, for your own sake.
[Emerge from hypnosis if appropriate]