An exercise of retrospection is a powerful tool. With it we gain self-knowledge, insights, and understanding about our behavior and subconscious defects or egos (things such as anger, fear, pride, lust etc.) that have manifested during the day but have gone unnoticed, and as they go unseen they are controlling our lives. As it is said, ‘Life is a series of events’.
The flow of the day sets out various events that we go through, most of which bring about egos within us, regardless if we notice them or not. Sometimes we go through difficult or intense situations, a chaotic development of events where it is very hard to be in the present moment and detached from our egos. These types of events can easily pull us in and drag us along, which means that we act unconsciously. Even if the flow of events is ordinary, there are still emotions, thoughts, and/or impulses that manifest within us.
From an outburst of anger, to a subtle surging of envy, in the retrospective exercise we can see all of that and get knowledge about the egotistic state (ego) and how it controls us. This then can change our lives, simply because, in the exercise of retrospection, we are looking at the events from the perspective of the observer, rather than the participant.
The exercise is very simple. In the evening, lay or sit down, close your eyes, and briefly relax your body of tension. Silence the mind for some time, and then start remembering your day. You can start from the morning events and going forward towards the evening, or start from the evening events and go backwards towards the morning. I personally prefer to start from the morning events because in that way I can see the development of events much better.
Look at the events as a movie projection on the screen of the mind, and observe your reactions to those events. Be careful not to identify with what you see, but simply observe what happened, and move on. Retrospection done in that way should be done in 10 minutes. Of course it depends on the amount of situations we had, but the point is to not linger on the situations, but simply seeing them, and then moving on.
The dynamics of the exercise of retrospection is that with the silenced mind, your consciousness gets active, and then it is the active consciousness (the real you) who observes the events. Simply by observing the event with an active consciousness, in a detached way, it is enough to get profound insights about the situation – insights that are missed during the situation itself because of the absorption in the thoughts and emotions that were present at that time. Consciousness contains remarkable qualities of intelligence and of attaining knowledge and wisdom, so simply by directing it towards something that we study, such as in the case of the retrospective exercise, we can arrive to insights that previously we may not have had.
The way this works from the practical point of you – say you acted with worry in a certain situation, which may have been sparked by something someone said to you. This worry carried on to other parts of the day and in another situation it might have made you irritable and prone to anger, making you do things you later regret. In retrospection you would be able to see all of that. You would be able to see the cause and how one ego led to another, and then when similar situation would repeat the next time, you would know that you can detach from it and change the course of your actions.
Or say you have gotten into a heated argument. Observing the event in retrospection, you would be able to see it from a point of view of clarity, which is a point of view that you were lacking during the argument itself. You would see what made you act in that way, where this person is coming from when telling you those things, and you would see that they too have been controlled by the egotistic states of anger, fear etc., and that their reactions were controlled by those states in the same way as yours were.
The exercise of retrospection, then, can help us tremendously with controlling our lives, as not only does it give us knowledge about situations, ourselves, and other people, but it also triggers remembrance of ourselves in daily life, enabling us to stay detached from the emotional reactions to the events, and helps us act with consciousness, which is the highest state of acting in everyday life.
H.D.P., May 2017.