Letter to a Friend


In this tiny little book the author informs about discoveries that everybody may do in their own psyche through a special sort of observation or attention. For those who observe this way, a new and exiting world opens up. The insight in this world, that is yourself, is liberating.


IT IS POSSIBLE  -  Letter to a friend

Why am I sitting down to write? Not because I am full of energy, or have desire to "realize" myself, but because I feel I have to, as I posess information which is essential; so essential that I have not got the right to keep it to myself.

But how can I, an ordinary man, be in possession of something that is so important? The impuls came from the indian thinker J. Krishnamurti. The rest I have basically done myself. Krishnamurti is therefore no "guru" or authority for me. As you will see later, this relationship will become evident.

What I am writing here, is a result of my own (if I may call it) research, which consists of observation and logical thought. Even though I will try to write clearly and simply about all these difficult conditions, I do not expect to be believed. In fact, I must not at any price be believed.

Even if what I write here is an observed reality within myself, and as such should be correct, for you who read it, it is a theory which at best will appear interesting and logical. But it does not serve any purpose to agree or disagree. What matters is to see for oneself, and through that understand immediately. That is why these lines can (and ought to) be no more than the impulse which is necessary to create interest and desire to research.

But if the interest is created, and with the necessary seriousness, you begin to learn to know yourself, as you are, you will firstly enter a very interesting period of your life. Secondly, you will experience that this research-process has side-effects, which you will perceive as highly useful and liberating.

We will gradually touch on all this. But I will already now draw your attention to a very interesting and essential condition, which is not so easy to be aware of, in the first instance. If you grasp the information about the side-effects, let yourself be tempted by these, and turn them into an aim to be achieved; then you have made them into the principal matter. And the process the brain then commences, to realize these aims, is essentially different; I repeat: essentially different from the process we shall treat here.

As already mentioned several times, my concern is recognition; understanding of oneself: That it is possibe; is where the impulse lies. What this understanding involves, and what consequences it has, we will be dealing with at an intellectual level. But that is not sufficient; not even very essential. But this far, and no further, we can approach the problem together.

We move here on almost virginal ground, so little has our culture to contribute in this central area. This can lead to several difficulties, i.e. in the communication relating to these questions. It may be difficult to find suitable words that can be understood in the same way by the reader as by the writer. Secondly we often believe that we have much more insight in such questions than we really have. We may, in other words, have prejudices. If we are fond of our opinions and prejudices, we will not get far. What is essential is that we have a deep interest of realities, even if they should be unpleasent, and do not choose to cling on to illusions, even if they may be pleasant.

Have you ever asked yourself, what our conscious life consists of? It has got to be what is always present in our consciousness, hasn´t it?

And what is that?

Modern man is full of thoughts, so thoughts are obviously part of our conscious life. Most of us are so full of thoughts that we hardly know of a state where thoughts are not present.

Then we have the perceptible impressions that regularly pass to our consciousness from different senses. I am here thinking of the five senses that primarily carry impressions from our near and distant surroundings: The ability of seeing, the sense of smell, hearing, taste and the sensitivity of the skin. We also have impressions from the more internal senses that carry messages about balance, heat, weight, physical pain etc. It is not difficult to find several such perceptible impressions with corresponding senses from our surroundings or our body.

The last big group of "ingredients" that exists in our consciousness, and will be mentioned here, are the feelings (here we exclude those kind of feelings that are already mentioned under perceptible impressions). We think of feelings like fear, longing, joy, sorrow, irritation, freedom etc.

These seem to me, to be the elements, that in constant variation and varying "quantities of mixture" in our consciousness, at all times make up our life.

We will not attempt an analysis here, of all the imaginable possibilities of combination that are present. Through observation of oneself and others, it is, on the other hand, easy to understand that all these groups: thoughts, perceptible impressions and feelings are present simultaneously during almost all our conscious life, even if the different groups will take it in turn to carry the "main weight".

Understanding of these conditions must contribute to our understanding of ourselves, and our life, with it´s challenges and problems, with it´s routine and joy of creativity, contentment and despair etc.

In the following we shall therefore approach closer to the thought and it´s nature, the perceptible impressions and the feelings and the interplay between them. But first we must remain for a while at the term understanding, which we already used several times, and which plays an important part.

The understanding may be at an intellectual level. One can imagine what is being explained, or what is necessary to solve a task, and have consequently understood what the question is about. The understanding is here a thought prosess. The symbols of the thought imitate (simulate) something that (presumedly) may happen in reality.

But the understanding may also be direct, by observing what happens when it happens, and how it happens. Thoughts are not present here. It is reality presented through the senses that presents itself as it is. As a result, immediate understanding occurs.


The thought process and it´s products: the thoughts, do, as you have probably experienced, play a very important part of life. This applies both to the life of the individual; you and me, and the coexistence/relationships between people and groups of people. And it is remarkable and regrettable how limited our understanding is of this very important part of our life.
What does the thought consist of?

Words, yes, but also pictures and other symbols, as well as sounds, such as music.

It is probably enough to remind you of how the language developed within us from an early age; how objects we saw and could feel, got their names, and how things that happened were described through sentences.

But I think it is necessary to say something which sounds very unnecessary: The words are not the reality. The words are symbols, that at best represent a reality.

That the words "a bar of chocolate" are something different than the bar of chocolate itself is obvious. But our, and all other languages, contain several frequently used words, i.e. symbols, where it can be difficult to find the reality the word is ment to represent. Shall we try a few such words? The dear little word "I" for instance, or time, church, norwegian sport of skating, desire, death, freedom, fear. These as an incentive to seek what the words stand for. It is both interesting and useful to be constantly aware of this condition. If the meaning of the words is not clear, how can what we think and say be meaningfull?

It may gradually dawn us, that it is not the words, but reality as it is, that is essential. It will probably surprise you how imprisoned we are in words and images, even those that do not have an obvious equivalent in reality. It is possible that a reality corresponding to the word exists. Fear, for instance, is such a word. Most of us have probably felt fear, and tried to escape from it, or push it aside. But how many of us have quite simply observed the fear inside ourselves, and by doing that seen it as it is?

On the other hand, there exist, as you will find, several important words without an equivalent in reality at all. It will surprise most of us to discover that past and future are such words. There exist no past and no future. These terms are products of the thought, and exist nowhere but in man´s images of things that do not exist.

What constantly exists is the present. The reality is immediate here and now, constantly. And it is our senses that carry the contact with reality. The nature of thought, however, is past, or projection of the past, which is future.

The impressions we receive through the senses from our earliest childhood, become the elements that in the same or in a treated form, make up the thoughts later in life. Not all the senses contribute to the same extent. It is easy to see that it is the sight and the hearing that specially contribute the impressions that become the buildingbricks of the thought.

From this it is evident that the nature of the thought is the known. The one who has never seen colours, can not imagine colours.

The thought can construct unknown things, which are created through combination and variation of known things. But what is unknown beyond this, the thought cannot grasp.

This implies that one cannot define a new understanding for oneself. Many definitions have unfortunately been created by taking as the starting point one word, and with numerous sentences one has explained what that word shall mean. Communication may be easier this way. But one has no guarantee that what one communicates about is real.

A definition ought therefore to take as it´s starting point, a part of acknowledged reality, describe it and then give it a name. To acknowledge is to see reality as it really is.

Most of us live with the idea that it is I who think, and that I can think what I want. The I in me is in other words the thinker who thinks thoughts.

It is probably best if you yourself find out how this really does occur. But be prepared for surprises. If our interest had been somewhat more directed towards our life, we would probably have put a question-mark by this conception long ago. But in this important area of our life we are confused. We have virtually no idea of the importance of having a realistic model of ideas, of having conceptions of models which reflect the regularities in the real world, and of understanding the limitations of the thought and the forces behind it.

This incorrect influence is inherited from genration to generation. A lot will have to be changed in the influence of the young genration to escape from this vicious circle.

Modern man is brought up to use the thought, the intellect, whereas the use of the senses are equally neglected.

Trough the thought-process the past is drawn into our consciousness. As the thought-process fills a great part of our life, this implies that our life is to a great extent filled with the past. Observe conversations between people, and you will see how frequently it turns to the past, and the extention of the past, the future.

The perceptible impressions we receive and experiences develop consciously or unconsciously several associations in the shape of thoughts and feelings which all originate from our own past. These assotiations influence the perceptible impressions in such a way that we literally see reality through a pair of glasses, shaped and coloured by our own past. The influence may exist at different levels. As an example, we may regard something with sympathy or dislike, and feelings are consequently introduced. The impressions may also be filtered in such a way that we basically see all, that in our opinion is not as it ought to be. We might only see part of the whole, or interpret the impressions in one direction or another, or compare with earlier impressions or norms.

All in all the effect is that we do not see what is. Unfortunately, we are often not aware of this, and believe that the coloured and distorted picture we have created is correct. This does not only apply to the visual impressions, but to a high degree to what we hear too. The result is that we are stuck with our unrealistic and one-sided points of view. Objectivity and sobriety have to give way. Misunderstandings and conflicts may easily arise.

Small children still have a thought-process which is not fully developed. On the other hand they are usually good observers. These two conditions are obviously closely linked. The thought-process of adults is often intense. To many it is even a problem which is difficult to get rid of. This reduces the ability to observe, as the thought captures the attention, and gives numerous associations. If one rediscovers one´s ability of pure perception, pure observation, one is given a renewed opportunity to live outside the dimension of the thought; that is, the dimension of time.

Thoughts and feelings connected to our past are brought forward to a more or less conscious level, as associations to perceptible impressions. But there exists another relationship between thoughts and feelings too. You have probably, like most people, been in the situation of worrying about something which is to, or may happen in future, and to this "something" the idea of expected discomfort or danger is connected. The thought here creates the fear on the basis of experiences of the past.

But just as the thought can create feelings, feelings can also create thoughts. If we experience something pleasant, we want a repetition. If the experience is unpleasant, we wish for the opposite. The task of the thought is to find out how to get the pleasant to repeat itself, respectively, the unpleasant to fail to appear. In this extremely superficial way we mostly run our lives. This is part of the basis for the neurotic process that so many people are in.

By creating fear (discomfort) and promising reward (comfort) the authorities use or abuse our primitive steering mechanism to influence or control us from within, in a way most of us have no knowledge of, nor any idea of the consequences of.

If we look closer at man´s situation in the world today, there seems to be an urgent need to learn about ourselves. If there is something wrong with a bicycle, we examine it. The fault is found and corrected.

If something is wrong with us in such a way that we have psycological problems of one sort or another, we behave completely differently. Instead of studying the problem, to understand it, we push it away from us, and supress it. Great parts of our culture are dircted towards our need to supress and daydream to get away from an unpleasant reality. The result does not fail to appear.

Why not do as suggested above, examine the problem? Only I can observe my problems, just as only you can observe yours. Don´t ask how one is to observe. Do it. We are all able to do so. Observe the fear where it is, as it is, while it is there.

To think about the fear is not the same as to "see" it. The word fear is not the same as the fear itself, and the fear and the reason for the fear are not the same either. Modern man so easily verbalizes rather than meeting the phenomena of fear in his own mind "face-to-face". If you have done this, you will firstly have a direct understanding of what fear is. You will see whether the components of the fear fragment, and that the fear looses it´s power over you. The fear is harmless, and if one has observed the fear directly, one understands it´s nature, and that it is harmless. By this it´s power is broken.

The fear was mentioned here as an important example. But all the other feelings that worry us may be observed in the same way. I think of feelings like impatience, irritation, anger, jealousy, loneliness and hatred; all of the complicated reaction-pattern that each uf us show in the form of thoughts, feelings, facial expressions, bodily movemens and attitudes that can be observed in the interaction with our surroundings. But we must observe only, without judging, justifying, excusing etc.

If we are interested in learning to know ourselves in this way, the possibility is present. But it demands an involvement in the form of intensity, endurance, and, shall we say, courage. For in a way courage is necessary to face oneself and see oneself as one is; to see the greediness, self-pity, fear and slyness etc. in one´s own mind.

Apart from this direct understanding which - as all understanding - has it´s thorough effect, there is also an understanding at the intellectual level. This contributes to the clairification of words and their meaning, and to look through clichees of the thought, opinions and attitudes that are imprinted in our mind through influence of the authority of the surroundings.

But a large proportion of the basis of our character lies deep down in the mind, inaccesible to observation and direct understanding. We have not got the ability to search for it in our own mind. But our reactions bring part of our inner selves to the surface in the instant they take place, and by observing the reactions we also get insight in the part of our inner selves that are in direct contact with them. My reactions mean, in other words, an opportunity to learn about myself. The learning happens in such a passive, but alert way, as that of seeing. Seeing only, without judging, excusing or interpreting.

Through this passive alert observation something of great importance occurs, apart from the understanding itself. The energies, of an emotional character that lies behind these reactions, appear on the surface, and are worked off or emptied. A touchy point in my emotional life is thereby completely or partially cured.

It may be difficult for somebody in our part of the world to understand this. We are so used to set aims and realize these aims through active effort. As a result of this attitude we try to "tidy up" in our inner selves. We try to discipline ourselves to be what others and we ourselves expect of us. In such a way, we almost constantly try to be something that we are not, and live in a constant fight with ourselves. This way of behaving is completely in line with our lack of understanding of the nature of man and the regularities that exist in our inner selves. Many manage to keep up the phasade, but for an increasing number of people, even of young age, it appears that the problems are becoming so great that they break through. It is becoming normal to have psycological problems, and one is uncertain of how to deal with such extensive psycological problems.

As that in me that wants to tidy up, is the same as that which needs tidying up, this method is impractical.

Have you ever sat with tense muscles, and observed how the muscles relaxed the moment you became aware that they were tense. In the same way the alert observation acts on the suppression mecanism in man´s mind. If you can catch sight of one of these in your inner self, it might let out what it keeps imprisoned. Behind most of the small movements that one can discover in one´s inner self, lies such imprisoned tension. This is not self-centeredness. Self-senteredness is ego-centrical thought activity. The condition we are speaking about is observation, and the thought is barely present.

This condition brings about a process that leads to emptying of the mind. As the upper "layers" are emptied, the more deep-lying layers may be allowed to appear on the surface. Impressions and experiences from earlier years, from the years of your youth and childhood may appear on the surface, and you may acknowledge not only the incidents that gave you complexes, fear and a feeling of unfair treatment, but even these feelings themselves.

During this process, you are completely on your own. It must be obvious that this will feel liberating.

This sounds so simple, so simple that it seems unbelievable. To many it will also appear so simple that it will be difficult. What often happens, is that thought catches hold of the challenge and looks for a way. We have great difficulty in understanding that what we want to achieve, can be achieved as a bi-product of a process where thought is not active; simply by letting it happen. The art consists of allowing to happen what happens when one does nothing but observe.

What I can say is that it is possible. But a method; a recipe to follow, does not exist. Observation is no method; neither is understanding. In this form of observation and understanding, the thought is hardly present. The method is the domain of the thought. As long as you search, you will not find. What we want to "find" here, cannot be found; only discovered. If you have discovered, you will hardly be in doubt.


I suppose I have to say something about the consequences, even if that may often lead one astray. The consequences are of great importance, and what can easily happen is that the thought catches hold of these consequences, and wishes to obtain them. But what really is of importance is the understanding; the immediate understanding of what is going on in you, in interaction with your surroundings. Everything else is side-effect, side-effects that only happen this way, and never as a result of desire.

Most people have a problematical relationship to their feelings. Man is in conflict with himself, split into one part that wants to and one part that says "I dare not" or "you are not allowed". On both sides in these internal conflicts there are not only words, but to a high degree, feelings too. This as an example of all types of feelings that create problems for the individual and for the coexistence of greater or smaller groups of men.

It seems more or less ignored that conflicts between people, organisations and nations are psychological phenomena with basis in conflicts in the mind of the individual. Peace cannot be achieved between men full of conflicts. A desire for peace and disarmament is of little use as long as one does not see the causal connections and act upon them.

To see the disorder in one´s own mind creates order. The changes are thorough and permanent. They include your emotional life and the feelings in your reactions towards other people, towards authorities, things and ideologies.

Changes at the emotional level may also cause reactions at the physiological level. It ought to be sufficient to remember how fear creates perspiration. If fear is reduced, this will have results for the perspiration, clammy hands and feet.

One´s dreams may change too, both in numbers and content.

As we have mentioned previously, the emotional life and the thought activity are closely linked. It is therefore easy to understand that this emptying process also influences the intellctual level. You have probably noticed how a discussion, even among intelligent people, may become biased when feelings of dislike or prestige become involved.

You may also have experienced how your own thoughts jump from one topic to another without really progressing. If you want to think deeper about one of the topics, your attention is diverted by other thoughts presenting themselves. In neither instance does the brain function as intelligently as it could have done.

Both the greater peace of mind that occurs, and the clarification of the concepts at an intellectual level have the same effect. Factors that prevent you from living at your intellectual capacity are reduced.

All this one can make a fairly realistic picture of, as it involves differences of degree compared to what each of us are or have today.

But here something new arises too, a completely new experience, that therefore can not be communicated. It involves your relationship to the thought and the senses.

As mentioned previously, most of us hardly know of another state than that where the thoughts, perceptible impressions and feelings are together simultaneously.

If you observe alertly, as we have discussed, the thoughts calm down by itself, without force. This is freedom from the worry of the thought; from the dimension of time. In this state the mind has the opportunity of emptying itself. This may happen while you sit, lie down, walk the street, drive a car or sit in an aeroplane.

As the mind empties, peace and order occur, and the division into one part that wants and one part that does not allow, is diminished, or ceases to exist. Such a mind is an alert mind at peace with itself.

The thought is no longer in constant activity. If a challenge exists, or a task, the thought starts moving. When the task is solved, the thought calms down.

The thought cannot imagine a state where the thought is not present. Lacking this insight it still tries. The result is failure. Neither a frightening emptiness nor danger occur. Your mind is filled with perceptible impressions. You live for "now". This is a new experience, to be able to live without the dimension of time. In this state there is great freedom.

If the emptying process is allowed to go long enough and deep enough, it may influence the nervous system of the body directly too; in such a way that convulsions ceases and the bodily functions are normalized.


This is basically what I thought I ought to tell you. The form is short on purpose. Long explainations are not necessary. On the other hand it seems to me to be exceedingly urgent for many people to observe, understand and start this journey of discovery themselves.

I hope I have managed to portray the impression that this journey can be both interesting and giving. Nothing in my many years of "practice" indicates that it may be dangerous. It is also wrong to believe that it involves unrestrained behaviour or lack of limits. In the observation itself lies great dicipline, a dicipline without force. This is also a new experience.

The question is whether we are serious enough, or whether we are content with the authority´s answer to fundamental questions, whether we are prepared to exchange lack of insight with some idea or belief that gives a feeling of security; whether we still want to direct our lives towards the comfortable without understanding what is happening in and around us, without understanding what we are really participating in.

I enclose some notes to clarify some of what is mentioned previously, to facilitate our communication.



About to "see"

The term to "see" is used in several places, and it is also indicated that to "see" in this connection means something more than just using the eyes. Yes, it can mean something else too.

To "see" means to keep your senses open, to let impressions in to be perceived by consciousness. This applies to all the senses, both the ones directed outwards, towards the surroundings , and those directed inwards. If it is dark, one may still "see", that is, receive and perceive impressions from the other senses.

In the widest sense one can also "see" the thoughts and feelings in one´s own inner self. If one is attentive and alert, and not tense, one may thus have the gap necessary to "see" one´s own thoughts and the feelings which may accompany the thoughts.

In this state one realizes immediately that that which sees in me, is not the same as that in me that thinks.

In the same way one may see one´s complete reaction pattern, "the filter", one´s attitude, mimic etc.


Concentration and attention

To observe with attention or alertness is not the same as to concentrate.

By concentration one seeks to keep aside impulses that are disturbing in relation to what one wishes to do. These disturbing impulses may come from outside in the form of noise, voices etc. But they may also come from within in form of one´s own thoughts, that constantly disturb the thought activity one was intending to carry out. To concentrate is to be in a tense state, constantly on guard to fight what is perceived as disturbance. To concentrate is exhausting. One part of the attention must always be dedicated to the concentration. This one may observe in oneself.

The kind of attention we speak about here, is not selective, it neither chooses nor rejects. In this state one sees things as they are without judgements, prejudices, excuses etc. What one sees, is not only what goes on around one, but equally what goes on inside oneself; the reaction-pattern in one´s inner self as a response to the impulses from the surroundings. Not untill then does one see the entirety.

In the same way what goes on during concentration may be observed, and one may make an interesting observation. During disturbances from outside the desire to get rid of them easily arises. This reaction from one´s inner self in the form of irritation, and desire to remove the disturbance, will often be a much greater disturbance than the original exterior disturbance.



LEMON forlag has published this book, ISBN 82-90798-01-6
It is available (in Norwegian) by the author at the price of NOK 15,- + postage.



Alt innhold © 1999-2009 Johan Lem.