Found in teaching circles, the concept of setting the tone describes a phenomenon in which a group of people take on the primary emotions, attitudes, opinions or sometimes even an ethical stance displayed by a leader. And, although this concept is usually used to discuss leadership-group dynamics, it also applies to us as individuals internally as we explore the workings of our singular personalities, whenever we are faced with dilemmas or decisions.
In situations where we are facing dilemmas or difficult decisions, we have the luxury of being able to step back and watch the various components of personality take positions on how best to proceed. During this process, we may feel inwardly fractured or confused. But, there is a unifying force which can guide us through the dilemma-solving process and toward resolution.
In Vedanta, students are encouraged to develop a dialogue with the internal Observer. The internal Observer is that component of a person’s personality which is universal and timeless. The Observer is more concerned about “us” than it is concerned about “me”. In most cases the Observer, when it is given its due position, will choose what the majority of spiritual traditions would consider an optimal choice in any given dilemma or decision, barring considerations regarding cultural differences.
Acess to the Observer is best cultivated through voluntary phases of silence, where we learn to watch the activities of the mind and its decision making processes. The Observer is also available to us through breath awareness and wih a reduction in social distractions. When we begin to experience a single-pointed focus in conjunction with a consistent experience of Stillness, then we will know we have found the Observer. And, the internal Observer is the component of personality that should set the tone for our days and our lives, rather than any other external or, potentially, unreliable personality or force.