Witnessing is a state of mind that every spiritual seeker aspires to achieve. The witnessing state is considered the highest form of meditation. What I am suggesting today is how to use witnessing as a tool for self-healing in everyday life. I’m sharing how to bring the virtues of witnessing to daily life and suggesting simple ways to make this practice possible to everyone.
Let’s take the example of a lotus bud. A lotus bud is closed in the early morning, but as the sunshine dawns on the bud constantly, it opens itself slowly. By the time the sun is overhead at noon, the lotus blooms fully. When we shed the light of awareness on our mind, the mind becomes open and fully blossoms. Any emotion, belief of thought will naturally transform into something beautiful when the mind is open.
Awareness is like sunlight. The sunlight is not worried whether the lotus bud will bloom or not. It never doubts the nature of the bud. It penetrates deeper into the layers of the bud without judging it, without causing it any pain, without effort, and in the process it brings warmth to the bud. Awareness has the same quality of sunlight. Whether we become aware of our breath or an emotion or our thoughts, we do not judge them, we do not intend to change them, and we trust in their very nature. Finally, when the awareness continues to penetrate into the layers of whatever we are becoming aware of, it has to blossom.
In the process of practicing awareness, something beautiful happens. We stop identifying ourselves with the mind. We become something larger than the mind. We feel as if the emotions and thoughts are coming in and going out naturally like our breath. We become life itself and feel as if all the things happening in life are coming in and going out. This coming in and going out is necessary to sustain life, and we feel gratitude to everything in life. This is called the state of witnessing.
We are simply there as a witness, and whenever we become a witness we become larger than what we witness. We start seeing all things — good or bad, pain or joy — as equal and essential for life.
Here are some simple ways to start practicing witnessing in your everyday life:
- When relationships are bothering you and causing pain, start seeing everyone in your life as an equal. All people in your life are coming in and going out like your breath. It doesn’t matter whether they cause you pain or pleasure. Both are sacred and equally valuable to sustain life. With witnessing comes equanimity in relationships.
- When you feel low or powerless in situations, start seeing that this powerlessness is happening to you. You are not powerless, but it is just happening to you. Both power and powerfulness happen to you alternately. Feelings of powerlessness cannot exist without the feelings of power. They come in and go out. With witnessing, we develop equanimity towards polarities in life.
- When you feel something is repeating in your life, like a belief or pattern — “I am not good enough,” “I am not loved,” “I do not deserve” or “I am not worthy” — start seeing these beliefs as something that belongs to you. They are your own — but, they are not you. Feeling loved and feeling unloved happen to us in different moments of life. Just as we are more attached to the unloved feeling, we let the unloved feeling define us. We say, “I am not loved. No one loves me.” Being a witness, we say these loved and unloved feelings are happening to me. They are coming in and going out. With witnessing, we start undefining ourselves. We let something larger than these limiting definitions take over our life.
Being a witness is moving closer to life. Life is much larger and magnificent than our limiting ideas about it. Witnessing is dropping all that we know about life and living the mystery of life with awe and wonder. It is like returning to the eyes of a baby, eyes filled with wonder and amazement.