Who am I? Do you remember the first time you asked yourself this question?
I was a teenager when I first asked the question at a depth unfamiliar to me. I was washing my hands and then looked in the mirror. In that instant I felt a separation, something I never felt before. There was my reflection in the mirror and here I was standing in front of it. Another part of me was watching the whole thing. And that is when I asked myself: who are you?
I felt I wasn’t only my body and thoughts, there was something else. I couldn’t understand it … I freaked out. I tried as much as possible to avoid this experience.
Much later I realized that unknowingly I awakened to the part of me that is much deeper … it was the silent witness within—the observer.
Over the years I learned to embrace it without trying to intellectually understand it. I can’t grasp something that’s bigger than my mind with my mind. The only thing I know is that it’s there.
At this point you want to know why we should care about the witness within. The answer is simple. It’s the part of you that gives you tremendous power to consciously change your life.
Who (what) is the witness within?
Breathe in, hold for a second, and breathe out. … move your finger, wiggle your toes.
Can you look at your body and your emotional state as a third person viewing you at this moment?
Who is thinking these thoughts? Who’s breathing? Who is moving your fingers and wiggling your toes? Who is recognizing your body and your mind?
It’s really hard to describe this dimension of being that we can’t fully comprehend. It doesn’t mean we can’t try though. The witness is:
A deeper level of awareness
You are a multi-dimensional being. The witness comes from a much deeper level of awareness, beyond the physical and emotional planes. It is the part of you that observes your thoughts, actions and feelings. Just like you are a thinker, you are a witness.
Vast and timeless
It’s the the container, the space for the thinker, the experiencer and every other dimension of you to be witnessed.
The witness doesn’t age or grow, doesn’t learn or unlearn. It’s there beyond time and space—observing the other parts of you.
Detached and surrendered
The witness within you takes note of every single thing in your life without attachment to outcomes, without expectations, without labels, without judgment, and without bias. Nothing is right or wrong, good or bad—everything just is.
In our outer conditioned world, we pay more attention to the results of our thoughts and actions, where we can’t change the outcome. What’s done is done; there is no taking back.
What if you started from a place where you have control … you have a say?
When you pay attention to the choices you’re making right now, you will make more supportive choices.
We make the most conscious choices when we witness our actions and thoughts.
When you witness what you’re experiencing, you give yourself a chance to step back and assess if you’re heading in the right direction. You start making minor changes and tweaks to what you’re thinking and doing. As you keep at it, gradually you change how you experience life.
The witness is within you at this moment, this pure scared moment that holds your future. The choices you make today will determine who you will be.
Awaking in practice
How can we tune into our inner witness?
We all do it at one point or another. Some of us are more aware of it than others. To awaken, start to consciously pay more attention to your thoughts and actions. Become aware of that part of you that is observing.
Here are a couple of recommendations for you.
1. Practice meditation or stillness
Gaining more awareness of our depth is one of the main reasons to meditate.
When you sit in stillness and focus on your breath or just follow your thoughts as they come and go, you enter the witness state.
Spend a few minutes in stillness and observe. That’s all you need. For more information check out this article (scroll down to the meditation part).
2. Recap your day
I first heard of the concept from a Chopra meditation teaching and found it quite helpful.
We usually rush through our day then crash, get up and repeat the same thing. The recapping process allows us to stop and witness 18 hours of our day.
The last thing before you go to sleep close your eyes and fast forward through your day from the moment you woke up till the present moment. It’s like going through a movie of your day on fast forward with no sound or commentary. Watch your entire day in 5 minutes without judgment or opinions.
If your attention drifts away gently bring it back to your day’s movie.
This practice allows you to process what went through your day and let go of excess mental and emotional baggage. You will feel lighter as you continue to release past experiences.
You become more of aware of your body’s response at the cellular level. Your body knows what feels good and what doesn’t; it naturally gravitates towards the experiences that serve you. Over time you gradually start choosing more nurturing experiences.
The witness within is the part of you that allows you to make conscious choices by connecting you to your current choices and experiences. As you make more conscious choices you change your life—you reshape your destiny.
William S Burroughs said: nothing exists until or unless it is observed. Awaken to the witness, embrace the witness and live with all your being.
Photo courtesy of Hartwig HKD