Cultivating the Witness
Do you ever catch an unexpected glimpse of your reflection in a mirror or window & get kinda caught off guard?
I remember in college when I had an internship at the neighboring medical university; I didn’t have a car & I’d always be rushing there after classes.
There was this little mirror I’d always walk by that was meant for cars to be able to see their blind spot & I would always catch my reflection in it as I whizzed by & would be caught off guard in witnessing myself.
Have you ever had an experience like that?
“There she goes again…” the observer would say, neutrally witnessing me in my rush.
In the yoga community, I heard a lot about “developing the witness” or “witness consciousness” over the years & for a long time didn’t really understand what it meant.
Developing the witness is about neutrally observing yourself – your thoughts, your patterns, & realizing that you are separate from all of that. The witness allows, accepts, & sees.
So much of my own suffering has come from my own reactions to my thoughts & behaviors. Going down the rabbit hole of spiraling & over-identifying with my thoughts. The truth is, I am not my thoughts.
Sometimes, I’d have a thought that scared me. I’d judge it as wrong & wonder what was wrong with me for thinking something like that. Do you do this, too?
Or I’d push it down, suppressing it, not allowing myself to feel whatever was coming up. Sound familiar?
Sometimes I still get caught in these old patterns, but more often I practice being more neutral, acknowledging my thoughts by witnessing them & knowing they’re just thoughts. They don’t mean anything about the truth of who I am.
As I do this, I feel much more resilient & able to see that I don’t have to identify so strongly with my old narratives or stories.
I aim to spend more time witnessing myself & less time doing mental gymnastics.
I’d love to hear, what does “the witness” mean to you?