There is a subject I’ve not explored quite like this before. That’s of the 3 kinds of witnessing. Many don’t notice the first kinds but they’re prevalent enough that some teachers describe a stage before Self Realization.
At first we experience passing glimpses of presence, also known as Transcendental Consciousness or Samadhi. Perhaps in a deep meditation or out in nature, or in the zone in sports or moved by music. We spontaneously settle into a present now. The flow of time seems to cease. As this deepens and becomes more consistent, that inner alertness becomes clear enough to continue through all the varieties of the contents of experience. Then it is called Witnessing.
Witnessing is the sense of being the detached observer. Prior to this, we would identify ourselves as being this body, emotions and/or mind or its contents (eg: I think, therefore I am). After the shift we experience ourselves as an observer of them. Life goes on, apparently without our active participation. We’re quietly aware throughout waking, dreaming and sleep states of consciousness as our mind and body go on about their day. Life is like breathing, on a kind of automatic.
And no, this is not a dissociative disorder. We experience ourselves as being deep peace and solid, eternal presence. The world is seen as separate and somewhat or distinctly illusory. Deep happiness may well up within.
The distinction here is that there is more than one form of this: Passing Individual Witness, Ongoing Individual Witness and the Cosmic Witness.
The first kind arises when the kundalini shakti rises to the third eye chakra and we shift into observer mode. Often we just notice the shift into the witness, not the shakti. But at this point, the kundalini is not yet stable, so this witness will come and go like any passing experience. We may witness for a few moments or weeks, but then it passes.
When the kundalini shakti penetrates the final “cap” and reaches makara, the kundalini stabilizes and thus also the individual witness. The witness becomes ongoing.
The Self is then awake to its focal point in a person. We observe the life of the person. We might call this the Individual Witness, soul awakening, Self consciousness or jiva awakening.
But this is not Self Realization. We have not fully awakened and the ego is still identified, even if there is some detachment from it. We still get drawn into life’s dramas but the backdrop of consciousness is always there. At this stage we can become very conscious of the ego’s machinations and how our attempts to overcome the ego are also coming from the ego. The ego battles itself to distract us from seeing through it. It can even use memories of spiritual experiences to fake being Self. Some realize the quandary and wonder how they’ll ever escape the ego’s grip. I was somewhat horrified by the prospect myself.
But happily, it’s not something “I” needed to do. When the shift into Self Realization or Cosmic Consciousness takes place, the Self wakes up to Itself, through the apparent person. In other words, we become a witness to the individual witness and its contents. Awareness becomes aware of itself being aware. It is another stage deeper and is the true, permanent shift in being that is the foundation of enlightenment.
If there is a “partial” (unclear) or non-abiding awakening, there can be a sense of shifting in and out of witnessing or of shifting between individual and cosmic forms. It also somewhat depends on the style of our shift as to how dominant the witness is. But the always-present inner awakeness is the common symptom. Even if the witness fades, it soon returns again illustrating an issue with clarity rather than shakti.
At first the cosmic witness can be very high contrast. We can feel very distinct from our “inner” life and our experience of the world. Over time, this “softens” and becomes more normal.
In due course, the cosmic witness can begin to seem to fade. This may concern some but is actually a symptom of it deepening. The contrast and separation can gradually fade as we move toward Unity. With the Unity shift, the relationship changes completely. We remain awareness but all divisions or separations are gradually dissolved into one wholeness.
Thus, clearly the distinct witness is a phase even though that witnesses becomes the ground of everything that follows. We don’t stop being consciousness until Brahman.