As consciousness awakens within, we can have periods of time when we experience being a detached observer or witness of our life. Our life continues but we are no longer seen as the doer. We observe while life continues.
What I describe is not a disassociative state or escape from life’s problems. We don’t get there through avoidance or hanging out in the dreamy astral. This is a shift into consciousness itself, beyond all that. We find it through acceptance of what is here.
If we’re well-rested, this witness may continue throughout waking, dreaming and deep sleep. Alertness continues during dreaming, somewhat like lucid dreams, and we may find we can manipulate and play with them. We watch the body fall asleep and turn into an immovable lump, leaving us in a deep meditative state.
However, as long as there is experiencing taking place, the mind is still awake, and it’s not deep sleep. If the witnessing becomes established, we’ll soon tire of exploring and let it be. We’ll settle into a timeless sleep without content, a form of samadhi.*
The TM organization considers witnessing sleep to be the key marker for Cosmic Consciousness (Self Realization). However, there are some like myself who began witnessing long before the shift. Some other teachers mention witnessing as a possible pre-awakening stage. As I described here, the witness can develop in stages. Self can wake up within but not yet wake up to itself yet. Only the second is true Self Realization.
There can be an expectation that witnessing means waking state 24/7. While there is continuity of awareness, this is not the same as being in waking state. An ongoing experiencing requires the mind to be awake. But the mind is dormant in deep sleep, and we settle into a timeless state that zooms by. When we awaken in the morning, the mind and body change states as usual but the continuity of Self is now unbroken.
This is quite distinct from the usual experience of waking from sleep. Prior to the witness, the me-sense sleeps each night with the mind. It is revived each morning while waking. In other words, we surrender our ego’s control each night. But the ego doesn’t really know this because it’s off-line. It has no awareness of its own.
This becomes very apparent when you observe the personal self waking up and coming on-line, grasping control again as if it had just spaced out for a moment.
Some people confuse witnessing with not being able to fall asleep. They lay on the bed alert, thinking themselves awake when they’re actually in a light sleep.
Believe it or not, awakening is easier than falling asleep. The trick is, we have to let go of control consciously. That’s not something we’ve ever done. Often, it takes cranking up the intensity of presence or Self before that happens. This is why shifts often happen around very awake people.
Sometimes, we can seem to have an awakening but not quite make the shift. The physiology is not yet ready to support it. Sometimes, the shift can happen but we fall back into the mind for a time. Further processing is needed to support the shift. At some point, the shift will become clear and can then be embodied.
Witnessing brings with it a continuity of Self but may not yet be Self Realization.
*just like a meditative samadhi, there will be periods of transcendence in sleep, leading to the pausing of breath. This is distinct from sleep apnea as became clear in a sleep test I did a few years ago.