What is Witnessing?

What is Witnessing?

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.

Last Updated on April 10, 2014 by

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  12. Guru

    Namaste. you mentioned about makara, focal point. or there other points? what is that light we see in meditation? and sound of eee … you have been guiding me unconditionally on my awakening journey. i am grateful to you for this gesture. otherwise I had to come again next incarnation . Now there is irresistible urge to write a book on self realization. I need your blessings. kindly respond and I will acknowledge this in book. yet to finalize title and publishers. what disturbs me is popular spiritual gurus are preaching their personal philosophy. as you say Vedas are authentic sources. whenever you have shared your experiences it resonates with mine.

    1. Hi Guru
      Yes, makara is a key point because the kundalini no longer goes up and down after it rises to there, through the last cap. This stabilizes certain experiences like witnessing. There are other key points. The book Kundalini Vidya I mention on the Recommended tab discusses this in more detail.

      Light during meditation could be a number of different things. It depends on what is seeing it and where the attention is (what layer or kosha it is on). And even then, there are many things that at first are just light and later become more detailed.

      There are all sorts of sounds that may be heard during meditation for similar reasons. One common one is a constant tone that may be heard as a high pitched tone, as an eee or as a deep rumble. It may also be felt in the body. This is creation being recreated in every moment.

      All of these are content aka experiences. What is important for awakening is recognizing what is experiencing all this, then shifting/ recognizing we are that.

      If you feel a strong movement to write, do so. See where it goes. Sometimes, writing can take one deeper and bring more clarity. It’s very common for several books to be written before there is something that is ready to publish. My first book was much larger but never published, for example. I then split it into 3. And then I just took one section and expanded it out into Our Natural Potential.

      Thanks. Many teachers feel they can only share their own experience. For myself, I find value in early very informed sources, others experiences, and what flows through here. But I’ve been lucky to connect with good sources.

  13. Sanjay

    Hi David

    Am having some underlying health condition that frequently precludes me from having deep restful sleep. Without deep sleep then many times the thoughts are not coherent, emotions are not harmonized and intellect is clouded when faced with everyday life situations. In such circumstances it is difficult to not react in a manner that could seem like an over the top reaction so to speak even when one sometimes is able to see the machinations and the underlying belief systems of the ego that are the cause of these reactions. It seems like unless the underlying medical condition is healed the body/mind would not provide a stable ground/vehicle to progress even to the initial stages of witnessing that you refer to – passing individual witness. Wanted to know your thoughts on this.

    1. Hi Sanjay
      Yes, it’s challenging not to get enough sleep. Fatigue leaves a residue of fog energetically. And it can be very frustrating. These are intense times for many.
      But as Maharishi used to say, if you can think a thought you can meditate. If you can meditate, you will transcend and development will continue. It will be through a fog and much less obvious, but the benefits come anyway.
      As well, meditation can help with supporting the body to heal and will work away at the stress and fatigue.
      Being able to see the machinations is part of the process of winding them down. So it’s very good you’re seeing that, even if it’s not a happy experience.
      Just remember that the ground of progress is under the illness and the stress. It’s certainly preferable to be clear but it’s not an impediment. A friend had her Unity shift the day she died of terminal cancer.
      Remember that karma is in play. Supporting that resolution will help both the illness and the progress.
      The illness will hamper clarity but not progress as long as you don’t stop. What tends to happen is that when clarity returns, only then do you see the progress. Such things can be very grounding too.
      I can note too that some like myself witnessed for a long time before I woke up. Others don’t go through any obvious stages of witnessing. They just pop one day. Nothing is being lost if you’re not having a certain kind of experience. The right experience is what you’re experiencing now and it will continue until the circumstances change. Then there will be a new experience. Experiences always end.
      I hope that’s helpful.

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