More on Stages of Witnessing

More on Stages of Witnessing

There are many nuances in the approach to awakening and in awakening itself. Self Realization is a watershed moment in the history of our soul. A new birth into a new way of being.

I’ve written many articles on the approach including Gradations of Awakening, What is Witnessing?, and The Stages of Witnessing.

In the later article, I talked about non-abiding witnessing, abiding witnessing and actual Self Realization as 3 possible stages in the approach to awakening. Recently, Lorne Hoff spoke of the steps in another way. I realized this added a fourth possibility.

1) The mind can become alert to the uninvolved observing Self. Mind is aware of the witness. This may come up gradually or come as a distinct experience. If it remains clear, mind can notice the “watcher” at any time. Ego may use this to create stories of being awake.

This can also arise in disconcerting ways, like a sense of being watched by another within. Or becoming alert during sleep and finding ourselves unable to move the body. Happily, such episodes are not common.

2) A more distinct round of witnessing can make it very clear we are that, but if the physiology is not ready to sustain it, it will fade sooner or later. (described in the prior article)

3) A true awakening of the observer or jiva value. The alertness is permanent and sustained through waking, dreaming, and sleeping states. We are awake within but it’s still local and not yet infinite. It may feel very expansive and peaceful and eternal. But until Self wakes up to itself, it’s not quite it. We observe the person but not the Self.

4) Actual Self Realization. Atman wakes up to itself in the jiva. We become the cosmic witness, the infinite observer. We are everywhere and liberated. When you look at someone awake, you can see the same Self in their eyes. (assuming there is resonance)

Some people just wake up in Self Realization. But a few have distinctive tastes or even a jiva awakening prior. Some may even step through all 4 steps in the process though I’m not aware of any examples of that. I did 2, 3, & 4 though.  🙂

Update:  I would further add that witnessing changes in Unity stage as the witness merges with the objects of perception, creating one wholeness. There is no longer a sense of being a detached witness but rather no distinction.

Last Updated on December 11, 2019 by Davidya

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  1. Milo

    Maybe this will be useful to a reader. My experience via a drug induced awakening was opening to Nothing, and knowing that as my root identity. This gave rise to a spiritual “self” confidence, however there was still a relationship there to that Nothing. I believe it is quite common for many to think this is realisation and a kind of re-identification and relationship with nothing happens. I have been with many teachers and it was clear there was still a somebody in most cases relating to space or nothing as opposed to a nobody behind the body talking from and as space. Many years later the Nothing within has been pouring thru the senses into the without such that within and without merge in existential reality as an abiding “I am a Mirror” or pure seeing.

    1. Hi Milo
      I’ve met a few people who had a drug-induced shift of some kind. Even a true awakening. However, this tends to bring a few issues:
      – coming in an altered state, there is often some distortion
      – it is usually experience-driven so it can be unclear what part is experience and what the actual shift
      – drug experiences often create energetic residues which reduce clarity and can get in the way of progress.

      I speak less in terms of “nothing” because here, it has been a fullness rather than emptiness.

      What you first describe sounds like a variation of #2. There is a recognition of that deeper sense of being but we’re still distinct from it. That may come with an observing witness (the above topic) or not.

      I would also note a distinction between householders and renunciates. Renunciates will emphasize a “no one here” style. Householders continue to live in the world and will express more of a personality. They live that along with the inner realizations. They no longer experience themselves as a person but they “have” a person.

      But yes, there are certainly teachers out there with an incomplete awakening and a well-identified person still active. Even renunciate-style people who profess no one here with an active unconscious identity still in play.

      In any case, it takes time for the realizations to unfold and to mature into a well-integrated and embodied example.

      If you explore the blog, you’ll find I talk extensively about further stages of development as this is not widely understood yet. I hope to publish a book this summer on the topic too.

  2. milo

    Thanks David. I started following this blog for the reason you were talking about the stages, as it’s not widely reported. I found articulation in some of Meher Baba work and also Barry Long, an Australian spiritual master. They were definitely something else those two to me, which again reinforced the levels. Barry talked about teachers, preachers and Masters and Meher had a 7 stage outline all the way to the Avataric. Food for the mind 🙂

    1. Yes, food for the mind. But the larger point is assisting people who are making these shifts. This is becoming much more common in recent years.

      For some, the shifts are clear and come with their own understanding. But this is not always the case. If some sense of what is unfolding is not there, it can take longer to integrate and we can get in the way of the process.

  3. Amaryllis

    I was happy to read this, as I have not heard it described: “This can also arise in disconcerting ways…becoming alert during sleep and finding ourselves unable to move the body.”

    It (I think) explains something that happens sometimes, which is that I don’t lose awareness during sleep (not that this happens often). Or maybe you are describing something different, because it never occurs to me to try and move my body.

    It’s more like there is a watching presence that is the same energy pattern that is always subtly present, but it is more ubiquitous than the localised energy of my individual ‘s’elf, … I am having a hard time clearly describing it…

    Anyway, it’s a strange experience, at least to my ego/mind ‘s’elf…

    1. Hi Amaryllis

      That hadn’t come up for me either. When I first noticed this, I was already familiar with the idea. It depends on what state we’re in. If we’re having sensory experiences, then mind is awake and its not deep sleep. But the body can be in a passive state and unresponsive. If we’re more in dream state, mind is awake, but the body will still not be responsive the way it is in waking state.

      It also depends on our response to the experience. If there is little fear, its just an interesting experience. If there is a lot of fear, it can really stir things up.

      Yes, that’s exactly it. More expanded. Perhaps the sense of observing from behind the head.

      Later, it can become quite normal and ordinary. Although it’s more a continuity of self than experiences all night. With the mind asleep in deep sleep, there is no experiencing.

      And yet the experiencer is awake, without content. This is when these distinctions begin to become more important.

  4. Amaryllis

    Hi David,

    Yes, that’s it exactly!: “Perhaps the sense of observing from behind the head.” & “Although it’s more a continuity of self than experiences all night.”

    As I have mentioned (many times!), I do not consider myself to be awake, which, when contemplating this unusual occurrence of witnessing during sleep, leaves me with an inquiry, ‘who/what is watching?’

    The immediate answer is: A sense of space; nothing more, nothing less. It has been like this for a few years now. I used to think I was stuck, but now I’m just being with the sense of space, or the sense of contraction, or whatever is happening, and staying away from trying to figure it out, which seems to be an effort to control disguised as a perfectly reasonable question.

    And my take on me ‘deciding’ to simply be (instead of trying to figure it out), is that at the moment I seem to have some control over my actions. I intuitively understand (and occasionally experience) that individuals have no control, but more often, my lived experience is that I do. It seems that if that is where my experience is, then I am in integrity by doing what seems natural. If (when) I see more ongoing that I have no control, I imagine that the controller will fade away. Or do you see this (I guess I’m talking about free will and surrender) as something that I *should* actively be doing… I am guessing you have written about this elsewhere on the blog…

    Anyway, thank You David 🙂

    1. Hi Amaryllis

      Right – so the space is awake to you and observing. You are also awake to the space. As this is more or less ongoing, then it’s #3 in the article above.

      At some point, you’ll be ready for the next step and the space will wake up to itself. Not you noticing the space and vice versa but the space knowing the space.

      That question about what is watching is still worth pursuing. Not to figure anything out by the mind. As you mention, thats just an effort to control or explain it away. I mean a noticing what is here? If it feels artificial in any way, just let it go. Let it arise naturally. You have the right attitude.

      Later on, the question will come – what does have control when the individual doesn’t seem to have it? What changes here is just perspective. The personal controller does fade, yes. But there are higher motivators that kick in.

      (laughs) Yeah. I even gave a talk on the subject a few years ago.

      You’re very welcome.

      1. Amaryllis

        Great clarifications in your reply 🙂

        & hopefully it’s ok if I repost from the link (above), because what you wrote is so clear:

        “Through the further process of refinement, more and more seems to be about the flow, the hand of God. A growing sense of rightness and perfection dawns. We are back in a dominant deterministic perspective, but in a much higher value. We are not the victim but rather the expression.

        Then comes the second waking and the discovery that that which is determining is the same as that which wills. All is one. We are both the determinism and the the determined. Thus the paradox is resolved.

        In the end, it is not free will vs determinism, it is free will creating determinism. They are 2 aspects of the one.”

        1. Sure – the language I use has changed a bit since then (9 years ago!). But that was closer to the shifts so in some ways is fresher. The nuances tend to blur in time. (laughs)

          “Second waking” is the Unity shift. The Upanishads have called it such and the “third birth.” That’s when real non-duality begins.

  5. Judith Mansell

    There seems to be no end to this process of realization, of unity, probably because the One in charge of it is the God of all possibilities. We each are the potential for realization of each possibility.. Hence infinity and eternity.. The more we become aware and awake in this journey as witness, the greater the awe and the joy. The fuel is Love.

    1. Hi Judith
      Yes, from a Kala model, we can only get about half way up the scale in a human body. There is extensive possibility. And yes, each of us are essentially another perspective of wholeness so our own path will be somewhat unique.
      Even witness itself is only part of the journey. I mention the merging in Unity. In Brahman we transcend consciousness and the witness. It is Brahman that knows Brahman.
      And yes, Love plays a key role in unfolding the fullness.
      Thanks for commenting.

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