In his interview on Buddha at the Gas Pump, Andrew Hewson talked (~1:20:00) about masculine and feminine forms of witnessing.
This was an interesting take I’d not considered prior. I’ve talked about stages of witnessing and witnessing from mind, jiva, and atman (awakening). But these are from the observer or masculine side of consciousness, the Shiva aspect.
When in Unity (or having tastes of), you shift in consciousness into objects of experience, like a tree or cat. You can be witnessing as the observer or shifting into the observed or feminine side where the aliveness value of consciousness is most prominent.
Then you’re in a feminine form of witnessing. I would say this is a less neutral and more personal style of experience. Becoming the observed is what makes Unity a very intimate stage.
I have no idea how typical becoming the observed as a witness vs as an object is, but it is an option. It’s all consciousness.
The interview itself started a little stiffly, with Rick debating his initial impression of Andrew’s description, then mellowed well.
the two forms of approaching Being takes an already profound topic deeper into a place of profoundity. it leaves the mind sitting on the curb wondering what just happened while some part that is more indefinable goes off to explore – Thanks!
Exactly, Harrison. Thanks.
One of the highlights of a great interview. As I think you and Andrew have noted in your recent conversations, terminology can be tricky because of different backgrounds. Here, at about 1:17:40, Andrew makes a distinction between observing and witnessing, as he uses the terms. “I refer to ‘observing’ as the dynamic feminine aspect and then ‘witnessing’ as the changeless masculine aspect.” Interesting that he mentions long-term meditators such as from the TM movement tending to shift naturally to the silent, more masculine aspect of witnessing, then he goes into his discussion of his approach, involving dynamic, intentional, devotional presence of observation. I also like Rick’s own description of his experience of both imperturbable silence that abides, together with a gentle, non-manipulative self-scrutiny, which would be much more subtle than those words imply. With the rise in collective consciousness and more attention being directed to the heart these days, I suspect the prominence or at least presence of the “aliveness value of consciousness,” as you put it, is becoming more common. That’s what I’ve been experiencing – using that word loosely – with guidance from some wonderful teachers (whom you know).
Thanks, John. Yes, technique can have an influence on how we develop within. Also our understanding and orientation. And the degree of atman and sattva, consciousness and refinement, that we bring forward from prior lives.
TM does culture both refinement and transcendence but there is some favouring of the masculine in the philosophy around it. They celebrate the Divine feminine but there is less overt devotional practice even than in the lineage itself. It remains a secular adaptation.
Andrew is much more on the devotional side.
And yes, a lot more collective talk about embodiment and the heart now. And people experiencing flow prior to waking. More signs of growth of collective consciousness. 🙂
Andrew and I have another conversation scheduled next week.
With regard to “becoming the observed,” I remember many years ago a friend – a long term meditator – smiled at me as she handed me a cup of tea and in that instant I did not know if I was her or she was me. The boundaries of identity simply melted away. It was entirely unexpected but we were both in a state of stillness. Is that what is being referred to here?
I liked the term “non-dual devotion” in the talk. And that “God” was frequently referred to without embarrassment, a rare occurrence among non-dualists at least in my experience. My most pivotal and profound spiritual experience of this life came, ironically, while I was an atheist. (There were no drugs or other substances involved.) I was abruptly, shockingly and very forcefully pulled up out of my body and into “God” one night. (It is the only way I can describe this experience.)
I know the trigger, I think. For some reason I had become implacably focused on no-thought that evening, and this culminated in this experience.
Amazing to me as this seems now, I didn’t know there was such a thing as meditation at the time. I thought the term referred to some vaguely romantic type of reflection – “meditations on a songbird” sort of thing. However I found the world a deeply disturbing place (which disclosed no sign of God that I could see) and to get away from my unhappiness I had gotten into the habit of closing my eyes and stopping my thoughts for 10, 15, and then 60 minutes at a time. (At 18 or 19, in a world that was not so hyper-stimulated as today, this was doable.) I found this made me feel better, so I persisted. I soon noticed that my attention appeared to be drawn to a point between my eyebrows, which was sufficiently odd to make me pursue it. The experience of God came maybe weeks later, I don’t remember.
If I had to ascribe a quality to God I would say love, although the initial experience of being pulled up was one of frightening power, i.e. I experienced/observed it as such. I then merged into (ceased to observe) – whether momentarily or for longer I have no idea – this… I would have to say Being (rather than “field”) that I have to characterise as both Love and God, the two being interchangeable at least in my own experience.
I know that others have experienced things very differently, which is fitting since “God” would not be God if God were finite and susceptible to being labelled. I think I simply experienced one facet, which nevertheless had the taste of the Absolute. It wasn’t “bliss” – or at least not the nectar of bliss that I’ve experienced on occasion but that was a mere shadow of this experience of Love which was also Presence.
Some days later I experienced/observed what I later came to understand was my heart chakra, opening fully.
What remained with me after the “God” experience though was a sense of Presence which I could not help but feel the deepest devotion for.
Presence implies or at least is experienced in daily existence as a duality – I experience/am aware of Presence – even though the “God” experience itself was non-dual in the sense that “I” disappeared.
Shortly afterwards I came across non-duality teachings. They rang true to me but I couldn’t fully reconcile them with my experience of God. Although I entered God, so to speak, I could not say that I was God in that moment. I was simply absent is some paradoxical way. It was like experiencing nothing and something at the same time. I, the observer wasn’t present any longer, but returned as “I” fell back into my body. I had only one desire and that was to return to this state – which I gradually realised was not compatible with physical plane living. It was a Grace but not supposed to be the primary focus of this life I reluctantly came to understand. It was all consuming. It left no room for living or breathing.
On the question of observing, when I was very small, maybe five?, I remember one night experiencing/observing myself as power. Not power over, or powerful, but simply power with no personal qualification attached to it. I simply was power. But this was a different type of experience from my experience of God in that I was aware of myself as power. It was a feeling of great fullness and contentment but it wasn’t completely overwhelming. I’ve often thought of this recently. Neither love nor truth/light/wisdom nor power is enough on its own I’ve come to realise. Each requires the other two to be complete, at least in the field of manifestation. Where does peace/stillness fit into this? Love/Truth/Power are something. They can be experienced. Peace is No-thing. Certainly peacefulness can be experienced, but Peace? In what Rick Archer described I think as “imperturbable stillness” (?) there is no observed and observer. Although now I am forced to acknowledge that that is how I experienced Love too. There was no observed or observer. There was just Love, as a Presence and an Absolute. All very confusing. Perhaps it is just a matter of degree. The world seems too vast to comprehend in its entirety. Maybe we have to allow it some mystery out of humility?
On the first part, yes. In usual witnessing we step back into being the observer or witness of our actions. Instead of being the doer we just observe the doing. Your example I’d call a taste of Unity where we step out of experiencing from here. In a sense you stepped into her observer but from your default, she was your observed. 🙂
In Unity itself, you contain both and more. The default point of experience is from here, this body-mind, but you can shift around anywhere within the container you’ve recognized to be yourSelf.
Yes, and Andrew is speaking of actual nonduality as well. Many nondualists are actually in a dualist stage but discount the separate world as illusion. In true nondualism, you also are the world.
Thanks for sharing. Later, when God becomes established in the experience, it won’t be elsewhere. God infuses everything.
Sounds like you have a past life history with meditation, even if it wasn’t something you’d been exposed to yet this time. Most people don’t find such capability quickly.
Yes, God goes deeper than bliss. And yes, the presence of the Divine does result in devotion – whatever form that takes for you.
And yes, we can’t stay in samadhi all the time. And it’s not useful to try to hold on to or regain an experience that came and went. We’re here to live a life and grow spiritually. Then we can bring aspects of that transcendent experience into our day-to-day life and embody flavours of Divinity in life. That will bring us the best long term results.
I refer to that power as Shakti. That is one part of your cosmic nature. We could say an aspect of the Divine but when its experienced as here and a universal thing, thats the cosmic.
I use a 7 level model where embodiment means all 7, power being one, love another, etc. The chakras, the koshas and other models reflect this.
Peace/ stillness is the non-changing absolute, Shiva, observer. Deep enough and you step beyond consciousness awake to itself. Simple empty alertness. But then there is nothing to experience. Power, love, presence, etc are Shakti, the expression, flow. Self Realization is waking up to our nature as the first. Unity is waking up the second. The flow swallows the silence and they become one. 🙂
Once consciousness wakes up to itself fully, then it can transcend itself in Brahman. That’s quite distinct. I have articles here on all of these topics. And an article coming up with a table comparing models of the layers.
I would suggest peace can be experienced. But there is also a deeper silence that is beyond that.
Another thing you’re confusing is perspective. Each stage has it’s own sense of reality, it’s own perspective. We can have tastes well in advance of the stage but tastes are not a full knowing of the reality. They open things up (or indicate that) but reality really shifts when we live it.
From the perspective here, it is our essential nature so is inherently knowable. But it takes time to unfold. The humility comes in the recognition of its incredible vastness and completeness, of which each of us are points of light.
I was JUST talking about this, but didn’t create a term for feminine style witnessing. Also, at first the sense of witness seemed pretty indexed to watching “behind” or through my own particular body, but at some point in time, the sense moved to being “behind” and within everything. This thread was helpful to read!
Good to “hear” from you. Here, I’ve noticed the witness tends to start more “locally” and often has a sense of “behind”, like we’ve shifted from being in the head to being a little up and back behind it. We’re “watching” from a more neutral observer space.
Later, that tends to expand out and become infinite. There is still the tendency to experience mainly from here, through this body-mind or point of observation but it’s no longer limited to that.
Later, in the lead-up to Unity (or tastes thereof), there can be that sense of consciousness being “behind” and within everything. I sometimes use the analogy of consciousness being like a movie screen on which the appearance of the world is playing. We become conscious of the screen.
That also tends to expand out into increasing inclusivity. At some point, the sense of “screen” (Chhandas value) is seen through and that boundary falls too.
This is the way I typically frame it. The distinction here is when you shift from:
a) the local observer vantage point noticing the consciousness within is also the consciousness “behind” appearances
b) observing from other points, from the forms of the world (relative to the default observer). It’s a change in point of observation where the feminine becomes the masculine or the masculine feminine. They’re moving into or have become one.
It’s not a change but a different way of framing it I found insightful.
Lovely, David. Yes, there is very often a sense of living through the whole world- all the parts and the beyond words Wholeness all at once.