It’s common to see awareness and the witness as one and the same. The witness is subjective and cannot be awareness, cannot be consciousness which is beyond subject or object. Even though witnessing is not the holy grail, it is still an important step out of identification, a movement beyond the normal way most human’s unwittingly view the world in bits and pieces — mind, body, world — through the lens of separation.
Years back, when my teacher pointed to the witness, I stumbled in my attempts to find it. What do you mean be the witness? How do I step back from my experience and simply watch it? Maybe I was a dunce, probably so, because for many on the path my inability seems incredulous. For me at the time, it was far from it. I was fully committed to the idea that my thoughts and my experiences were reality.
It’s kind of crazy thinking back to how dense a view of life I had.
Once I discovered the witness it should have been hard to misplace it, although seeing it for what it is, a baby step on the path of total freedom, is not a straightforward step. It was easy to say, “Yeah, I know the witness, now what? It’s so basic, so obvious, it can’t be important.”
But it is.
Remaining as the witness begins the process of stripping away the idea of experience being reality, being who I am. Can’t tell you how many ways I tried to spin that one before I finally let it percolate and permeate body mind and spirit and even then there were holdouts that I didn’t see, that I carefully hid from myself. Seeing those required many more inning ensconced in the game.
Even though the witness is a baby step, it puts space between the activity of consciousness and consciousness. It escalates the neti, neti process — I am not this, not this — so we can see more clearly. It opens the mind to see beyond the programming, beyond the deeply instilled beliefs. Seeing makes space to see more, to see what we cannot see until the next space opens up.
From that well-worn, lived-into baby step, the next openings organically appear. Witnessing requires you to be here, to remain present. To witness is to be ejected from the ballgame. It doesn’t even allow kibitzing from the bench. The more you commit to witnessing, the more times you notice you’re back in the game and stop, the greater the commitment becomes. True commitment, commitment born from the dissonance of sitting on the bench when you want to, and sometimes do, jump back into the game, eventually stops you when you feel the urge to grab the bat, step up to the plate and take a swing.
The witness is a short-term step. It isn’t a final one. It’s simply a stopping that allows you to see what really is, to explore the nature of the witness, of awareness, to see whether it really is subjective. It slows the game down enough that you can see the bat strike the ball, feel the contact and force that sends it flying. You observe, witness what’s happening as if from within the action.
While you are playing the game that’s not possible. There’s a you, a game, and the action. It will always be the case while you’re a player.
Seeing that, stopping and discovering the nature of the witness, isn’t the last inning. It’s an opening into extras, an eternality of extras that continues to explore some pretty delicious possibilities like: What is the game? In what does it appear? What is it made of?
The Big Game is endless not in a time-bound way, but as timelessness, as now. It is placeless, although it always takes place right here. You will continue to be hooked by the game, its scores, and its abundance of plays until you risk stepping of the field.
It might seem boring, not what you are looking for at all. You want the extraordinary states. Right? That’s the very same reason you get hooked by the game. It’s awesome. It’s wild and unpredictable. It draws you in, suits you up, and sends you out to run the diamond.
Stopping is required if you want to discover another level to the game. It’s that simple.