The timeless witness or watcher is that space of clarity and oneness that reside in all of us. I often describe it like falling backwards out of myself and into everything so that even the original ego, “I,” is not excluded, although initially there is this quality of separation that I feel. Through that initial separation, you may feel the claws of fear trying to hold you into your ego identity, and they may come at you with a variety of reasons why you cannot fully let go into this profound presence. So for the purpose of this aspect of embodying a spiritual awakening, I feel like offering a few words to point you along the way so that you find comfort in the space that is.
This Is Only You and There Is Only Everything
The beautiful melting of duality leads us to the truth that everything is one. Everything is connected. Losing our boundaries means becoming limitless. Yet in dipping into these deep, still waters of love, we can more firmly live in the physical world and follow our hearts. In melting into boundarilessness, we return understanding what appropriate boundaries are so that we let kindness in and shut out the cold harshness of ego, needless separation, and fear. In truth, we are seeing clearly, and this clear sight allows us to navigate the vagaries of the world in integrity.
Consider that many of you have been blindfolded your whole lives. Initially taking the blindfold off is a blinding experience no matter how dim the lights are. You feel like you can’t see in this world. It’s all too much. Perhaps this is another way to describe awakening. Then you acclimate. You get used to what you see. Your eyes begin to function normally, and then you can see clearly. You can see the whole world before you, and what was once dark is now light. This doesn’t mean that you project your ideas onto the whole world, and it doesn’t mean that you only see the glass as half full. You see the glass and whatever amount of water is in it as it is. That actually leads to very practical, clear decision-making, such as perhaps filling up the glass the rest of the way.
Practicing Letting Go Into the Witness
Because we are so used to getting caught up in our internal stories and the actions of the world, we are all mostly out of practice with letting go and watching from the space of the witness or watcher. Initially, most people confuse this as some kind of passive, disinterested place of awareness, but the witness is not that. The witness is very actively aware of what is going on, and as you practice melting into this space, you begin to see more about what is really going on. This is a powerful tool, and of course, as you own the responsibility of it, it becomes more readily accessible. It is not a space that we go to in order to discern secrets about others. Rather, we go to it discern the secrets we are holding about ourselves. We are watching how we move in the world even as we are in action, and we discern where we get lost in stories and external events. We are following the hooks and vines that we’ve latched onto external things and relationships back to their sources in ourselves to find their core stories so that we can cleanly uproot them and free ourselves. This is one of the most sacred ways we bring the witness into our lives.
If you have never done this, meditation is always a great place to start. This is where most people first notice that they are miserable. Most people also blame mediation as why they are miserable. They can’t stand their thoughts. They can’t stand their physical discomfort. They can’t stand their emotions. They can’t stand themselves. This is the sad truth. But until we start to acknowledge what is in our space, we are powerless to change it.
Waking Up Into the Space of the Watcher
For those of you who have awakened, you may have been immediately thrust into this space. Everyone has a different experience with awakening. Some just feel bliss. Some feel profound sadness and pain. Some are quiet and desire-free. The latter is often my experience of the watcher. It tends to be neutral, or at least it was for me at first. As I drift deeper into it, all the sensations and emotions blend together. So there is a very real quality of love there as well as inner stillness, clear sight about what is real, and freedom from desire. For those of you who are new to the space of the watcher, it can feel great, but old ego programming can rush in to spoil it because it doesn’t know what it is. This, too, is an unfortunate game of the ego mind; the mind always has to know. But there is nothing to know here. There is just being. To return to this space requires letting go of the need to know something. Or if you still need something, all I can say is that, “You are that which always is.” That’s it. Now steep into these waters and melt away.
This state will change too. So the way the watcher feels isn’t always the same. It has shifting flavors, and for me, it is stepping forward into my regular life as any ego hooks that I have melt away. Each time we shed an old issue, fear, desire, or something else inhibiting our natural way of living, the inner witness fills that emptied space. In many respects, the spiritual path is a big housecleaning job, and you are the head maid. I hope you’ve got a lot of cleaner for the scum in the bathroom.
Continuing to Melt and Meeting New Issues
In many ways, this space is alive and forceful too. So while it can feel very soft and serene, this serenity has great power to shift many things. It turns up the heat on all of your issues so that each time you step back into the ego self for whatever reason, the aspects of it that are not true to your expression in this lifetime become clearer and clearer. So you step back in, and suddenly you realize how mean you are to your children. To speak harshly to them makes you cry. Or you step back in and you are sitting at your job listening to your boss yell at another employee, and suddenly you have to speak up against this vocal abuse. This is the power of touching that deep inner space that simply is. As I repeatedly say on this blog, the spiritual path does not make you passive. It simply makes it clear what you do need to do and what doesn’t need any doing at all. We all continue to paddle our boats through the rivers of our lives and make choices on how much to paddle and how to avoid the rocks and logs that may bar our passage.
Having the Courage to Let Go
Initially, letting go seems like a great burden. The ego is afraid it will be lost. It will be. But it is already lost. It doesn’t know where it’s going. Most people have no idea where they are going, are paddling upstream, are stuck on rocks in the river, or have thoroughly beached themselves. That’s why to suddenly step into the currents of the divine is so overwhelming. In my latest metaphor for this spiritual awakening blog post, you will suddenly feel swept away. What is sweeping you away? You are.
So many people don’t understand why their lives get turned upside-down with awakening. It’s because you already were upside-down. Awakening helps you to see that, and then almost all of us feel our natural inclination to become rightside-up. It’s natural. It’s unavoidable unless we resist, and where we resist on this path, we will feel so much pain and discomfort that it’s almost indescribable.
Embracing the Space of the Witness; Embracing Nothing
Some of you may still want a little more direction than I have given, but it truly is simply a matter of letting go. The more you let go, the more you naturally are the witness. There is nothing to embrace. How would you get your arms around all of consciousness if you no longer have arms anyway? You simply melt into everything like the ice cube that has become water vapor. But you are not lost. You are at peace. You continue to reside longer and longer in this peace when there is nothing that you want from the world. When you desire nothing from the world, the whole world become a beautiful place because everything is a gift.
I often see in my social media streams people commenting on pictures where a child has become fascinated by a rock or a shell. This is the space of the innocent witness, and from this innocence, the child naturally reaches forth to engage with this world. Again and again, the child finds great joy in his/her feet, old cans, twine, and rubber balloons. Isn’t this beautiful?
But we are not children, and what we do is become the mindful watcher, the wise witness. We can see all of life around us. We can see the timeless nature of it, and we can see how duality demands certain things of us in the space of time (like picking the kids up on time from school). We know that fire burns, so we don’t stick our hands in it. We know there is pain and pleasure on this world, and we can mindfully choose what we cultivate. This is a key difference from the space of the innocent witness, and it is what will naturally grow within you if you let it.
Letting Go Again and Again and Again
I know I’ve used the phrase letting go a lot, but I’ll continue to use it a lot more. Letting go is one of the greatest aspects of the spiritual path because we truly can keep nothing, and holding onto things, memories, and relationships brings great misery. Try holding on to a tree branch as you flow down the river, and suddenly the current is pushing you harder and harder. Sure it was a beautiful branch and part of a beautiful tree, but you have to let it go before the river overwhelms your boat.
It’s why we have to be present as well to our lives. Everything is so fleeting and so beautiful, and in the world of duality, it is all so brief. That beautiful relationship, embrace, job, or whatever will not last, so enjoy it fully while it’s here. Then let it go. Stay engaged with the world, but also stay in love and stay in stillness within. The more you let go, the more this will simply be what you do, and the more you will flow through your life.