In our third discussion on Witness meditation—a technique that focuses on the silent Self within–we will explore ways to discern the witness from ordinary ego-consciousness. At this time, it’s also important to reiterate that this technique is ideal for students new to meditation because it enables them to take one of the first steps on the spiritual path of Yoga, a path which ultimately leads to consciousness of the Divine Self within. –Previous post in this series.
In the Presence of the Self
Know that you are That. Be silent and find such inner knowledge for yourself … In that silence, realize your true nature. There are no words to describe it. (Swami Satchidananda 40)
The goal of the spiritual Yogic path is Self-realization—the recognition of that “minute part of” the divine essence within that always offers guidance, constant assurance, and boundless unconditional love to us (Bhagavad Gita 15.7). When you discern this internal presence for a mere second in time, you suddenly understand the following spiritual axiom: “You shall love yourself as the Divine loves you.” The Self is the essence present in all humanity and animated by the Divine Source, and it is difficult to apprehend fully the depth of divine love until you experience this holy presence personally.
The Self within is none other than the witness in this meditation technique. However, stemming from the chaos, stress, and never-ceasing distractions and intrusions of the external world we live in, as well as the constant monkey chatter in our minds, most of us rarely acquire the internal stillness and silence necessary to perceive Its spiritual presence. Unless of course, we meditate consistently, for then the ageless yogis promise us this experience.
Yoga literature often differentiates the egoic consciousness with a lowercase “s”—self, in contrast to the capital “S”—Self—signifying the divine presence. As you draw your attention inward, you initially become aware of the egoic self, the persona we feign in our external relationships, and also, sadly, in our relationship with ourselves as well. Witness meditation breaks through the false identification with this seemingly solid self by interrupting the persona’s inner dialogue, and by Self-consciously observing its activity from a distance.
This ego-self is so terrified of losing its power to control us that it does everything it can to assert its influence, usually through the means of incessant desires, demands and complaints, constant mental activity, fear tactics, and most often, sheer stubbornness. In Witness meditation, the aim is simply to observe this conscious entity from afar, while simultaneously merging with the witness or higher Self located in the background of consciousness.
As mentioned in last week’s discussion, Buddhist teacher Rob Preece reminds us that prior to losing ourselves in samadhi—an eternal state of bliss—we must initially find ourselves in the mundane world of Earthly reality—Witness meditation helps us to begin this psychological journey, which necessarily must precede the path of spiritual enlightenment.
Next week we will conclude with Witness meditation by referencing a wise spiritual aspirant’s observation that, “The ego is a splendid servant, but a brutal master.” As you gradually become familiar with the ever-increasing clever antics of the ego-self, the truth and humor of this phrase becomes apparent.