Witness consciousness is a KEY yoga lifestyle skill which will enhance your life provided you are made aware of the challenges related to this practice. It really is an essential life skill which will with committed practice reduce most unnecessary suffering both personally and collectively.

What is Witness Consciousness? – It is the practice of observation of thoughts, emotions and sensations of the mind and body. To use a metaphor it is where you become more identified with the container rather than the contents. You become more identified with the sky rather than the clouds in the sky.

So in this article I would like to share the following:-

What is Witness Consciousness Menu

Benefits of Witness Consciousness Practice

witness consciousness definition

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There are a number of benefits to be gained from a committed practice of witness consciousness. This practice is key to many types of meditation and contemplation including the practice of silent prayer.

These benefits include:-

So let us explore these benefits that accrue from the practice of witness consciousness.

Greater Alignment with Y-E-S

why practice witness consciousness

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When I use the acronym Y-E-S I am referring to:-

  • Y – Your
  • E – Energy
  • S – System.

With the practice of witness consciousness, you begin to FEEL in greater alignment with the flow of your energy. This is because with this practice you become more centred. You are less and less of a house divided against itself. This is because you become more identified with the container that is the One Mind rather than the contents of your personal mind.

The result is that you learn to allow the thoughts, emotions and sensations to move through the mind and body without becoming identified with them.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks (The Essential Rumi)

Being identified with the content of your mind and emotional body is the PRIMARY cause of most of your unnecessary suffering within this world of time and space.

Less Judgement of Yourself and Others

you are the witness

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As you practice witness consciousness you become less judgemental of yourself. At least this is so in the long term.

To begin with, you probably find that you are more judgemental of yourself than you were first aware of. This is because you are waking up to how you use your mind to divide your energy.

With the practice of witness consciousness, you learn to witness the judgemental thoughts. You do not judge the judgmental thoughts. You observe them. You create THE GAP.

THE GAP is where you have a choice whether to follow the energy of the thought or allow it to flow on. You become more like the sky rather than live under a cloud. As you become more sky like you radiate more light into your life.

You become kinder to yourself and to others. You begin to recognize what the writer Mike Scott of the Waterboys refers to as The Madman in the Cave of the Skull (World Party).

Feeling More Embodied

be aware witness yourself

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As the practice of witness consciousness deepens, you connect on a deeper level with body awareness. You are waking up to the fact that you are living in a body.

It is through the body that you bring into the world the higher consciousness that blesses you and allows you to bless (Vacillation – W. B. Yeats). You for one glorious moment realize that you are more than a body, thoughts, and emotions. You are a blaze of Light here to shine through the form that you are.

I wish that I could show you when you are alone or in darkness the astonishing Light of Your Own Being – Hafiz

You move away from the dominance of the overthinking mind into becoming fluent in the language of silence and interiority. You come closer to the Secret of Secrets and the Presence within.

This is because most of the energy that was taken up through overthinking is now available to be expressed in more creative and energetically expressive ways. You begin to recognize that the servant that is the personal mind has taken over the Palace and is running riot.

The practice of witness consciousness allows you to reclaim your Sovereignty as the rightful King/Queen of your wild and precious life.

Less Emotional Reactivity

self witness meaning

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Have you ever said something that you wished you could take back? Do you sometimes react to situations like Pavlov’s dog. We all do it. The times I am most reactive is when I am driving and someone drives without due care and attention.

Emotional reactivity is a genuine issue for many people. Witness the antics of the present President of the United States of America who is presently Donald Trump. He could well do with practicing witness consciousness.

It is essential to distinguish here the difference between emotions and feelings. The way I define emotions and feelings is:-

  • An emotion is a feeling with a thought attached to it.
  • A feeling is energy in free flow.

Most of us have learned to lock down our feelings.

Feelings are neutral. Witness the ability of young children to feel as they feel. This is because when you are young you have not yet learned to judge feelings. This judgement is an attached thought.

Emotions and Awareness

Feelings when allowed to flow through the body. They come, they go. This is the meaning of the spiritual instruction:-

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:3 KJV

The Kingdom is not a place but a state of consciousness that allows you to KNOW that you are more than the sum of personal ideas, emotions and body sensations.

Less Anxiety and Greater Centeredness

witness consciousness concepts

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As someone who has been afflicted with anxiety for much of my life, I have found witness consciousness to be a real blessing.

Anxiety is often experienced because of anxious thinking. You identify with the thoughts that are related to some negative future scenarios. This is a pattern I learned from my mother, who probably learned it from her mother.

However, there is anxiety beyond thought and that is related to the armoring of the body. This comes about usually because of some early childhood trauma. This kind of anxiety is not accessible via thinking but through embodied presence.

We establish this very early in life. As someone born three months premature, this is the anxiety that I got established in.

With the daily practice of witness consciousness, I can honestly say that I feel so much more centered and embodied than before. Learning to feel centered is not an overnight revelation. It comes through committed practice and patience.

This feeling of centeredness grows. It is like learning to wear an invisible cloak of protection. I am more identified with the sky than the clouds that I once lived under.

The Challenge of Witness Consciousness

why witness consciousness matters

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The above benefits of practicing witness consciousness are those that I find true for myself.

There is, however, one genuine challenge to be aware off as regards the practice of witness consciousness. The best way to share this challenge is to share a personal story.

When I was about twenty-six years old, I lived in London. I had returned from having lived and traveled in India visiting various Ashrams and learning to play sitar. I explored meditation at what was then called The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (now called the Triratna Buddhist Community)

This was a Western Buddhist Order established by the Venerable Sangharakshita (born Dennis Philip Edward Lingwood, 26 August 1925 – 30 October 2018) who had taught meditation in India for many years.

However, when he taught these techniques to Westerners, he found what he considered a strange phenomenon. This was that many of the individuals he taught got more depressed from practicing meditation as he taught it.

He couldn’t explain why this was because it wasn’t his experience in India. In time he found the answer which is related to the practice of witness consciousness.

One of the central teachings of Buddhism is the concept of detachment.

Detachment as Western students understood the teaching was a detachment from feelings. This was very attractive to them because they had major issues around feeling fully their energy system. The idea that they could detach from feelings that they were already detached from seemed to provide an answer to their feeling less than whole. The result was that they practiced being detached from detachment.

Unless you feel it you cannot heal it – Colin Tipping from Radical Forgiveness

It is important that you realize this as an issue in the practice of witness consciousness. It is also referred to as spiritual bypassing. I have written more about this practice of spiritual bypassing in What is Spiritual Bypassing – 11 Examples for Avoiding Spiritual Growth.

The key to witness consciousness is to recognize that this practice is likely to open you up to feeling those feelings you deny. However, the practice allows you to integrate these disowned aspects of yourself at your own pace rather than further detach from them. You integrate your energy system. You say Y-E-S to all of you.

Why Witness Consiousness Matters

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Witness consciousness matters because it takes you into a state of awareness where you begin to feel more in alignment with Source energy. This is important because this gives you access to solutions to problems not only on a personal level but also on a collective level.

The modern mystic and father of science Albert Einstein said:-

No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. – Albert Einstein

The way most people try to solve many problems is through using their personal mind which for the most part is, in the words of the Visionary Activist in Human and Cultural Development Jean Houston, “The same old same as.”

It is using the dualistic personal mind that thinks in opposites to try and solve a problem that needs to move beyond opposites into unity.

Learning to engage with witness consciousness invites you to become an open sky of awareness whereby the Universe can think through you and as you. This is, to the mind of this writer, a key yoga lifestyle skill needed for our time and for all time.

You are the light of consciousness and also the witness of this light. You are pure awareness. — Mooji

In this way you become a channel for creative solutions beyond the oppositional Madman in the Cave of the Skull. In learning this KEY practice in turning into Universal Intelligence without detaching from feelings allows you to become the change agent that we need to have more off.

Practicing Witness Consciousness

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The way to begin cultivating witness consciousness is to begin with some form of body sensing technique. The practice I use is Yoga Nidra.

This is to my mind a great way to start learning to live from an inner state of witness consciousness rather than from the overthinking personal mind.

With any such technique the first thing that you will notice is that state of mind called Monkey Mind. This is your everyday over thinking mind that is forever on. The core of the practice is not to try to stop thinking but simply observe the thoughts rather than follow them.

This is the practice of witnessing called witness consciousness.

This is the 1st stage of the journey into real peace of mind. The overthinking personal mind can never give you real peace. The peace that passeth understanding is beyond the sense of the personal self that you identify with as “I, me and mine.”

If you commit to this practice or form of practice without detaching from feelings you will begin, over time, to fall in love with silence. You are likely to find that life becomes less frantic. You begin to flow.

Silence is our deepest nature, our home, our common ground, our peace. Silence reveals. Silence heals. – Gunilla Brodde Norris

You start to recognize the paradoxical power of silence and non-doing.

You do less but achieve more. More to the point Life achieves more through you but it is not judged by way of success or non-success. You become more of a happening through you but if feels aligned with who you are.

As you progress in witness consciousness the sky of awareness opens to you. You are no longer living under the cloud of the over thinking personal mind. You are living from the radiance of the True Self. Witness consciousness is the true guide to Yoga.

This is true happiness. You are becoming a Light unto yourself from the One Light the One Life. All of this through simply observing the thoughts in your head and the emotions that move through the body without detaching from them.

You Are the Witness

you are the witness

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I hope to some degree the above reflection answers, at least to some degree the question, “What is witness consciousness?” More than this I hope it will invite you on a Quest to discover the power of moving beyond over identification with your personality (meaning mask) and the overthinking personal mind.

You are so much more than who you think you are.

In fact thinking is what keeps you locked into the prison of the sense of the personal self. It isn’t that thinking is bad. It is just that it is the servant that is your over thinking mind has taken over the Palace of Presence that you are.

You the rightful King/Queen have left the building and are off wandering in distraction and absent to your True Self.

The witness is actually another level of consciousness. The witness coexists alongside your normal consciousness as another layer of awareness, as the part of you that is awakening. – Ram Dass

With the committed practice of witness consciousness you begin a journey into reclaiming your Sovereign Self. You return from feeling exiled from the truth of who you are created to be and to gift the world.

Witness consciousness requires courage, trust and surrender. It is the gateway to the Secrets of Secrets inside YOU.

If you have any questions or comments in relation to the practice of witness consciousness please feel free to comment below.

What I love to do is to record daily spiritual reflections that are intended to uplift and inspire you for your day. If you liked the short recording as shared above you might enjoy others.

The focus is on empowerment through the sharing of lines from mystical poetry, mythological storytelling, and inspired song lyrics.  I started this series here.

Listen to Daily Spiritual Reflections here.

Tony Cuckson
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