From witnessing to being

 

When fear and other difficult emotions and experiences surface, I find it’s painful – and futile – to try to escape it. And something shifts if I instead meet it.

The pointers go from witness and observing, to being space for and allowing, to meeting and being with, to welcome and say YES to it, to dive into and be it, to notice it’s already allowed, to notice it’s already what I am.

Any of those can be very helpful, perhaps at different times.

For me, I am now more attracted to diving into the middle and being it.

How does it feel to dive into the middle?

How does it feel to be it?

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Boundary between I and other

 

Sometimes, it is said that awakening means the boundary between I and Other is recognized as imagined

That is true and a helpful pointer. It helps us see that boundaries are created in the mind. They are, quite literally, imagined. This is a good starting point. 

And it is just that, a starting point, because it leaves something out. It can be taken as saying that the boundary may be imagined, but the I and other is real. There is an I here and a wider world, but it is part of the same seamless whole. 

The truth is more radical than that. So the next pointer is to say – as many do – that there is no separate I, no other, no world, no boundaries. All of those are imagined. All of those happen within our own world of images. 

This is an invitation to notice not only boundaries as imagined, but any object is as well. They all happen as a mental field overlay on the sense field. They all happen within our own world of images. And this includes the wider world as well as any sense of doer and observer. They all happen as content of awareness. They all come and go, on their own schedule. They are all gestalts, made up of mental field overlays on each of the sense fields. 

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Mindfulness, including of doer and observer

 

Something simple about mindfulness….

In mindfulness practice, I can notice what is happening in the different sense fields. Sensations. Sights. Sounds. Smell. Taste. Mental field activity. 

And included here is noticing the doer and observer. What is it that appears to be doing this practice? What is it that appears to be observing? For me, I find a set of sensations in the head area, and a set of images in the mental field. The doer and observer too is content of awareness, just as any other content of awareness. 

In this way, mindfulness practice shifts into and includes atma vichara, self-inquiry, and becomes even more inclusive and helpful. 

If the doer and observer is left out, mindfulness practice may only reinforce an unconcious (pre-conscious) identification with the doer/observer gestalts. When the doer and observer is included in what is noticed, they may be found to be content of awareness just as anything else, and identification may release out of them. 

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Whatever the “I” is doing…

 

At some point on the process, quite late, we paint ourselves into a corner.

There is a sense that whatever this “I” is doing is not going to do it. It can’t touch what I am and everything is.

And there is also an acute sense of the irony of this “I” trying to get rid of itself.

In both cases, this “I” is only spinning its wheels. And gradually wearing itself out.

This “I” as a doer/observer is a gestalt, a fabrication, and it is wearing itself out. (Or more accurately, wearing identification with it out.)

And it is completely innocent. A part of the play of God.

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Being present

 

What does it mean to be present? Or more accurately, to notice that you are present? When is it a useful pointer, and when not?

It is a pointer to bring attention to what is here now. To what happens in any sense field, including the mental field when it is noticed as happening here now.

And it is helpful in just that way. It is an invitation to notice that it is all happening here now, including mental field creations of past and future. It is an invitation to notice what happens when I get lost in ideas of past and future and take them as real and substantial (stress), and what happens when I notice them as ideas only (recognized as memories and scenarios, and as tools only).

As any pointer, it may be helpful and functional in some situations – in this case when someone is in the habit of getting lost in mental field creations without noticing what is happening.

But the pointer can also have drawbacks.

The witness/observer gestalt tends to come up, and it may easily be taken as what we are. I recognize that I am not most of what is happening in the sense fields, and the gestalts that come from a mental field overlay. Instead, I take the witness gestalt as what I am, and don’t recognize that one as a gestalt as well.

The idea of present also implies past and future, the three come in one package. So if the idea of present is taken as substantial and real, the idea of past and future tend to be taken as substantial and real as well.

A practical approach here is to use notice you are present as a pointer to bring attention to what is happening in the sense fields, and notice them as content of experience.

Then notice the idea of “present” overlaid on the sense fields, how it implies past and future, and how all of those ideas happen here now in the mental field.

And also investigate the sense of witness or observer created, see how it appears in the sense fields, and notice that too as a gestalt and content of experience.

Am I content of experience? Am I any of the gestalts? Content of experience comes and goes, what is it that does not come and go?

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Witness and Ground

 

I have been curious about the sense of a witness or observer lately.

What are the sensation components of the sense of a witness?

What images is it made up of?

Is it content of awareness? Does it come and go? Is it different from other gestalts, such as the gestalts of me (as this human self), pain, emotions and so on?

What happens when there is identification with it, when I take it as what I am?

What happens when that identification is released? (Even if I just imagine it.)

What happens when I notice the sense of observer or witness as a gestalt, as any other gestalt?

When I explore the identification with it, I see that identification with a sense of an observer is another foothold for that sense of a separate I. It gives it ground to stand on, another ledge within content of experience, facing the (apparent) abyss of releasing identification out of any gestalts and stories.

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Observer

 

It can be very interesting to explore the different gestalts… emotions, pain, joy, bliss, me as this human self, and the different flavors of I as a doer or observer.

First, where is the sense of an observer? A witness? Where in space is it? In or around the head? Above the head? Behind the head? Somewhere else?

Then, what sensations go with that sense of an observer? Sensations in the head area? The scalp? Throat? Neck? Inside of the mouth?

And what images go with that sense of an observer? An image of a center? Of a view as a cone with starting point,  aperture and direction, and sometimes open in all directions?

Is the gestalt of an observer any different from any other gestalt? Is it content of experience, as any other gestalt? Does it come and go? Is it made up of sensations and images?

If it is different, then when and how? Is it different when there is a shift into witnessing? And how is it different? Is it different in that it is identified with, taken as what I am, while other gestalts are recognized as content of awareness and not what I am? Or not?

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Stream of form flowing through awareness

 

The world is a stream flowing through awareness. The stream of forms and experiences is always new, fresh and different, and with a past and future. Awareness is always here, timeless, allowing anything to arise within and as itself.

And when I try to change this stream, to hold onto some things and push other things away, my center of gravity shifts into this stream. Trying to change it comes from identification with the stream, and it only reinforces the identification, until it becomes uncomfortable enough – or the whole game is seen clearly enough, to release this identification.

I see this daily, even in subtle ways. As soon as there is even the smallest resistance to experience, I know it comes from identification with form – with a fragment of the seamless field of seeing and seen. And in noticing this, there is the invitation to allow it all to be as it is, even the impulse to change it. The center of gravity now shifts back into the witnessing of it all, or even the Ground of seeing and seen, absent of I anywhere.

Deity Mysticism, Witness & Fall from Grace

 

Even as the center of gravity moves to nature and deity mysticism and/or the Witness, there is still an identification with a segment of what is.

There is a belief in the idea of I, and it is placed on the soul (nature/deity mysticism, F7/F8) and/or pure awareness (F9). There is still a sense of I and Other, no matter how apparently transparent and subtle.

It is an awakening still with the presence of a sense of I, and identification with a segment of what is, so it is naturally subject of change with changing content.

Nondual awakening

From here, it can move on to a nondual awakening, to Ground awakening to its own nature of no I anywhere, allowing any content to come and go as it naturally does. This is an awakening where the context is the only thing that needs to change, from a sense of I to an realization of no I anywhere. Content – states, experiences, phenomena, come and go freely and naturally, as they do anywhere, but no with no trace of attachment or resistance to them.

Fall from grace

If this does not happen, if there is a stuckness here even as there is a deeper readiness to move on, there will be a fall from grace, a dark night of the soul. And this fall from grace invites to a gradual wearing off of any sense of I, eventually revealing the Ground – absent of I anywhere.

It seems terrible as it happens. It seems that everything is lost. But it is just another phase in the process of Ground awakening to itself, of God remembering who it is, of Buddha Mind realizing its own nature, of emptiness dancing.

Example

This is what apparently happened in my case.

The nature/deity mysticism awakening and the awakening as Witness initially came out of the blue, uninvited in any conscious sense (to somebody who saw himself as a die-hard materialist and atheist!). It deepened and stabilized over some years.

At some point, there may have been a deeper readiness to move on to a Ground awakening, yet there was also an attachment to and holding onto the belief in I and to the nature/deity awakening and the sense of Witness as I.

So there was a fall from grace, a dark night of the soul, also lasting for years, gradually wearing off attachments to a sense of I, to segments of what is, to any content. And it is still far from complete.

Causal Only?

 

I thought of the night last summer where I woke up during a lightning storm, and there was just pure awareness – nothing else. There was no sense of time. No sense of space. No sense of any form of conceptual knowing, and no sense of awareness of the absence of conceptual knowing. No associations, and no awareness of the absence of associations. No knowledge of being a human being, in a room, watching lightning outside the window, on Earth, in this universe. There was just pure awareness of the situation, absent of all this.

After some time – which I later assumed could have been 30 seconds to a few minutes – there was a slight discomfort stirring, an emerging awareness of the not knowing, and this lead to the “booting up” of my conventional knowledge and associations. I then realized that although there was no sense of time, there had been several lightning strikes so it must have happened over some time – maybe up to several minutes.

Looking back at it now, it seems that this could have been the causal level apparently functionally isolated from the other levels – apart from the physical obviously, since this body sat up in bed, opened its eyes, and looked at the lightning flashes outside of the window.

There was just pure witnessing, pure awareness. Pure causal level.

Until, after some time, the other levels functionally came back in.

Maybe the main outcome of this episode was a renewed and deepened appreciation of all these other levels. The causal level alone, functionally isolated from the others, is not really that interesting. It is just a big eye, taking it all in equally, and not much else.

With the other levels, it provides a sense of disidentification and liberation which is wonderful. But alone, it is not much to write home about. To anthropomorphise, I guess that is why all the other levels are around, to flesh it all out and make it more interesting.

No Distance

 

One of the characteristics of an awakening beyond our human self – to F7 (nature mysticism), F8 (deity mysticism), and/or to F9 (witness) – seems to be a deepening sense of intimacy with the whole world, a deepening sense of no separation.

Jen has shifted in and out of the witness over the last few weeks, and I asked her tonight if she also experiences a sense of intimacy with the world. She immediately said yes, and that it seemed that the world had become two dimensional – that there is no distance anymore, although also of course the usual distance in meters or feet that we all are familiar with.

There is the conventional space, measured in meters or feet, within the context of a sense of intimacy with it all, of no distance.

Early sense of ground

And why is it so?

It seems that it is an early intuition or sense of the ground, an early taste of nondual realization. Consciousness is beginning to be aware of itself as everything, including the seer and the seen.

Early sense of God watching God

In addition to this deepening sense of intimacy with the world, there may also be glimpses beyond this – where there is a stronger realization that this is God watching God.

When I look into somebody’s eyes, it is God watching God through God. And this can be very obvious sometimes, especially with the right people in the right setting.

We can have tastes of this even as there is still a vague sense of I placed on this human self or the witness.

Deepening further

As this deepens further, it shifts into a more clearly nondual realization. There is not any inherent I anywhere. It is all just happening. There is no doer, only the doing. It is all the play of God, all emptiness dancing.

Buddhist God Realm, Identification with Witness, and Fall From Grace

 


I am sure this is detailed in Buddhist philosopy, although I can’t recall having seen this in the sporadic readings I have done in the area.

One of the six realms is the God realm, defined by bliss but also impermanence.

It seems that this describes an awakening as formless awareness – as the Witness, F9, causal realm – quite well.

There is bliss and a certain release from suffering, and it can certainly last for a long time. Still, there is the belief in an “I” here, now just placed on pure awareness. The seeing is made to appear as a seer.

With this subtle “I” there is also a subtle “other” and attachment to content. And as content always changes, it inevitably leads to a fall from grace. It is temporary.

All of this sounds a lot like the God realm.