Over time, become detached with yourself. Become a witness of your Life!
Last evening we noticed the amount of litter that had piled up on the streets around the Mylapore Tank owing to the Arubathimoovar festival at the Kapaleeswarar temple. Makeshift stalls had come up all over serving food and buttermilk to devotees who have been thronging the temple for the past week. The litter was created because the stall managers, and the devotees, both were being irresponsible with the way they disposed of waste – paper cups, plates, spoon, plastic gloves and such. I grieved looking at the state of affairs – no ‘Swach Bharat’ campaign can ever change the way we Indians think, behave and live, I thought. I was slipping into an anger – with the entire system – spiral, when I looked up at the sky and spotted the moon. It isn’t full moon yet, but the moon looked majestic and beautiful. I decided, for the rest of the evening, to soak in not what lay on the ground but what lit up the sky. I decided to be a witness – it helped me calm my nerves and enjoy the rest of the evening despite the chaos and mess around where we were!
To be sure there is great value – and power – in witnessing. Almost all our suffering comes from wanting to control our lives – people, events, things. In every situation that you find yourself in, if you imagine you are a mere fly on the wall, a witness, see how your changed perspective changes the way you feel and respond. When you are a witness, you are more detached than an observer. An observer has an agenda. But a witness merely happens to be there. So, as a witness, you are not involved with the drama. It is like watching a movie – when it is on, you watch it on the screen; but you are not one of the characters. You may relate to the story and the characters but you are not in the story, you are not them. When the movie is over, you just get up and come away.
The key is, can you get up and come away from your Life, without necessarily responding every single time you are seduced or provoked to respond in a situation?
Most people misunderstand the practice of meditation to be an act of silencing the environment around them. It is clearly not that. You can say you meditate only when you have learnt to still your mind, drop anchor, and remain silent. The Buddha rightly called meditation “witnessing”.
Witnessing is when you can soak in the suchness of what is – without necessarily responding. When you are a witness, you are more aware than involved. In the witness state, you learn to not immediately respond emotionally to any situation. You are there, but you are not there either. So anger, grief, guilt, anxiety….none of these emotions hold you hostage; they may arise, but your awareness will remind you not to succumb to them. When you are a witness, you are detached from the screenplay of your Life. This clearly does not mean inaction. In fact the detachment helps you choose when – and how – you must act.