Witnessing is when you can soak in the suchness of what is!

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!

awareness-be-let-meaning-meditation-osho-passive-relax-thingsTo 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.




Stay detached: just be a witness to your own Life

Don’t identify yourself with anyone or anything. Just be a witness.
When you witness Life, you remain detached. When you identify with it, you encounter pain, suffering, agony and depression. When you are detached, you can peel off from one Life situation and experience to another. Recently, in my workshop, with managers of a company, the CEO critiqued, fairly aggressively, a well-researched but poorly-delivered presentation by a senior manager. The presenter, a manager with over 20 years of experience, was shattered. He had worked hard on his presentation__which explains why it was so well researched. He had put his heart into it. But when he finally came up in front of his company’s leadership team, he faltered with his delivery. The CEO, a perfectionist, critiqued and transparently told off the manager that he should value the time of the audience and make his points crisply, briefly.  The manager in question took several weeks to come out of that moment. He asked me, why was it that he was unable to handle his CEO’s critique? The reason was simple: the manager imagined that he was the presentation style. He thought that the presentation was his identity from here on in his company.
This is not as abstract as it seems. We all have a bit of the manager in us. We identify ourselves with people, objects, situations and wallow in a cesspool of self-pity and bemoan our lack of self-worth! If someone dents your car, you grieve. Because you have come to identify yourself with the car. With an undented car you believe you are different than with a dented car! Someone calls you a jerk in a public place, and you react violently, because you have now identified with the title of a ‘jerk’. You lose someone you love. Indeed it is sad. But to imagine that you cannot live any longer and grieve, means you are identifying yourself with the physical embodiment of that someone. Life is like a movie. You go to watch a movie. You are just a witness. Someone loves, someone loses, someone dies, someone wins…three hours later (at least in Bollywood!)…you are back in your car. You probably hum a tune or recollect a dialogue from the movie. No attachment. You were just a witness.
Witness every moment of your Life as a witness. See pain, see love, see lust, see embarrassment, see shame, see jealously, see anger….see everything. See it very well. So that you can see through it. If the manager had seen through his CEO’s critique he would not have been attached to where the comments were made __ in front of everyone __ but would have allowed the message of improvement to reach him. If the lover, who loses her beloved, sees through the event of death, she would know that to be alive means to witness death from near or from far! When you see through the event of the title of ‘jerk’ being hurled at you__unmindful that it is a public place__you will notice that the person shouting at you is angry with something else and is just taking it out on you. Remember: you, me, we are not the car we drive, the job we keep, the position we hold, the spouse we have, the children we rear, the house we live in, the class we travel, the clothes we wear, the phones we use; we are not what we commonly identify with. We are transitory witnesses on a cosmic plane. We happen to be here on this planet currently. We know not where we will be next. But that’s not important. What’s important is that we are here and now __ a mere witness to our own Life and to Life around us!