What we find when we look inside is that even in the deepest states of emotion there is usually one tiny little bit of the whole circle that is what could be called “The Witness”. It’s the part of you that’s observing the rest of it. It is a meditation technique, and what you do is find the place in you that is noticing the rest of the phenomena, and then you keep cultivating that place.
It starts out as 1% witness, while the other 99% of you is eager, depressed, anxious, achieving, doing something. There’s a little part of you that is sitting inside saying, “Ahh, there he is doing something. Ah, there he is driving to work.” Eventually, it gets up as you keep working with it… up to about 50%, the witness is about half, and the identification with the action is about half.
Now to give you a feeling for that, when your heart beats, you’re not saying, “Beat, beat, I’ve got to keep my heart beating,” it’s just a phenomenon that’s going on all the time, and in the same way it’s like driving a car. You’re often driving a car and you’re thinking about other things. You’re making these incredibly complex centrifugal and centripetal decisions around rates of acceleration, and braking. I mean, if you put them on the board as a physics problem you would fill the whole board, and all while you’re tuning the radio, planning your meeting, watching out for the police, and doing all the rest of the stuff you do when you’re driving.
So a lot of your action goes on at what’s called “base brain”, but you can cultivate it so that your entire life is going on that way, where you’re sitting back inside, quietly right in the center of it, noticing these phenomena happening, noticing life going on, noticing it all.
What you do is you keep cultivating that by slowing down; for example this [holding up Mala] is what’s called a centering device. It’s called a Mala, or it could be called Rosary beads, but it’s a centering device. What this does for me, is it keeps bringing me back into the witness so that as I’m talking to you, there’s part of me that is the lecturer lecturing, and then there’s another part of me sitting inside noticing the lecturer lecturing.
There is an interesting expression in the mystic literature that says, “Quietness is master of the deed.” Or another way of saying it is, “One does nothing and nothing is left undone.” Those of you that have experienced any of these qualities of quietness that come from drawing your awareness back from your thoughts, so that you’re just sitting being present to all of it, see that the thoughts are just appearing, existing, passing away. Appearing, existing, passing away, again and again.
And you’re getting quieter and quieter inside so that people are coming and they’re going, coming and going. Life is going on. The passions are even happening. It’s all happening and you’re sitting absolutely quietly inside.
– Ram Dass
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