Dear Integral Meditators,
Taking a position as an observer or witness is a fundamental position that we practice when being mindful, but can it make us too cold and detached? The article below explores this theme, and how to build an integrated and balanced witnessing practice.
For those in Singapore, this evening’s Wednesday class will be on ‘Meditation & spiritual alchemy‘, all welcome!
In the spirit of inner light,
Taking a position as an observer or witness is a fundamental position that we practice when being mindful:
- We learn to watch our thoughts without interfering, repressing, denying or encouraging.
- We observe our reactions & responses to what people say to us, noting without judging.
- We try and hold a third person perspective when we are engaging in daily activities, noting our behaviours and the behaviours of others as consciously as possible.
- We learn to experience emotions without being completely consumed and over-identified with them. There is a part of us that remains at the center of the experience, balanced amidst the imbalance of our feelings.
There can be an extreme of this witnessing position, whereby we become too detached, too cold, too robotic in our mindful witnessing practice. If we go to this extreme then we can find our mindfulness practice detracting from the quality of our life, as it impairs our ability to engage in experiences with passion, engagement, emotion and humanity. With integral mindfulness, we are trying to set up a complementary, supportive relationship between our emotional engagement in life, and our ability to witness, observe and detach. These two qualities should be working with each other, not against each other!
Witnessing like the Sun
One way in which we can avoid the extreme end of mindful detachment is by practising witnessing like the Sun. From one point of view the sun shines on us with total objectivity. It is so huge, and we are so insignificant and tiny (relative to it), it has no involvement or investment in our life at all. It shines upon us as if by chance, with monolithic objectivity. But, at the same time the Sun is also warm, life-giving, bright and joyful. When we see the Sun we feel enlivened, encouraged and optimistic. So, when we practice mindful witnessing, either in formal practice or informally during the day, we can practice as if we are the Sun, combining objective detachment with warmth, benevolence and joy as we watch!
When my phone content was wiped
Yesterday I traded in my old phone for a newer version. In the process of doing so the shop assistant accidentally wiped out a bunch or photos and Whatsapp messages that had a lot of sentimental value for me. After realizing what had happened, I was feeling pretty angry and upset, and a bit emotionally traumatized at the loss. Realizing I was upset I switched on my ‘mindful witness mode’, but made sure that I combined it with engagement and passion, so that I was able to experience the emotions without repressing them, say what I wanted to say to the shop assistant about the f*#ck up (possibly more polite than he deserved, but I think I got the message across), and went about seeing if I could recover the images and information from other sources. In short I tried to practice witnessing like the Sun, shining the light of my objective awareness on the experience with warmth as I experienced the emotional roller-coaster. Two hours later, with most of my emotions processed, and almost all the important info recovered, I could relax and enjoy my new phone, calmly!
© Toby Ouvry 2017, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com
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