One way to see through this apparent watcher is to become absorbed into it, understanding that it will eventually collapse of its own accord. Ramana Maharshi referred to the Witness as "the stick that stirs the fire and is eventually consumed by it." When the Witness dissolves, you will find that you have naturally arrived at …the direct apprehension of buddha nature in your own being.
With this in mind, dwelling as the Witness is seen as a transitional step. It could be said to lie halfway … between the object-oriented practices of concentration/insight and the complete surrender to what is, also known as non-duality.
I feel like I have fallen way behind on recording what I intended to here- a journal of sorts on what happened after I decided to stop “unenlightening myself.”
So, in an attempt to catch up, I am cobbling some things together. Let me begin by going “way back” to notes from maybe 10 days ago as I began to investigate “the witness”:
….suddenly we’re not witnessing from the outside anymore. Instead, witnessing is taking place from everywhere simultaneously – inside, outside, around, up, down. Everything everywhere is being witnessed from inside and outside simultaneously, because what is being witnessed is what is witnessing.
These words of Adya have stuck with me the past couple weeks.
When I first read, “witnessing is taking place from everywhere simultaneously – inside, outside, around, up, down….” I thought, “Oh my.”
I couldn’t conceive of such a witness.
My witnessing has been like that of the movie-goer staring up at the screen:
What is witnessed is seen to be like a dream, like a movie or a novel, unfolding in front of us.
Such witnessing has made it rather easy to realize that the world “out there” is somewhat less than “Real.” And this has been going on for years and years now, fading in and fading out of intensity so that I have finally adopted an attitude that mixes ignoring, frustration, amazement and pathologizing.
But then, my friend asked me, “What if you never decide?” And I realized if I simply accepted the status quo I could very well spend the rest of my life “unenlightening” myself.
So I took up examining the witness and things immediately began to shift.
Just those words from Adya, “witnessing up, down, outside, inside” while beyond my ability to imagine, started a kind of disintegration, a dissolving.
This is the power of words spoken from Truth.
They resonate with the Truth inside. They light the fire.
What I noticed after a few days was the world felt so much softer. Whatever was looking out through my eyes, that center of “me-ness,” no longer peered out across a great gap. The gap (between the movie viewer and the silver screen) was gone. “Out there” now seemed much more like a continuum with myself. Creation and I became a soft and somehow watery continuum.
But while the gap had disappeared, the Unreal nature of Creation was maintained. And, I couldn’t say that witnessing was occurring from everywhere. There was still a duality.
A few days after that, I began to notice that “I” (for lack of a better word) was beginning to disintegrate. I was losing the fabric of my individuality- not by merging into One, but through disappearing entirely.
A photo I’d made of the Buddha covered by cheesecloth came to mind. Yes, it seemed the fabric of “me” was becoming cheesecloth. Something un-namable was breaking through.
It wasn’t too uncomfortable. But, it was strange.
My stomach was having trouble: it began to love, it began to sob. It physically hurt most of the time and I was reacting very intensely to the simplest events.
Then, one day at work, I feel a bit on edge, a bit lost, and wanted very much to call a friend.
Not that I had anything to say. I tried to think of something worth a phone call and came up blank.
I just wanted to have her on the phone, to hear her voice. Finally, I realized that what I really wanted was to touch this most familiar someone whom I knew and loved; because now, the world had taken on that same rather cheesecloth-like flimsiness.
I felt like I no longer held onto anything: I couldn’t hold onto my self identity. I couldn’t hold onto Creation. I stood there in the middle of the lab frozen in place in a Void that still gave rise to appearance.
Then, I realized even a vague discomfort can be clung to and apparently, that’s my belly’s job these days.
After that I went about in a world gone soft and the gap closed. From my shoulders up past my head there seemed to open a vast beam of consciousness. Below my shoulders my belly periodically erupted with various emotions and nausea.
As a practice I just kept falling back into my self. At times I tried inquiry. That’s what Nisargadatta recommends.
Today I found this discussion by Kenneth Folk entitled “The Witness: Turning the Light Around” :
…[So] far… it is as though we have been looking down from on high at this odd creature, saying “Ha ha. See how it does this? See how it does that?”
If we want to go to the next level…. We are going to turn the light of attention back on itself, and we are going to ask this question: “Who am I?” Or “Who is looking?”… There are various ways to get in touch with this. The simplest and most practical and consistently effective way is to ask the question “Who am I?” …
When you do “who am I?” and become absorbed as the Self you eventually transcend the Witness and get to this place where the kundalini energy comes back down from the head: it actually goes out the top of the head—you can actually feel this and see this—and circles back down to the body and comes to rest primarily at the heart center but also at all of the chakras along the way. It forms this kind of circuit, this kind of cocoon of energy… At this point you are no longer dissociated from your experience the way you were when you were dwelling as the Witness.
I found it impossible to do inquiry as it felt like “turning the attention around” and that seemed simply impossible. Perhaps this was because I conceived of inquiry as turning a skinny little beam of attention around to look within, as if the finger that I had been pointing out to Other, now turns to point in my own face.
I found that my awareness, or attention, or I could even call it “the light” (but don’t picture any beam of light) was far too unbounded to turn. I could no more shift the direction of my attention/consciousness around than the universe could turn around so that It might gaze at Its own navel.
I did the only thing it felt possible to do with this field I’d labeled as The Witness – I sank back into it. I allowed the wavelet of me to relax and melt back towards the ocean of Witness.
When the light is turned around, the energies of heaven and earth, yin and yang, all congeal. This is what is called "refined thought," "pure energy," or "pure thought." When you first put this technique into practice, there is seemingly nonbeing within being. Eventually, when the work is accomplished, and there is a body beyond your body, there is seemingly being within nonbeing.
The Secret of the Golden Flower, translated by Thomas Cleary
I'm not so sure what Cleary has translated here. But I hope it will become clear.