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Note: For the complete lessons,
with additions, see the AYP
Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.
Lesson 122 - Q&A Witnessing
Date: Fri Feb 20, 2004 11:10am
New Members: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: I've been going through a process for a long time now where I just don't identify with
the body. I don't identify with the emotions or feelings. Something else is feeling them,
not I. Sometimes I am aware of an emotion trying to come up, but I just don't know what to
do with it so I ignore it and it goes away. My grandmother died 2 weeks ago and it didn't
bother me at all. I must have been the only one in the funeral smiling or trying not to
smile most of the time. My cat whom is everything to me.. my best friend.. my companion..
my love.. I think is going to die or is dieing slowly and I am just not bothered by this.
I am concerned and a bit worried yes, but I am not bothered. It changes things externally,
but not internally. I can fall down the stairs and just laugh not caring. I could get
fired from work with out a care in the world. I am just not attached to anything. More
recently, I feel like I lost identity with my name. It almost hurts me to sign an email or
a posting with my name. Is this normal and a part of Pratyahara? Are there stages to this,
so I would be prepared for what's next to come?
A: Thank you very much for writing and sharing.
The answer depends on what your state really is, and that has to do with how you got
there. If you have been meditating and have this feeling of separation in silent witness,
that is one thing. If you have separated from your life and the world as a psychological
defense mechanism because of some trauma in the past, that is something else. The former
is due to purification in the nervous system. The latter is a pigeon-holing of awareness
in avoidance of subconscious obstructions involving a lot of pain. One is an opening up.
The other is a kind of closing down. They can appear similar, but are not. Under certain
circumstances, it is even possible that some of both could be happening at the same time.
If it is purification in the nervous system giving rise to the emergence of inner silence,
then the thing to do is engage in spiritual practices and in life. Ultimately, our
enlightenment is not about us. It is about everyone else. The first stage of enlightenment
is the rise of an ongoing inner silence -- a temporary separation. The second and third
stages are about joining with the divine rising dynamically in ourself and in others (this
is where ecstasy and pratyahara come in, not much before). Going beyond stage one (inner
silence/witnessing) is not an inert do nothing process. It involves the rise of devotion,
and engaging our pure bliss consciousness in the further processes of enlightenment, which
include practices and involvement in the world. It is a natural evolution, part of which
is in our deciding to participate.
Suggestion: When emotions come up, instead of ignoring them, consider the process of
bhakti as described in lesson #67, "Bhakti The science
of devotion," and subsequent lessons discussing the finer points of witnessing and
bhakti, especially, #109, "Bhakti, meditation and inner
silence." These might give you some tips on how to make better use of your witnessing
state to move on to next steps. The relationship of witnessing and emotion is a key
dynamic in this. Pure bliss consciousness, the silent witness, is not touched by the
phenomenal world, but it is not uncaring. Just the opposite. Inner silence is an endless
well of love and compassion, and moves us naturally to engage in the ecstatic processes in
the body, and in loving service to others. We can even get angry and cry in the witnessing
state the nervous system will continue to purify itself. Even though the silent
witness is the ultimate unmoved spectator, the enlightenment game is not a spectator
sport. This is one of the paradoxes of spiritual life. Until pure bliss consciousness
becomes fully present in every atom of existence, joining continuously with the ecstatic
processes of creation (the divine inner lovemaking), there can be no completion of
enlightenment. If we want to move to higher stages of enlightenment, we must actively
So, my suggestion is to see if you can find a desire in yourself to grow beyond where you
are. Any desire will do, because you can transform emotion easily into bhakti in the
witnessing state, if you choose to. If you can, cultivate it. Then you will find it easy
to do something -- some daily practices, some service, doing something for someone else.
If you find it difficult to "engage," then maybe the situation is
psychologically more complicated than a natural process of purification coming up in the
nervous system stimulated by spiritual practices. Or, sometimes there can be some
tenderness during the witnessing stage (or any stage) where we just have to bide our time
for a while a sort of healing into a new state of being. Once we get comfortable
where we are, then we will become more interested in moving on to the next step.
Whatever the underlying cause of your witnessing is, it will not hurt to be in daily
practices meditation and pranayama especially. Sooner or later, these will
naturally bring you to the next step.
I wish you all success as you travel along your chosen path.
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed instructions on
utilizing witnessing with Bhakti, see the
AYP Bhakti and Karma Yoga book.
For the role of the witness in self-inquiry, see the AYP
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