The witness

“You are what exists before all stories. You are what remains when the story is understood.” ~Byron Katie

I love this definition of the self. It points to that observer-self that I have been exploring and growing to appreciate over the last few months. I’ve discovered that yoga talks about this same inner observers; yoga calls it the Witness, a name I particularly like.

I think of the Witness or observer-self as the ME that is constant and unchanging behind all of the stories I tell myself about who I am and what my life is about. As I increase my ability to create the space to observe my stories from the point of view of this Witness, I come increasingly to realize that they are just stories.

Sometimes I get to the point of understanding the reason behind the stories or the pattern of the stories I create, and sometimes I just realize that what I thought was TRUTH is really nothing more than a story. Either way, the ability to finally recognize it as a story gives me the opportunity to allow the story to slip away. With each story that dissolves, the “noise” that obscures my ability to witness myself decreases a little bit. Baby step by baby step, my lens for viewing myself and viewing life is gradually becoming clearer.

At the same time, the simple process of being able to see a pattern in the stories or the pattern that creates the stories begins the process of loosening that pattern in my life. It’s the first step toward finding freedom from the rut of samskara, or entrenched habit, in my ways of dealing with life.

The very ability to see the pattern and understand its triggers and its habitual course of unfolding gives me the freedom to begin noticing the pattern in earlier and earlier stages so I can have the freedom to choose whether I wish to continue down my usual pattern of action or do something different. It becomes easier and easier to change course early in the pattern as I discover how helpful it can be to do things differently.

The other beautiful freedom I am finding with my Witness is that it does just that. My observer-self sees and becomes curious, but it never judges. As soon as blame, shame, or guilt starts up, I’m just heading off into another unhelpful pattern. It’s no longer my Witness in action. My Witness just observes and asks curious questions. That’s all. There’s no longer any energy wasted in being defensive or justifying myself or even in beating myself up.

I observe, I ask curious questions, I make new choices. And yes, I still fall into old, unhelpful patterns too. I still make poor choices. But now these have become learning opportunities in the truest sense of that phrase. It gives me something new to get curious about.

I am also delighted to find the idea in the ancient writings of the yogis; it confirms that I’m on the right track and tells me that I don’t travel this path alone.

I simply do not have words to express how profoundly this practice of being a curious observer is transforming my life. Shifts are happening faster and faster with greater ease. Unhelpful patterns are dying away on a regular basis, leaving space for more helpful ways of being to spring to life. My life is filled with more and more joy and contentment, even when facing less than perfect conditions.

Life is good.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.

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  1. Pingback: Witnessing our stories « Journey Through the Chrysalis

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