I love the concept of the Witness. When Eckhart Tolle writes about this, he usually calls it Presence: I have written about this before, here and here. It's an important part of both my spirituality and my pain management. And I really like what Mariechild says about it, that it is what the mind does when it is at peace.
I used to think that if I were truly meditating, truly centered in prayer, my mind would be perfectly blank. But it turns out that a mind at peace is not blank. It is calmly aware, grabbing at no thought or perception or image; it is witnessing, nothing more, nothing less.
I found a great meditation for developing the Witness. I reproduce it below, but you can link to it here.
From about.com -- Meditation to Develop the Witness
- Sit upright - either in a chair or on a meditation cushion - with your skull balancing happily right on top of your spine. Place your hands palms-down on your thighs, or else rest the fingers of one hand in the upturned palm of the other, with the tips of your thumbs lightly touching. Let your eyes close, and turn your eyeballs slightly downward.
- Take a couple of deep, slow and pleasantly-soft breaths. As you inhale, notice a rising in your abdomen. As you exhale, notice your abdomen relaxing back into its neutral position. Repeat this six or seven times, and with each exhale, release any unnecessary tension in your face, neck, throat or shoulders. Smile gently.
- Now, turn your attention inward, to begin noticing the contents of your mind: the internal chattering, or mental dialogue, as well as the images flashing across that internal screen.
- In this practice, we're simply going to name the thoughts arising as "thinking" and the images arising as "image." The spaces between thoughts and images - when neither is present - we're going to label as "rest."
- So every five or ten seconds, simply name (silently, to yourself) what's happening in your mind. If what is arising are thoughts or internal dialogue, simply say "thinking." If what is arising is an image (e.g. an internal picture of, say, the friend you had lunch with yesterday), simply say "image." If there are no thoughts or images arising, simply say "rest."
- As you label the thoughts and images, maintain the attitude of a detached but also kind observer, almost as though you were saying: "hello, thoughts" or "hello images" in a friendly and relaxed way. Make no attempt to change the thoughts or images in any way. Simply observe and label them. On their own, they will arise, have a certain duration, and then dissolve.
- Over the course of, say, one minute of this practice, your labeling might be something like this: "thinking" ... "rest" ... "thinking" ... "image" ... "thinking" ... "rest" ... "rest" ... "thinking" ... "image" (It will of course be different for each person, and will change from day to day, as you practice.)
- Notice this part of your self that is observing and labeling the thinking and images. This is called the Witness Consciousness, or the energy of Mindfulness - and is the part of our mind that remains forever untouched by its contents - by the thoughts and images arising within it. A traditional metaphor for this aspect of mind is that it is similar to the deepest part of an ocean - which remains calm, still & silent, even if at its surface, waves (of thinking, emotion, or sensation) are raging.
- When you're ready to end the practice, take another couple of deep, slow, breaths, with your abdomen rising with the inhalation and relaxing back with the exhalation. Notice how you feel, and then slowly open your eyes.
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