Witness Consciousness/Conscious Witnessing

While this title seems a bit erudite and formal, the subject is intensely personal.  It’s personal in the sense that, in order to be a conscious witness for someone else, one first must be a conscious witness to oneself.  And tapping into this ability requires developing one’s own witness consciousness.  Okay, a bit of a word game happening here, but take a deep breath and allow yourself to appreciate how this might work.

First there must be something to witness in you.  This may be layers of thoughts, emotions, physical sensations or whatever is happening now for you even when you don’t know exactly what it is, when it’s not more than a felt sense in your body-mind.  Doesn’t it make sense that you would have to dive in and explore the inner caves of your self to see what’s there, so that at least you might be able to give it a name.  Naming is an important step in connecting to witness consciousness.  It needn’t be the “right” name as long as it is a name that gives some context to the feeling, thought or sensation.

All of us are familiar with the experience of noticing some irritation or disturbance just below the surface but not understanding where it’s coming from or what it’s really about.  So, it simmers, coming to a slow (or not so slow) boil, and then it’s out there in the world demanding to be seen, heard and felt.  These experiences seldom retire into the shadows and disappear – or, if they do, it’s with the intention to return at a later date – often bigger and stronger than before.

The process that allows us to name what is happening is witness consciousness.  This relatively simple act of stepping back and disengaging from what holds our attention also helps remove us from the center of the storm.  Our perspective becomes clearer.  Our awareness is focused on the issue at hand but isn’t attached to it.  We are able to appreciate the feelings, thoughts, sensations for what they are and for the fact that they are not the whole of who we are.  Then the shoulders relax and the tension in muscles dissipates, along with the sense of forward flung momentum that may also have been present.  What’s left is a clearer view of who we are, right here, right now.  From this new perspective, it can be so much easier to know what our next step needs to be.

How then to  apply this witness consciousness to the act of being a conscious witness for another person?  Perhaps the most visible way is to come from a place of knowing the truth of who you are, without attachment to your own thoughts, feelings, sensations.  In other words, show up with clear vision of what you have named for yourself so that it doesn’t create an agenda for what you might want to see or to happen for the other person.

The next time you are called to be authentically present for someone, bring awareness to your ability to say, “I can let go of wanting him to be like me or be different than he is.  I can be accepting of who he is right now.”  Then notice how it can be to offer appreciation and support as a conscious witness while standing in your own witness consciousness.


Filed under Meditation, Mindfulness, Yoga therapy

4 Responses to Witness Consciousness/Conscious Witnessing

  1. Randall Boehme

    Thanks Carol, very concise, clear sort of ‘first time’ definition of here-now consciousness.

    Is it possible to be here all the time? Usually, I’m not. Yet it’s said that with practice it is very possible.Practice brings familiarity and ease, and accessability. This knowing of the possible allows for returning to a familiar presence, that often is enough (for me). If not, I can choose to be with what might be discomfort, distraction, maybe even confusion, ‘stepping back’ to the breath, returning to the scene. “Ah it’s ok, what’s happening? That’s right, here I am, witness to myself, witness to what is happening with this right now relationship (with other, with world, with myself)”.

    We are humans, made this way, why would we want to be anything else? But if we (I) question, we find out that questioning is OK too! “Back to my breath, back to what’s happening.” Isn’t it incredible to be alive, to be this me!!!

    My best wishes for you Carol, looking forward to the time we speak with each other again.

    Randall Boehme

  2. Deborah Cole

    Thank you Carol. While I like to believe I have been practicing this witness consciousness, I recognize the difficulty I have struggled with and my need to continue to practice. Glimpses of moments, breaths, never lasting longer than just that a moment i (or less) in time allow me to be present, yet then my thoughts immediately jump ahead or look back.

    For some reason it has been easier to be a witness for others, yet in my core I know I must acknowledge my own feelings, my own sensations ….first.
    Having the ability to “identify” as you say, the core of my joy or agitation becomes necessary for me to determine the next word or action needed AND the intention behind same.
    My mind I discover, is truly a master of disguise. I think of the movie “Catch me if you Can” and smile, as my mind can jump from this moment, to the future, to the past and be completely out of “the moment” before I Catch it!

    As my wonderful meditation teacher Jonathon Froust once said, “the practice is having the discipline to show up to practice”.

    Thanks for the insight and big hug to you. Will speak soon!
    Deborah Cole

  3. How amazing that what I have been exploring for the past week, appears in this blog….and offers me more to investigate and consider!!!!
    Thank You

  4. I really appreciate the simple but profound truth you’re articulating here – that we cannot be a conscious witness for another without first practicing the skill of being a conscious witness for ourselves. Thanks for this useful and informative post!

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