In Meditation: What Is Meant By The Witness?​

Let’s take an example of a practice where you are observing the belly rise and fall as you inhale and exhale. You are aware of the physical movements of the belly and the characteristics of the breath from a place of observation. These could be: the depth of the breath, its rhythm, comfort or discomfort in the abdominal or chest region, digestive movements, sensations and so on.
You notice all of these happenings that are taking place.

As these movements take place there may be a commentary from the mind, for example:
‘My breath is not deep enough; it should be different or better,’
‘Wow! My belly is getting big!’
‘I am doing this really well’ and other random thoughts like ‘What is for dinner…?’
You once again are aware of the commentary.

There may be a number of layers to this including feelings and emotions, trying, resisting and so on, but all of these layers arise and pass.

The witness is prior to and sees all of these movements come and go, yet itself does not come and go.

It is always present, inactive, neutral, opinion-less, free and unaffected by what it witnesses.

It includes everything and excludes nothing yet remains unchanging.

Some of the other commonly used terms that also refer to the witness are: awareness, consciousness, the observer, the watcher, the seer and presence.

On discovering that you are not your thoughts, your emotions, your mind, your body or bodily sensations, your beliefs, your personality or ego, because all of these can be witnessed as they change, it may leave a question of well…
What or who am I then?
What is unchanging and sees all of this?

Is there actually a witness or is there just witnessing?

And what happens if the witness or witnessing is relaxed even further?

Perhaps as the focus is turned towards WHAT IS WITNESSING and away from what is being witnessed the real discovery can be made.

Maybe this was the true purpose all along…

David Rees

From Finding Peace In The Very Heart Of Life