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Advanced Yoga Practices
Main Lessons
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Note: For the Original Internet Lessons with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons Books. For the Expanded and Interactive Internet Lessons, AYP Online Books, Audiobooks and more, see AYP Plus.

Lesson 333 - Dissolving the Witness in Unity  (Audio)

AYP Plus Additions:
333.1 - Is the Witness a Retreat from Life?  (Audio)
333.2 - The Mystery of Awareness
  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: May 22, 2009

New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why This Discussion?"


Q: Are the state of the witness and emptiness the same? Concerning emptiness or the witness, I think I might have reached this state to a certain extent, for I am that infinite space whenever I sit in practices and the layers go deeper and deeper from time to time during deep meditation. And when I am in daily activity, I am here now and my mind is literally empty/thought free and I can relate to the witness state whenever I like, and mindfulness and sudden moments of lucidity have become something which happens in an automatic way every now and then.

But the thing is, I see everything as separate from me; even my body I see as separate when I am in that state. I see the oneness in it all my body and it's surrounding, but I see myself as a witness to it all and I don't feel any unity with it. It feels like it's really an illusion which is something bound to vanish in time, but I don't like that it doesn't seem quite romantic.

The thought comes that when I die my body goes and this awareness stays and that's great. But to be honest with you, even though this is a new state of being which is beautiful to a certain extent it can be very lonely if one keeps on being present in it.

Is what I am experiencing something close to the first stage of enlightenment or am I just disillusioned, thinking myself to have reached something and it's just a spiritual phase. And in case it's the real deal, is it supposed to be like this?

A: It sounds very good. If stillness (the witness) is abiding, yes, it is the first stage of enlightenment as we have talked about over the course of the lessons (see Lesson 35). And, yes, that sense of separation will gradually dissolve over time as we continue to move into the second (ecstatic) and third (unity) stages. The thing to do is keep going forward. Keep active. Keep engaged in life. Inquire gently into those discomforts and the loneliness you are feeling about the witness state in relation to the rest of life. Also inquire into expectations, like the expectation that enlightenment is supposed to be "romantic" or not lonely. These are all mind tricks for self-inquiry. That is where the doorways are. The divine flow will emerge from these contractions as you release them. 

Any discomforts or expectations are signs of our lingering separation caused by obstructions in our nervous system, which include body and mind. Even the witness condition itself is a state of separation. Not more separated than we have always been, but with much greater awareness of it, because our divine Self is now known in the witness condition. And then there is everything else which we are yet to experience to be within our own Self. The duality will become unity. The witness gives us great unifying power to promote this process in our daily practices, in the expansion of ecstatic conductivity, and particularly in samyama and relational self-inquiry, which act directly in dissolving the witness into unity. It can also be viewed as dissolving the world (our fabricated perception of it) into the witness. It is the same a merging of Self with all, and all with Self. Then the separation goes. We may still have our old thoughts and feelings, but they will not pull us out of Oneness. Getting rid of thoughts and feelings is not a prerequisite for unity. But transcending our identification with them is. This is a key point.

There are many nuances to dissolving of the witness in unity. All our attitudes, expectations and judgments will be swallowed up in it. That is what happens as true non-duality is stabilizing. But it is not getting rid of our thoughts or personality. It is not philosophical. Nor is it an absolutist view. It is a direct experience. Yet, we must participate consciously in it for it to advance. How do we do that? By cultivating a sincere relationship between our native awareness (the witness, our Self) and all that we see going on in our life, from external relationships to our deepest attitudes and feelings about ourselves and the world we perceive around us. We will know we are on the right track when we are able to question the truth of each and every thought we have, and be able to allow it without identifying with it, without buying into it.

Does this mean we choose to become passive in life, and unable to function? Must our mind become empty of thoughts and our life devoid of effective action? No, thoughts and action will always be there. We do not suppress thoughts or actions that are appropriate for the circumstances we find ourselves in. We release our identification with them. In doing so, our thoughts and actions rise to become divine flow. This is how "karma yoga" emerges. We can choose to become active in surrendering our stories and dramas (and our knee-jerk reactions) to what is happening right now, even as the stories and dramas continue to play in our head. Thats fine. Let them play. We just release in stillness and live our life. In doing so, we can become fierce warriors of Being. 

It is nearly impossible to do this without the abiding witness. Without it, there will be limited space to release into, and no condition of relationship with stillness in which to inquire, allow and surrender. The relationship of the witness with our thoughts, feelings and perceptions of the external environment is the flash point where our inquiry can gain traction. We can let go. This is where the habit of samyama can help us. It all must be released. We can't own anything, not even a thought. The thoughts will be there, but we can release our ownership of them. When we can do this honestly in an inquiring way, and the habit comes to abide in us, then we find that everything is in us, and we own it all.

Jesus said we must die to be born again in this life. This is what we do. In letting go of it all, we gain it all. It is a paradox!

But at the same time, do keep active. Do keep engaged. Your discomforts and expectations in daily living are your teachers. When you can embrace these, allow them and interpenetrate them without clinging or judgment, then that is the dissolving of the witness in unity. If we run away into the witness and do not engage in life, we will be in a trap of our own making. Do not let the tricky mind off the hook so easily. Give the mind no safe perch on which to land. It wants to keep us identified outside the essence of who we are. By fearlessly noticing and dissolving what we are not, what is not true, we will become what we are, which surpasses our imagined egoic self by infinite measure. 

It is a tall order, even though it is only recognizing that less is more. It is something that each of us will approach in our own way, according to the natural inclinations of our spirit at any point in time. It is not recommended to tackle this head on prior to the dawn of the abiding witness, and not recommended beyond the point keeping a stable lifestyle and daily practice routine. So keep up with practices, find your "edge" where the witness and the rest of life meet, and continue to inquire there. If you find yourself struggling with self-inquiry in daily life, or are wallowing with apathy in the witness, it will be a sign of imbalance, too much on one side or the other of the edge. Then it will be time for an adjustment either to self-pace in practices, or to get up off the couch and go out and live fully. 

Regarding your question about the witness versus emptiness, the witness and emptiness/void are two aspects of the same thing. The witness is awareness with objects. How could there be a witness with nothing to witness? But emptiness can be present with or without objects. So the witness is emptiness with objects. 

Its the same with consciousness. We use the word all the time pure bliss consciousness and all that but it only has meaning when there is something to be conscious. Consciousness is awareness being conscious through a body/mind. Beyond the body/mind, it is empty/void.

Emptiness/void is awareness with no objects. Nothing to be aware of. Pure potential, beyond all that exists. The source of all. We can also be that in the body/mind. We are that. It expresses as consciousness and the witness through the body/mind, and as everything we see and do.

The question arises, can awareness exist with no vehicle, no body? Is emptiness/void aware? How can we know? That is why the words emptiness and void are used. Awareness in emptiness is left as an open question. Quantum physics is at this point in its scientific inquiry also. But look around. Miracles are happening all the time, so why not eternal awareness? I'm game for it if you are. At any rate, awareness is now. We have it, and we are it. That we know. So it is suggested to take the necessary steps to live it fully in unity. That is freedom. That is liberation, and it is available to all human beings.

The guru is in you.

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Note: For detailed discussion on the practical utilization of self-inquiry, see the Self-Inquiry book and the Liberation book, and AYP Plus.

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