Watching for Awareness: Meditation, Part 4 of 6

When it comes to sorting out and through all that internal chaos, there’s a tendency to want to figure out they whys and whatfors and hows.  We get caught on questions and we try — sometimes to the point of desperation — to figure out right then and there what the answer is.  That’s not meditation, and it’s also not how to generate awareness.

In meditation circles, you will frequently hear the terms observer, watcher, witness.  They are all the same thing, and they are all a part of you.  It’s something you naturally have in you already that you use every single day — you observe, watch, witness traffic.  You observe, watch, witness a TV show.  You observe, watch, witness the clouds in the sky. By observing, watching and witnessing your thoughts, your choices, your actions — especially as they flutter through your mind as you meditate — you start to see patterns.  Patterns lead you to answers.

What gets confusing, is that most of us think that watching, witnessing and observing is figuring out.  Watching, witnessing and observing are just that: Watching, witnessing and observing.  Meditation is what helps you clear a path so that we can do so with clarity and non-attachment.

I’m going to make things really easy for you with this next statement: You do not have to do any figuring out.  It happens naturally — there is no active role you have to take to make it happen.  In fact.  That’s what causes that sense of feeling (very) stuck.

I know you want to figure out why your life is the way it is, or how to make adjustments…but you do not do that.  You don’t have to.  When you try to do so, things get over-complicated, difficult, frustrating and the answers stop coming.  Why?  Because you’re trying to coerce the answers into existence out of nothing.  Your job isn’t to figure out.  Your job is to just watch, witness and observe.

There is a part of you, something already built into your very nature that does the figuring out for you.  (Oh, boy — did I ever struggle learning this!)  There is a natural processor in you, a snazzy, sate-of-the-art Intel Pentium 9000.  Its sole purpose in its life is to process and figure out.  It’s what it lives for.  It lives and breathes figuring out.

You are the programmer.  You can no more do the figuring out than a computer programmer can be the processor.  Yes, he or she writes the code for the processor, but they cannot be the processor.

That means there’s two very distinct parts of you that work in tandem:

The observer/witness/watcher and the processor.

If you’re feeling really frustrated about something, ask yourself — are you watching or trying to figure out?  I bet a million Monopoly dollars you’re stuck in figuring out mode. (You don’t figure out the TV show or sunset, right?  You might have a curiosity as to how it’s created…but what happens if you start trying to figure out the TV show or the sunset?  Do you get understanding, or you totally miss it?)

Meditation is about clearing the path of all the flotsam and jetsam that gets in the way.  The junk code that’s causing your life to bleep and bloop in directions you don’t want.  Like the CIA agent I mentioned in Part One, your job is to just observe and listen, and when there’s a tidbit of usable info — you’ll naturally find it, just as that CIA agent is trained to focus in on important information in among the humming drivel in his or her ear.

In a core way, meditation is about purifying the ability to witness/observe/watch.  Really, that’s all meditation is.  You can meditate on something, sure.  But what you’re really doing is pondering it and letting the processor do the sorting out.

Another way to look at it is that you are the witness on the stand, relaying what you observed; you are also the lawyer asking questions.  But what you’re doing is feeding information to the jury.  They do the “figuring out”.  You cannot be both the witness on the stand and the jury (who are also observers themselves, but they aren’t you).

The act and practice of meditation, especially if you’re just sitting and observing as I described in my previous post, allows you the easiest path towards having the answers you seek come.  Keep in mind though, the answers that do come are much like the lyric in that Rolling Stones song: You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.  Rejecting answer because they aren’t what you expected is what creates gaps in our awareness and in our paths to our goals.  Preference/expectation, remember?  It’s really, really, really key to let go of any and all judgment for whatever comes up — whatever thought it is, whatever emotion.

Something else to keep in mind is that if you’re not getting any answers — wanted or needed — there’s two things happening.

One, that processor part of you doesn’t have enough information yet.  It needs more, so you’ll have to do more observing/watching/witnessing.  And then, suddenly, as you’re folding the laundry — doing something mundane — Bing! you get the answer.

The other is that you don’t even need the answer at all.

Personally — I like to take that point of view all the time, because it just means I have less to deal with all around.  I mean, really — isn’t that even better?  Yes, I know.  It would be great to have answers to everything. But having answers to everything also means you have to process and integrate that much more.  It would mean having to go through and touch, retouch, then touch again every single item in every single box in your overflowing attic and/or garage.  Ugh.

The other nifty thing about that processor part of you is that it also naturally chucks out the stuff you don’t need at all.  It’s like a professional organizer who has such a keen insight into you personally, he or she doesn’t have to consult with you about how you want your home organized.  They just know. So does your processor.  Remembering you’re just the observer/watcher/witness allows you to disengage from the process, making it easier on you and for the answers to come (or not come….)

There will be days when you get up and you’re confronted with a situation and you discover that somewhere, somehow, something shifted and you react in a wholly different way.   So if an answer comes — great.  If an answer doesn’t come — well, that’s (perhaps) even better.  A relief, really.  Because who wants to sort through every piece of junk they own?

Sometimes it will be necessary.  What does come up will often mean more observing/watching/witnessing.  Sometimes it will be great.  Other times, you will find that you’re thoroughly shocked, even mortified and ashamed at what comes up as an “answer.”  I have moments of my own like that.  I suddenly became acutely aware of a behavior I had that appalled me.  But those a-ha moments are the ones that are the biggest gems for you because they’re going to show you a massive clog in your system, a gigantic lump of coding, that’s been creating enormous issues for you.  Those are the things to embrace with the most acceptance, compassion and vigor because they’re the most valuable.

And they create the most momentum.

You can also actively witness a situation for which you want answers.  At first, you likely won’t have the skill to (consistently) do so as it’s happening, but you can always witness/watch/observe retroactively.  You can go sit in a bathroom stall at work and roll your mind back over something that just happened (or, at home later that evening), asking yourself questions like,What could I have done differently?  How could I have handled that differently?  Why do I always feel like it’s necessary to have that reaction, even though I hate it?  Next time this comes around, what could I do differently?

Feed the questions to your processor, much like you’re typing in your search query in your Internet search box for the browser you’re using.  And like that, you may get hits right away, or you may have to ask the questions a few times.  Sometimes your little internal processor has to sort through a bunch of stuff for awhile…or it needs you to do more observing and providing of information.

You can also retroactively witness/watch/observe something that happened years ago.

So remember — meditation is the act of observation.  That’s it.  And as you do that more and more, you start streamlining things.  You start clearing out all that dusty, mucky crud that’s jammed into all the closets of your mind and getting answers.  If you don’t, all it means is that the jury is still out, and a little patience is needed.

Other Parts:


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Questions? Comments? Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, leave a comment below or feel free to start up a conversation in the discussion forum.

— H


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