Becoming the Witness: Finding Spaces of Stillness Within Chaos

We live in a society bombarding us with an overwhelmingly immense amount of images, paradigms, constructs defining how to think, act, speak, live, look, behave, thrive, be healthy, or be successful. In this limitless current of sensory input-where is the space of stillness and slowness in our chaotic lives to even find an individual truth, a higher purpose, and connectivity to our authentic self? Can we even have the courage, motivation, self-discipline, or interest in disembarking from the speeding hamster wheel of life, to go beyond the collective consciousness, to purely witness what is real for us in this present moment?

The Sensory Trap

Unfortunately, due to the excessive stimulation, our senses have become so dulled to even recognize, experience, let alone appreciate the real beauty around us. Our sense organs or like wild horses that pull us out into the world, chasing frantically in all directs for pleasant experiences. These wild sensory horses are always craving for more of what causes pleasure (Sukha), and adverting from what instigates pain (Dukha). In this sensory field of craving and aversion, like and dislike, there is no contentment (Santosha). This tenacious cycle of stimulation results in sensory exhaustion. In such an exhaustion we lose the natural sensitivity of our sense organs to fully enjoy and appreciate the subtle and profound beauty of life around us.

Imagine a time when we lived amongst nature, under the vast sky, surrounded by trees, in dense forests. There was no backdrop of energetic and sensory drainage through wifi signals, cell phones, cable TV, pollution, or humming freeways. Just the pure sounds and energies of nature— the rushing brook, the call of birds, the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. There was no sensory overstimulation or under stimulation, but instead perfect harmony of the senses with their natural capacity to receive stimuli. The sunset signaled you to retreat to bed, while the sunrise ushered you to rise and begin your day. Your whole organism was totally in alignment with your environment.

Now, transported back inside your home, maybe with some windows, but shielded from direct exposure to the outside environment. Now add the internet and television, and yet another degree of separation occurs. Inside your home while engaging in a digital space, creates such a degree of separation, that our body and mind has very little connectivity to what is actually happening outside our window, let alone within us.

Pause & Reset the Senses

In this moment, practice closing your eyes and identifying sensations, without judgement, criticism, like or dislike. Allow your self to just witness—the lull of cars, the roaring airplane, the rumbling of the your stomach, pains in the body, boredom, smells, the hum of silence…anything at all. Just witness, and allow. In this allowing there is a natural reset to the senses and the nervous system. In this witnessing, we disconnect our personal involvement in the relationship of the senses and their stimuli. Instead we allow whatever comes up, to just to BE. Can we be with what is real for us in this moment without like or dislike, judgment, or criticism, craving or aversion? This tool of witnessing allows us to tap into the stillness, rawness, purity, and peace in the present moment.

Reflection Exercise:

Take a few moments to close your eyes and check in with your breath.

In this present moment, I am witnessing ____________________ (thought, feeling, emotion).

When I witness this _________________ (thought, feeling, emotion), my initial reaction is to ______________________.

Instead, I chose to continue to witness this sensation of _____________ (thought, feeling, emotion) and my reactions of ________________ without craving for more, wanting it to change, or to run away.

I will stay and observe the totality of my experience as the witnessing observer.

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