Moment by moment, one event after another crosses in front of our field of experience. Our work is to slow down and observe the world that is being created within ourselves as we organize around the event of this moment.
Who are you in this moment? You are the character who’s experience is enmeshed in the story and state of where your attention happens to be focused. You are not always THIS character. There may be a cast of thousands in there! While we like to think of ourselves as being one stable personality, one or another of these characters, these parts of us, can get triggered simply as a result of where our attention goes.
Here’s an experiment: focus your attention onto something that you know has some emotional charge for you. Maybe an incident that left you hurt or unresolved, maybe a gift from a friend, a scar on your arm, maybe your dog. As an experiment, see if you can sustain your focus on that thing WHILE watching the unfolding elements of your experience. That is, notice what thoughts arise, what emotions, what you feel in your body, the flow of associations, even how old you feel. Notice the story that gets indulged, and the state that accompanies it. Notice all this AS THE WITNESS rather than as the one having the experience.
To turn this exercise into some practical training, see if you can sustain focus – or even choose some other charged thing to focus on if you want – and slow down enough to “locate” yourself securely as the witness (which simply means to be “separate” enough from your experience to be able to study it), staying there long enough to really experience the difference between being this character and being the “witness”. Then, and this is where you strengthen your skills, shift to being the character who is having the present moment experience, letting go of the witness altogether. Allow yourself to be enmeshed there long enough to have a conscious awareness that, “yes, this is familiar, yes, I know this character”. Then (the most strengthening step) step out again and locate yourself as the witness. Stay present as the witness while allowing this part of you, this character, to stay present as well.
The better you get at being able to step out of your experience and be the witness, and to shift back and forth as described above, the stonger your ability will be to get perspective in situations which in the past may have most “undone” you. There is much you can do with this skill!
Copyright © 2014 Jim Lehrman