Welcome to day 5 of our Cookbook for a Sacred Life virtual course!
Today our topic is Karma Yoga.
In the day 5 audio teaching, Ram Dass says:
You use the Witness to extricate yourself from identification with all of your psychodynamic systems. You don’t deny them. That’s pathology. You don’t push them away. You give them space, you acknowledge them. You just don’t get lost in the identification with them. There’s anger. You don’t make believe you’re not angry. That’s phony, that pushes it under. It’ll come get you. You’re angry, but you’re also noticing, “Boy, am I angry.” Cultivating that Witness is a very profound component of karma yoga.
WRITING PROMPT: Share an experience where you were able to identify with the Witness. It can be a simple experience (like a flash of a moment) or something more complex (like a long-ingrained habit.)
Sometimes when I wake up in the morning and I start to play out the day or the night before in my head I’ll see ‘scenes’ or ‘scenarios’ play out and I’ll realize into them that I’m not witness and will sort of Zoom Out the scene and retap into self like ‘are we okay’ or ‘let the day play out, don’t assume’.
This mornings read on Day 5 resonated soooo much and almost brought me to tear. Knowing that, I’m not crazy lol, I mean, I might be but this wasn’t always the case. Only in the last two years has this action began. As I’ve noticed it more and allow myself to identify with what’s happening I’ve moved into a more ‘let it go’ and allow myself to be state of action.
Thank you for reading and being so present everyone. Means a great deal
I’ve always found that my ego attaches itself to my spiritual work. For example, when I was at a monastery last summer, my mind was going ‘I wonder how I’ll explain this far-out experience to people’ and ‘people are going to be impressed when they hear I was up at 4 am to meditate!’
I had a beautiful moment where I caught myself in that thought and began chuckling at the ridiculousness of it all
I’ve found developing the witness an amazing opportunity to experience life without the constant pull of the ego. It allows for so much spaciousness and gives me the chance just to be, to let things happen, instead of always rushing to DO everything.
I’ve used this “witnessing” in my meditation and yoga practice. Sometimes while in savasana I see myself lying still and resting from above. I use the same witnessing in meditation - what or who is this that perceives, there is no form, there is no person - just awareness. I’ve felt bliss from this practice and have also watched fear come in - It feels like attachment to the experience of being alive in this physical body.
This reminds me of an old yogic “digestion” practice , which was at the end of the night before going to bed to back through the day in 30 min increments seeing a moment as a snap shot to observe. Not only does it digest the day but it helps us develop the witness. I think I will try that again. Thank you
Developing the witness has been so helpful for me, even with just getting out of bed on mornings I’d rather sleep in. Like instead of telling myself, “I have to wake up and do…(whatever the task is that day)” I tell myself, “I’m going to watch myself wake up, get out of bed and do…” That little switch in perspective allows me to skip the wallowing and arguing with myself about whether or not I actually have to do it and just get on with it without resentment and with more interest and curiosity.
I try to practice the witness in meditation/yoga by narrating what I am doing and envisioning watching myself from a different angel. From there, I try to continue that throughout my day. It is a steady practice. Of course, it is a bit more challenging when I am off the mat and going about my day, “chopping the wood”. I do have little post it notes on my computer that say things like, “ahh so” & “just witness”
My career has been sales. I’ve been interested in the art of selling/pursuading for several years. Sales people are some of the hardest people to sell, but once I sold my rational mind on the truth of my being (the Witness) I am able to use these moments of getting caught up as a pointer back to what has been realized. I know that who I am is not that which can be known. This allows me to cultivate that part of the mind which is directed toward this awareness by watching the ever changing nature of experience.
well I have more to say generally about how my life is my curriculum than the witness - this morning I Wass very caught in some interpersonal drama… I keep returning to my practice including nw listen ing to the recording - and doing the reading - I am somewhat aware while I am moving through my day that when I am caught I am caught. - I am less able to misidentify and stop action (as I mentioned in section on renunciation… still wondering how we release attachments) - my confusion is really very interpersonal I guess another topic almost started one the other day - but for now I would say that I must not be fully identified bc I am participating here and not reaching out to participate addictively in engagement - tho I did earlier…
Cultivating the perspective of “The Witness” is something I was introduced to years ago by a counselor I was seeing at the time. I was in the middle of a very challenging time in my life, learning to be a step-parent in a very dramatic situation. It was a situation I felt that was completely out of my control, and it seemed that I was always being tossed about like a leaf on the ocean. I imagined writing a book titled “Life in Blender”.
I shared that idea with my counselor, and she gave me this suggestion…that the next time I found myself in a situation that I felt was out of my control, to step back and look at it as an observer, rather than a participant, as if I was collecting information to put in my book. I think this exercise is similar to cultivating the witness. It created
a feeling of detachment, and helped to remove the emotional attachment to the situation.
I’ve been on this path of witnessing myself and it’s been a huge blessing.
It has helped me to detach from the myself either in act of kindness or in an act “ego” self centered action. Both in which I’m learning to play not interference .
A few weeks ago I had plans with a friend & we had agreed at certain time, however I didn’t get ready on time & arrived 45min late & of course he had began to eat . Once I arrived I was so hungry & I witnessed myself being self centered…
So I allowed this to unfold. Seeing that this version of me was in need to be expressed.
As I witnessed this version of me unfold , the MINDFULNESS of the moment began to shift.
Interesting it wasn’t that “i” the “witnesser” did anything but rather the mindful part of me caught up & began to shift.
I’m becoming a self study & it’s a fascinating journey.
This “digestion” practice sounds great, I loved hearing in one of the first couple lessons about how spiritual practice helps us to digest our days. And then coupled with today’s lesson, how the practice allows us to remove ourselves from within the day. Like the zoom out.
This practice you mention reminds me of a practice I was taught recently, which is to remember 5 snapshots from the day, and 5 snapshots from the day prior to that, and so on, about 5 days back in time. It helps develop an awareness of what is going on in our day, and digestion. Bonus, I usually find that my 5 snapshots are also the things I am most grateful for in that day, e.g., going on a walk outside, seeing a flower, eating a tasty meal, etc.
What a great lesson today! When I went backpacking across Europe a few years ago, I had everything planned as one does. Hostels, itinerary, sights to see. But as any traveler can tell you, hiccups at the very least can and do happen. I misplaced my Apple Watch, got my credit card stolen, got lost in foreign cities, flight delays, my phone stopped working at one point and I had to fly to another city because the city I was in had no Apple repair shops etc… One particular example though was visiting Accettura Italy, a tiny town where my great grandparents were born. Beautiful place.
Problem was I arrived and the hostel I booked at was closed and no one was there, my cell phone was dead, I dont speak Italian, and to top it off, the bus that dropped me off there wasnt coming again until the next morning, as its off the beaten path and not a major tourist destination. I sat in the town square with my backpack on, completely lost at what to do. I observed this feeling and even settled into it. I cant communicate with anyone, Google Translate wasnt what it is now, and my phone was dead anyways, I cant book another hostel in this town because that was the only one, where do I do now? Well Im going to have to sleep outside in the town square and wait for the bus in the morning I guess. Later on a group of people at a cafe, Italians, came over and I tried to communicate in English and the basic Italian I know, which is a few words at best. A very nice couple offered me a room above their restaurant for the night. Was a surreal experience being in the city of my relatives, and also the experience of the kindness of that couple. Overall the backpacking trip had me thriving on the chaos of the unknown in each moment and appreciating it. I’d think, wow, I have no idea what to do now, Im alone in a foreign city, or my Apple Watch is gone. Id take some deep breaths, observe the situation and a solution always came. There was an odd calming effect in me, of just settling into whatever was happening, observing and having the space then to come up with a solution. I was able to overcome each obstacle that presented itself, and in many ways came to see the obstacles or roadblocks as a fun challenge. That was a routine or habit that developed as the trip progressed, and I was able to work on it all throughout my adventures. Im certain at the beginning of my trip I wasnt able to do that, but Im glad I worked on that skill in real time, it enhanced my galavanting in Europe.
I have experienced the Witness, to mention an example, in situations where my mind starts making up (or bigger, or worse) a whole a story from something that happened without that scenario actually happening yet . I observe how that scenario or scene starts be-coming inside me and then I start generating emotions in response and then having sensations and maybe that impacting my actual mood and so on…. All happening as a quick chain and being birthed from something my mind made up as a thought or image.
Some of those times when I am present and connected with mySelf, I observe them early in the game and so I do not get hooked so deeply; other times, oh boy, I observed the whole process of how I am getting pulled all the way down and is so interesting. Just being present to observe the whole process is a blessing instead of just getting hooked and not knowing where did the emotion or reaction came from.