Dear Francis, I have been enjoying your DVDs for a while now and would like to ask a question about witnessing during meditation. Increasingly, both in frequency and duration, I have been having the experience of being separate from my thoughts during meditation. On one two week occasion, I also had this experience outside of meditation, during activity, most noticeably during routine activities such as washing dishes, taking a shower, etc. This experience outside of meditation was liberating and wonderful. I am wondering whether I can encourage this experience in any way, or do I just leave it alone to develop at its own pace? Or, is it relevant at all? All the texts I read (Yoga Sutras, Tibetan Yoga, etc.) describe this experience very clearly, so this leads me to think it is significant and encouraging. Thank you, Joan
The experience you describe as “being separate from my thoughts” is one in which you are knowingly the presence in which your thoughts appear. Happiness or peace is the experience of awareness knowing itself, which explains why this experience is “liberating and wonderful”. You will notice that this experience seems in the beginning to occur when circumstances are fairly neutral: while meditating, washing dishes, taking a shower, etc… This is due to the fact that when the “objective landscape” doesn’t generate reactions of attraction/repulsion (neutral circumstances) it stops hypnotizing our attention. Awareness “falls back” onto itself and our primeval peace is experienced.
You can be open to this experience by welcoming with benevolent indifference the flow of perceptions, feelings and thoughts, which is the essence of meditation. However, you cannot trigger it: if you don’t call it, it will call you. This experience is a good sign, but never forget that the ultimate goal is the Self, not the peace that surrounds it. You want the diamond, not the box that contains it, no matter how fancy it looks. Addiction to this experience may become an obstacle on the path. The goal is not a state that comes and goes. As the Buddhists say: As long as there is still a distinction between nirvana and samsara, it is still samsara.