Witnessing Ourselves with Kindness
Meditation teachers often help students develop an observing “I” that is detached from daily life—as if life’s ups and downs were being neutrally witnessed from a distance. Therapists, for their part, can help patients develop an observing self (an ego) that helps them manage life’s ups and downs and function more successfully. Both approaches to witnessing have value, yet they often fall short of supporting us to embody and function from the depths of our spiritual nature.
Although the Diamond Approach® utilizes certain meditation practices, it is not a meditative technique that we apply in order to get a particular, solid perch in our lives; nor is it a branch of therapy.
On this path we discover many different essential qualities, like compassion (the green “latifa,” or aspect of our true nature), strength (the red latifa), and joy (the yellow latifa), each of which helps us work with difficulties and meet each moment, whatever it brings, with more palpable presence.
Familiarizing ourselves with these qualities supports us to bravely dive into a profound experiential exploration, using Diamond Inquiry and the support of our spiritual teacher. We both witness and engage with our experience to reveal what lies at its heart.
When loving-kindness is present, it becomes possible to experience a different kind of “witness awareness”, as Diamond Approach founder A. H. Almaas has written:
What some spiritual traditions refer to as witness awareness perceives things at a distance; it is not an involved awareness. But with the emerald green of Loving-kindness, consciousness becomes an awareness that touches and feels, that knows through intimacy. The inherent knowledge of Being now has an extra dimension, a new kind of depth and fullness, that makes the discriminating awareness full of aliveness and tenderness. – A.H. Almaas, Spacecruiser Inquiry, Chapter 20
With our eyes trained on our experience with kindness—or with someone else’s kind witnessing — we become better able to untangle ourselves from our pain and difficulty.
As I helped [a student] to see that judging and rejecting his experience made it difficult to understand the truth of it, he managed to let his experience be, rather than trying to change or avoid it. His extensive experience doing inquiry, along with the trust he had developed in the teacher and in the process of investigation, helped him take the witness position rather than being totally identified with the particulars of his unfolding experience.” -A.H. Almaas, The Point of Existence, Chapter 29
A Diamond Approach teacher can help us start to disidentify from the limiting beliefs and self-images we adopted when we were children. In time, the practice of Diamond Inquiry opens up our conditioned viewpoint, and we can start to recognize our natural capacity to be mindful and aware, free of our historical identity, and that we have an intrinsic curiosity, kindness, and gentleness.
When there is more awareness in the body, the capacity to know feelings increases. Knowledge requires awareness more than anything else, but it also requires discrimination, strength, patience, courage, kindness, gentleness with oneself, perseverance, and humor. Our technical knowledge here encourages these innate qualities. In a sense you could say that what we do here is to supplement the education that we get elsewhere…. Our experience of our essential nature becomes a kind of knowledge that is more intimate and precise than we have been used to. This opens us up to realms of knowledge we had not imagined existed.
– A.H. Almaas, Diamond Heart Book 3, Chapter 10
This intimate, precise knowledge—the knowledge of our essential nature—allows our witnessing of our life to become more complete. As Almaas describes it, we can experience a sharp clarity about our lives at the same time as experiencing total relaxation and ease:
Enlightened awareness, the Kernel of the Kernel, seamlessly includes everything we know about our true nature, all of what we know at once together, without its being a collection of things or qualities. The complete stillness and privacy of the emptiness add to the clarity a searing, sharp, smooth quality. And the clarity and the fullness add to the emptiness a kind of brilliance, a kind of shine—a shine made more intensely luminous by its total emptiness. This full, luminous emptiness has a kind of lightness, a kind of freedom that is beyond the idea of freedom, a kind of total relaxation and ease. – A. H. Almaas, Diamond Heart Book 5, Chapter 13
In this space of emptiness, one’s identity itself becomes quite simple, and the usual inner dialogue ceases:
“In the lucidity of space, a question appears, carefree and delighted: “And what is me?” Nothing recognizable by memory. I experience myself, without a feeling of self, as the simplicity of presence, which is now a simplicity of perception, a bare witnessing. There is no inner dialogue, and no commentary on what is perceived. The perceiving is without a perceiver, awareness without an observer. Without self-reflection, the simplicity of presence is merely the simplicity of witnessing. I am a witness of all in the field of vision, a witness with no inside. The witness is merely the witnessing. The only thing left from familiar experience is the location of witnessing, which seems to be determined by the location of the body. The body is relaxed and clear. The sense of the body is more of luminosity than of sensation, witnessed as part of the environment.” – A. H. Almaas, Luminous Night’s Journey, Chapter 1
Ways to Engage
Of course, Almaas is not the first spiritual teacher to describe the possibilities for expanding our horizons through developing a witnessing awareness of our experience. Many remarkable teachers over the course of human history have written on these topics; throughout this year, Almaas is offering a set of six free lectures on several of these teachers, including Krishnamurti, Nisargadatta, and Dogen, and related spiritual traditions.
Regardless of whether you might like to join us for a lecture or find a Diamond Approach event or teacher to help you explore, by including kindness and curiosity in your discovery process, you can bring a more richly embodied awareness to your life experience.