Driving along a country road I saw to my right a flock of sheep moving towards somewhere or something in a follow the leader fashion. It was a large enough flock moving in unison and fast enough to fascinate me. So I pulled over to watch. On either side of the line were openings that were large enough for escape but none seemed to notice.
The sheep were busy following each other and especially following the one directly in front. They were fitting in not looking left or right and moving as if hypnotized. The sheep were alive and moving with no curiosity about what was outside their line of vision or the possibility of escaping into a more interesting life.
So I wondered how much are we like the sheep?
We stay asleep if we don’t question the rules of living passed down to us by family of origin, schools, churches, work etc. The rules passed down may have worked for the previous generation but not us. How do we know? If we are not happy with our live, we know.
We have to become aware of what we don’t know to make “course corrections”. Our first step is to wake up.
How then, do we Become and Stay Awake?
One very powerful way is to make friends with our inner witness with an intention to become fully aware. Ideally, witnessing means observing our thoughts without judgment and staying in the neutral lane or on the middle path. A difficult place to land; referred to as “the razors edge”. A lot happens between where we are and the above mentioned “ideal”.
It can be painful and it takes inner work to wake up but on the other side is freedom and choice. In order to have a full meaningful life we have to “pause’ and take these first steps.
The witness is an inner observer that helps us to be aware to be present to be mindful of what we are doing and how we are doing it and with what attitude. If an inner ally is a bit foreign to you just ask for it to be present and for you to be aware enough to recognize it when it shows up, or is missing in action.
To the extent that we are aware, we are awake.
To the extent that we are awake, we are free.
How many days, weeks, months and for that matter years that have gone by without any real awareness of what has happened within? Have there been any “course corrections?”
If so have they been with intention, attention and awareness?
If we don’t set an intention we mindlessly scatter our thoughts ruminating as we go through precious time on automatic pilot… Have you ever brushed your teeth and wondered if you had? I’ve done that. That’s automatic pilot.
What kind of energy are your thoughts perpetuating? Where do they come from? Are our thoughts ourselves? Are you so accustomed to your thoughts;that you don’t stop to consider their source. Do you think your thoughts are you?.
Observing creates some space between you and your thoughts. In that space there is an opportunity for choice. You might choose to simply let a thought pass by. Or you might find your attention attaching to a thought, in which case you can take some time to question it. Does the thought feel true? Is it useful? Does it elevate your energy? Does it help you do what you love? If you get a no answer to any of these questions, you can choose a different thought, one that’s more aligned with the truth of who you really are. The ego mind offers up thousands of thoughts a day, most of them repetitive. All we have to do is watch.
To become aware we have to stop and catch ourselves with our hand in the cookie jar so to speak. We cannot change anything unless we are aware enough to watch ourselves in the middle of our doing. The incessant ruminating creates mental clutter to the point of becoming foggy and looking outside ourselves for validation.
A witness is already present for all of us to some extent; often in a not so ideal state. There is a part of us that watches what we are doing all the time. Often that witness is critical and biased as though we are carrying around an internalized parent.
The witness is present when we catch ourselves overreacting, being irrational, fibbing, and acting in self-destructive ways. At such times we are not consciously engaging the witness so that it can help us uncover our limitations and the unconscious aspects of our behavior.
When I have gotten off course and need to become more aware of negative patterns, I ask my witness to show up and be present. If I find myself off course again, I ask again and again until my witness is stronger and becomes my ally.
To be integrous and be fearlessly honest about ourselves we have to be able to rely on our own judgement. Often we search outside for feedback instead of relying on our own judgement. We look around for confirmation. We look to others for feedback and to find clues as to how we are doing from others. Instead of looking directly at our own experience, we try to find it in what is reflected back to us from outside. But if we don’t trust ourselves how can we rely on what is reflected back to us. People interpret appearances and judge what they see through the lenses of their own biases and preconceptions and expectations.
It is easy to become so used to looking for the approval of others that we lose confidence in our own self-knowledge. We must in order to grow to have a happier life learn to trust what we know and not rely so much on others. We really do know when we are being phony or genuine, aware or unaware, compassionate or uncompassionate. No matter what may be going on at the surface, and how confused we may feel, if we just pause a moment and reflect we will know exactly what is going on and what we are up to. When we have an ally, our witness, we can be or become more authentic in our lives and let go of the fear of standing up and being counted.