Every day, as soon as I wake up, I wash up and head downstairs to my cushion to start my day from a centered place. When I arrived at my meditation seat the other day, all I could feel was my pounding head. I had not had enough sleep, and woke up with a headache. For most of us, our knee-jerk reaction to pain is to either try to push it away with denial, medication or temporary pleasures, or run towards it by projecting judgment or anger at it, as though it were a roadblock to our happiness.
In a meditative mood, I welcomed my headache into my field of awareness and allowed it to be part of my practice. After all, it was what this moment contained. Sitting quietly in a relaxed yet attentive manner, I opened to it, as though it were trying to communicate something to me. I did not prod. I did not dig in. I did not poke at it or try to push it away. I just sat quietly in a relaxed, yet attentive manner. Rather than getting entangled in not liking it, or trying to change it or fix it, I allowed myself to be receptive to it by letting go of any notion that it was an obstacle to my sense of contentedness.
Soon I became aware of tensions I was carrying, things I had not said, actions I had not taken, emotions I had not felt. I sat in presence and witnessed as these blocked energies started to move. I gave them room, did not judge or get involved – just watched as they danced in front of me. In this new found inner space, the headache began to shift and subside and I had greater clarity about who I am and how I choose to engage with the world.
Most of us resist meeting this moment as it is. We overlay our thoughts onto everything. We are constantly interpreting information gathered through our senses and categorizing it to suit our version of reality. We then believe that what we perceive is fixed truth. This in turn motivates our behaviour, which determines our experiences.
In order to not get entangled in our likes and dislikes, we need to cultivate the skill of witnessing. This requires practice. Witnessing is foreign to the way our mind usually works. The mind is driven by the ego, which can only exist in separateness. Our ego and mind thrive on resistance and againstness. We habitually get so involved with what we think that we fully believe our thoughts to be absolute. In essence, we are used to buying into the illusion that our thoughts are permanent.
Enlightened masters remind us that we are not the doers. The self we consider so permanent is just our ego tricking us into feeling separate and in control. As our awareness grows, we see that in order to perpetuate the illusion of being separate, our mind pulls at things we deem valuable and pushes at those we wish to repel. In witnessing, we learn to neither reach for nor run from our point of our focus. In this case, my headache became a great teacher, when I was willing to open to it with presence and awareness.
Witnessing is different from observing, because in observing, we tend to narrate to ourselves through our likes and dislikes, rather than being impartial to what we are observing. At the heart of witnessing is a neutrality that is loving, spacious, relaxed and attentive.
As you develop greater awareness in your life, meeting the moment provides one of the greatest tools for your spiritual growth. This happens as you witness what is, as it is. In spaciousness, life and all its fullness arises and you experience newfound freedom, vitality and effervescent joy.
Parvati is an award-winning musician (I Am Light, Electro Yog, Yoga In The Nightclub), yogini (YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine), author (Aonani of Avalon, Confessions from Your Awakened Self) and founder of the not-for-profit Parvati.org. All her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS).More info: parvati.tv; parvati.org.