from Chapter 4
SOME PEOPLE HAVE developed more awareness of the witness consciousness by going through some dangerous situation or accident. They remember that during those mere seconds that seemed to last for ages, they felt completely detached from what was happening. Even though their life might have been at risk, even though they might have been screaming at the top of their lungs, they remember at the same time being simply present as a peaceful witness, entirely unconcerned. This happens because of the very strong fear that threatens the very sanity of a person, and thus that person completely withdraws toward that witness consciousness. It is also a basic reason why some people get addicted to danger, bungee jumping from high bridges and all that. They are not only pursuing the rush of adrenaline, but also enjoying the inner experience of deep peace that spontaneously occurs. A similar phenomenon of withdrawal may occur sometimes in cases of extreme sadness or depression, though at those times it is more common to be absorbed by the thoughts and feelings that whirl around chaotically.
Throughout your life, this witnessing you has been present. This witness is not your body, not your personality, not your past or future, not your thoughts or feelings. . . . It is your witnessing presence, your most essential awareness. You simply are, always, witnessing. It is the one you that you are--and you can find nothing else to be than that, at least not in any permanent, absolute, true way. You can feel that you are that, even if you cannot define what that you is.
You cannot witness yourself; how can a witness witness itself? That is like trying to touch yourself in a mirror--it will not work. You cannot be in the mirror; otherwise, how could you see your image? The subject can only witness the object. You indirectly know you are there because the witnessing is there, because you feel yourself witnessing. No witnessing of the witness is needed to prove its existence--to witness is to be. Your life, thoughts, actions, and so forth, may be seen as a mirrored image of your witness, providing some relative truth about who you are. Nevertheless, the mirrored image will always be imperfect, temporary, nothing like permanent or absolute truth, not a 100 percent true reflection of you.
It is also quite clear that you are not nothing; otherwise, who would not know who he or she is? Nothingness cannot ask such questions. The answer to “Who am I?” may be uncertain, but the question is not. As some witnessing is going on, a witness must be there. Only one who exists can say, “I am not.” To be conscious of the world, or of anything, or of nothing, you first have to be.
Think about why you literally do not know who you truly are. If you could be Mr. or Ms. Such and Such, then the question would be easy to answer. You would really be that name, and there would be no doubt about it. If you were something that had form, with a particular quality or flavor, would you not easily get to know that form and be able to name yourself accordingly? Therefore, isn’t it obvious that the witnessing you is without form? This is one reason why this witness is so easily overlooked, even though it is always there. Because it is no thing, no object with form, but just simply, undeniably you. The witness consciousness is sometimes symbolized as the screen on which the movie of your life experience is playing, while staying untouched by that experience at all times, remaining as impartial as a court witness should. Having neither form nor quality, this you also has no sad or happy past, no hopes or worries about a future, no ideas or opinions to defend, no mood swings, no pain to bear, no hands nor feet. When you can feel the witness to be you, all those just drop off, revealing themselves as separate from you. Isn’t that a relief?
As the witnessing you exists without having form or quality, it cannot change. Without form or quality, what could change? The witnessing you is ever at rest, ever in the now, ever at peace. It ever is and you are ever that, at peace, without any problems or opportunities. In the search for the never-changing truth about you, is it not obvious that that truth which can be found has to be without form, since forms are always changing, impermanent, appearing and disappearing?
Try to imagine doing anything, saying anything, thinking anything, without this witness being present. It is impossible to imagine, because how could any of the things that you usually do happen without someone inside you--that is you, dear you--watching the progress of what happens? How could the constant adjusting that is essential to any process happen? Without the witness, nothing can happen and nothing can be experienced. You can do things without thinking about it, or think things without doing anything. But you as the witness are separate from your thoughts, essential to everything, the essence of everything, the only player that can never be absent. You cannot even be unaware about it without it being there.
In conclusion, you are the witness consciousness, ever at peace, never changing, without form, always an essential part of what happens, but never involved. This witnessing you is often called the self, a good enough name for the nameless entity that is at our very center.