When I am not on tour, my life is busy preparing to go back on the road. These past months have been full on with new musical releases, video and show production and website launching. Thankfully, I have a dedicated meditation practice that helps me revitalize and keep a big picture while being able to be present in the here and now. 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 and 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 what it was telling me by letting go of any notion that it was an obstacle to my sense of contentedness.
In order to not get entangled in things we like and dislike, 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.
Meeting this moment as it is, is not something most of us do. We overlay our thoughts onto everything. The mind is 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. Witnessing is different than 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 neutral impartiality that is spacious, relaxed and attentive.
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. When we witness, we see that in order to continue the illusion of being separate, our mind tends to pull at things we deem valuable and push at things we wish to repel. So with a headache, my tendency would be to want to get rid of it as fast as possible. But in this moment, my approach was different. In witnessing, we learn to neither push at, that is run from, nor pull at, that is, run towards, the point of our focus. In this case, it was my headache.