LISTEN while reading
The Witness or The Witness Position, as it is commonly referred to, is meant to refer to the status of bare attention to the phenomena of existence, without confusion with emotional or other reaction.
The tendency resulting from identifying Witnessing as a "something" is toward a kind of effort at witnessing without reaction -- a kind of self-nullification, and as such, an action.
And as such, witnessing is temporary and conditional. That witnessing cannot be maintained indefinitely, even with practice, because as an effort, it is inevitably interfered with by other efforts of the moment. Not arising or standing in from the Eternal, it is arising or standing in as a representation of the Eternal, while being an expression of the conditional self.
So, that ain't it.
Witnessing must be true of both the conditional self and of the status of existence as an emerging mystery-in-progress.
So, what is that?
Let's bear in mind that the conditional self, characterized by self-awareness, depends utterly upon memory for its self-awareness. In particular, it depends utterly upon something that all somas (sentient beings) require for all and any perception: CONTRAST.
Contrast is a function of two-ness, though not necessarily of duality defined as pairs of opposites. Any two-ness will do, similar or different.
EXAMPLE: Visualize a black cat in a coal bin at midnight.
You might argue that we can't see the cat simply because it's dark. However, the same invisibility would pertain if it were a white cat on arctic snow at mid-day. The common term is "snow blindness".
It's the contrast that's missing, not light, itself.
For self-awareness, the contrast is between short-term memory, which furnishes us with the perception of what we call, "the Now", and long-term memory, which furnishes us with the whole matrix of memories that constitutes our felt sense of identity. Memories change at different rates and contain different content, and those are the contrasts. Those contrasts stimulate the formation of new memories and it's the formation of new memories that confers the sense of existence through the sensations involved. No memory, no sense of existence. Period.
Self-awareness requires contrast to experience existence. While common contrasts derive from movement, color, smell, etc., one fundamental, primal, and mysterious contrast derives from the nature of attention, itself: existence and non-existence, or "something-ness" and the absence of something-ness. That's a pretty primal contrast.
AND SO (punchline)
Non-existence is essential to Witnessing and the contrast between non-existence and existence is the very nature of witnessing.
Anything else, if true, would involve "something unwitnessed doing the witnessing" -- and I'm not speaking of a transcendental something behind it all, but of an egoic something -- the one making the effort to witness.
Now, if I've confounded your mind, that's something good. There's more.
Here it is:
Witnessing is our very nature, before any efforts to cultivate it. A dog "has" Witnessing Nature. I write, "has" (in quotes) rather than without quotes, because "witnessing nature" is not something one can "have"; the one who might presume to "have" it is actually being witnessed, rather than "being The Witness"! Which one is witnessing which??
In either case, even without self-referencing self-recognition, a dog's non-existing witnessing function is neither more nor less "non-existing" than ours. Hence.
There's a verrrry simple argument that makes this all easy and clear: (You were hoping, weren't you?)
We perceive everything after it happens, given the speed that our neurology can transmit the nerve impulses that register sensation. That's slower than instantaneously. To add more time lag, we have the time needed to recognize something. The combination are called, "reaction time". By time we perceive something, it has to be a short-term memory in us, given meaning by long-term memory. We are always perceiving, cognizing and recognizing the present in terms of the past. The very present has yet to emerge into our short-term memory, which takes reaction time. The very present is always unknown, and we take the post-present for the very-present.
The very-present is another name for Witnessing. It would have to be, as to be pure awareness, Witnessing would have to be present with everything and nothing, which are but partially known (remembered) and, in totality, unknown.
SAID ANOTHER WAY
Experience comes into action "before" witnessing can apprehend it as the short-term memory impression we call, the present. Then, as short-term memory forms, attention can locate features/aspects of experience. But awareness precedes attention, witnessing the mystery that precedes emerging experience. The Witnessing is the witnessing of Mystery by Mystery, prior to memory. It doesn't arise with or from the witnesser; the witnesser, if that person or function arises, is witnessed as having arisen before the witnesser knew it.
Everything happens before we know it, including Witnessing.
The Witnessing Function Blends with Mystery -- and this can be verified by intuitive contemplation.
So, if you think you need to cultivate the Witness, that thought arose before you knew it, and you've always already been Witnessing, the witnessing even of Mystery and Ignorance.
The Indefinite Mystery Looks Out into the Conditional Mystery
Posted by Lawrence Gold, somatics