We are designed to separate things into dualities: this and that, black and white, up and down, good and bad, pain and pleasure, etc. This is the dualistic mind’s way of seeing. It sees in opposites as it gazes within to the interior realm, and as it gazes outward to the physical world around us. This is the perceptual place from which most of us are coming, with the exception of our fully realized friends around the globe who have evolved to a place outside of duality, where they can see the harmony and perfection in all things, all the time. Duality is also a place from which we can live our lives unaware of our conditioned responses to the world within and the world without. And as a result, we suffer, and endure what feels like endless psychological pain.
How does this translate into the ‘real world’? Well, take drinking for example: What if you’ve been conditioned to want a drink whenever you feel stressed? And what if there was a moment when you’re desiring the drink when you could allow the desire for the drink to be okay? To see desire for what it is . . . just another desire . . . and to feel desire in the body . . . to name what it feels like in the body . . . and then within the privacy of your own mind, lean back from desire and simply be there with the perception of it, without taking any action (yet). What would happen then? Well, it would give you the ability to . . . pause . . . to consider the ways in which you could respond to desire, before you actually did anything about it. Rather than being pulled back into a tour of duty with the addictive behaviour.
How can you let desire for something be okay? You do it by learning to hear the Witness.
In Steven Cope’s masterful work ‘Yoga and the Quest for the True Self’ he talks about how the Yogis discovered that if we can work with our awareness in a way where we acknowledge sensations as they arise in the body, experience these sensations fully, and perhaps most importantly, bear them, we can find freedom and no longer be bound to the world of duality. We would no longer have to feel compelled to react to sensations as they arise. In bearing them, we let them be. In letting them be, we can see them for what they are. In Yogic practice this is called the Witness consciousness. It holds the power to free us from our own conditioned responses and to the play of opposites in the world of duality. In learning to work skillfully with the Witness, psychological healing can flower. This is awareness in action.