On being the Witness

by Jena Griffiths
Once, very long ago, basically in another lifetime, I actually had a job that included the hiring and firing of other people. I remember once hiring a new receptionist who was fresh out of no-where with no track record whatsoever.

Her name was ‘Witness’ and she got the job on the strength of her enthusiasm and her warm personality.

I liked Witness from the very first moment, but when she signed her employment contract on all the places specially designated for ‘witness’, she won my heart outright. I found this very amusing at the time, but now, looking back, I see that this was the right place to sign after all!

We are all meant to be the witness in our own lives. This is what the gurus keep telling us.

But why? Why be the witness?

The gurus say, being the witness is what enables us to be fully present. (Eckhart Tolle) And, every time you realise you are not present, suddenly you are! (Osho).

But I think there’s an even more important reason. Internalising the witness is the most self empowering thing you can do. Why? Because it’s the witness is who calls the shots.

Our power goes where our thoughts go.

If we perceive the witness as someone external, an audience, we create an outer authority over ourselves. And we give all our power away to this ‘greater’ force. Suddenly we are no longer in charge of our own lives.

But then, how can one be fully alive in the moment and detached?

Isn’t this a contradiction?

Am I advocating a voluntary split personality?

Yes actually, I am!

I think the word ‘I’ has a lot to answer for. It looks like a keyhole because that’s what it is. Actually there’s a whole army of sub personalities behind it all pushing and shoving to be the one who gets to peep out at the world or air an opinion. The royal ‘we’ is a much healthier reference point. (For more on this read my blog: Cultivating your inner soap box.

Here’s how it works:

Every time you realise your inner critic has you by the throat, suddenly it doesn’t!

Because, suddenly you’re the witness, watching your sub personalities slug it out amongst themselves.

Also, every time you realise that any particular emotional reaction you’re having is a free choice, suddenly you have the power to change it. Or be conscious of why you choose to stay locked in that particular emotion. What are the secondary benefits? (See the work of Byron Katie for more on this. eg. her book, Loving what is.)


Every time you’re conscious of the choices you make, you free yourself to make better choices. ( Caroline Myss).

The great thing about life is, this is totally my movie. I’m the producer, actor and audience. You too. You can be whoever you want to be (just choose or invent a new sub personality whenever you feel like it), just like in that old Cat Stevens classic ‘If you want to be you be you, if you want to be me be me, there are a million things to be, so just be what you be.’

We don’t realise what free choice we actually have because we have projected all decision making and absolute power and authority onto an external, largely imaginary audience. Those unseen eyes we imagine flickering behind our neighbour’s curtains.

It’s a bit of a knock to the ego to finally wake up and realise you don’t need to please an audience because, actually you are the audience! The others you imagine watching have got so many of their own internal soap operas on the go they really don’t have time to tune into your station too.

So what does this mean?

We’re making it up as we go along so may as well make it fun.

I choose to invent an offbeat adventure comedy rather than a horror movie.
And as for my audience? how about a big box of popcorn for the whole internal gang!

Hey, what about when it comes to signing on the dotted line. Who is the real me?

Maybe it’s time to invent an elaborate new signature, incorporating all my sub personalities, including the witness.

I rather like the sound of Jena et al Ink!

How about you?

; )

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