Wouldn’t it be a great relief to be free from the tyranny of your repetitive and useless thoughts?
These unwanted thoughts creep into everything that you do, rudely interrupting your focus with their often negative nature.
The mind is merely a tool that you use to understand and interact with the world. How then can the thoughts that it generates disturb your peace?
Vedanta explains that this happens because we readily identify with our thoughts and think them to be true.
In fact, we think we are what we think. This is what gives the thoughts the power to persecute us.
The Inner witness
There is an ancient Vedanta text by spiritual master Adi Shankaracharya entitled Drg Drisya Viveka, which means “Discrimination between the Seer and the seen” in Sanskrit.
The first verse tells us:
The eye is the seer, and form and colour the seen. That eye is the seen and the mind is its seer. The witness alone is the seer of thoughts in the mind and never the seen.
In his commentary of the verses, Vedantic master Swami Tejomayananda* explains that an object such as a pot, is seen by the eyes. The eyes are the seer and the pot is the seen.
The eyes, in turn, are only instruments that take in the form and colour of the pot. The understanding that it is a pot arises in the mind. Without the mind, we would not cognize the pot. So, mind is the seer and the eyes are the seen.
Now, even the mind is not the final seer. The inner witness is the Seer of the thoughts. In fact, this inner witness is the real Seer. The pot, the eyes and the mind are all the seen.
Who is this inner witness or Seer? It is “I”, the subject or the Self within. This is who we really are.
Coming back to those pesky, intrusive thoughts, it’s important to know that they are merely the seen. I, the Self, am the Seer of my thoughts. (Read: Devalue your thoughts)
If I can see them, they must be something different from me. They cannot be who I am. This may seem pretty obvious, but we constantly take the seen and Seer as one. —They are not.
What we need is practice in identifying with the Seer and not the thoughts. This is best done in meditation when the mind is quiet, pliable and programmable.
By shifting the focus away from the thoughts to the Seer of the thoughts while in meditation, the mind is trained to turn toward the Self when we need to stay detached and calm.
Imagine being able to mitigate anger by withdrawing from angry thoughts. It is truly a useful and practical skill to develop.
Below a meditation practice to help you identify with your true Self, the Seer within.
(If you’d like some basic instructions and understanding of meditation you can read: Meditation Basics and How to get the most out of your meditation practice)
Meditation On the Seer
- Find a solitary place and a quiet time for your meditation practice.
- Sit upright on a chair or on the floor, with your head, neck and back in a straight line.
- Hold your body very still, but do not tighten or strain any muscles. Stay relaxed.
- Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Feel your body relaxing.
- Bring your awareness to your breath. Notice the cool air entering your nostrils and warm air leaving them. As you do this, your mind becomes quieter.
- Now, when thoughts arise, do not engage in them. Continue taking slow deep breaths and stand by as a witness of the thoughts.
- Gently tell yourself, “I am the Seer of the thoughts. Thoughts arise and disappear in my presence. They are not me. I am ever the Seer and never the seen.”
- By shifting the attention from the thoughts to the consciousness that is witnessing them, they lose their power to disturb you. The mind becomes calm and poised.
- At this point, you can affirm the nature of the Seer by mentally affirming statements such as:
“I am the unattached, peaceful witness of the thoughts.”
“I am ever pure, never tainted by thoughts.”
“Fears, hopes, anxieties and desires are simply thoughts. I am the untouched Seer of them all.”
“I am the unattached knower of the thoughts.”
- Again and again, practice gently nudging your awareness away from the thoughts to the Seer of the thoughts. Hold this attention only as long as you comfortably can. It might be only a minute, or it could be longer. The key is to stay relaxed.
- When you are ready to come out of meditation, bring your attention back to your breathing.
- Gently open your eyes and slowly stretch your body.**
Practice Increases The Gap
Practicing this meditation increases the space between you, the Seer and your thoughts. As you continue doing this, you will find that instead of instantly believing the thoughts, you will be able to step back and be their witness more frequently.
You will consciously respond to outer situations and people instead of re-acting as you did before. This will bring a greater peace and joy into your life and all your relationships.
But don’t take my word for it, try it and experience it yourself.
*Tejomayananda, Swami. Commentary on Drg Drsya Viveka. Mumbai, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, 1994.
Like this post? Sign up for the free fortnightly Spiritual Solutions Newsletter and receive the latest articles, news and updates in your email inbox!