Sometimes as students on the path, we think of the witnessing process as an emotionally dry and intellectual process. But if we are sincerely earnest in our efforts to inquire what we actually are, we begin to realize the witnessing process is very powerful. Witnessing our experience is allowing all experience to arise and pass away, and in the process we open ourselves to fully experiencing our thoughts and feelings. We cultivate the willingness to fully experience everything just as it is, to experience all of our feelings just as they are.
At first we’re cultivating the willingness to fully experience everything, but gradually the willingness transforms into the freedom to fully experience anything and everything, without having to armor ourselves against our thoughts or feelings. We’re no longer seeking freedom from our painful experiences, but are finding freedom right in the midst of fully experiencing all of our experience. And as we become aware of the power of witnessing, we become aware of the power of just being. To stay with the sense of ‘I Am’ is to stay with our sense of just being present. As the stream of thought energy is more and more experienced as it actually is, it appears less and less substantial. Simultaneously, the veil that appears to separate us from our actual reality also becomes less and less substantial.
Staying with ‘I am’ is learning to trust our actual presence, rather than having faith in our thought energy telling us what reality is. Reality is not a state of consciousness, subject to our judgments of what is real or not real. Reality is what has always been here now, and will always be here now. It is what we have always been, and will always be. We are what we are timelessly, without any reason for being what we are. We always are what we are, and no reason is needed. Being willing to not find any substance to our ideas about reality, leads us to be willing to trust our actual presence. We begin to intuitively trust on an existential and experiential level that there is simply nothing else to trust or have faith in. After all, the only thing we can know for sure, is that we are.
When Zen masters say ultimate reality is always right here and now, they are also saying that reality is not something to be expected or anticipated by our earnestness in spiritual inquiry. Of course this is what earnest students of the way always do, I certainly still do this every day to some extent. Witnessing our expectations and anticipations is a very powerful tool in aiding us to more deeply and intuitively realize what our presence actually is. Witnessing even our more subtle desires, leads us to seeing that whatever we desire or expect is never anything more than an expression of our ultimate reality of just being present, of our being nothing other than the sense of ‘I Am’. The wisdom and love of our divine presence is always all we need to help ourselves, and to help all beings to end their needless suffering.