Happiness self help resource article 201

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How to Let Go: The Principle of “witnessing”,
self help article
by Bill Harris

Happiness and wellbeing self help personal development article about self help resources for happiness, personal development and self growth. size=1>

“The real answer to the question of what to do when you are resisting, but the resistance is unconscious, is to just watch.

Stop fighting with yourself and just notice what is happening.

Distress and discomfort fall away when you do this almost as if by magic.” Bill Harris, Director, Centerpointe Research Institute

Everyday we communicate with dozens of people using the Centerpointe program, some of whom are having a hard time with the program. Sometimes these people are angry, depressed, fearful, anxious, or confused — or are creating any number of other responses.

One of the main instructions we give these people is to “watch what is happening — watch with curiosity.”

This is a deceptively simple instruction that nonetheless has tremendous power. What does it mean? And how do you do it?

Being the witness, the watcher, the observer, has been a part of meditative practice for centuries, but what exactly this really means is not often explained in a way that makes down to earth practical sense.

You may be tired of hearing me harp on the subject of resistance, and how resistance creates any discomfort you may be experiencing in the program (or in life in general, for that matter).

I find myself saying or writing at least fifty times a week that if you are having any discomfort in the Centerpointe program, it’s because somewhere, on some level, there is resistance.

Some people think I say this just to blow off people who are having a negative reaction to Holosync, so as to not have Holosync take the blame.

Not so. Not so at all. To adopt a position of power, one in which you have control over your destiny, you must take full responsibility for whatever response you are creating to whatever is happening, to whatever stimuli you are faced with.

If you cannot acknowledge that you are creating your response to everything that happens to you, you are helpless, a victim of your environment.

Only when you take responsibility is there a possibility of doing something about your situation or creating something different. The main source, then, of both personal power and peace of mind is taking all responsibility for what happens (notice I didn’t say “blame,” I said “responsibility”).

So, first, you must acknowledge that whatever your experience with Holosync or the Centerpointe program, it is YOUR response.

It comes from you, from who you are. As I’ve said so many times, “We provide the stimulus, you provide the response.”

Sometimes this response comes from an unconscious part of you, one you have little or no control over (or so it seems), but it nonetheless comes from you (rather from some force outside of you, regardless of the appearance).

Why would you create a negative response? Because a part of you is in resistance to whatever is happening. What, then, is happening, and why would you resist it? Here’s the answer:

Some part of you is trying to reorganize, to change, as a result of the Holosync stimulus, but you associate keeping that part the way it is with your safety in the world and, at least unconsciously, you don’t feel safe letting the change happen.

Perhaps you have stayed very self-contained since you were a small child, not letting anyone get close to you because, in your family, it wasn’t safe to get close.

But now Holosync is breaking up the old pattern and creating a new ability to be close, intimate, and connected with others.

Consciously you may want this, but since letting go of the old defense mechanism feels unsafe to that “inner child” part, you resist.

The more important this old way of being seems essential to your safety to that unconscious part of you, the greater the resistance will be. And the greater the resistance, the greater the discomfort, the greater the suffering.

Whatever the discomfort, whatever the upheaval, whatever the issue, some part of you — some inner strategy that you associate with safety — is trying to grow and evolve, and another part of you is not willing to let go.

What can you do? Some people (those for whom resistance is a major tool in their survival arsenal, as was the case with me) just want to quit.

“I didn’t start this program to be pissed off all the time,” they say to me. Or they say “I feel worse than ever. Who would want to do this?!”

(Remember that the majority of people do NOT create this kind of resistance, or they create it only occasionally when something big is shifting — I don’t want to give the impression to those of you trying to decide whether or not to join the program that you are looking forward to all kinds of discomfort if you join, because chances are, you aren’t.)

Here is where the concept of watching, witnessing, of being the observer, comes to play.

First of all, remember that the discomfort is not necessary. It is only there because of your resistance. It is NOT there because life is unfair — or because of the situation you are in, or because of Holosync.

It is there because you don’t feel safe changing and are therefore resisting the change.

Some very wise people, over many centuries of slogging through their own personal mental, emotional, and spiritual change process, have discovered that if you can dissociate yourself to some degree from what is happening, if you can just step back and watch, the resistance diminishes and allows the change to take place — without the discomfort.


All personal change approaches that work involve the creation of a greater awareness of what is happening, based on the fundamental principle that you can only continue behaviors and feelings that are self-destructive if you do them unconsciously — without awareness.

Most of us have very elaborate strategies designed to keep us unaware — but there is a very simple way to defeat them.

If you step back the next time you are feeling any kind of discomfort and say to yourself “There I am, feeling angry” (or whatever) and then just notice yourself being angry.

Any feeling you have will be a sensation in your body, so just notice where in your body you feel it.

Notice if it stays the same or changes, if it stays in one place or moves around. Be curious.

Pretend you are a scientist who has been searching the Amazon jungle for 20 years for a certain butterfly, and finally…here it is! How carefully and curiously would you watch? Bring that amount of curiosity to bear on whatever is happening for you in that moment.

Notice that you cannot be a stuck in your suffering very effectively if a part of you is watching. If you are curious and watching, it becomes harder and harder to resist.

Curiosity is on the opposite side of the fence from resistance, and without resistance you cannot create suffering. Once you are successfully watching, it becomes very obvious that you could make another choice of how to respond to whatever is happening.

Several years ago, in the infancy of the Centerpointe program, a woman who was in the program called me in an extremely agitated state. “I’m freaking out!” she said. “I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams! Help!” She really was freaked out — as freaked out as a person can be and still successfully communicate with someone else.

I told her to go lie down on her bed and very carefully notice the feelings that were happening in her body, to be very curious about every sensation, and then call me back and give me a report on it.

Twenty minutes later she called to tell me that (darn it) she couldn’t really give me much of a report because the whole feeling had disappeared as soon as she adopted the point of view of the curious watcher. All she felt now was a kind of euphoria, as if something had shifted for her!

One of the amazing things that happens as people go through the Centerpointe program is that this “watcher” becomes more and more prominent, more and more easy to summon when needed, and soon becomes a constant companion. This is the real beginnings of what mystics call “expanded awareness.”

From this point, expanded awareness grows even greater, to include an increased sense of connection with the rest of the universe — but it begins with the simple ability to reserve a small part of you that just watches yourself and whatever is happening with detachment and curiosity.

The real answer to the question of what to do when you are resisting, but the resistance is unconscious, is to just watch. Stop fighting with yourself and just notice what is happening. Distress and discomfort fall away when you do this almost as if by magic.

So if resistance is your middle name, as it was mine before I went through the Centerpointe program, please take very seriously the simple instruction to “watch with curiosity.”

It takes some practice and some will-power because the habit of resisting is deeply ingrained and very much an automatic response, but after some practice it will become an effortless part of you, your own personal “Prince of Peace” who will help you through any situation you encounter.

And, of course, remember that daily meditation with Holosync is a very effective way to foster and strengthen this very essential part of you.

I have written here mostly about resistance as people from time to time experience it while doing the Centerpointe Program, but this principle applies to EVERYTHING. In any situation where you are uncomfortable, not matter what it is, you are resisting whatever is going on.

To the degree you do that, you suffer.

If you can step aside and watch yourself have whatever reaction you are having, you will find that there are other choices of how to respond, at which point you can pick the one you would like to have, rather than just be an automatic response mechanism who suffers every time a certain trigger happens.

People who are spoken of as having “higher consciousness” or “expanded awareness” are those who have mastered this principle of witnessing.

You can do it, too. Start practicing, and keep meditating.

Regards, Bill Harris, Director, Centerpointe Research Institute


Where is the Witness?

As many of you know, the Centerpointe program can generate mental and emotional upheaval. Upheaval is a manifestation of resistance in response to the surfacing of unresolved mental and emotional material.

One of the common pieces of advice we give to Participants attempting to confront these challenging thoughts and feelings is to adopt the standpoint of the Witness. Don’t attach yourself to these sensations. Just become the watcher of your feelings and observe the sensations of your thoughts.

This is easier said than done.

Our identity is very closely associated with our thoughts and feelings. Usually, when we feel anger, we become angry. We are anger itself. When we feel depressed, we are depression.

When we feel greedy we are greed. It’s easy to see ourselves in the emotional “guise du jour” and mistake this costume for who we really are beneath it.

There is a step, or a switch that happens between that moment of feeling a sensation and becoming identified with the sensation. That switch happens automatically most of the time.

We aren’t aware of the switch, it just happens without us consciously doing it. We cross this line between feeling and being dozens of times each day without ever considering that space between.

Being the Witness means seeing that line and noticing the switch from what we feel to what we are need not be so automatic. Through Witnessing we can actually see the switch happen.

Meditation is, in part, a process of locating the inner Witness; that aspect of our awareness that is capable of stepping into that moment between the arising of the feeling, and our identification with it. As our awareness becomes focused within the Witness, we begin to see elements of our emotional and mental functioning at work.

We are Witnesses to a series of processes that do more than just create an impact in the moment, but actually determine much of how we have lived our lives to this point.

Our beliefs, decisions, opinions, emotional state, are all shaped largely by what we might call the “Reactor.” The Reactor resides at the other end of the spectrum from the Witness. As the Witness observes, the Reactor (surprise, surprise) reacts.

We are conditioned to be reactionary, partly because our culture demands that we react quickly to the ever-changing circumstances of our environment. We often have to think fast, and act fast to survive and prosper. He who hesitates is lost. So we make decisions “on the fly” as we cruise through our hectic day.

Sometimes it’s important to be able to do this. You must trust your intuition and your reflexes. If you suddenly notice that a fire has broken out in your home, you must act quickly to get to safety. There won’t be time to sit and think things through. The Reactor can save our lives.

But when it comes to our emotions, attitudes, and beliefs, living as the Reactor has its consequences. We can damage our relationships with others, sabotage our efforts to succeed and thrive, thereby perpetrating destructive, dysfunctional cycles of behavior and belief.

Being reactionary becomes habitual with very little reinforcement. When in Witness mode, we can see these cycles at work, and learn new ways of functioning outside of them.

For centuries, meditators have sought to tap into the Witness, to learn from it, to inhabit it as a means of gaining insight and deeper information about themselves and the world around them. Of course, when one sets out to do this, the first thing they notice is just how reactionary they have become.

Here’s part of a letter we received from a Centerpointe program Participant illustrating this point:

“Sometime around the 12th week I started seeing myself as tho I were watching a movie. I could see me talking and acting in ways I couldn’t believe…The way I treated people at work was really amazing! I had been called in to talk to my boss twice last year because she felt I was not acting as a team player.

I ignored her and thought she was picking on me. But now I see it! I hate to say it but she was right. I’ve been tripping myself and other people all my life. Until I could really watch myself as an observer I never knew the kinds of things I have been doing to myself and other people. Now I know and now I am able to change it.”

By being the Witness we empower ourselves to function at a much higher level than when we are the Reactor. The chief benefit to perfecting this Witnessing stance is that we can be responsive rather than reactionary. We open ourselves to a new world of opportunity and see a vast array of choices we can make about how we respond to people and circumstances in our environment. We see connections and patterns in our lives that emerge as we mindfully Witness. And for the first time, we awaken to the fact that we truly do create our own realities by our thoughts and feelings.

But where is this elusive Witness? Some mystics believe the Witness can be activated by focusing our attention on the so-called “Third Eye.” This is the region between the eyebrows, and slightly higher on the forehead. This area also corresponds to the pineal gland.

In Hindu literature Shiva said to “focus attention between eyebrows and let mind be before thought.” The Greek scientist and mystic Pythagoras also held this point to be meaningful in cultivating inner awareness, the so-called “Eye of Wisdom.”

And Rene Descartes viewed the pineal gland as the “master cell” of the brain — the “seat of the soul” — because of its apparent role as a bridge between emotion and action. Some scientists believe that the pineal gland is a magneto receptor, capable of sensing magnetic fields, and helping to align the body in space.

Other thinkers believe that the Witness is associated with the Heart Chakra (Anahata). Some associate this region with the other major endocrine gland in the head, the pituitary. From the Heart Chakra comes love, compassion, deeper understanding.

When our awareness is directed from this region, we find that our normal cause-and-effect reactions are replaced with something more powerful in terms of our unconditional acceptance of whatever is happening. Witnessing from the heart chakra compels us to become accepting of ourselves and of others as our perception is less critical and tempered by love and compassion.

The issue of whether there is a physical location for the Witness may be best left to the mystics and scientists to determine. We can still develop our ability to become this Witness, and to gain enormous insight into the mechanics of our mental and emotional self.

Adopting the Witness perspective will bring you into direct contact with your thoughts. This might not sound very interesting. After all, aren’t we always in direct contact with our thoughts? No. As a matter of fact, most of our thoughts are generated in the same reactionary way as our emotions.

We really don’t have any contact with our thoughts until they have arisen in our conscious awareness, and are often on their way out in the form of some kind of word or action. Sometimes we may even have thoughts that catch us off guard. They can be unpredictable. We might say, “Hey! Where did THAT thought come from?”

To some, it’s unsettling to know that they can be ambushed by their own thoughts. But this is what happens when we are not being a Witness to our thoughts. And within this process, our thoughts and feelings at any given moment can replace our sense of self.

What we so often fail to realize is that we are not our thoughts. Our thoughts come from within us, but we do not need to identify ourselves with what is generated from within us. Especially when those thought are born of the Reactor.

Becoming the Witness is not easy. It can be quite a challenge, as many of you who have experienced the overwhelm induced by working with Holosync® can attest. Have you ever wondered why it can be so tough sometimes to face your own thoughts and feelings?

It’s because on one level you feel you are identified with these thoughts and feelings, and on another level you really don’t want to be! Some thoughts and feelings can be ugly, disturbing, and not seemingly reflective of who we really are.

So we use internal coping strategies to distance ourselves from these thoughts. We think that by doing so we are dealing with them, when in fact we are only leaving them to stagnate into something more difficult to manage.

Through Witnessing these feelings as they arise you may find it easier to accept them. Why would you want to accept them? So you can heal and release them.

Without acceptance of what you feel, you are not empowered to release them. How can you release what you’ve convinced yourself isn’t yours to begin with? You can’t release what you haven’t accepted.

Through acceptance we can release. And as we release we find that although the sensations are gone, we somehow remain intact. This leaves us with the possibility that there’s something more to us than just a bundle of thoughts and feelings!

Here’s an exercise you can try if you have the Quietude soundtrack Centerpointe offers. Sit down in an upright, relaxed position. Listen to Quietude with headphones on. Close your eyes, and slowly bring your attention to your third-eye area. Or, if you prefer, focus your attention in the Heart Chakra area (this can be especially effective if dealing with anger toward yourself or others).

Give total attention to this area. Allow nothing else to divert your attention from it. Watch it with your mind as if it is the most important point in the universe.

When focusing in one of these two areas you may find that your attention becomes almost magnetized there. It’s as if these areas of focus are drinking in your attention. As this happens, become in-tune with what it feels like to view your thinking from this perspective.

Thoughts will arise. But instead of being reactionary to them, observe them without becoming reactionary. Accept whatever arises without judgment no matter how boring, horrible, silly, or disturbing it might be. There are no bad thoughts here, just thoughts to observe with your Witnessing mindfulness. If you have a disturbing thought, acknowledge it and accept it without identifying yourself with it. You are not the thought.

You are having the thought, but you are not the same as the thought itself. It is passing through you like wind through trees. Become aware of your breathing. The slow, steady inhale/exhale. On the inhale, say to yourself the word “accepting,” and on the exhale, say the word “releasing.” Apply these words to each and every thought or feeling that comes to awareness, whether they seem good or bad.

By developing our ability to be the Witness we are essentially taking our awareness to a higher level of functioning. It takes practice, attention, and mindful persistence to recondition the mind to function this way.

But it takes only a little effort to find the inner Witness and to begin to see the potential benefits of becoming responsive rather than reactionary.

By Marc Gilson, Director of Support Services, Centerpointe Research Institute

Centerpointe Research Institute


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