Witness your own thoughts

Witness your won thoughts

Take a moment to listen and be aware of your thoughts, then ask if those thoughts are really you, or are you just the witness to those thoughts.

Witness your own thoughts
photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

The fundamental text of the Hindu tradition is, of course, the Bhagavad Gītā; and the four basic yogas are described. The word yoga itself, from a Sanskrit verbal root yuj, meaning ‘to yoke, to link one thing to another,’ refers to the act of linking the mind to the source of mind, consciousness to the source of consciousness; the import of which definition is perhaps best illustrated in the discipline known as knowledge yoga, the yoga, that is to say, of discrimination between the knower and the known, between the subject and the object in every act of knowing, and the identification of oneself, then, with the subject. I know my body. My body is the object. I am the witness, the knower of the object. I, therefore, am not my body.’ Next: ‘I know my thoughts: I am not my thoughts.’ And so on: ‘I know my feelings, I am not my feelings.’ You can back yourself out of the room that way. And the Buddha then comes along and adds: ‘You are not the witness either. There is no witness.’ So where are you now? Where are you between two thoughts? That is the way known as jñāna yoga, the way of sheer knowledge.”

Joseph Campbell. Myths to Live By (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)

‘Recall something that happened last summer. Anything that comes to mind is fine. Remember what was happening then. Remember where you were and what was happening. See if you can see, hear, and smell, just as you did last summer. Don’t remember the scene as if you were someone else looking at the scene from the outside. Do it from inside the body of the person called “you” who was there, looking out from behind your eyes. Close your eyes and take a few moments to imagine this scene.

Now notice as you remember the scene that you were there. There was a person behind those eyes, just as there is now. And although many things have happened since last summer, notice too that there is an essential continuity between the part of you that is aware of what you are aware of now, and the part of you that was aware of what you were aware of back then. We call that person the “observer-self.”

Steven C. Hayes & Spencer Smith. Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy


* In a series of posts I call mythology Monday, I look at quotes from the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell and consider them alongside extracts from books and papers on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and related publications.

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