Bearing Witness: ‘What are you noticing?’
Too often, we take things personally, or our projections of right and wrong preclude us from simply being present with something as it changes.
We often think that we have a responsibility in life to change the world, though the world changes with or without us.
So what is our calling in life? What is our purpose?
I thought about it for weeks. I saw the way the tree perceived it. She was not impressed with how much I had done in the world. She did not think that my cause was special.
She saw me first as a body that is itself an ecosystem, and secondly as a point of attention.
All my thoughts and feelings became unimportant; even my ego became superfluous. It was just me, the body, transforming matter, and the me that is purely my attention, purely my ability to witness the world.
It is like a knowledge that is felt deep down in my bones.
When I go and sit by myself in the forest, bearing witness comes naturally. I am simply there and there is nothing to do. I can just watch the clouds pass overhead and the light filtering through the leaves as some fall into the river and travel downstream. The squirrel finds a nut and scampers away up an oak tree as the alder sways gently in the wind. There is a mushroom on a decomposing log and a spider building a web alongside it. The newness of spring fades into the ripeness of summer, right alongside the remainders of death and decay that came with the last winter. The air is hot and so is my body. Everything is just happening.
I’m not doing anything. I’m just bearing witness to the world as it happens.
There’s no feeling I can associate with it; it isn’t joy or sadness, it isn’t self-congratulatory or righteous in any way. If there is something I feel when I am witnessing the world, it is calm.
I am relaxed because I am fulfilling my highest duty and there’s nothing else to do.
"No,” the tree reminds me. “You can chase the starlight all you want, but you will never grasp it. Simply bear witness and know that everything is perfect in this one moment.”