This is a classic method for understanding the nature of yourself. It comes from ancient India, originating in the Vedanta tradition. The practice is designed to clearly experience the fact that “you” are differentiated from what you perceive. For example, when one looks at an object of any kind it is clear that the object is distinct from you who is looking at it. This subject/object orientation is fundamental to our experience, without which we would not be able to function in the world.
The same understanding of the distinction between what one perceives with regard to oneself is the function of “the Witness”. This means you can directly understand that there is a difference between your sense of self (“I”) and your body, emotions, thoughts, etc. This is quite challenging at first since we assume that we are what we think. Yet, upon noticing the distinctions outlined below, you can come to see “I” as distinct from these components and. more importantly, that the “I” is actually silent and innately peaceful.
Find a place where you will not be disturbed for at least 15 minutes. Try to keep the light low (but not dark). Sit comfortably on a chair or on floor cushions, so you are able to keep your spine erect without strain. Close your eyes and breath into your abdomen. Do not force the breath, but let it come and go naturally.
Mentally say the following words to yourself, pausing between each sentence. Allow the meaning of each sentence sink into your mind, such that you can glimpse the Witness in each statement.
“I have a body, but I am not my body. I can see and feel my body, and what can be seen and felt is not the true seer. My body may be tired or excited, sick or healthy, heavy or light, anxious or calm, but that has nothing to do with my inward I, the Witness. I have a body, but I am not my body.
I have desires, but I am not my desires. I can know my desires, and what can be known is not the true knower. Desires come and go, floating through my awareness, but they do not affect my inward I, the Witness. I have desires but I am not my desires.
I have emotions, but I am not my emotions. I can feel and sense my emotions, and what can be felt and sensed is not the true feeler. Emotions pass through me, but they do not affect my inward I, the Witness. I have emotions, but I am not my emotions.
I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts. I can see and know my thoughts, and what can be known is not the true knower. Thoughts come to me and thoughts leave me, but they do not affect my inward I, the Witness. I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts.”
Then affirm as concretely as you can:
“I am what remains. A pure center of peaceful awareness, an unmoved witness of all these thoughts, emotions, feelings, and sensations.”