Yoga Teacher Training Taught Me
Witness Consciousness

by DEBBY SIEGEL

Life has its roller coaster times, and I don’t mean like some kiddie mine shaft coaster, I am talking Tower of Terror with its 90 degree, 164-foot drop and loops, and scream-inducing twists and turns. It wasn’t until my 40s and especially since meditating regularly and now learning about Witness Consciousness in yoga teacher training, that I have found an ability to hold on to those safety bars and smoothly ride it out.

Along with 19 other yoga teacher hopefuls, a radical experiment clarified Witness Consciousness for me. It began with us all in a circle on the floor. Each of us given a small hand towel and asked to sit in sukhasana (easy, cross-legged pose) with our palms face up on our knees, we were to place the cloth on top of our knee area of our thigh, under our hand. We were then to close our eyes. Ooooh, this is getting interesting. Immediately my monkey mind began attempting to decipher what was going to happen. Why the little hand towel under my hand? Why are my palms face up?

Next, my chatty mini primates tried making sense of what was being distributed to each of us through sound. I could hear Christine Kick (our teacher) gently gliding along to each person, and some sort of hollow plastic sound, which I determined to be a bucket and the contents I believed plastic too. She was giving us a little toy and we were going to have to feel it and guess what it was! Yep, I had it all figured out.

Well, ok, maybe not. I got the Christine Kick delivering something to our palms part right. But the thing placed in my palm was not a Matchbox car, it was an ice cube. AN ICE CUBE! It was freaking frigid. The room was already one that required layers, now this! This was making me uncomfortable. Prior to beginning, we were told that we could do whatever we wished with the object. I would follow through… let that little frozen bit of water sit on my hand. And melt. I began trying to send heat to my hand. Reasoning that by it melting a little, the pool of water would serve as a mini barricade to the zero degree cube of frozenness.

We sat there for at least an eternity before being told we could open our eyes and put the ice down. Then one by one we each shared our experience with the group. It was interesting how everyone handled it differently. Some rejected the ice cube. Some chose like me to tough it out. Many were distracted by it, and all were made uncomfortable.

We learned that Witness Consciousness is being able to simply to observe thoughts, perceptions and internal images as they arise and dissolve, without getting wrapped up or “stuck” in them. In this experiment, it was letting go of the discomfort and just accepting that it wouldn’t damage us. It was about being ok even when not 100% comfortable with what was happening outside our mind. It was about being fine not even knowing what was going to happen in the first place. My monkeys were not good witnesses. Turns out my pesky primates need some time off.

This lesson taught me so wisely how to sit within my roller coaster surroundings and remain calm – not ignoring incidents or isolating from life, but instead developing my capacity for attention and concentration in the present.

We learned so many helpful lessons in Yoga Six’s teacher training. This was just one.  I liken the training to holding up a giant, magnifying mirror. We saw ourselves. Learned about our multidimensional Selves. And gained insight into the transformative powers of yoga. If you’ve considered evolving your life and yoga understandings, I encourage you to explore yoga teacher training. And if you see me out roaming around, ask. I’ll gladly share some of my story with you. Now, off to silence my monkeys for a bit on my bike.

Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha, friends. Namaste.

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