The Witness in Mindfulness Meditation

As I mentioned in earlier posts, Mindfulness Meditation seems to be sweeping across the Western World, and it is being implemented in counselling for stress and other problems relating to self-confidence. Also, in an earlier post, Why is Compassion Necessary?, I mentioned Dr. Kristin Neff’s idea that Self-Compassion is important, if we find ourselves being too self-critical. In that post, it was left to the reader to get the idea of how they actually could be self-compassionate. However, many of us might not be sure we can do it. Yet, this post reveals exactly how we can be self-compassionate but also how we can be inspired by experiences, brought about by learning to witness or be aware of rich experiences, in the present moment, while meditation happens.

Recently, as a group of Psychology and Health workers, we watched a Video presentation of “Advanced Mindfulness” presented by Terry Fralich. Terry presented five Core Skills of Mindfulness, and almost immediately confessed that his learning process has taken years! It was compelling and even inspiring to see how he had put the pieces to his puzzle together. These pieces have been available but somehow passed over by many. Nevertheless, I wish to put the puzzle together so you can see an inspiring picture for yourself and others. Although, I admit this takes practice and personally, I have practiced with “guided meditation” to experience what has been promised all along. Let’s look at these core skills one at a time:

First: Clarifying, Setting and Reaffirming Intention. This could be something simple, like finnishing that essay that is due this week, or finding a way to relate to “the in-laws.” But, starting to learn mindfulness meditation, it could be: “May my attention be fixed the breath,” which begins the process of awareness of the air going in and out of the nostrals, and accepting the fact that the mind will bring ideas in, like waves of the sea. It’s normal and not to be disappointed about. It has been viewed as a “little bit of enlightenment”!

Second: Cultivating a Witnessing Awareness. Here, Terry Fralich would say we are “developing meta-cognition”: awareness of the state of your awareness, or practicing outer non-reactivity: witnessing your inner landscape without autopilot reactions. Here, my earlier posts view this as Self-transcending our self. It is that lofty perspective of the whole process and experiencing the self, moment by moment! I have refered to this as perhaps the Heart, watching the mind doing its wavy thing. This is such an important point as our awareness can give us a perspective, that the mind might jump around but moment by moment, we can stay steady!

Third: Stabilizing Attention. Our intention already established, we strengthen our ability to hold your focus. Terry Fralich calls this “nurturing the harmony of intention and attention.”

Fourth: Strengthening self-regulation. By settling negative energies intentionally, we shortening the time that difficult emotions keep us “hooked;” thus avoiding (or recovering from) emotional hijackings and bringing your whole brain back on line. These four may sound impossible to people who are just getting started but Drs. Rick Hansen and Richard Mendius have recorded a set of three CDs on Meditations that Change your Brain, and these are published by, and for sale at

Fifth and last, Terry Fralich adds: Practicing Loving-Kindness and it is, for me, best introduced by Jack Kornfield, of Insight Meditation Society (also published by Jack’s CD is called Six Essential Practices to Cultivate Love, Awareness and Wisdom. I learned, long ago, that we can’t just talk or read about a skill, because practice is required. Yet, Terry Fralich promises that this practice offers a calming of the “inner critic” and self-judgment; thus promoting a non-judgmental awareness leading to kindness and compassion for yourself and others.

Our world needs this kind of inspired living!


2 thoughts on “The Witness in Mindfulness Meditation”

  1. My most recent and profound exposure to this wisdom was through Rick Hanson’s book: Buddha’s Brain (which I know you have profiled a few times already). This is such important and fundamental information that it should be in the curriculum of schools! Its mid-boggling really that for all our evolution, we humans are taking so long to get this right, but thankfully there are some wise souls connecting ‘heart’ and ‘science’ so that the rest of us can trust our own instincts and put mindfulness into practice.
    Thankyou Paul you for your inspiration!

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