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Being Your Own Witness - a Seat of Self-Compassion

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

Our topic this month is witness, or wisdom presence (vjanamaya kosha). The term witness here refers to the kosha model of the human experience, outlined in traditional yoga texts. We have other layers/koshas , too - including physical, mental/emotional, energy, and spirit. But this kosha's super-power is that it witnesses our other layers.

This layer allows us to see, without the analysis part. (Because when we start to think about it, we’ve entered the mental/emotional layer). This layer just sees. It provides a kind of wisdom to our experience that cannot be achieved through reason. It’s like the often referred to “holding space for” that which is.

So, let’s make it more personal, less theoretical. Some of you know that I’ve just returned from an extended trip with my 16 year-old daughter. As you can imagine, we had lots of ups, and a few downs as well. This morning, at the very end of this journey, feeling very road-weary, I received a comment that made me feel hurt and sad. I witnessed myself holding back tears. And in that moment of witnessing, I could see that I had a choice. I could fight back the tears, and pretend that I wasn’t feeling hurt. Or, I could let myself cry, and allow for some emotional release, as well as the potential for healing communication.

What I chose, was ultimately not the point. But in that moment, I noticed that I was able to choose. I had created enough space for myself to witness what was happening in me. Then I could choose to just feel my feelings, to let them have outward expression (or not).

Lots of us have some emotions related to this season. Some of us are excited! Some of us are experiencing grief or loss, or resentment. Some are feeling stress. Some of us are irritated because of the dominance of Christianity or commercialism. And many of us have a variety of emotions and experiences going on.

Whatever each of our experiences is, we can provide our own comfort (or whatever might be helpful) through wisdom presence. Let’s take a positive example for a moment. Have you ever been so excited about a favorite food, or beverage, that you just gobble it up, and then notice that you didn’t savor the flavor? I sure have. Our witness, or vjnanamaya kosha, can tell us that we’re really excited. When we notice this, we may be able to slow down and savor each bite, and enjoy it even more!

Sometimes we find ourselves anticipating missing the thing we’re experiencing. For example, if loved ones are together, and we can start lamenting that it will come to an end. And in doing so, miss some of the beauty and enjoyment of the present moment.

Or if we are not with loved ones, but wish that we were. In this case, witness presence can a.) help us allow space for strong emotions to take their course, be understood, and move through; and b.) it can help us be in the moment to be with what is, as opposed to longing for a different moment, past or future.

We can be our own caring witness with regard to anything that is happening in our experience.

So, our wish for you this month is that you have many moments of witness/wisdom presence. We will be compassionately practicing it ourselves, too. We will be open to the healing that this presence brings, with the challenges and opportunities that come up. And we’ll be offering ways to frame this presence in our classes and workshops.

Please check out Leigh Drake’s special Winter Solstice offering on Tuesday, December 21. And my free workshop, “Sober-Curious Woman: The Holiday Practices” on Thursday, December 16 at 5.30 pm pst.

In loving kindness,


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