I found this lovely little caterpillar grazing on the plants in my young tortoise’s enclosure. She has a taste for caterpillars, so I picked it up to remove it to a safer habitat. Even though this required me to handle it and transport it, the caterpillar remained utterly calm – a small, soft, plump mentor in the art of self remembering.

I first learned about self remembering when I started meditating. Only it wasn’t called self remembering. It was called “witness consciousness.”

It took me quite awhile to convince my mind there was something beyond itself that could be watching my life unfold from a bigger picture level.

It took even longer for my mind to finally locate the observation tower where witness-me could go to watch regular-me going about her daily life.

When I finally did manage to find it, my visitor’s pass only seemed to permit me to stay there for about 30 seconds at a time. Then I would get kicked out and descend back down to the level of mind-awareness yet again.

With so little reward after so much effort, after a time, I just stopped trying…or, more accurately, I forgot all about trying.

So recently, when I came across a reference to “self remembering” in a book I’ve been reading, it sounded like something fresh and new. I got all excited, thinking “Aha – this concept really resonates with me!”

It resonated so much, as a matter of fact….oh yah. “Witness consciousness.”

Yet somehow “self remembering” is an easier idea to wrap my mind around. My brain is more curious to investigate and ponder what self remembering might mean or be like.

I think this is because the two terms are easier to define and remember, and somehow they seem to belong together. Like, if I find it relatively easy to remember all kinds of other things, like my pet parrot or my morning coffee or the fact that I need to earn rent money, why wouldn’tI remember myself too?

It just makes sense.

To date, I am happy to report I have had several delightful moments of remembering myself. The experience is really interesting – kind of like what I expect it would be like to be the Dalai Lama looking at me.

In other words, when I am self remembering, there is more compassion there – more empathy. There is more humor and less seriousness. Most of the time, there is a smile in both my heart and on my face as I watch myself being me.

There is also less of a tendency to take things so personally – a concept my meditation teacher calls “attachment.” Don Miguel Ruiz, one of my favorite mentors, talks a lot about making the commitment to not take things personally.

He also talks about applying this commitment to both others and to himself.

Somehow, in practicing self remembering, I can just about manage to do both. When I watch myself, witnessing me being me and going about my daily activities, it feels neutral – like I’m watching a movie rather than starring in it.

The movie plot isn’t always that interesting – but sometimes it gets quite interesting. At those times, it is also more of a challenge to both remember myself and be myself at the same time.

But it is doable. It is possible. Slowly, with practice and most importantly with remembrance, I am learning that I can self remember and in this way give to myself some things I can’t get in any other way.

  • I can give myself time for whatever I happen to need time for that day.
  • I can give myself freedom to make mistakes.
  • I can succeed without getting all worked up about it.
  • I can connect with others with less self-analyzing or criticism later.
  • I can have “good” days and “bad” days without either hijacking my health.
  • I can slide more easily in and out of sleep.

Self remembering, as it turns out, is also a very handy meditation and sleep technique. For example, I can tell my always-active mind to go work on self remembering and it will instantly jump in and get very involved trying to see and remember itself.

This handily distracts it from any other ruminations that are less meditation or sleep-promoting so the rest of me can get some rest already.

Then, if I wake up in the night, or when I’m ready to do my morning meditation, I can once again dangle the bait of self remembering in front of my mind. Now well rested and full of energy, it will immediately bound off in search of itself from a witness perspective, leaving the rest of me in peace to slide more easily into meditation or back into sleep.

In another book I read recently, the author interviews a Buddhist monk about how he handles difficult people, like, say, military and government folks who don’t want anyone to practice Buddhism (or any religion, for that matter).

His response is nothing short of magical. He says it is necessary to create an area of neutrality within and around oneself. In essence, he says he basically takes himself – his small daily self – out of the situation and enters a state of witnessing instead.

This helps him not take the other people’s opinions personally, and it helps him see a bigger picture that extends beyond that specific issue unfolding at that specific time.

It helps him stay centered and calm and focused when all around him, people are getting angry and arguing.

Reading this just gave me even more incentive to keep practicing self remembering. It just feels like there is something to learning to stay centered in self remembering – something real and trustworthy and lasting – something that makes the effort really worth it.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you have any type of regular practice that includes witnessing or remembering yourself from a higher perspective in some way? If so, do you find that you are able to learn about yourself or see some things about yourself that you wouldn’t see otherwise? Is there a particular mentor or personality that you admire who seems to do this very well?