Look at a flower
Look at a flower and say to yourself, "I see the flower." You are the seer, the perceiver of the flower; the flower is the seen or perceived object. Thus, the two basic factors of perception are the seer (the self) and the seen—the observer and the observed. Now, while you gaze at the flower, ask yourself: "I am seeing this flower. But where am I, the seer, located? And of what material elements am I made?"
Watching your dreams
Tonight, as you are lying in bed almost ready to fall asleep, watch your body fall asleep. Mentally say to yourself, “I am aware that my body is falling asleep.” As you fall deeper and deeper into sleep, there is a good chance that you will begin dreaming. In this state you will be half-awake, half-asleep. Watch these dreams. Mentally say to yourself as the dream begins, “I am aware that I am dreaming.”
By persisting in this practice, you will eventually be aware that you are dreaming, even in deep sleep. But this ability is only a side benefit; the real point is to experience yourself as the viewer of the stream of mindstuff.
Silent witness meditation
Relax, and sit or lie in a quiet place. Don’t attempt to control the thinking process by trying to think certain thoughts and not think others. Instead, let your mind think about whatever it may.
Now watch your mind and become aware of how you are actually aloof from the thinking process. Say to yourself, “I am the silent witness. I make no effort to think, but thoughts come automatically. I am watching thoughts flow through my mind, but I am aloof from them. I am the silent witness to my mind’s activities.”
In this way, you’ll be able to experience that you are separate from the mind.
You can also watch the passing emotions, feelings, desires, fears, and so on as they rise to the surface of the mind and then pass away. The stream of mindstuff thus flows along, and you are the viewer of it. Just as a person sits by an ever-moving stream, so you, the self, sit by the stream of mindstuff. Just as a stream may be very clear or very polluted, so the stream of mindstuff may be very clear or very polluted. In either case, you are the witness of that stream—not the stream itself.
You may not be content to watch the stream of mindstuff flow freely, but instead may try to control it, redirect it, or stop it completely. But the very fact that you can try to redirect or control your mind, combined with the fact that it is so difficult to succeed in the endeavor, further shows that you, the self, are not the mind or stream of mindstuff.
Controlling the mind
Gaze intently at some nearby image in your immediate environment. Now close your eyes and look at the picture of that image in your mind. Try to hold the image in your mind and look at it for quite some time. If it begins to move around, try to steady it; if it begins to fade away, bring it back. This exercise should make it quite clear how hard it is to control the mind—to keep something in your mind that you want to keep in your mind.
If you can think thoughts you do not want to think, this further illustrates that you are different from your mind. Sometimes after a painful love affair, a man will tell his friends, “I just can't stop thinking about her. I just can't get her out of my mind.”
Similarly, your mind may sometimes be filled with desires so disgusting that you would be embarrassed to have anyone suspect you were thinking them. When such thoughts and emotions go through your mind, you do not like it. You may feel, “Why is my mind filled with such thoughts? I don't want to think like this.” However, trying to push such thoughts out of the mind usually doesn't work.
If the mind is to be controlled, who is to control it? Who is trying to control the mind? It is the self. You, the self, try to control your mind. The mind is your possession. It is not you.