Bearing witness

//Bearing witness

Bearing witness

Had added a version of this as a reply to a comment on the previous post, but it feels important enough to merit an entry of its own here… Sorry to repeat for those who’ve already read it below.

Bearing witness, whether to joy or to suffering, means just being here WITH it, rather than being here WITHOUT it as we so often are because we have something else on our mind.
It involves just noticing whatever arises. The cat purring next to me, the row of homeless people in the Métro, the Libyan people yearning to be free, the insane man oppressing them, the toilet flushing, the stars in the sky, the flowers wilting in their vase: each is a manifestation of what is called, for wont of a better word, « emptiness. »
Although I might argue for « fullness: » It’s neither « good » nor « bad, » it’s just FULLY, exactly, impeccably, what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.
Bearing witness, we recognize that. The « response » to the situation at hand will then arrive naturally, perfectly, too, if we let it do its thing (rather than « our » thing).

By | 2015-10-02T16:41:58+01:00 février 22nd, 2011|Textes|8 Comments

About the Author:

Enseignante Zen et poète, Sensei Amy “Tu es cela” Hollowell est née et a grandi à Minneapolis, aux Etats-Unis. Arrivée en France en 1981 pour étudier la littérature et l’histoire, elle y est restée, s’installant à Paris, où elle élève ses deux enfants et gagne sa vie en tant que journaliste. The Zen teacher and poet Amy “Tu es cela” Hollowell Sensei was born and raised in Minneapolis, but came to France in 1981 to study literature and history and has lived in Paris ever since, raising her two children and making a living as a journalist.


  1. Tu es cela 28 février 2011 at 16 h 15 min - Reply

    yes, as soon as we try to get rid of something, we only create more trouble.

  2. Tiago 28 février 2011 at 14 h 38 min - Reply

    thank you sensei !

  3. sheila 28 février 2011 at 8 h 50 min - Reply

    yes, maybe the problem is trying to get rid of my pain. i should just see that it is MY pain and share it.

  4. Tu es cela 26 février 2011 at 12 h 43 min - Reply

    By nature, "bearing witness" involves not holding on to anything.

    I remember as a child lying on my back in the grass, watching the clouds scuttle across the sky. At times, I thought I could feel the earth moving. The grass was cool, the sky vast and blue.

    I remember as an adult sitting with my teenage daughter on Sept 11, 2001, she was afraid, confused and despairing. I listened. I shared my own fears, horror and experience that if I inflict pain on another it’s because I am in pain myself. I shared my own sense of not "knowing" a thing about the events that had stunned the world — that is, not limiting my (re)actions to a fixed position or point of view, the usual dichotomy of good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, etc.

    When we "bear witness," there is no taking sides, thus nothing to let go. We just witness.

  5. sheila 25 février 2011 at 16 h 41 min - Reply

    Tiago wow good question! just not getting stuck?

  6. Tiago 24 février 2011 at 23 h 31 min - Reply

    And how to bear witness to suffering and then let it go?

  7. sheila 24 février 2011 at 8 h 38 min - Reply

    Thank you Amy
    ……"The "response" to the situation at hand will then arrive naturally, perfectly, too, if we let it do its thing (rather than "our" thing)……"

    That’s the really difficult bit. "My" response seems only to add to the pain and suffering…..60 blows?

  8. Christine 23 février 2011 at 21 h 42 min - Reply

    Yes, it does merit its place on the blog ! Thank you Sheila for the question, and thank you Amy for the answer…

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