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John Vervaeke

John Vervaeke on Relevance Realization

Host Michael Taft speaks with professor John Vervaeke about relevance realization—the process by which we decide what matters in any given situation—and its application to meditation, how we gain an increased sense of meaning in life, and why there is no panacea in practice. John also answers the question: what is a wise person? 

not a special state

Awareness Is Not a Special State

Awareness is prior to you, it’s prior to thoughts, it’s prior to feelings, it’s prior even to the world. It’s just there and it’s not a special thing, it’s not a special object, of course. It’s empty so it’s not even an object at all. But it’s not special, okay, so you don’t have to generate it. It’s always there. It’s always there. It’s always there. So when we’re not all caught up in something it just makes it easier to rest in that. That’s it.

Rosa Lewis

A Conversation with Rosa Lewis

In this episode, host Michael Taft talks with Rosa Lewis about spirituality, creativity, working with trauma, embracing the darkness, the power of meditation, and more.

Resting naturally

Resting Naturally in What You Always Already Are

It’s funny, you don’t really have to pretend or imagine that you are like the sky because that is the actual nature of your own awareness, your own mind. Already, since the very beginning, your natural mind is wide open, utterly awake and aware and bright: effortless, welcoming, clear, and beautiful. So just notice that nature of your own mind and just rest as that. It’s not something you’re generating, it’s always been there. It’s not something you have to find, it’s the thing that’s looking. Rest as what you naturally always already are, before everything.

Effortless Resting

Effortless Resting in the Vast Space of Awareness

We rest as bright, clear, awake awareness and that we can rest in. And when we’re resting as awareness, awareness is not a tennis shoe and a dryer, it’s a vast sky that is always peaceful, that is loving, that is joyous, that is really bright, that’s really awake, and then if there are thoughts happening? Great. If there are other emotions happening? Great. If there are social feelings happening? Great, right? All that is fine because we’re resting as this natural awareness and it’s spacious, there’s room, there’s room for everything to happen. 

Meditating on the Stream of Thought

Sometimes when we’re just resting as awareness, doing nothing, we want it to be a certain way, we want it to be peaceful. But awareness itself is always peaceful. We want it to make sense or have a pattern but awareness itself doesn’t need that at all. It’s vast, it’s spacious, it has room for everything. We want it to not be distracted or somehow not be filled with upsetting emotions, or whatever. But awareness is never upset. Any emotions can arise and it’s fine. So whatever is happening right now, just let that be okay, just let that be okay. Allow the sky of awareness to just let everything be what it is, without interfering in any way. And yet totally accepting, not ignoring or denying, accepting everything, just as it is. 

Letting go doing nothing

Letting Go, Doing Nothing

Awareness is already effortlessly aware. Awareness has no location so it can’t be over here looking at something over there. Or to put it in another way, to say it has no location is the same thing as saying it’s located everywhere. But it has no positionality so it’s not looking one way or another; that’s just a way we talk.

five elements

Five Elements Meditation

Okay. Good, and now just for a moment, like one minute, I want you to just open up to the already existing naturally present vast spaciousness of your own awareness. So just relax as open awareness, not forcing it to be open but allowing yourself to just notice that awareness itself is naturally boundless vast open at ease bright clear, and so on. And just notice that for just a little while here

vast empty sky

Like Wind in a Vast, Empty Sky

This is nondual or essence tradition meditation. Some of these traditions include the Tibetan traditions of Dzogchen and Mahamudra. There’s Hindu traditions of Advaita Vedanta and also nondual Shaiva Tantra. And some Chinese Taoist principles, even the Bhagavad Gita, another Hindu classic, all of these are traditions that made talk about nonduality talk about awareness slightly differently, but honestly, they’re all getting at the same thing. And when we practice here we’re getting at that same thing.

Negative Self Talk

Seeing Through Negative Self Talk and Beliefs

Remember that because we are already existing fully awakened enlightened beings. You know, Green Taras, Buddhas, Shiva, Shaktis, whatever your belief system, whatever the most sacred, most awake, most compassionate, most loving being is, we are already all that. And so it doesn’t matter what the thoughts are. They can be things like I was abused so much as a child I can never recognize my buddhahood. That thought is empty and it’s not true because the buddhahood is stronger than that.

central channel

Central Channel Mandala Visualization

In this place there’s nothing to do, there’s nothing to change, everything is just right. Just rest into, rest as, vast, spacious awareness. Already awake, totally clear, utterly complete. Nothing to do and no doer. 

mother buddha love

Mother Buddha Love

Now let’s imagine this light coming from the sun in front of us, the sun of enlightened wisdom beaming into our hearts. And now it’s radiating up and not only filling the head but it’s filling the neck, and the throat, and the shoulders, that whole collar region in front and in back, and even all the way inside.