Guided Nondual Meditation with Michael Taft
Welcome. Okay, so now let’s begin by checking in with ourselves, just take the weather report on your being right now. What’s it like to be you? Go within. What are your thoughts like? What are your emotions like? What’s your body feel like? What’s your soul feel like? What’s the cosmic weather within there like? And whatever is going on let that be okay. So you’re both checking in very, very clearly, very distinctly, with a lot of granularity. What’s it like to be me right now? But you’re also letting it be that way, not trying to change it, or control it, or reject it, or judge it. What if it was just okay to be the way you are right now? What if you even loved the way you are right now without any changes at all?
Okay, good. Now I want you to imagine meditating like a cloud, an incredibly fluffy white cloud against a bright blue sky. That cloud is shining bright, almost as if it is illuminated from within, and it’s got that kind of thing where it looks like a mountain of marble floating in the sky. An enormous white marble mountain floating in the sky that’s a cloud. And just picture this cloud as clearly as you can or feel it if you can’t picture it. Just imagine, whatever that means to you, a cloud but I’ll use visual language bright, bright white, enormous like a whole mountain in the sky, and yet just floating there. Clouds can weigh thousands and thousands of tons and it’s just floating there, bright white against a brilliant vast blue sky.
And you see the cloud is slowly being pushed by the wind towards you, more and more majestic, more and more enormous, more and more brilliant, shining white. And as you’re breathing in and out, just pay very close attention to that beautiful white cloud, fluffy white cloud, allowing your entire body to relax as if it were floating like a cloud. So you’re noticing the floatiness of the cloud, and you’re taking on some of that property, the sense that the body is so light that it can float, so relaxed that it has almost no structure at all, but is instead just a field of related particles temporarily floating together here. And just notice as you keep picturing this cloud very, very clearly, super bright, brighter and brighter in your mind’s eye, the sky wider and bluer, shining blue against this almost perfectly white cloud.
Notice your entire body releasing and relaxing and letting go and opening so that movement becomes impossible, everything relaxes so deeply that it’s impossible to move. Your eyes are relaxed so completely that they just come to a rest, your jaw is relaxed in such a way that your upper and lower teeth are not touching but you feel such a relaxation happening that there’s almost a sensation that your lips are getting just slightly larger because of extra blood flow. You can feel them relaxing that much. And all tension goes out of your arms and hands, they become just like wet ropes, just dangling there with zero tension, they’re impossible to move. They will remain impossible to move because (17:21)- they’re so livering there, like a spaceship made of platinum, shiny against the blue sky, allowing your entire torso to release and relax and let go. So much so that you feel like a wave of energy moving through your body as various things relax and open and free up and release. And you can just feel that wave of energy allowing you to relax even more, even more deeply, even more completely. Again, to the point where any sort of motion becomes basically impossible because you’d have to tense up to do it, except for breathing, it’s still easy to breathe. Although you may find that becoming quieter and quieter over time as well.
And then feel that beautiful energy, the relaxing energy, allowing your legs to release and open, your feet to relax. And again the sense that your feet are tingling, or actually slightly warmer, as more blood flows into your feet. And your entire body becomes totally relaxed, so relaxed that it starts to feel really good to just remain very still because the body has found a kind of complete stillness and the mind starts aligning to that. Instead of the mind sort of shoving the body around, the stillness of the body is now beginning to be reflected, increasing stillness in the mind.
And the image of the cloud starts to be reflected in the mind in such a way that the mind feels like a floaty cloud, very relaxed, lighter than air, tremendously brilliant, utterly awake.
Okay, so I want you just to notice the breathing now. On each in-breath you feel pleasant, relaxing, healing, clarifying energy coming into the body. The body loves to breathe, that in-breath is like eating food with all its oxygen. So that becomes very pleasant on the in-breath. And on the out-breath the mind flows out the nostrils and becomes just a cloud, just vapor in the sky. And this is just the mind returning to its natural state. Noticing now, as you continue to breathe in this nurturing air and then breathing out as a kind of vapor, that the cloud disperses. And all that’s left is sky so that with each out-breath the mind returns simply and naturally to its original skylight quality without any effort.
Breathing in, in such a pleasant way, feeling the relaxation the pleasure, the pleasantness, the clarity, the energy flowing through the body. And on the out-breath, the mind just flows out to return to its natural state of skylike vastness and openness.
So let’s continue that for a few minutes together here.
Allowing each in-breath to be nurturing, each out-breath to return the mind to space, absolutely vast, open, uncongealed space. If it wants to re-congeal, okay, it can happen on the in-breath with the nurturing quality, but then, on the out-breath, again it just falls open to become the sky without any effort at all, zero effort to do that.
Okay, the body becoming more and more healthy, more and more relaxed, more and
more still, tremendous stillness descending with this real sense of ease and pleasantness and openness and being nurtured, and the mind, in a similar way, just relaxing and becoming more and more vast and open, more and more relaxed and at ease, tremendously awake, tremendously relaxed.
Now just let the body dissolve too. On the out-breath, the body becomes sky as well, not simply the mind, the body too. All thoughts become sky, all emotions become sky, all regular body sensations become sky on the out-breath, sky.
Meanwhile, on the in-breath, notice the sensuous touch of the air within the body, the pleasantness of sitting this way. Notice whatever emotions are arising in all their detail.
Allow the thoughts to be totally present in all their vivid display if they’re visual or sonic. Symphony-like quality if they’re verbal. Everything there in all its beauty on the in-breath and then on the out-breath it just all dissolves into sky.
So relaxed you can’t move. Notice any tingling quality in the body on the in-breath, that sense of energy in the body, or Prana, a sense of chi, sense of piti, sense of vibrant life energy in the body on the in-breath. And feel its various rhythms, its patterns, the places where it’s stronger or weaker, the places where it’s delicious, maybe other places where it’s more atonal. On the in-breath all that’s present and then the out-breath that just disappears into sky.
Letting go of it utterly until it returns on the in-breath, coming back to sky, vast expanse, wide open on every out-breath, totally without effort. It just falls back open on the in-breath. You may notice perhaps thoughts are occurring. If they’re visual notice all the bright colors and shapes, if they’re verbal notice all the burbling sound. But it may also be the case that because of coming back to the sky so often maybe not much thought is happening. It almost can’t happen. It’s not a problem if it does just observe its beauty but if it’s not there just observe the beauty of the silence and stillness before returning once again to vast, open sky-like quality of mind.
Once in a while, you may notice that you have already simply dropped into a much deeper state of relaxed openness, the sky even wider and more boundless. So that almost a kind of forgetting occurs where we forget for there to be time, forgot the boundaries of the body.
Again, if emotions are present, feel every detail of that in the body, whatever qualities that emotion has on the in-breath really feel it very clearly, very deeply. It’s a body sensation, somewhere in your face, your throat, your torso, somewhere, your belly. And then on the out-breath it all just dissolves into–and vanishes–into vastness. And then maybe it’s there again on the in-breath and we see its beauty yet again. Even if it’s a very difficult emotion notice whatever is beautiful about the sensation like the phenomenology of it can still be beautiful.
Same thing with regular body sensations, maybe you’re noticing some numbness in your legs or something, really notice what’s beautiful about that; the details of it, the exquisite textures and contours of that on the in-breath. Again, even an unpleasant physical sensation can have a beautiful phenomenology and then it just falls into open sky on the out-breath. Noticing perhaps, even more energy on the in-breath, even more awakeness, even more clarity, but especially that tingly, buzzy energy. A very pleasant frequency available in the palms of your hands, the soles of your feet, perhaps in your smile. And then dissolving on the out-breath into just sky again, always back to just vast openness.
Even pain in the body becoming just sky on the out-breath. And then on the in-breath, we don’t resist the pain at all, not in any way. We let it be there entirely in its full expression without any holding back and notice what’s beautiful about it.
The breath becomes even more interesting because on the in-breath the room around us becomes very clear, very bright, filled with color, shape, form, texture, pattern, tremendously beautiful. And on the out-breath, it just dissolves into boundless space still there and yet boundless space. And the sounds of the room around us various hums and buzzes and breathings and stirrings, swallowings, shiftings, all the sounds are beautiful on the in-breath. And on the out-breath it just becomes boundless, timeless space, wide awake, utterly at ease.
Then we start to get this very funny sense, this very odd intuition, that in the depths of the clarity of our own precise wisdom-seeing of this, the in-breath and out-breath aren’t any different. And the beauty of all these phenomena is no different than the open space. The two are together as one thing vast, open sky totally dissolved into nothing. And this exquisite expression of all that is appearing, it has no center and no boundary, it has no ground, and yet, there’s nowhere to fall to.
And we realize that the meditation is just doing itself, the breathing is just doing itself, and all this exquisite experience is just doing itself, even the sense of me doing anything is just another appearance that dissolves into sky and then appears again and then dissolves in the sky, until the sky and the appearance are not any different, not any different…or, if there is a difference, they are simply two sides of the same coin.
So that we see that every appearance, our feelings, our thoughts, our body sensations, the others around us, the room around us, the sounds, the sights, it’s both incredibly beautiful, utterly exquisite, and absolutely spacious and awake at the same time. Floating on air like a cloud.
And we begin to notice that each appearance has a place,all the appearances, all the many appearances in every moment has its right place.The difficult ones, pleasant ones, each has their own perfect spot, their right place in this moment. And they’re all balanced in such a way that the whole appearance and awakeness is beautiful and balanced and whole. Every part belongs with nothing left out or left over.
It takes every piece of this moment to complete the puzzle of each moment, nothing left out, nothing doesn’t belong, everything in its place, utterly exquisite and utterly sky at the same time.Tremendously beautiful and floating like a cloud, on empty air at the same time. Wide awake and at the same time utterly at ease. You can’t make this moment more perfect than it already is.
Good, now join me in chanting the Prajnaparamita mantra
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha
Let’s end the meditation there.
Dharma Talk, Q&A
So, the Paradox is that everything is present and also kind of not present at the same time. And it’s very–like I was saying last week–it’s very common that we really, especially as beginning practitioners, emphasize that not present part, that vastness, that openness, that clarity. When you really get a taste for it, it starts to be super delicious to find this sort of emptiness, emptiness, emptiness. But as I was saying last week that is really just halfway there. Or even less than halfway there. It’s important and it’s a huge advantage over being caught up in stuff. You learn to be uncaught up in stuff. And then just see openness, openness, openness, just the sky, just the sky, just the sky, just the sky. And it’s almost like the things of the world seem to fade or dissolve or disappear over and over and over and over and over again.
And there’s a real release, and a real letting go, and a real satisfaction and relief that comes with each of those letting go’s. But eventually, that becomes its own kind of place to hide. It becomes its own kind of dead end because then the rest of your life is just chasing this deeper and deeper nothing that you just kind of want to retreat to finding. You know, I’m going to keep going to just more and more still physical spaces with fewer and fewer people with less and less happening, so I can just do that. And then, you just kind of–that’s it. If that’s your path, or whatever, cool. Go ahead and do that but as far as I’m concerned–again that’s better than, I don’t know voting to take away people’s liberty, or whatever. So it’s a good thing on that level but it’s still only partially there as far as I’m concerned because what about everything? What about everything? You know, what about the feeling of your body? And the way emotions run through you? And what about the thoughts? And what about the world around you? And the others around you? And the colors and lights and sounds? And all that?
Is that all that just there to be nothing? Or is it, worse yet, is it like some kind of deluded fantasy that’s pulling you away from your delicious nothing and it’s actually kind of evil? Which is really common viewpoint. Or do you see that it’s never separate from that sky of emptiness? It’s never ever, ever even for a millisecond different. Or if it is different, it’s different because it’s this, you know, effulgent, radically beautiful display and the other thing is sort of non-display. But they’re arising together. They’re never apart and that–seeing that thing–is starting to come back around to wholeness again.
It’s not just that we shut ourselves in a cave and then see nothing forever. We come back out. But we come back out transformed. I mean the nothingness, the emptiness, the sky is incredibly important because then you see the world and yourself as it really is it’s like hanging like a dream in vastitude, right? Every part of it is exquisitely beautiful. Every part of it is exactly in its right place for that moment. And the next moment it can be in another place. But every part of it is necessary to fill the puzzle of the moment. If you took any of it away it would be incomplete. So it’s like just right, just right, just right, just right, even while continuously changing. Each moment is just right. And it’s just right not because it’s void, even though that’s there, but because even all the appearance is–it’s got a place, so to speak, in the mandala, right? It’s located. And all of them are necessary. And so that is–that’s coming back around to fullness. We don’t just want emptiness we want to come back around, all the way back around to fullness and complete expression.
Otherwise, I mean to put it in kind of a funny way, what are you even doing here? Why’d you even get born if it was just to go into nothingness? You could have done that without a body. And that’s another thing that arises with this that’s so interesting–is even there’s the sense that even–not only are you yourself in the right place but each part of you is in its right place in this moment, even though that can change in the next moment and so there’s a kind of beautiful bouquet of selfhood that’s there just the way it is, even if some of the flowers are dead or dried or strewn on the floor or it’s a weird arrangement. In this moment that’s exactly the right arrangement. It’s whole. It’s complete. There’s nothing missing. There’s nothing to change in that moment.
I’m going to read a quote, a very strange quote, which is I have to read from this piece of paper and except for those who I was talking to this afternoon, if anyone can guess who this is or you know who it is, even better, I’ll be impressed.
“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: someday I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”
Michael: Does anyone know who that is?
Questioner 1: Marcus Aurelius?
Michael: Because I use the word amor fati, you’re just guessing. Yeah, no it’s Nietzsche actually. But talking about amor fati that everything, you know, that our fate the fati part is, in essence, not only something that we accept, I’m gonna accept my fate, right? No. It’s something that we actually love and see the beauty of. And that that stance is available to us no matter what our condition. And so that’s just funny. That’s written in like the 1860s but he’s talking about what we’re practicing here tonight in a very direct way just noticing that all that’s arising is exactly in its place no matter what it is, there’s a kind of perfection to the moment. And that we don’t simply kind of grudgingly accept it, oh that’s you know that’s my lot but rather find it beautiful and even love it.
I think perhaps he’s talking about something a little more, kind of, cognitive. But still, the mood is there of like understanding the well-platedness of everything in each moment and also the fact that it’s got this cosmic depth to it, the vastness is always there.
So here’s the experiment; can you, for the next 24 hours, see every single thing in your life not as something to change and try to get rid of, or something to try to hold on to, or something that you’re ashamed of, or something that you wish was different? Oh my God, I’m in the wrong marriage, oh my God, I have a stupid job, oh my God, oh my God–the endless litany of how it should all be different. But furthermore, not the kind of nihilistic despair of, well it’s not going to ever be different so I better just buck up and accept it or kill myself. But what’s beyond those things? Can you see its actual beauty just the way it is? And then, even love it just the way it is? Doesn’t mean you can’t change it, doesn’t mean you’re locked in. But in each moment let it be just what it is.
For most people that, at first, sounds really bad like, oh my God I’m trapped, and then I’ll be, you know, I’ll give up and never change anything. But what’s weird is you’ve already given up and aren’t changing anything because you’re stuck in the mode of thinking everything must change all the time, I have to work really hard to make, to hang onto good things, and get rid of bad things, never recognizing that that’s endless. There is no finishing that, or winning that. That’s permanent incarceration.
And so, just as an experiment, it won’t turn you into a vegetable, it won’t turn you into, you know, some kind of agency-less victim, I promise, but you don’t have to–just try it for a little while. What if it’s all just right? And even changing it is just right but the mood is; it’s beautiful, and I even love it. And it’s not an idea. I can see that it’s beautiful, and I really do love it.
The kind of meditation we did is one way to notice that because you see this total space that’s there and the total vibrant display and perfectly placed-ness of the appearance placidness however we say that, so do that. And see if it turns you into an agency-less victim or if you actually start to kind of feel better.
So questions or comments? Or just reports about your meditation? Questions about other things? Just opening up the floor here.
Questioner 2: I’m not sure if I’m properly distinguishing between the formless jhanas and samatha without an object. Okay I think maybe I was doing samatha without an object and thinking that it’s jhana.
Michael: Sure, they’re closely related obviously fifth jhana is Infinite space, sixth jhana infinite consciousness. We’re kind of doing them at the same time consciousness and space. I would say that they’re not quite the same thing because usually a jhana is kind of dualistic, sort of me over here looking at the Infinite space, me over here looking at the infinite consciousness. And when we do it this other way where it’s not split up like that–now maybe some people do practice them in the other more non-dualistic way, it just depends on how it’s taught, and so on but in another way it’s like, fine they’re similar.
Good, you can even have you know a mood where the space will turn to like a point of nothingness, just like the seventh jhana, although we’re not trying to make that happen. And you kind of have to–you would want to sustain that if it was a jhana. And if it just occurs in non-dual meditation you just–if it’s there, it’s there and if it goes away, it goes away, right? So we’re not trying to do a systematic moving through, nor does it lead to these other, you know, necessarily to nothingness or to non-perception and perception or those kinds of other stages, right? So I would just say they have some similarities for sure and many people think that–remember originally they’re not called jhanas, they’re called ayatanas, which means realms. And so, some people think that all of–they speculate–that Mahayana Buddhism comes out of this idea of realms, so people doing not just the original Buddha ayatanas but kind of spreading out from there because once you discover ayatanas you can find a whole bunch of them, etc, etc. So it’s interesting, right? Much more interesting than saying well are those exactly the same or not I don’t know we’re kind of doing something different but certainly some of the territory we’re crossing over there is pretty similar, right? Yeah, it’s cool, right?
What else? How was that meditation for you? What is on your mind? Are you a blank cloud floating in an open sky? I feel like I’ve succeeded. I’ve pummeled you all into silence, I always feel good about that.