Live Guided Nondual Meditation by Michael Taft
Streamed live Mar 10, 2022
Let’s begin our meditation this evening by starting out with getting in our meditation posture. So as usual I want you to sit with your knees, if possible, your knees below your hips. If you’re on a chair, like, I’m on a rolly chair, you just sit way forward and the chair, not so much that the chair squeezes like a lemon seed out from between your fingers, and y’know, shoots out from behind you. But rather you just sit very balanced on the front so that your knees are down and you’re just supporting your own back. But notice, because your knees are down, your back just sits up nice and straight, totally naturally, totally without effort. Or if you have a meditation cushion; that’s the point of that cushion. You can also lay on your back with your knees in the air, so that your back is flat. So those are the positions that we like to meditate in, if possible. You can even meditate standing up if you’re really tired. So get in, or if it feels good, get in one of those positions, or honestly any other position you feel like, that you can stay in for an hour without moving.
And then I want you to just move around it ‘till it feels really nice, really settled, really calm, really stable. And then what we’re going to do is set our intentions. So what that means is, maybe ‘set intention’ is not exactly the right way to say it; remember intention, recall our intention, why are we meditating? What is the goal overall for our meditation practice? Why do we do this at all? So whatever that is for you, just bring that up now. Remember why you do this.
And then next we’re going to do a resource gathering, a visualization, okay? And part of why I have this hilarious ‘cult leader’ t-shirt on is because, the visualization tonight, we’ve never done this, we’re gonna sit like a rainbow, okay? So sometimes we sit like a mountain, sometimes we sit like an ocean, and so on. Tonight we’re gonna sit like a rainbow. So I want you to picture this beautiful rainbow, and that’s what this shirt is there for, to help you remember what a rainbow looks like. Remember, blue on the inside of the arc, red on the outside of the arc and everything in between, in between. So you’re visualizing this exquisitely gorgeous, lovely shining rainbow, okay? And you’re sitting as if you’re a rainbow. What does it mean to sit like a rainbow? Well [sit like] a rainbow, in this case metaphorically, where it’s beautiful. So sit with a sense of beauty, of having beauty. It’s got all the different colors, so it’s not like all condensed down into white light; it’s the full expression. So it’s sitting with a full expression. We could say full expression of your already existing Buddhahood, or full expression of awake awareness, full expression of the mind of awakening, right? So, it’s not only beautiful, it’s got this mood of just complete unimpeded, delightful and celebratory expression.
Right? So, sitting like a rainbow. Also, it’s effortless, right? The rainbow just appears. Nobody paints it, it’s not some kind of effortful creation; it’s perfectly effortless. So there’s a sense of effortlessness and there’s also, remember last week where we did the mandala visualization, up and down the central channel? The rainbow contains all those mandala qualities as well, right? So you can really feel all the different qualities. If you did the mandala practice then those are all present for you. And then, I could go on and on, we could do a whole meditation just visualizing this rainbow because that would be really nice. But, the last one I’ll say is that – maybe it’s two more – the rainbow is just kind of hanging there in space; it is, it has no weight. So not only is it effortless but it’s weightless. There’s this incredibly beautiful display, having no mass, right? It’s just, I mean, scientifically we could probably say the photons making up the rainbow have some kind of mass. But we’re thinking about it metaphorically. It’s just like this piece of artwork hanging in the sky with no weight at all; it’s feather-light. It’s like, utterly, like floating, like soaring without any effort. So we’re sitting like that. And then lastly, the rainbow is a symbol of emptiness, right? Because emptiness doesn’t mean things aren’t there. It’s not a void. It’s not when we see a rainbow we see a black void of nothing. We see the opposite. We see this exquisite expression of all the colors and yet you can’t touch it, you can’t go out and find it, you can’t, you know; it’s both there and not there. It’s like, kind of like a dream or a vision. It has this empty quality of ‘there and not thereness’ at the same time. So I want you to, whatever it means to you, I won’t go over all those qualities again. But just think of the most beautiful and profound things about a rainbow and sit with that, and just visualize this rainbow. Sit like a rainbow. And we’ll do that together for a few minutes here and then we’ll move on from there.
Good. Now to go a little deeper into this. As we see the empty nature of the rainbow that allows us to tune into our own empty nature, the fact that no matter – in the same way that the rainbow is both there and not there, it’s filled with color and yet you can’t really find it – in the very same way, even though you have thoughts and feelings and an expression as a person, if you look inside trying to find the source or the reality of these thoughts and feelings, you can’t really find it. You can’t really touch it. And so in the same way that the rainbow is both beautiful and alive and vibrant and real and at the same time empty; our self, our feeling of being a separate self is also vibrant and alive and in a sense real, and in another sense, utterly empty. So allow yourself to gaze upon that rainbow awhile and notice its emptiness. The fact that it’s like hanging in the sky like a dream, a shining dream. And yet you can’t, just like a dream, you can’t actually reach out and touch it. In the same way, you yourself are just hanging in the space of awareness, thoughts, and feelings passing in awareness, and yet there’s nothing to touch; there’s nothing to reach out and find. So, the emptiness of the rainbow reflects the emptiness in you. The emptiness of being reflects the emptiness of the rainbow and this is very, very pleasant, very beautiful. So sit with that for a few minutes.
Good. Now from here, because we are empty and the rainbow is empty, just allow the rainbow to come inside you. So that instead of being a human body, breathing and digesting and all the things that a human body does, and instead of being thoughts and feelings or whatever we imagine ourselves to be; we’re simply a rainbow shining in the sky. That’s all there is, is a rainbow shining in the sky. It’s violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red; all shining bright in an infinite, vast, empty sky. Picture that now, feel that now, be that now.
And really feel the beauty of the colors and the shining light, the effortlessness of it. Absolutely effortless, shining rainbow. Really notice the fact that it’s weightless, unfindable, and empty, and yet also there; it’s not nothing. And it’s shining with this tremendous joy and beauty.
Okay, Good. Now from here we’re gonna begin meditating on our breath. And so there’s enough contact with body sensation to just feel the breath but here’s how I want you to breathe, okay? If you need to or you want to, just breathe normally. But if you can, what I’d like you to do is actually breathe as gently and softly and barely there as possible. So we’re doing a really, really, really gentle breath. Now don’t do it so gently that you, you know, feel like you’re not getting enough oxygen like you’re not getting enough air or whatever, that’s not the point. I just want you to breathe as gently and shallowly as you can and have it still feel good, okay? So it’s a very, very soft breath, very barely moving at all, okay? Again, don’t do it so much that you need to yawn or whatever, make it work for you; but within the parameters of comfort breathe tremendously, tremendously gently. And then just allow that wave of the breath to arise in the sky of awareness. We can let the rainbow vision go now. Just allow the wave of the breath to be noticed in awareness rising and noticed in awareness falling. So we’re not pointing attention at the breath, we’re just letting the breath itself just arise without any effort in awareness and fall again without any effort in awareness.
Good. Now continue with this. Remembering that when I say the sensations of the breath are just rising in awareness, that’s effortless. Awareness is already aware of the feelings of the breath, that’s how you know they’re there. So there’s nothing to do except allow the wave of the breath to be noticed effortlessly by awareness. But when I say awareness I mean that vast, sky-like mind. The vast, spacious awareness in which the sky, in which the rainbow, was appearing before. So it’s just this wave of breath sensation effortlessly arising in a vast sky of mind; so let’s continue.
Okay. Now continuing to do that really gentle breath, if that feels nice to you, I want you to switch from noticing the breath wave rising and falling in awareness. Again effortlessly, awareness just already knows, already can be aware of the breath wave. I want you to do the same thing with all thoughts and emotions, but especially thoughts. Whether they’re visual or verbal thoughts there’s the sky of awareness and thinking is just a trickle of vapor moving through that sky of awareness. It’s like just a little, little ripple in the air of the sky of awareness. It’s not disturbing the sky in any way and it’s not something to really focus on. We’re not, we don’t, we’re not engaging with the content but we still are actually very aware of it. So it’s a little different than dropping the ball because we’re not just completely disregarding it and just letting it be there. We are actually, even though we’re not sharply focusing on it, we are giving it some attention; noticing it as a focus object. So it’s still shamatha with an object, rather than on the breath, just very lightly on thinking itself without getting involved in the thinking at all. Give that a shot and if that’s too difficult come back to meditating on breathing.
Notice that thoughts don’t disturb the sky of awareness, the vast sky of awareness in any way. They’re just like ripples on the ocean or just like currents of air in the sky. It’s not disturbed. The sky is big enough and vast enough and still enough for those thoughts to move through it, for air currents to move through it without it being disturbed in any way.
Okay. good. Now if you’re used to meditating with your eyes open, this is a good time to do that. If you’re not used to it but you want to try it out then now’s the time to do that. Just have your eyes open but they’re not really focused on anything. You’re not really looking with them, they’re just open. And they’re relaxed and not narrowly looking at anything. They’re just kind of relaxed and open. They don’t have to be out of focus and they don’t have to be still. Sometimes if we leave our eyes still the visual field will start to disappear based on, you know, the retinal cells getting tired. So feel free to blink and move your eyes and all that. But they’re just, it’s just relaxed, it’s just an easy gaze.
And then what we’re doing as a meditation now – and I want you to listen to this instruction carefully because I mean it – we’re gonna do nothing at all, okay? You’re not focusing but you’re also not not focusing. You’re not doing anything at all. You’re not following thoughts, you’re not trying to stay with something, you’re not even actually meditating, okay? You’re letting go even of the idea of meditating. You’re still in your posture, you’re still sitting still but you’re letting go of everything–unless letting go becomes a doing, in which case we let go of letting go and just sit. So that’s what I want you to do.
Now if you notice that you’re getting real caught up in stuff, just let go of it. Or if you want to, just be caught up in it until you’re done. But what we’re really doing is letting go completely; we’re not doing anything. And so when you’re caught up in thought, that’s kind of a doing. So we just, the usual thing is to just let go of it. And let go of everything. Again, even the idea that you’re meditating, even the idea that you’re supposed to change something at all. That’s why I say, in a way you don’t have to change anything, just sit there. Just sit there and allow yourself to let go. Totally effortless, totally without doing, simply being.
What if there’s nothing to change at all? Nothing to do, nothing to try, everything is already perfect, everything is already complete, everything is already fulfilled. And there’s absolutely nothing to do. Wide awake.
Just resting naturally as vast, spacious awareness without any effort, without any doing of any kind, without even the idea of meditating or a meditator. Not even anybody doing anything. Just natural resting as open awareness. Now, if again if this is too difficult or chaotic, feel free to go back and simply meditate on the breath wave arising and passing in awareness; otherwise let’s continue.
Good. Now into this vast space visualize again the rainbow shining effortlessly, beautifully, radiantly with all its various colors. See that very, very clearly now.
Just radiantly shining with beauty and joy and diversity with these effortless, weightless, unfindable, liquid colors, radiant shining. And then let them just fly out. Colors just fly. They dissolve or like, break up and fly in all directions to everywhere; every person in the world, every being in the world, every being in the entire universe gets touched by this rainbow light and feels that joy and feels that beauty, feels that radiance and feels that variation, the diversity. And then just let that go and be just completely empty again for just another moment.
Okay, very good. Let’s let go of the meditation there and just allow yourself to open up a little bit physically, relax a little more, move and stretch in whatever way feels really, really good. Maybe you wiggle your fingers and toes or just kind of allow your spine to wiggle in a way that feels really delicious, or whatever. Have a drink of water, have a drink of tea, or whatever it is you use to wet your whistle at the end of a good sit.
Okay, so I want to talk a little bit about awareness itself. And sometimes people talk about awareness like, it’s a kind of a thing that they are going to look at. So, I might even use language like that sometimes because that’s just how our language is structured, and in fact, all languages are structured this way. Some academic stuff from the 1920s and 30s about other languages that supposedly don’t do that, actually that turns out to be incorrect. One way they didn’t really understand the languages very well, so we always–our language always makes it sound like one thing over here is looking at another thing over there. And so we can often see, it can often sound like the idea is, ‘oh I’m over here and I’m going to look at awareness over there and an awareness is a thing, some kind of special thing I’m going to see,’ okay? And that’s not what’s going on with awareness. Because in order to see anything, in order to be aware of it, of anything you’ve got to be aware, right? And so there’s a funny circular thing going on, like the person over here who thinks he’s looking at the awareness over there is in fact–that looking itself is awareness. So if you think you’re over here looking at awareness over there then my question is: who’s looking?
And of course, that leads, that’s kind of an inquiry question, right? Like we did the other week, we get into inquiry. Because if you try to look at who’s looking you’ll notice that it’s awareness itself looking at awareness. And so you have this paradox of the–like it seems like maybe awareness is split into an awareness, over here is looking at awareness over there. And you realize all of that is not necessary, or we could say all of that is nonsense. There’s nothing over here looking at anything over there at all.
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. And it’s also a way that we’re used to kind of encountering our own visual experience. When we think about positioning our head and our eyes and all that. But that position of the head, in the eyes, or that position of the ears, all of that is different than awareness itself. Awareness itself has no position, it has no direction. It’s never the case that I’m over here and looking at that special thing called awareness over there. Awareness is just aware of itself, right? And if we wanted to think about it, each of the sense gates only function because of awareness. So even if I feel like my body is over here and my eyes are pointing over there and I’m looking at the beautiful after-sunset clouds which are out there right now, it’s getting a little a few months past the winter solstice, right? So it’s a little lighter out at this time and I can see these after-sun clouds. So I’m over here and my eyes are looking over there. All of that, the feeling of being a body over here, the whole perspectival take of eyes over here that are looking in a certain way at clouds that are over there; all of that perspective stuff and positionality stuff, all of that is something I’m aware of.
And so again, all of that is just arising in awareness, and awareness is located in all those places and centered in none of them. Awareness has no center, no edge, and no middle. It’s just all awareness itself. So, you know, the idea–sure my eyes are located somewhere and they’re looking at a thing over there–but awareness is in both locations and everywhere in between and is actually underlying that whole process. And so each of the sense gates might have a kind of positionality, might have a kind of seeming dualism. But the minute we come from awareness and understand that the after-sunset clouds over there and the feeling of eyes over here, perceiving those – all of those are arising in the same awareness – that dualism collapses, right?
There’s still difference, there’s still the feeling in one part of awareness and the clouds in the other part of awareness, and all that. So difference is not annihilated. We don’t want to make it into the gray goo scenario, the oatmeal scenario where everything is just one thing and there’s no difference, because of course there’s difference. There’s the feeling of being a body, there’s the colors of being after-sunset clouds, right? There’s a rainbow instead of a void and each color of the rainbow is different than the other colors. So difference is not annihilated and at the same time everything is joined in the, in awareness itself.
And of course, I don’t want you to make awareness itself into some kind of object. Awareness is not an object, right? It’s empty like everything else – remembering that empty doesn’t mean it’s not there. Of course, awareness is there, you’re having an experience of it right now, you are awareness itself, in one way of looking at it. And yet that’s empty too: don’t make that into an object, don’t make that into a thing, don’t make that into the new deity to worship, don’t make that into the new, you know, object of desire that you’re trying to get. Anyone who’s trying to get awareness does not understand what the fuck they’re doing because, you know, awareness is at the basis of everything, right? The fact that you even know that you want something is because you’re aware of wanting. So there is no special awareness to get, right?
It’s not an object and neither are you. Every time you catch yourself thinking of yourself as an object, look carefully, look. Who’s having the experience right now of thinking they’re an object? And you’ll look and right at the core of that feeling of being ‘you’ is this nebulous awareness experience of shifting and moving body sensations, shifting and moving emotions, moving and shifting thoughts of various kinds. And it’s all kind of there but kind of not there; it’s very nebulous, it’s very undefined. There’s a pattern to it and yet it’s not a completely defined pattern and so it’s empty, right? The feeling of being a self, a separate ego, is made up of thoughts and feelings and needs you to think those thoughts and feelings are solid and real in order to come forward as this reified object. Well, guess what? Reified objects get hurt, reified objects suffer, reified objects really have a difficult time. And it’s not required that we think of ourselves as a reified object, right?
Let go of the hypostatization that, you know, the ‘making it real’ that you habitually do. And instead see that at the core of, whatever we can call it: the core of your being, or deep down in your soul, or looking right at the seeming center of your own experience like a lot of–and again it’s not coming from a positionality, awareness has no positionality–so just be aware of whatever feels like the center of whatever’s going on, like the most intimate spot in the deepest, secret place in your heart. Notice that that’s just gnostic space, it’s knowing space, it’s empty and yet shiningly, blazingly aware. And stuff is happening, there’s thoughts and feelings but that’s not, they’re all just kind of ripples in awareness.
So it’s very important to get this idea of how we’re seeing this, right? This is all about ‘the view’. This kind of nondual meditation is all about the view, meaning all about drishti in Sanskrit. I love that word, ‘drishti’, meaning ‘the view’. We could say it’s a whole understanding of where we’re coming from or a whole understanding of who we are, or who we think we are or where we think we’re coming from. As long as you think you’re positioned in a body and you’re coming out your eyes, or whatever, you’re going to have one kind of experience and it’s going to probably be fraught with suffering. But if you allow that to show its own emptiness–the fact that it’s nebulous flowing, just experience–and your view is awareness located nowhere, is just aware and it’s not a thing either, you’re gonna have a, that’s a different viewpoint; it’s a different point of view. You almost can’t even call it a point of view but we’ll call it a drishti, in Sanskrit, a view. And that’s much less fraught, there’s much less suffering in that view so it’s very worth checking out.
And also notice that’s, you know, that’s available just without any effort at all. If you just sit and relax and allow yourself to open you’ll notice that view arising quite naturally, quite effortlessly, quite spontaneously. And that there’s a kind of beauty in that and a kind of nobility in that and a kind of peace and clarity in that that is much deeper than you may have imagined. And yet it’s not some kind of special state, it’s not some kind of altered state, it’s not some kind of thing; the object of desire that you’re trying to get. It’s always already there.