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Loch Kelly on Awareness, Freedom, and Effortless Mindfulness

loch kelly

Host Michael Taft speaks with Loch Kelly on nondual practices, contemporary forms of ancient awareness techniques, dzogchen, mahamudra, advaita, the role of psychotherapy in awakening, the need—or not—for a guru, open-hearted awareness, internal family systems therapy, and more.

Loch Kelly is an author, meditation teacher, psychotherapist, and founder of the non-profit, Open-Hearted Awareness Institute. Loch teaches in a non-sectarian lineage based in the earliest non-dual wisdom traditions, modern science, and psychotherapy.

Loch Kelly’s Website

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Show Notes:

00:43 – Intro

03:05 – Loch’s meditation background

06:59 – Shifting from concentration practice to choiceless awareness practice

10:01 – Meeting Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

12:23 – The experience vs explanation of ‘pure awareness’ in different traditions

14:38 – Mahamudra

15:31 – The dualism in stopping halfway at ‘pure/spacious awareness’

17:54 – Recognition vs realization

20:02 – The possibility of ‘awake awareness’ in different traditions

22:53 – Contacting nondual awareness

24:00 – How can awareness be aware of awareness, if you are not aware from awareness?

28:10 – The contemporary teaching of unhooking ‘local awareness’

34:42 – The vipassana model/map vs natural awakenings

37:42 – Upgrading the mahamudra map and instructions (from ‘pure awareness’ to ‘awake awareness’) 

43:07 – The four or five levels of the mind in mahamudra (1. everyday mind, 2. subtle mind, 3. pure awareness, 4. simultaneous mind, 5. open-hearted awareness/bodhicitta)

46:13 – Thoughts and emotions in ‘open-hearted awareness’

50:09 – Teaching moving from ‘spacious awareness’ to ‘awake awareness’

56:02 – Wonder, freedom, and joy in wisdom mind

01:02:14 – Postural yoga and pranayama in mahamudra

01:05:18 – Integrating ‘one-pointed awareness’ into the ‘field of awareness’

01:08:37 – Psychotherapy as a “preliminary” practice

01:10:42 – The “crazy yogi”: waking up without growing up

01:13:32 – The healing power of ‘open-hearted awareness’ in IFS (Internal Family Systems)

01:16:40 – The role of the guru in different traditions; “energetic transmission”

01:21:37 – Don’t stop halfway and come on in the water!

01:27:30 – Teaching vipassana in a nondual way

01:32:47 – Loch’s latest teaching- and personal inquiries

01:35:14 – Outro

What does nondual mean?

13 thoughts on “Loch Kelly on Awareness, Freedom, and Effortless Mindfulness”

  1. Thank you Michael & Loch. The Podcast on Effortless Mindfulness with Loch Kelly was very informative and helpful. It spoke to some questions I’ve had for some time.

  2. Hi Michael, thanks for this podcast, I went to meet Loch around 2 weeks ago at one of his events in NYC. I found that this podcast explored some of the most deepest aspects of the practice which are rarely talked about by other non-dual practitioners and for that I am genuinely grateful! I just had a some questions about the practice and I was wondering if I’d be able to ask you them over email, please let me know!

  3. Great interview. Nice to hear from other mutants who started meditating in the mid teens and got hooked. 🙂 Can you point out a few others in your podcasts that I can listen to?

    1. All of them, really, since I got hooked on meditation in my teens. 😉
      As for the interviewees, I’m not sure who else would or would not fulfill the requirements, since I haven’t always asked.
      Mukti, for sure.

  4. Extremely interesting podcast, thank you!

    At 1:06:18 to 1:08:36, Loch is talking about the difference between one-pointed concentration practice and resting in awareness as he teaches it, and he says some really interesting things. One is that one-pointed concentration activates a different part of the brain to the awareness practice – I can’t find the reference right now but I think elsewhere in the podcast he says or implies that one-pointed concentration is a function of the task-positive network (TPN), whereas his awareness practice is about ‘balancing’ the Default Mode Network (which he says explicitly at 1:07:12). Around the 1:06:18 mark he mentions ‘the research’, and around 1:08:07 he says that after 3-12 minutes (a curiously specific length of time!) there’s a ‘click’ and the DMN becomes ‘balanced’ and the experience becomes one of unity consciousness, which can be observed in an fMRI.

    Do you have a pointer to the research he’s talking about, please? I’m extremely interested in the neuroscientific correlates of meditation practice. What I’ve heard from other teachers in the past is that the DMN is the source of ‘bad stuff’ (self-referential thought etc.), and conditions like depression are often related to the DMN getting stuck in a particular pattern causing those unpleasant negative ‘thought spirals’; the DMN and TPN are mutually inhibiting, so being focused on a task (e.g. in a Flow-like state) inhibits the DMN and thus wipes out self-referential thought (which is why Flow experiences, per Csikszentmihalyi, involve the sense of self falling away). I had speculated some time ago that many traditions’ focus on continuous mindfulness (see e.g. Torei Zenji’s Undying Lamp of Zen) were geared towards permanent TPN activation; on the other hand, I recently saw an interview with Elena Antonova in which she was using a model from John Teasdale of three modes of experience – mindless emoting (DMN?), conceptual doing (TPN?) and mindful being (???), and was wondering how all that fitted together. I’ve never heard the suggestion that the DMN could become ‘balanced’ and thus a pleasant place to hang out, so this is very much new territory for me, and I’ll happily devour anything you could throw my way. Thanks!

      1. Hi Michael,

        I tracked it down. It looks like Loch has started using an abbreviated form of words which slightly obfuscates what’s going on. In his book Shift Into Freedom he cites a study by Josipovic (2012) which suggests that non-dual awareness ‘balances the activity of the default-mode network and task-positive network’ – elsewhere he suggests that non-dual awareness is about balancing intrinsic and extrinsic focus, which is along the same lines.

        By the time he was giving interviews about it, it seems that the statement had become truncated to ‘balances the default-mode network’ (see, for example, his interview with Conscious TV where he says ‘your default mode network will balance’. This gives the impression that non-dual awareness is somehow affecting the DMN itself, as opposed to balancing the DMN *with* the TPN. Hence my confusion!

        Link to relevant page in Shift Into Freedom:

        Link to Conscious TV interview:

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