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Meditate Outside the Mind

Outside the Mind

Guided Nondual Meditation by Michael Taft

Welcome to tonight’s guided meditation. As usual, I’ll lead about an hour-long guided sit, and you are welcome to follow along, or not. You can do your own meditation, if you wish, just enjoy being in the room. You can follow along the whole way, you can follow along partway, and then be, like, wait, he just went somewhere I don’t want to go. It’s up to you. The contract we’re making here is: as long as you’re in the room, you’re going to be quiet and still. Other than that, whatever you do in the silence of your own mind, or the cacophony of your own mind, is up to you.

If you’re not used to sitting on the floor for an hour with your legs crossed, there are still a few chairs available, so now is your chance to panic and flee to a chair. I recommend that you do that if you’re not used to sitting on the floor. 

Other than that, let’s do a little bit of seated movement, where we’re just making circles. You don’t have to do the thing I’m doing, do whatever feels good in your body, but make some circles with your hips, maybe make some circles with your wrists, maybe your elbows are dying to circle, maybe your shoulders want to feel circular, maybe your neck is all stiff, and you want to circle your neck around a bit. Maybe everything wants to make a circle at once, including each finger. Whatever it is, just allow your body to feel loose, and relaxed, and open, and fluid, and good. Get some good feeling in your body, whatever that’s like, and then slowly just start bringing it in a little bit bringing it back down. Just as we usually do, just at the very end, moving so in such tiny movements that you can’t tell after a while whether you’re actually moving anymore or not. If you sit there long enough, of course, you’ll notice that just sitting upright on the floor, or even in a chair, that you’re never actually all the way still. There are always little adjustments going on, little movements. So just find that nice relaxed, balanced place where you can’t even tell exactly if you’re moving anymore or not, and just remain there.


Then let’s do the same thing with our minds. Just the thing you just did with your body, do it with your thoughts. Just let your thoughts go in circles, or run around, or massively proliferate, do some kind of papañca tango, or whatever. Just get the whole thing flowing in there really fast. Try to think a lot, think extra, and then just relax, until you can’t actually tell if you’re thinking or not anymore. 

Then ask yourself the question, What’s it like to be me right now? Then, just look, feel into your being and just see what it’s like. What’s it like in the body, what’s it like in emotions, what’s it like in the mind, what’s it like in every other way it is to be you? How does it feel to be you? Just keep tuning into that, and whatever it’s like to be you right now, just let that be that way: allow it to be that way. Don’t try to change it, don’t try to control it, don’t try to grab onto it and wrestle it like a bull by the horns. Don’t try to fix it, or polish it, or sacralize it, or anything. Just let it be exactly the way it is right now. Let’s just sit for at least a couple moments together, allowing yourself to be exactly, exactly, exactly, how you are right now, without changing it.

Good. Now, for the next section, I want you to simply meditate outside your mind. That’s it, just meditate outside the mind. Allow awareness itself to be naturally without any effort, without doing anything, or manipulating it at all, just let it be wide open. Just the way you can hear the stuff in the world around in all directions without trying, the way light comes into your eyes if they’re open from all sorts of directions without trying, just let awareness be wide open like that without trying. It’s just receiving. As usual, if you can, resist the urge to grab onto thoughts, you can still have all the thoughts arising. They can still be happening, that’s fine, we’re just not grabbing onto them, we’re just leaving those things alone, and, instead, simply being this spacious open awakeness. 

It doesn’t take any effort to be–you already are spacious awakeness. The only thing that closes that down, is when we grab on to the thoughts, and then get wrapped up in them. So, all we’re going to do is not grab onto them, and rest as spacious awakeness. Just to keep it just a little bit sharp. If you want to, you can sit up straight, you can sit with your eyes open. That helps, but also, just notice the coming and going of the wave of the breath. You might notice it as a rising and falling wave, but just with like 1% of your attention. We’re not really focusing on it, you’re just not losing it. The main thing that’s going on is you’re resting as wide open wide awakeness. 

I call this dropping the ball because when we grab onto a thought, it’s like grabbing a ball. The image is playing catch with a little dog that grabs the ball and it just holds on with his little jaws. It won’t give you the ball back, and you’re saying to the dog, “drop it, drop it.” Then, if it drops it, then, now we can play again, now it’s relaxed and natural. So each time the mind, out of habit, grabs the ball and wants to chew on it, chew on it, or bite it, you just drop it. Relax the jaw, the ball drops out on the ground, boink, and your mind is just free again, just relaxed and open.  So that’s all you’re doing, nothing at all, hanging out with the breath wave a little,  bit but mainly just sitting there being wide awake. 

Then, again, if you notice, oh, now I’m all caught up in this thought about those new cartoons on Disney Plus that are just so good, I can’t stop thinking about it. Just drop it, drop it, and then, bip, and then you’re back in spacious freedom. So let’s do that together for a while, resting in natural openness, wide open, wide awakeness, with just the slightest, slightest hint of attention on the rising and falling of the breath wave.

Just drop it, and just rest as wide open wide awakeness. If you’ve ever had a bag of chips in the kitchen, and it’s just sitting there. Every time you walk in the kitchen, the bag of chips is there, and you just find yourself eating them again. You don’t notice the transition from just being there to, chips are in my mouth. It’s like that’s the kind of thing with the thinking: just don’t eat the chips, right? That’s it, just don’t eat them. But you just are so used to that hand in the bag, and then it’s in your mouth, and then you’re eating them again, that kind of unconscious grabbing. So, the thing here is to just be natural, just relax, and be wide open wide awakeness. Notice when the chips are in the mouth, and then the metaphor messes up, spit them out, or something. Come back to just sitting there, wide awake, not engaged. That doesn’t mean we’re not engaging at all–we can still feel our bodies and see the world and hear the sounds and feel emotions. All of that is happening, it’s all vividly happening, we’re just not digging into the thoughts about it.

This can be intensely difficult, not only because of the habit of grabbing onto the thoughts but also, the thoughts are what we’re using to distract ourselves from what we’re actually feeling. If you don’t distract yourself from what you’re actually feeling, you might have to feel your body, you might have to feel your feelings, your emotions, and actually notice what that’s like. 95% of the stuff we do in life is to just desperately distract from feeling what we’re feeling. I’m just really into competitive yodeling, right? Well, actually, no, it’s just anything to distract from whatever emotions are arising. 

So, even though it should be a relatively easy thing, one would think, to just not pick up the ball. There’s actually a kind of compulsion to pick it up. It’s a fixation, because then we don’t have to feel what we’re feeling. So, the invitation here, just for the length of the meditation, is to come out of the dream of distraction into simple presence, into being present with what you’re feeling, and just whatever is happening right in the room.

Very good. So, let’s switch it up. Now, instead of not engaging at all with thoughts, I want you to engage just a tiny bit, but in a very specific way. Still not engaging with the content–we don’t care at all what the thought is about in any way–it doesn’t matter. But, assuming there’s just a flow of thinking going on, I want you to just notice that flow of thought. It might be just a stream of phonemes burbling out of the whole of your unconscious, stuff coming up, so just notice that stream of thought activity. It might be phonemes, it might be images, could be pictures or words. 

I want you to look with a lot of curiosity, a lot of openness, and just see if you can notice exactly where that’s coming from. Where is the stream of thoughts arising from? Where is it arising, just in your own experience. This isn’t something you can figure out, you have to just listen, or look, or feel. Just keep trying to notice, where does that stream of thought originate? If you look very carefully, you’ll notice it’s not coming from anywhere. All that stream of thinking, all those thoughts that we spend so much time engaging with, it’s not coming from anywhere. Then look, and see if you can tell, again, without an idea, like, my head. Let’s see if you can tell exactly just in your own experience, without thinking about it at all, where is it happening? Clearly, thoughts are happening, there’s a stream of thought activity, but where is it located? You can have an idea, oh, it’s in my head, but where is it happening? They are there as an experience, but they don’t seem to be coming from anywhere, and if you look carefully, even though they appear to be happening, they’re not happening anywhere.

Let’s see if you can find where they vanished to. When the thought ends, just look at where it went. There can be these burbly trains of sounds and images. Each one of those ends. Where did it go? Look. That’s like asking, where does a dream go when you wake up. It doesn’t go anywhere, it’s just gone. So, all these thoughts that we’re having in our own experience, you can just see they’re not coming from anywhere, and they’re appearing, but not appearing anywhere. Then, when they are gone, they’re just gone. 

So, what even am a thought? More importantly, this is the big one to look for–I want you to look, in your own experience, don’t think about it, don’t draw from memory, don’t infer, just look: Who is even having the thought? I want you to look now, for real, look, find it. Who’s having the thought?  Find it, right now. Look, seriously, look. Do not think about it, do not use your memory, do not use inference. Do not try to find the right answer. I want you to just simply trust your observation. Look: What is having the thoughts? What’s experiencing the thoughts? 

If you look carefully, with a lot of curiosity, and in your own experience, my guess is you can’t find anything. You can’t find anything at all experiencing the thoughts. So, there’s an experience of thinking. It’s definitely an experience–there’s something there, it’s not nothing–but it’s an experience that’s coming from nowhere, happening nowhere in particular, and returning to nowhere in particular. And, it’s not even happening to anyone or anything in particular. It’s just happening. Look carefully, and you’ll see that that’s the case. Vivid, bright, clear, maybe even delicious, experience, that’s not happening anywhere, or made of anything, or happening to anyone.

Good. Now, continuing to notice that very unusual quality of experience without an experiencer, come back to simply sitting as wide awake wide openness, noticing breath. But, something’s changed. There’s the experience of wide open wide awakeness experiencing breath, or being breath, but the wide open wide awakeness is not some kind of observer, and the breath itself is not a thing being observed. There’s just vivid experience itself, almost as if someone’s painting with light on a fog bank. The moment you re-engage thought, you’ll lose it, because you’ll be back into a world of I’m over here, and the experience is over there. But keep coming back, noticing that, look for who’s having the experience. Notice you can’t find an experiencer in any way, and the whole thing drops away into just wide awake wide openness with vivid experience.

Let’s sit with that for a little while together.

This time, instead of just dropping the ball, each time you notice, look at who is having the experience, just look directly, right into the heart of who’s having the experience, and the whole thing will just drop itself, will just unfold into wide open wide awakeness without any effort. Each time you look into who’s having the experience and you can’t find them, it delivers you back into the absolute simple presence. Just come right back to just sitting as wide open, wide awakeness. Each time, we land back in this simple presence. Notice the tremendous freshness. 

The mind can become very bored. It can become very predictable. It always thinks it knows what’s going to happen next. But, if we sit outside the mind, every moment is fresh, new, spontaneously arising. It has a minty fresh, just came out of the oven, new car thing. It’s just a brand new moment, brand new moment, brand new moment. In the same way, the mind can be very stale, very boring, very predictable, but the experiences of the physical being, the emotions, the body, the textures, the smells, the music, the feelings in the body–is very fresh, it’s very new. It’s always different, always interesting, always curious. Sometimes it’s painful or difficult, sometimes not, sometimes both, or neither, but always fresh the first time.

Sometimes in Vajrayana they use a phrase like primordial purity, and that’s at least part of what they’re talking about: every experience is absolutely new. It can’t be dirty, or broken, or old, or repetitive, because each one is absolutely freshly minted in the Forge of the Void. It just came out, still glowing, still shiny. Well, it was really cold and my knees hurt, and I felt a little bit nauseous. Yeah, but how was it? Shiny, it’s fresh. Things that are absolutely new have that ultra-poignant property of being totally open, totally innocent, totally unpredictable, naked, and raw, and gorgeous. 

If you’re sitting and thinking about it, you’re totally lost. If you’re, like, Michael, I just can’t stop eating the chips, I’m failing, I just keep thinking about it. That’s okay, just relax as much as you can each time you hang on. It’s okay, you can set them down again, and just feel the openness, it’s right there, it’s fresh. There’s no failing at this, there’s, just try again, let go again, come back to that openness, it’s even for a second. Just come back again. You might be, like, I’m just experiencing the freshness of all my wounds and trauma and horrible feelings. It’s pretty hard. That’s how we work with those, welcoming them in simple presence, again and again. Not trying to fix or trying to avoid but simply sitting with them, letting them be themselves. That’s what caused the trauma in the first place: they couldn’t be themselves. What if we just let them be themselves, exactly the way they are, then even that becomes exquisite, beautiful, just the way it is. Absolutely beautiful. Who’s even having this experience? Look, look.

Feeling the freshness, and the beauty, the openness, the wide open wide awakeness,

and just feeling gratitude, just gratitude, simple gratitude.

Very good. Let’s end the meditation there.


I feel like I have tons of stuff to say but I’d rather hear what you have to say, so if you have something coming up you want to share experiences, or maybe questions arising. Just raise your hand and we’ll run over with a microphone and hear what you have to say. Remember that when they give you the microphone that you are then being broadcast to the internet permanently.

Questioner 1: You said that we keep thinking in order to avoid something. That is

intriguing to me. Is it that we are trying to avoid bad stuff that we believe about ourselves that we keep repressing?

Michael: That’s a bunch of it, right? We’ve got our core wounds, like, I’m a piece of shit, and it feels really uncomfortable to think that, and feel that. It’s much more interesting to get into my competitive yodeling, and the details, and just think, think, think, because then, I don’t have to encounter that material. We’re just levitating through sheer thinking power off that.

Questioner 1:  That makes a lot of sense, that’s an interesting concept.

Michael: Not just that, though, it’s lots of stuff.

Questioner 1: Could it also be that we’re afraid of nothingness, of the emptiness inside, the void, the abyss?

Michael: Absolutely, and, in fact, you may have noticed what we’re doing, especially if you just sit there not engaging in thought, there’s a vivid experience happening. But, you’ll also keep noticing there’s this big spaciousness, and for a lot of people that can feel pretty uncomfortable at first, because it’s very closely related to voidness or death or something like that. I would say it’s fear of death.

Questioner 1:  Yeah, or the absence of the ego, the voidness of the ego.

Michael: If you think you’re an ego, then the fact that that’s not what you’re inhabiting right now, seems death-like, so yeah. All those things we don’t have to confront if we’re just busy thinking about whatever.

Questioner 1: Does that mean that we have to go through the bad stuff ultimately, in order to get to the good stuff? 

Michael: None of it’s bad stuff. 

Questioner 1: Well, what we think is bad stuff, let’s say seeming bad stuff, we’ve bought into as being bad stuff.

Michael: I just wouldn’t call it go through it I would just say…

Questioner 1:  You just just avoid it? I mean just acknowledge it or sidestep it.

Michael: No, just rest in pure presence. 

Questioner 1: So that’s a matter of not actually processing it in any way, like psychotherapy would suggest, for instance.

Michale: Well, of course, go do therapy, with it you know. Sure, why not?

Questioner 1: But it’s not necessary?

Michael: It is totally necessary if it’s necessary, right? It’s not like, don’t clean your car, kind of saying the same thing. Well, the cleanliness of my car is, in the final analysis, an empty concept, then I can just let it get as dirty as I want. No, you still clean your car, do your therapy. It’s all the relative world stuff that’s important to do, it’s important to have good relationships, and not be a jerk. But, at the same time, there’s another thing to do, or, let’s say, to notice, or to be.

Questioner 1: Right, okay, well thank you.

Michael: Yep, I’m so enlightened, I never have to change my underwear, right? Try that one on–that’s like the Steve Jobs thing. What else is going on out there? I do change my underwear, just to be clear.

Questioner 2:  This is more of a report, there’s a lot of people from different pods and RTS’s, and work with Michael Taft, that are in the room who know me already and know that stillness is a challenge for me. But, today it was really interesting, because I was able to just know that my body knows how to do stillness, and that I’m not doing anything, and so I could take away the doership of a lot of the whole meditation, and just be in it. Then tremendous lightness came in with the breath, and then later my body got super hot, and I was, like, just be the fire, don’t fight it, just let it be what it is. Then it was, like, oh, I could feel very grateful for it, as opposed to, oh, my God, I’m so hot. Just being what I was being was a shift for me, to just let go of the doer of it, and just be in it, and not make anything happen, or not make it happen. So, that was really cool.

Michael: That seems really cool. What made the difference this time, as opposed to all the other times?

Questioner 2:  I could think it was just being in the room, obviously, is a different thing than when I’m at home, and I think also coming in really open-hearted with a ton of gratitude in the first place, so just super happy to be here with everybody. I’m so lucky, and coming in feeling that way already gives me a lot more spaciousness for anything that arises,

Michael: Right, so much more ease in the gratitude.

Questioner 2: I’m not coming in struggling with things, although, obviously the stillness edge is still an edge, but it felt like, oh, no. And then, I could really use the elements, after I’d been through fire and air, all the natural adjustments that were happening in the water, in my body, then I could do the Mount Meru, and just sit like a mountain. So, it was like just being in the things that were arising and letting them arise. 

Michael: It’s so cool. Stillness is really relaxed, right? It doesn’t take any doing, it’s just relaxed, very good, thanks for sharing.

Questioner 3:  Hi, I was pretty uncomfortable tonight physically, and my posture was off. I noticed what I thought was a kriya years ago, because it’s the same kind of thing, in my left shoulder. Now, I’m wondering if maybe I don’t have the right definition of a kriya, and maybe this is just embodied resistance, or maybe that’s all the same thing.

Michael:  Maybe it’s all the same thing.

Questioner 3:  Of course, and maybe it doesn’t matter but I was just curious about if you’ve seen that before. If people get confused. I was trying to suppress it at times and I was much deeper in my meditation than it was years ago when I was having that, when I just, like, all this stuff’s going on, and my body hurts, blah, blah, blah. Do I let it go, or is this resistance that I should be just holding tight? I’m not sure what to do with it.

Michael: Yeah, in general, what it says on the card is, if you’re having a kriya, just don’t worry about it, right? Don’t try to do anything with it, or not do anything with it. Just as long as it’s not disrupting the room, just sit there and have your kriya, an involuntary motion. If you’re having a kriya where, which I’ve seen before, you’re falling on the people around you and stuff, then, don’t do that. But, if you’re just kind of having some weird release, it’s fine. 

What is it? That is a question that there are a lot of different models for. Traditionally, it would be energy working through a blockage, but there’s another way of looking at it, where it’s just tension release. Sometimes kriyas can be really interesting, or they’re really intense, and they’re kind of weird. So you can get sort of kinkily fascinated, and that never goes anywhere good, and it’s just useless meditation at that point. Or trying to help it work through, no: just let it do its thing.

Questioner 3:  Thank you.

Questioner 4:   I had a little bit of a report question. Where do the thoughts come from?

Michael: Where do they come from, in your experience?

Questioner 4:  Well, sometimes they come from “who knows”, but other times they come from I think like “whatever.”

Michael: You’ve got a point. [laughter]

Questioner 4: I kind of wanted to have you riff on that a little bit, because I have the experience of thoughts just I have no idea where they came from. But, I also was meditating with my eyes open and saw something on the wall that triggered a thought, it looked like a pterodactyl and then I was thinking about a pterodactyl.

Michael: That’s an idea of the causation of the thought, but I mean where is it coming from? The location, not what incites it.

Questioner 4: Okay. 

Michael: But even the causal one you’re pointing towards is false also. If you look closely, that’s a back-formation. You decided that’s what caused it after it happened. The more you look, the more, even the whatever is like whatever…to be clear.

Questioner 4: So you’re saying whatever and nowhere are the same. 

Michael: I’m saying that both of them are empty.  They’re the same in that respect, and so, the point is, that we spend a tremendous amount of time deeply engaged with something that has no inherent existence at all and is like a dream in the sense that the minute you let it go it’s just [zzpz].

Questioner 4:  Cool, yeah, thank you.

Michael: I think we got a question way back there.

Questioner 5: Just a bit of a report. I just wanted to acknowledge that this is actually the first time we’re sitting in the same room, which is wonderful. There was just so much awakeness and energy at the end. I don’t know what it was to do with, because it’s quarter to 4 in the morning in London, so maybe it’s that. Anyway, just the depth of it felt like I’d been sitting on retreat for a week, and it was just pure shimmering energy in this utter groundlessness, infinite groundlessness, just a lot of awakeness. So, I just wanted to acknowledge that. Do you think it’s something to do with the neurotransmitters at 4 in the morning?

Michael: [laughter] Thanks for sharing, it’s so great to have you here.

Questioner 6:  Hi, I have a question. How do we align our actions with experience rather than our thoughts, because it feels like experience is better done with inaction than action, does that make sense?

Michael: Not the last part, say the last part again.

Questioner 6:  It feels like experiencing something, to me I can do that better by not acting.

Michael: Yeah, okay, but still, there you are, you’re going to get hungry. What are you going to do then? You’re going to have to go to the bathroom, you’re going to do that through inaction?  I mean, eventually, you’re going to do stuff. You’re going to get hungry, you’re going to go to the bathroom, you’re going to get up and go to the other room, you’re going to go out. 

Long ago there were whole groups of wandering mendicants who would take vows to never do anything. We’re never going to take an action–their reasoning was that that will cause karma. Karma literally means action, so if you take an action, it causes karma. So, logically, just stop doing anything. But, of course, as I said, eventually you do take a drink of water, you’re breathing, and then you’re scratching at yourself, and then maybe you have to go to the bathroom. 

You’re always doing something, so it’s not the action or the inaction, because that’s fine. It’s about seeing very clearly that action is just happening. We could do the same thing we just did, it’s just a little harder, but pick this up, now set it down, now pick it up, now set, and you just notice, nothing’s doing that. There’s an experience of action just happening and when it’s like that, in the traditional way of talking about it, there’s zero karma, because it’s an empty action. So, it’s not about action or not action, it’s about who’s doing it. 

We can have the same stance towards action as we have towards passive receptivity. Try it out. It’s just a little harder. It’s easiest to notice this emptiness or spaciousness, spacious, wide awakeness, when we’re still, at first.  This is good news for those of us who can’t stay still. Eventually, you move a little bit, and you can still notice it, and then you move a lot, and you can still notice it. It just takes getting used to noticing it. Anyway, that’s my experience.

Questioner 6:  Yeah, thank you. Just to follow up, I’m all about doing some action, that’s good, but how do I do that in alignment with the experience?

Michael: By not asking that question. That’s the mental stuff coming in and trying to figure it out. Without engaging that, it will already be aligned. There’s no other way it could possibly be. I’m not suggesting that therefore every time you murder somebody it’s in alignment with it. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it does mean it’s part of the moment. We still have to be moral and ethical, but I would say that by letting go of trying to figure out what to do, and just noticing that each moment is already bringing up doing, it’s already in alignment.

Questioner 6:  Okay, thank you.

Michael: Yeah, last question or report.

Questioner 7: When we were looking for what’s experiencing stuff, I was looking for what’s experiencing a certain thought. Then I had a little arrow from a little point here that was experiencing that. Then I was like, what’s experiencing that arrow? Then, there was another arrow, and it wasn’t an answer at all, it was like a random vector coming kind of from my face area. I kept on being like, but what’s doing that one and then the whole thing, I’m not exactly sure what it was, but the whole thing started to spin like this and made a giant vortex here. Then it kept on shooting laser beams out that were experiencing it and then it just and it kind of crescendoed up so it was like pretty crazy and then the whole thing popped away. Then it was really quiet. 

Michael: Then it just pops, so that’s the Hall of Mirrors thing. I’m over here looking at the thing, but what’s looking at that, I’ll look from over here, and then it’s like, well wait a minute, well, what’s looking at that? And it turns into an infinite regress, right? Like, oh, shit, it’ll just keep doing that.  But you’re not a machine, and so it doesn’t infinite regress. There’s intelligence, and so it just suddenly goes, wait a minute, it’s not looking from anywhere. 

Questioner 7: Then it was super quiet for the rest of the sit. My question was going long with his theme about aligning actions, and not not letting thoughts get in there. How do you do that? I know people ask this question basically every single class, but I’m kind of doing that. I’m very present in most of my life, to the point that I’m not really ruminating a lot. I just realized yesterday that I forgot to make any plans for Christmas whatsoever, because I just was just like on November 27th it wasn’t time for Christmas yet. 

Michael: Oh, you mean if you don’t ruminate a lot you get really bad at planning far ahead?

Questioner 7:  That’s what I’m saying.

Michael:  No one has ever accused me of that, ever [laughter] You just have to be a little more planny about it.

Questioner 7:  [laughter] Thank you.

Michael: No, thank you. I’m serious. [laughter]

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