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Resting as Awake Awareness

Resting

Guided Nondual Meditation with Michael Taft

Introduction

Welcome to tonight’s guided meditation. How many people have never sat in this room before, raise your hand. Okay, you’ve sat in this room before lots of times. For those of you who have not been in this room before, we’re going to sit for an hour, silently and with motionlessness. So I’m going to sit still for an hour. I will lead a guided meditation. If you want, you can follow the guided meditation. If you don’t want to, don’t follow it. If I start doing something that’s just against your religion or makes you faint or whatever, just don’t do it. You’re welcome to not do it. Other than that, at the end of the sit, I’ll talk for a while. Then we’ll have some Q&A, if you have stuff you want to report–hey you know my head blew off, or I hated that, or whatever, you’re welcome to share, we’ll bring a microphone around and then we’ll also do Q&A.  

First, before we even check in with ourselves let’s just move just a tiny tiny bit. So the first thing I want you to do is do wrist rotations. You don’t have to do it like I’m doing it but you know this is the idea circles with your wrists–any pattern you want–and then circles with your elbows. Fluid, not like a robot, get some fluidity in there. And then circles with your shoulders and notice you can do shoulders and elbows and wrists all at once. Lots of different circles within circles but the point is to get real loose. Then you can move your spine up and down like waves going up and down your spine like that, but also twisties, okay, so nice fluid type stuff just feel that fluidity coming in there. Your whole body is basically water with a little bit of magic powder in it so just tune into the water part. If you want to you can even do sort of like hula hoop type stuff and just feel that fluidity coming in. Then gradually, gradually, get smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller while still actually moving tiny tiny tiny tiny tiny circles still feeling that

until you can’t tell whether it’s doing a circle or not just feel as carefully, carefully, carefully noticing as you can as it gradually comes to a rest. Good.

Meditation

Now, ask yourself the question, what’s it like to be me right now, and tune in. How does it feel to be you In this moment?  Your thoughts, your emotions, body sensations, and even all the stuff going on around you, within you. Just tune into that entire weather system of experience and notice what that’s like. And whatever it’s like, let it be exactly that. We’re letting go of the need to change it, to control it, to make it into something better, to transform it, to see it in a beautiful way or whatever.  We’re just instead letting it be exactly what it is. If it’s a hell realm, just accept that it’s a hell realm right now. If it’s a heaven realm let it be a heaven realm. If it’s some other kind of realm, that’s okay, too. So let it be exactly what it is right now and let’s just sit with that for a while, just sort of checking in and letting go of any need to change it for now.

Okay, tonight we’re going to stay real simple. I just want you to notice the aspect of experience that’s wide open and wide awake, and just as much as possible, come from that place. Notice I’m not saying make some part of experience wide open and wide awake. I’m saying notice the part that is already wide open and wide awake. You can’t manufacture that–the ego can’t do anything to make that. So there’s really nothing for your egoic sense of self to do except basically get out of the way. If the egoic sense of self says, how do I get out of the way? That’s getting in the way, so instead just tune in to the part of experience that’s already wide open, wide awake. Whenever the mind grabs onto anything else, as soon as you notice it’s grabbed onto anything just let go of that. Drop it. Come back to wide open wide awakeness.

Notice that there’s no meditation object. If you’re used to having something to focus on like the breath or body sensation or a mantra or a visualization or whatever, in this thing we’re doing right now there’s nothing to focus on. Instead, we’re just coming back to wide open wide awakeness that’s always been there. If you find yourself following a train of thought, just let go, come back to wide open wide awakeness. If you find yourself doing a bunch of body stretching that’s not what we’re doing. We’re sitting as wide open wide awakeness, letting the body be okay just as it is.

 If you find yourself meditating on your breathing and that’s a strong habit because you’ve been trained into it, that’s okay. But that’s not what we’re doing. That’s focusing on an object. Instead we’re just resting as wide openness that is awake. 

The essential thing here is to just trust that if we sit, not giving the egoic sense of self anything to do, it’ll be okay. Sometimes this form of meditation is called ego starvation because you’re not even giving the ego a meditation practice to do. It has no purpose in this way of sitting, and so the more you work in this way, the more it just kind of settles down into the background, as just a function rather than something you’re being or a mask you’re coming from. So, if you find yourself trying to figure out how to do this correctly, or at all, just stop that. If you’re scrambling around trying to find something to focus on, just stop that. If you find yourself getting pulled away into trains of thought over and over, that’s very normal. Just each time you notice it, just relax. You don’t have to stop the thought or slap your hand or whatever, you just relax and come back to wide, openness without doing anything at all.  You’re just sitting as wide open wide awakeness. 

Sometimes the ego tries to get involved and tries to make awareness somehow wide open and force it, or do something to make awareness open. But that is, of course, impossible. Awareness is always wide open. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to make it more open. So, if you’re spending time trying to expand it or make it vast, or widen it, just drop all that. It’s already wide. That’s just getting involved in doing something. It’s always completely awake. But it can be the case that we get real sleepy. The best thing to do about that is to sit up real straight–don’t slouch–keep your head up straight, and sit with your eyes open, if that helps. Otherwise, in this way of working, sometimes you can get kind of drowsy, so we sit up nice and straight, and keep our eyes open so we stay nice and alert. But that’s just helping in terms of the embodied properties of wakefulness, whereas the awakeness of awareness is always completely awake. 

This practice in a way is completely trusting the always already wide awake, wide open nature of experience and that there’s nothing at all we do that can improve that. But, we can let go of the things that distract from it; let go of all the involvement with doing doing doing doing doing; the feeling of doing; the sense of taking control; or changing, or suppressing, or denying, or expanding, or all that stuff that distracts us from this already existing wide awakeness which has always been there.

Anytime you notice yourself all involved in thinking, just relax. The thinking can happen–you’re not trying to control or change or stop or deny the thinking, just don’t be involved with it at all. It’s just like birds chattering in the trees or something. It can be there as much as it wants but you’re not particularly decoding it into meaning it’s just sounds and your head that you’re not involved with it all and if you notice you’re getting involved with it just relax come back to wide open wide awakeness that’s not involved with it.

If you absolutely cannot do this and your mind is just running in a circle running in a circle trying to do it right, do it right, do it right, if you want to, you can sort of back up and just use the breath as a meditation object. Focus on that and settle down. Otherwise, just let it run in a circle. Don’t worry about it. Keep resting as wide open wide awakeness with nothing to do. There’s absolutely nothing to do.

Notice if your experience is just that you keep finding things that are wrong and you want to fix them. You know, this feels weird and I should change it. Or that thing is not right and I’ve got to adjust it–that’s all the ego just justifying its existence. We’re just letting go of that completely right now we’re not killing it or denying it or anything, we’re just pushing in the clutch, so to speak, and just letting it spin but we’re not engaging it. We’re just sitting with wide open wide awakeness with everything just the way it is and letting go of that fundamental sense of aggression. That deep aggression against ourselves that everything’s not right, and I have to change, it and I need to do this, and do this, and do this, and do this, and do this–to try to feel okay. And notice that when you let go of that and just sit as your own already existing wide open wide awakeness, that does already feel just fine. It doesn’t need to change anything. It has fundamental joy and compassion towards the self. 

What if everything is already all right just the way it is? What if, just for the time of this meditation, just for the remaining little time of this meditation, you took a chance and just laid to rest the need to change everything just for a little while, and just let wide open wide awakeness–which is your fundamental nature. Be where you’re coming from. You can’t do it. It’s not a thing you can do. It’s just a thing you can stop distracting yourself from if you let go of all doing, you’ll just naturally come to rest in wide awake, wide openness, not engaging with any thoughts at all. 

As I said, the meditation is asking you to trust that your fundamental nature is basically sane and open and joyous and kind without you doing anything at all. The more you relax like this, the more you start to really tune into the wide openness. Again, you’re not making it more wide open;  it’s just that you’re noticing how boundless and really unrestricted it is. It’s not confined in any way. The egoic sense of self is like velcro for thoughts. Every thought sticks to it and then it collapses around the thought and just grinds and grinds and grinds. But wide open wide awakeness has no hooks at all for thoughts. It’s transparent to thinking. Thinking just doesn’t catch on it, so, again, there may be lots of thoughts, but the wide awakeness just doesn’t grab on at all. My friend Rick says it’s like Teflon for thoughts, but I don’t think of it as Teflon, I think of it as transparent. The thoughts just move through and there’s nothing to catch on. It’s just wide open. 

If you find yourself drowsy at all, sit up straight, open your eyes, come back to presence. This is the practice of presence. Most of us all day long we’re practicing non-presence,  continually distracting from what’s actually going on. Here, we’re letting go of all distraction and just settling into the natural deep presence that is always there, always available, always our natural condition. Really, you can’t practice presence. You just practice not distracting from presence. We let go of distracting from presence, and then we naturally relax back into total presence. It’s not a matter of focusing, or constricting our attention, or narrowing and tightening. Rather, it’s the opposite. We relax and let go, and that brings us into natural presence.

Notice that you’re not putting yourself into an altered state. If we do really strong, tight attention concentration style meditation we can often end up in a really altered state, and that can feel good, and you can tell something’s happening and so on. But altered states come and go. This is not an altered state: this is just your fundamental being.  This never comes and goes. You can distract yourself from it, but it’s always there, behind everything.  

So in a way, if there’s any complaint about this, it’s like, that’s totally boring, that’s the most normal natural thing in the world. It doesn’t feel like a cool altered state. So if you prefer the totally neurotic anxious tight, “got to change, got to change, everything’s wrong, I’ve got to switch, everything’s wrong, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that, I don’t feel right, I don’t feel right, I got to change, change, change, change, change,” then you’re welcome to do that. Enter the world of the egoic self where everything’s always wrong, and no matter how much you change, you can’t change enough to ever feel okay, because its whole way of being is to not feel okay. Or you can just let that go.  Relax, notice the wide openness and wide awakeness that’s already there. Let go of grabbing onto thoughts and just be present, be open, be awake. It’s not an altered state, but it does feel really good. There’s enough room to exist. There’s enough space to just be.

Again, if you find yourself lost in thought, just relax. Let go. Thought will toddle on and you just come back to being wide open wide awakeness. Nothing could be more grounding or regulating or harmonizing or soothing than just simply resting as our own already existing wide awake wide openness. Let go of doing anything at all. Just drop it.

Effortlessly just resting, or just resting as what we actually already are, and always have been, without doing anything at all. We’re coming back to our wide openness, our wide awakeness, freshness and presence. It’s always there when we just stop trying so hard to distract away from it, as soon as we let go of distracting away from it. Settle into presence. It’s right there. It’s always right there. 

Very good. Feel free to move and stretch, but notice in another way, there’s nothing to let go of, no meditation to stop doing since you weren’t really doing anything at all anyway. So it’s pretty easy to just keep going with it just in a different posture. 

Dharma Talk, Q&A

The person that I think of as one of the really, really foremost teachers in the US in the last many decades, Adyashanti, or Adya,  retired last night. He is actually pretty young, too, but he gave his last talk last night. I didn’t see it but I know that happened. His partner, Mukti is stepping forward but still, in honor of Adyashanti, that was a meditation lightly in his style–not really, it’s still how I would teach it.  I remember him coming forward 25 years ago, and really talking in a way that was quite different than the other people I would think of as Advaita teachers at the time. Those teachers kept saying–this is like in the mid-90s–that any meditation you’re doing is just reinforcing your ego and you’ve got to let go, let go, let go. But my intuitive take was that they were full of shit. I didn’t trust them. They seemed to be doing a language game,  kind of a mind fuck, whereas Adyashanti, who was saying something similar, was not full of shit. He was clearly coming from the space that he was talking about. So I always really appreciated that, even if I didn’t always follow what he was saying. 

The thing that he was saying and the thing that I’m always saying too these days is that it’s just a matter of trusting yourself. That you are already in possession, so to speak, of the fully awake being that you aspire to be. That’s already there. It’s not already there like let’s say–this is a classic image–a Golden Buddha statue that’s buried 100 feet underground, and many of us think, well, it might be there, but it’s a gold statue that’s buried 100 feet underground. There’s latrine sewage and tree roots and dead animals and garbage and stuff that I have to clean out and do all this work to shovel out and get out of the way. Then I’ll get down to that golden statue that’s covered with muck and I have to clean it off and clean it off and clean it off and clean it off and then maybe it will shine right. That’s when even if you accept that you’ve already got this awake nature the idea is well I’ve got to kind of clean the gunk off of it for it to shine, and it’s me doing all this work to go down and get that thing and then polish it up. 

But it’s not like that at al–not even a little bit–because, who is it that’s knowing there’s this Golden Buddha down there?  Who knows where to dig and who knows how to dig and what to get out of the way and who knows how to clean the stuff off? And who knows how to polish it up and then, what does whoever that is do to realize that Buddha? Who is that that’s doing all that? We think we’re going to get there like that, but that’s all a complete runaround, because it’s–just to stay with the metaphor–the Golden Buddha that’s doing all that stuff anyway. There’s not some separate person that isn’t that, that needs to do all that stuff. In fact, it’s the idea that there’s a separate person that needs to do all that stuff that is the distraction I’m talking about. That whole model–I’m going to dig and I’m going to polish–that’s what’s in the way. 

Now, it can be the case that our habit of being that doer is so strong, that distraction is so strong, that it can’t just on its own, no matter how much someone says just relax and be the wide open wide awakeness that you already are, it just can’t let go of the habit. For some people, they only have to hear that once, and the whole the game is up. The whole thing breaks open. They just recognize their own innate wide awakeness: they’re done. That’s exceedingly rare, but it happens, because that’s the truth, so every once in a while someone’s habitual clenching into personhood, that kind of doership, is relaxed enough already that they just hear it once and it just drops away. Personhood is still happening, the sock puppet didn’t get burned–it’s still there–but they’re just not inhabiting it. 

But, it can be the case that for many of us, almost everyone, the habit is a little stronger. So we do practices, and the practices are aimed at recognizing that over, and over again, aimed at recognizing that. But it could be the case that we’re so caught up in trying to transform into the kind of thing that can let go, that we just work on that transformation forever, and never let go. So you’ll find some teachers, some whole traditions that are all about “just sit there,” like we just did. That’s all you do forever. Other traditions, we’re going to work at it, work at it, work at it, but then never let go. Some, we’re going to just let go but maybe it’s like people aren’t ready for that and it never happens. 

So, we can find something in the middle. You come in here many weeks and we’ll do some visualization, we’ll do some Brahma Viharas, we’ll do some pranayama. But we’re always coming back to that wide openness also because we’re learning to let go and then resting. Learning to open, and then finding the openness right that’s already there. So we’re kind of massaging the stiffness out of the system so that it can just relax. So if we’re doing work it’s just sort of like oiling up those muscles a little bit so that they can just do what they already know how to do. So there can be some learning involved, some work involved, and so on. 

I think that’s great, but we lose sight of the fact that we’re not somehow manufacturing awakening. As long as you’re manufacturing awakening, it will never happen, unless just accidentally, because it is always there for everyone no matter what. So it might happen anyway, but you can’t manufacture it no matter how hard you try. If you’re going to do anything with egoic effort, just get good at not being distracted from wide awake, wide openness. It’s really, really easy for the activity to become central. 

So the work we’re doing is supposedly towards awakening, but really all we’re doing is that the doer of that work is just self-perpetuating its own delusion. That happens all the time. It’s still good work. It’s still helping you concentrate or clean up or not be an addict or whatever–it’s good for you. But you might forget that there’s really just that final recognition that is already there, no matter how good you are, no matter how hard you work, no matter how hard you try, it’s there no matter what.  It’s already there no matter what. 

Who hears the car alarm when you’re dead asleep and it wakes you up?  Before you wake up, who hears that? Your ego doesn’t hear it.  Your ego is asleep. Your dreaming mind doesn’t hear it. Your dreaming mind’s asleep. You’re dead asleep, what is it that hears it and wakes up? Something is always wide awake even when you’re dead asleep. There’s a part of you that is wide awake always always always it’s always on. I’m just asking you to notice that and rest as that. It’s even there when you’re dead asleep. That relaxed, it’s still just *ding* wide open, wide awake. It’s not any effort to have that there, right? You’re asleep! And weirdly, the more you do this practice, the more you’ll every once in a while just, without doing anything, you’ll be lucid in your dreams because you’re just used to tuning into being wide open and wide awake. Or you’ll be lucid even in deep dreamless sleep because you’re just used to being wide open and wide awake. It just kind of happens. It’s always there. 

Good, so if you have questions or comments or critiques, or you want to tell me how much you hate me or whatever, raise your hand and we’ll bring you a microphone. Just remember this is going out live to the interwebs, so it’s not exactly private.

Questioner 1: You mentioned something about lucid dreaming, which is very interesting, but you also mentioned lucid sleep. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Michael: Yeah,  we can become awake during a dream, but the dream continues, so we have lucidity in a dream. The same thing can happen in deep dreamless sleep, where we become lucid in deep dreamless sleep but the deep dreamless sleep continues. That’s all. And, in fact, it’s the same lucidity that I’m asking you to have while you’re awake walking around. Just become awake in exactly that same way to this, which is a different kind of dream. It’s all the same lucidity. So we learn different things from becoming lucid in each of those places. The way I’m teaching this is a different avenue of lucidity with different goals than the typical Western lucid dreaming or lucid sleep practice. Those are sleep-induced lucid dreams or sleep-induced lucid sleep where you come up from the place you know, you go into a dream, and then become lucid within it. Typically your goal is to fulfill your fantasies or whatever. Whereas when we do it from a meditative perspective, we typically do it the other way, going from wakefulness into lucid dreaming or wakefulness into lucid sleep. But it can just accidentally happen the other way and the goal, instead of fulfilling your fantasies, is to be able to meditate there as well. Notice the status of the dreaming world while you’re lucid dreaming. It’s all a construction.  Even the status of being in lucid sleep, where there’s actually no sensory input of any kind: nothing. There’s no sound, there’s no body sensation, there’s no thoughts, there’s no nothing, but you’re awake. That’s interesting. That’s a powerful place to notice.

Questioner 1:  Thanks

Michael: yep, other stuff, comments, questions?

Questioner 2:  Just wanted to say two things, one is the way that you felt about Adyashanti all those years ago, that’s how I feel about your teachings, which is like I’ve done a lot of meditation and it’s like, put the headphones in. You’re like, okay, cool, my thoughts are clouds–yeah! This is something that I’ve now been doing for about a year every single week, sometimes more, and it’s really solid. I have yet to hear you spew some bullshit, so that’s some feedback. 

The other side of this, which is weird, is like, I guess it’s like a question comment mixed. It’s this thing I’ve been struggling with which is like the awakeness, the characteristics of it that emerge, right? I’ve probably brought this question up more than once. What do you do with it, right? What do you continue to do? It’s really easy to see from awake awareness all of the pitfalls of distancing yourself from the appearances that you experience, or getting into them. The comment question is what’s the point? But that’s kind of useless, right? Do you just continue to let go, to let go, to let go, to let go? Guess that’s my question.

Michael: If this is Music School, you just asked me, what song should I play? Play a song that you feel like playing, right? That’s the worst question. Go fly, little butterfly–do your thing. There’s what I think of as a failure mode involved in this way of working. Notice, for all the last weeks I keep going into the do nothing, but then feel the energy, and come out. Tonight, just as a tribute, tonight went out as a tribute to Adyashanti in Los Gatos. We just went into the stillness part. But that’s like I’m always saying, that’s only halfway there because you can just rest as stillness–cool! But the more you do that, the more energy keeps coming up to do shit. But it can go awry if it then gets caught in the machinery of the ego, and then you go do the ego stuff. That’s what we’ve been doing our whole lives. Instead, if that machinery doesn’t get engaged, you just start doing stuff. It’s the same game:  don’t engage the machinery. 

Questioner 2: I think it’s a fear thing. Like, I’m stopping myself from doing stuff because I’m like, oh no, what if my ego gets in here and fucks up the chocolate again.

Michael:  That’s the ego talking. So, just to put it in the most woo possible language, the energy just wants to do stuff. And you go with it, and there’s an internal letting go, but you go with it, okay, and it will feel very alive and very empty at the same time–super empty.  There’s nobody doing it. There’s no payoff, and it just keeps feeling more alive and more energized. After a while you have a lot of alive energy, and nobody’s doing it.

Questioner 2:  That resonates, but it’s very frightening to me right now because it’s new. So thank you.

Questioner 3: Hi Michael. One thing that was a little bit difficult this time around was my leg got quite painful about two-thirds of the way in.  Usually, when I do a more vipassana type practice, it’s like, focus on it, and that does help with the pain a bit. In this case there’s just a lot of “don’t do anything about it,” and it made it trickier to experience any level of relief. So, I’m wondering if you have anything to offer about that. 

Michael: Yeah, so we do know that if you do real focused vipassana on it there can be tremendous amount of relief in that, right? So, that can be a great thing to do. But, why does the vipassana give you relief? What’s the essential quality that’s doing it, or providing it?

Questioner 3: Well, at least in my subjective experience, it turns the sensation into something that’s a little bit I don’t know–fluffy. It just kind of bubbles there for a bit.

Michael:  Yeah, so I would interpret that using Buddhist language: you’re seeing the emptiness of the sensation which is giving you a lot of equanimity around it. What does it mean to say see the emptiness of something? It means we’re not engaging thought constructs around it. We’re not making it into a thing. We’re seeing that it’s a wide-open flow of experience. So, in this way of working all you do is notice that even that pain is just wide open wide awakeness. You’re not making it into an object. It’s actually the downside of going in as vipassana: as you make it into an object and then slowly by concentrating on it a lot, you come to see some of its non-object-ness. Whereas, when we do it this way, you just don’t turn it into an object in the first place, right? It’s just a flow of sensation in wide openness, so if you don’t grab on to the idea of the pain as an object, it goes way further than the vipassana without even doing anything.

Questioner 3:  Yeah, I think it might just be that I’m used to doing it one way so kind of doing the opposite track even though it gets to the same place.

Michael:  It’ll get to the same place, but even deeper, okay.

Questioner 3:  It’s good to know thanks.

Michael:  Good question. Did you have a question?

Questioner 4: I think mine is more of a report also. I feel the 90s meditations are coming back into vogue these days. It’s kind of entertaining. I feel like when I’m watching YouTube, all that keeps popping up. It’s like the 90’s talks by Jack Kornfield and Adyashanti and all of these Northern California luminaries. I think we talked about it in another group but I’m trying to wrap my head around working with dualistic practices, like Theravada-style practices in nondual context. 

What comes to mind is trust and I feel like you mentioned trust in a nondual context. How you just sit there and you trust that everything is okay, you already are that Golden Buddha. But, to me, what I realize sitting here, but also previously, how trust is also a key to more dualistic practices. How, when you’re digging through the roots and dead bodies it’s not necessarily about purification or trying to see something, like how fucked up you are, or your family is. It’s more about kind of artificially creating adversity so you could trust in yourself and practice in the possibilities. There are so many sayings about lovers break up just to make up. It’s almost like you have to create that initiation for yourself, that hardship, so you could bond even further with the possibility of deepening. Even when you got there you might still feel kind of agitated. 

Like what’s next? Is there more? How long can I stay there? It feels like when you’re using this adversity as a possibility to see how you can go through that maybe still struggling and still not feeling like you’re getting it. But at the same time cultivating that deeper trust in a possibility and to me that turned into a different orientation compared to the Christian or Judaic concept of needing to purify or I need to do XYZ. Or maybe even like a Hindu concept of like hide and seek of Shiva/Shakti and how again how you artificially split things just so you could see the wholeness. 

Michael: You know there’s a really interesting way of understanding meditation. For most people, we think of meditation as a particular technique. Or a particular, maybe several, particular techniques or whole traditions of many techniques.  I know you know this, but we can do the same technique with different views. So actually the description of what you do might be identical but where you’re coming from is very different, and it leads to a different outcome, because you have a different view even though you’re doing exactly the same thing technique, right? You with me so far? 

So what you’re doing right now, with what you just said, is you’re bringing a nondual view back to dualistic techniques. That’s how you’re supposed to do it; that’s exactly right, we take the nondual view. Let me start over again and say we can say, oh, these techniques are dualistic and these are nondualistic techniques, and to a certain extent that’s true. But it’s also wrong, because even all the dualistic techniques we can bring nondual view to those and do them exactly as they’re described but from a totally different view, and then they have this total nondual effect. So you’re bringing a Zen view back into what you’re describing and that and it’s really waking it up. 

You can just see it when you’re talking about it, so that view is not typical, that’s not like how those are taught from within their own traditions usually. But if we bring our own awake awareness back into them, this is the thing from the view of awake awareness we’re allowed to do any meditation–even dualistic meditations–because they’re not dualistic if you’re doing them from the wide awake openness wide openness. So does that address what you’re talking about?

Questioner 4:  I guess just a little nuance to that–when I said trust, I meant it’s purely psychological trust. So where I’m at now, all of my meditations turn into psychological work and I realized meditation has nothing to do with awakening or anything. To me, it’s like meditation is kind of useless but it’s just a tool for me to work with my psychological states which at this point is trust, and that’s the value of it that I’m getting from any techniques, dual or nondual.

Michael:  Yeah, interesting. So one of the main things we’re trying to develop for when I say trust yourself in nondual meditation, is to get that trust, that confidence and then something new starts to happen. So I wonder as you know your psychology transforms, if you might start not noticing your meditation is really changing also right back into something quite different. Let’s keep going.

Questioner 5:  Hi, while we’re doing vipassana comparing and contrasting with this practice, I notice a lot less awareness of intention, which can feel like spontaneity but I’m not sure whether I’m missing something, or that’s a feature, or what to make of that?

Michael: I think spontaneity is exactly the right description. What you’re calling intention we could just translate as trying to do something.  And from the first minute, I’m like don’t try to do something, right, don’t do anything. So, in a way, we’re having no intention at all except to just sit, and then whatever happens is spontaneous.

Questioner 5: Gotcha, right, thank you.

Questioner 6: Hi, in this sit, you said awakeness and I was often drawn to the sensation of how bright my eyes are, or how wide my vision is.

Michael: What was noticing that? Whatever was noticing the brightness or noticing…

Questioner 6:  It felt not bright, and not wide, and not open. So, whenever I was seeking white and/or wide and bright and open, it felt away from whatever was noticing. It felt out into other aspects of attention awareness or something.

Michael:  Yeah. Whatever was noticing, that is the thing I’m talking about.

Questioner 6: Okay. How does that, when listening to an instruction, and the instruction is pointing to something else for you, like how would you…

Michael:  Just go with your experience, always, okay. I will say that if you keep tuning into the thing that’s noticing, it won’t be located anywhere it’s not located in a spot. So eventually you’ll notice this openness and wide awakeness and wide openness, because at first we think the noticer is located in a position but the more you investigate that the more you find that it’s not located anywhere. But find out for yourself. I just suspect that that’s what you’ll notice eventually.

Questioner 7: Hi Michael. One thing I noticed is that there’s an emphasis on stillness

Michael: Did I ever use the word Stillness?

Questioner 7: I think you suggested not moving, and my question is, can’t we move but just be wide open and wide awake as we do it?

Michael: You could, but this meditation is tremendously without rules, and what I’ve found is it helps to have one or two little rules just to have some structure. It turns out that it’s really interesting to notice that the more you’re hooked into your thinking the more you’ll fidget, and the less you’re hooked into your thinking your body will just start to really, just relax. So, we’re not tightly sitting in stillness, we’re just like a bag of sand, wet sand, just so it becomes an interesting feedback for yourself, to see how much neurotic, you know, you just can’t stop moving really. 

So sure, it may be the case that, oh my leg’s asleep so you slowly move it. But what I’m what I’m really pointing to is the sort of like stuff that, if your eyes are closed you’re not noticing, but lots of people can’t sit still because they’re so hooked into the neurosis, which is okay, that’s where we start. But it’s like this is offering some feedback about that right, notice that if you decouple from the neurotic thoughts your body can feel okay all of a sudden, and actually does feel okay. It’s the thoughts about it that don’t feel okay, and so there’s a really direct feedback thing there that is super interesting. So part of it is just offering a little bit of actually helpful structure to something that’s very unstructured and part of it is there’s some feedback in there. Make any sense?

Questioner 7: Yeah, thank you.

Questioner 8:  Hi. The instruction to notice awareness is funny to me.

Michael: Did I ever say notice awareness?

Questioner 8: That might be my own brain 

Michael:  Sometimes I say that, but I don’t think I said that tonight. But, maybe I did. 

Questioner 8: That’s where I went with it. When I start a meditation like that I’ll be like, okay, awareness is this thing I need to not create but let it be and I get you know at the bottom of the hill or whatever there it feels like awareness isn’t a thing so you can’t notice it and so the awareness goes away and the noticing goes away and I can’t tell if it’s happening. 

Michael: I’m confused. Awareness goes away, so you’re unconscious? If you’re not unconscious, then awareness is there.

Questioner 8: But it’s not something I can point to too, and that might be connected to the other thing about it not existing in a place. But once you notice there’s no place for it, then the noticing of it isn’t there either.

Michael: Again, it’s important to be clear. I didn’t say it doesn’t exist in a place,  I said it’s not coming from one place 

Questioner 8: Ah, okay. I’m wondering if my issue is…

Michael: It is not coming from anywhere but it can be located everywhere–there’s a difference between where it’s coming from and where it appears.  So you’re getting at something really important, but it’s not a conundrum. Just allow the wakefulness to be awake. I kept saying rest as wide awake wide openness. I didn’t say notice awakeness. I could say that–try it right now. Notice awakeness.

Questioner 8:  Yeah, it’s kind of everything.

Michael: There it is. It’s not hard to do.

Questioner 8: Yeah, right, cool, thank you.

Questioner 9: I guess I need some guidance because I’ve been here seven or eight times, and I would say more than half I just notice different sensations. So the first time it happened I think my cheek was itchy and I was wondering should I scratch it or should I just let it be. So I was practicing letting it be and then I noticed my ankle would itch and then somewhere else and somewhere else. As I sat with it, it felt like my skin was dissolving, yeah, and good, I like the sensation. And then another time, sitting here I’m aware of the size of my body and the size of this room and then it felt like I was an oracle arena or Chase Center. It just felt so expansive. Then another time it felt…

Michael: Okay, so what’s the question?

Questioner 9: I’m asking for some guidance. I just keep watching these things. Is this beneficial?

Michael: Yeah, you’re starting to notice the wide openness. The skin dissolves, that’s the

sense of the skin sensation being a boundary away. The sense of the room as a boundary is going away. That’s the boundlessness that’s already there. Your mind puts up this idea that my skin is a boundary, the walls are a boundary, but as you’re sitting there, it’s not a boundary. So as you’re watching those dissolve or drop, that’s just relaxing these mental boxes. You’re not making awareness bigger, you’re just stopping pretending it’s small.

Questioner 9: Thank you.

Michael: That’s good. Last question, here you’ve been raising your hand for like a half hour.

Questioner 10: Michael, I just wanted to say I hate you, so, no I’m just totally kidding. Thank you for the first time I’m here. This is wonderful. I’ve been watching online for a long time. It’s beautiful to be in this space.  I have a question. At the end of this, my experience tonight was really, really difficult. A lot of just trying to let go, let go, I need to let go, until it just wasn’t. And what happened was everything just became really playful almost, and kind of emergent, is what it felt like. Instead of a thought coming and being strung along like something not here but in the future or the past or something. My question is, it it felt great, but am I tricking myself into enjoying the otherwise still painful back, you know, need to just let go of all this stuff?

Michael:  Well I don’t know, are you tricking yourself?

Questioner 10: I like being playful. 

Michael: Maybe the playfulness is very attractive, but are you doing it?

Questioner 10: It didn’t feel that way, no. 

Michael: Then you’re probably not tricking yourself. It’s just when you stop fighting so hard–I mean–think about a little kid, right, they haven’t learned that everything’s a problem, and I have to work work work work work–they’re just kind of playing all the time. And, most of the time, unless they like are hungry or hit their head or whatever, they’re in a great mood, because everything’s just kind of–wow!–and it’s only when, oh I got, I got, I got,  that everything starts sucking. So you dropped it, and it was like, oh, this feels kind of great. So it doesn’t sound like you’re tricking yourself. 

Questioner 10: Okay, I was just wondering if that’s something I should lean into or if that’s another like you know illusion?

Michael: That whole idea that, I got to lean into it–now you’re gonna make it a new thing to do, right? So, just now you’re making it a job, let go of that, come back to, oh yeah, it’s just like this when I’m not trying so hard all right.

Very good. Let’s end things there.

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