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Resting in Natural Awareness without Effort

without effort

Guided Nondual Meditation by Michael Taft

Streamed live on Feb 3, 2022

So again, remove your glasses, get in your meditation posture, whatever that might be. I’ve gone over the posture several times in detail recently so I’ll just say get in your meditation posture, whatever that might be. Make sure it feels nice for you right now. 

And, the first thing we’re going to do tonight is I want you to just check in with yourself. So, I want you to just simply, almost like, take inventory or sort of like do a weather report on your being. How’s your physical body feel? How’s your mind feel? How do your emotions feel? You know, how’s – how’s the being doing? And the one thing I want you to make sure you make a part of this inventory is that you just accept whatever you find, right? So you’re not judging stuff, you’re not trying to change it; make it go away, make it bigger, or whatever. Whatever you find I want you to simply accept it and just, you know, tune in. This is the weather report on yourself and again, it’s not spoken. It’s not like you have to be commenting to yourself about it. I’m just using the weather report metaphor. Just tune in to how you’re doing and I’ll be quiet for a minute while you do that. This is just a self check-in – hey, what’s it like to be me right now? 

Good. Doesn’t have to be a long practice but it’s an important practice. Just, you know, be where you’re at right now, be with what’s going on and just let that be okay. So, next I want to tune into a metaphor, a meditation metaphor. And sometimes, as you know, sometimes we meditate like space and sometimes we meditate like water. Tonight we’re gonna do one that we don’t do that often, which is we’re gonna meditate like fire, okay? 

So I want you to be fire right now, okay? You’re meditating like a massive bonfire or even a star, right? Like a big nuclear fire. But whatever kind of fire; a bonfire, a star. Some kind of blaze of pure fire, there’s not even – unlike a star – there’s not even any fuel. This is just pure fire itself. And the, you know, when we meditate like a mountain we tune into a kind of groundedness and rootedness and stability. And when we meditate like space, we tune into that openness and vastness, right? In the kind of totality of acceptance of space, the fact that space accepts everything. But when we meditate like fire it’s really mainly about, there’s a couple of things, but the big thing is just that everything is continuously changing, right? And that total change, continuous change is really pleasant, right? The fire is not stuck, it’s not fixed, it’s continuously moving, okay? So notice that thoughts are continuously moving and changing, going in and out. The cycle of the breath is continuously moving and changing, it’s going in and out. The sounds of the world around you are continuously changing. So that’s an aspect of meditating like fires; the continuous impermanence, the change, the flow of everything. And then another aspect of meditating like fire is, fire is considered to be tremendously pure, right? It’s, you can’t get a, it’s like the fire isn’t dirty, the fire isn’t contaminated. It’s utterly pure, the fire is perfectly pure. So there’s a kind of exquisite, beautiful purity in this fire, okay? So we’re not only continuously changing moment by moment, everything’s continuously in flux, continuously flowing. It’s – you can’t step in the same river twice kind of move – but at the same time there’s a kind of perfection, a kind of purity in this fire. 

So those are two main qualities. Another quality of fire that’s really important is that it’s energized, right? It’s not sleepy, it’s not flat, it’s not unconscious in some way. Fire is energized, it’s awake. There’s tremendous energy there; tremendous vitality, tremendous life force. So we feel a lot of juice, a lot of energy, a lot of Shakti, right? A lot of power in the sense of energy. And that’s a really beautiful quality of this fire, is that there’s enough energy for everything, right? It can be very wide awake. 

And even though the fire itself is pure, a fourth quality is that in a way it burns away all impurity, burns away, eliminates all dross. And this special kind of fire that we’re meditating as – has no remainder. When it burns something there’s no smoke, when it burns something there’s no ash. It just is gone; utterly, totally gone. So that’s why the fire itself is so pure. So I want you to just sit as a fire for a few minutes here, together with me. 

So we’re tuning into the fire quality, the fire-type meditation, right? And so we’re tuning into this impermanence, this continuous flow and change. We’re tuning into the purity and the fact that it can burn away all impurity. And we’re tuning into just the pure energy level, the tremendous energy that’s available; the wakefulness of fire. 

And then I want to add another element because, of course – or it’s still the element of fire – but another property of fire, which is that, you know, this is just a metaphor for our own awakeness, right? Our own awake awareness, our own rigpa, right? Our own naturally occurring, awakened mind, our own Buddhahood. So let this fire that we’re meditating on – or meditating as, rather – be tremendously beautiful and tremendously loving and just infinitely powerful. And just feel that beautiful, powerful, infinite ever-changing, perfectly pure and highly energized fire that you are just effortlessly burning, effortlessly burning. 

Okay? Good. Now from here we’re going to do something relatively simple and yet very profound. For the rest of the guided meditation tonight I’m just gonna, I want you to just rest as open awareness, changing nothing at all, okay? So we’re letting go of the fire metaphor, you don’t have to visualize that anymore at all. I want you to just rest as open awareness. We can say for now that the open awareness is centered, in quotes, centered in your head. But, it’s just effortlessly and spontaneously all the way wide open. Tremendously vast without you doing anything to make it vast. Tremendously open without you doing anything to keep it open, it just is that way. And, as usual, if you find yourself gripping, grabbing, tensing up around anything – just notice that, let go, come back to just being effortlessly wide open, okay? 

So we’re doing the dropping the ball practice although with a slight variation where we’re imagining, and it is just imagination – awareness isn’t actually centered anywhere – but for now we’re imagining just a little bit that it’s centered in our head. But, anything that comes up, if you start getting involved in a discursive thought, you know you’re following a train of thought, just let go of that. Come back to just resting as open awareness. If you start following a body sensation like the breath or whatever, yeah that’s okay, just let it go. Come back to just resting as open awareness. Let’s do this together for a while here. 

If there’s any thought that you’re doing it wrong and you want to try to do it better, just let go of that. If there’s any thought that you think you should be doing something, just drop that. Just drop it. If there’s any thought that you don’t get it, just drop the thought. As we’re resting in the mind here, any thought of any kind that is welcome to come and go, but don’t entertain them at all. We’re just totally dropping engagement with any thought. We’re not stopping thinking because that would be a kind of ‘grabbing up’, but neither are we engaging with any of the thoughts; they’re just happening, just like breathing, just like digesting. We’re not getting involved, we’re just dropping. 

And if you notice any negative self-talk, “I’m doing it wrong, I’m not good at this,” or anything like that, “I’ve tried this for so long and i can’t do it.” Just drop all of that, right? Again, dropping in this case doesn’t mean getting rid of, it just means don’t engage. Rather rest as vast, spacious awareness without engagement with anything.

Okay? Good, now we’ll make a change here. We’re still going to rest as vast, spacious awareness; effortlessly vast, effortlessly spacious, effortlessly aware. But I want you to imagine now that instead of being centered in the head it’s centered in the heart. Not on the front of your chest, but deep inside your heart and actually off to where you feel, you know, that deep, deep sense of – let’s say your emotional center. And so, the awareness now is coming from this, the emotional center in your chest. And, although we’re still letting go of and not engaging with thoughts, I want you now to be just a little bit more aware of letting go of and engaging, not engaging with, any emotional content. So again, emotions are 100 per cent allowed to be there, we’re just not particularly digging into them, avoiding them, trying to push them away or with other emotions trying to get them, or savor them, or whatever. We’re simply allowing the emotional stream to do whatever it wants, without us engaging in any way. We’re coming back over and over again to just vast, spacious awareness, centered in the heart. So every time you find yourself getting engaged in any way, just relax and come back to the present moment of vast, spacious awareness centered in the heart. Feel how good that feels.

So, in this vast, spacious sky of awareness that is centered in the heart, emotions may arise in the awareness, they may pass through the sky of awareness and awareness is fine with that. There’s total freedom of emotion. Any emotion can arise in this vast, open sky of awareness and do its thing and then pass away, and yet the vast sky of awareness is not paying any attention at all, special attention at all, to those emotions; it just is resting in itself. It’s not engaged or being with, in a specific way, focused by the emotions at all. It’s just totally simply resting in itself, accepting all emotions. There’s no good emotions or bad emotions; there’s nothing to change about the emotions. All emotions are fine. We’re just resting as vast, spacious awareness, unengaged, uninvolved with emotion.

Okay? Good. Now continuing to rest as vast, spacious awareness, effortlessly and continuously. Let’s move the felt center of this awareness – of course there is no center – but let’s move the imagined center down into our belly. So, a little bit below your belly button and deep inside, there’s a spot in there that feels kind of particular, it feels kind of special. And, but you know, it’s just below your navel in the middle of your body. And now the awareness is coming from there, it’s coming from the soma. It’s 100 per cent embodied awareness and now, not only thoughts are arising in this vast, spacious awareness – and we are not engaging them – and emotions are arising in this vast, spacious awareness – and we’re not engaging them. But now also, all body sensation; even the entirety of the sense of the physical body is an appearance in awareness. It’s not the awareness is coming from the body, it’s that the feeling of the body is arising in awareness. And we allow those feelings to arise, they might be painful, they might be pleasant, but we completely allow them to arise and do their thing and eventually pass away or change. But we’re not engaging with them in any way, we’re not meditating on the body in any way. We’re simply resting our awareness in its own vast, spaciousness without doing anything with it at all. But if it starts to get involved in body sensation or thought or emotion; we said we drop those and come back to just resting as vast, spacious awareness centered in the belly.

Notice how awareness centered in the body is very good at dropping the ball, right? We just, the vast, spacious awareness, just allowing the body, to the sensations of the body, to arise and fall. Thoughts to arise and fall, feelings to arise and fall, but unengaged with any of them. It’s very good at this, right? The centered in the belly is quite good at non-conceptuality, so let’s continue with this. 

Good. So we’ve rested as vast, spacious awareness centered in the head, centered in the heart and centered in the belly. But each time I’ve said it’s not really centered anywhere, so let’s embrace that now and let go completely of any sense of awareness being centered anywhere. It’s simply present awareness, itself is the center. Awareness itself is the furthest rim, right? The furthest edge. Awareness itself is everything in between. Awareness has no center, no edge and no middle, right? It’s just what everything else is arising in, so just let awareness be aware of itself. Allow awareness to be aware of itself. That’s what is actually resting in vast, spacious awareness. Now spacious awareness is resting in vast, spacious awareness. And let anything else that arise, arises just be let go of immediately; just not even grab down to in the first place. Awareness showing itself to itself, awareness aware of itself, by itself. Awareness effortlessly vast, effortlessly spacious, effortlessly without any boundary of any kind. Aware of itself, resting in itself, wide awake.

Nothing to change, nothing to do, nothing to defend; everything just as it is right now.

Good. Now I’d like you to just notice a sensation of joy in the heart-center and allow that joy to radiate out to all beings everywhere in the world, all beings everywhere in the universe, all beings everywhere in the multiverse. And the same thing with the feeling of love radiating out to all beings everywhere. Since awareness is boundless it stretches to all multiverses, or every universe in the multiverse. All is within awareness, so we feel this joy radiating out to all beings everywhere. We feel love radiating out to all beings everywhere. We feel this is a positive sense of power, a positive sense of energy. That fiery power that’s so energizing and life-affirming, radiating out to all beings everywhere. Bringing all beings love, bringing all beings joy, bringing all beings health and well-being. Radiating out, spreading everywhere, beaming in all directions. Okay? Good. Very, very good. Now let’s bring the meditation to a close.

Dharma Talk

So, although, of course awareness stays vast and spacious always, there’s nothing different in the meditation that makes awareness vast and spacious. So we’re just letting go of the meditation posture and beginning to do other things and yet notice that awareness remains vast and spacious no matter what.

So stretch your body, move your body and shake out your body, whatever feels good. And have a drink of water or whatever as we end the meditation process and instead switch to Q&A. So, if you have any questions this evening go ahead and toss those in the chat window. I’ve got my special ‘question reading’ glasses on, which basically edit all the questions. These glasses have a power to edit all the questions just down to their essence instantly, and I just read the assets and then try to answer that. This is a Q&A so, you know, live dharma Q&A. So I’m just not doing anything except answering the questions basically as best as I can. As best I can, or as I sometimes say, I’m just parading my ignorance on the internet. Creating my ignorance in recorded videos so people can see it for all time! So, these are not necessarily somehow the right answers, although they are, to the best of my ability, the correct answer. But, they are my answers, so do my best. You, your mileage may vary, so if you have any questions or comments please go ahead and put that in the chat window. 

Now, the essence of what we’re doing here is a shamatha without an object, right? So, in shamatha without an object we’re, we’re stabilizing awareness. But instead of stabilizing awareness on an object like the breath, or like a mantra, or maybe just regular body sensations outside of the breath, or maybe external sound. There’s all kinds of things when we’re meditating that we rest awareness on in order to sort of impart or borrow the apparent stability of the object, right? That’s what we’re doing when we do shamatha with an object. But when we do shamatha without an object there is no object to borrow apparent stability from, right? There’s no object to borrow a sense of a place to focus from. Now, of course, our objects aren’t actually stable so that’s why I keep saying ‘apparent stability’. But they can seem pretty stable compared to, let’s say, the, you know, wanderings of thought. So, compared to my mind jumping all over to the past, in the future and in and out of things – just staring at a pen like this; ‘pen’ doesn’t seem to be changing very much until we look very, very deeply. But, until that point which requires stability, the pen is going to seem relatively stable and so we borrow some of that stability when we do shamatha with an object. But we did not do any shamatha with an object this time, we did shamatha without an object. 

So, what does that mean? It means, I mean, I’ll state it incorrectly, but it gets you like 90 per cent of the way there. It means the focus object is awareness itself. Now that’s not true because you’re not focusing and awareness isn’t an object. So that’s why that statement is deeply false and at the same time you get the idea, which is awareness is resting in itself. Awareness is aware of awareness itself. And, that actually is tremendously more stable than any object that is arising in awareness, which is always, no matter what, going to be inherently unstable. But awareness itself – quite stable. It might not be infinitely stable, we can talk about its impermanence or its emptiness depending on tradition and our own experience. But, in general, compared to any other object that’s arising in awareness, awareness itself is very, very stable. 

So, in one way of talking about shamatha without an object, like we just did – dropping the ball practice – like we just did. Instead of hanging out with objects; thoughts are objects in awareness, feelings are objects in awareness, the body is an object arising in awareness. Instead of getting involved with all that, we’re just kind of letting that stuff be and letting awareness just be aware of itself, right? And rest in itself. And that is a really, really powerful practice. If you can’t do it, it just means you haven’t got the hang of it yet. Then instead, do awareness, you know, do shamatha with an object. Then, meditate on your breathing rhythm or meditate on a pen, you know, just set it on the table in front of you and lightly gaze at it, and so on. Because these apparently stable objects will help to kind of settle things down in the mind until you can just let go of all that mental kerfluffle and the emotional kerfluffle and all the things – and just notice the awareness that is the basis of all of them, right? It’s the thing that’s doing all noticing anyway.

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