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The Boundless Sky of the Mind

boundless sky

Nondual Guided Meditation by Michael Taft


So let’s begin by simply checking in with ourselves. It’s the process I call What’s it like to be me right now?  So just check in with yourself what’s it like to be you right now? How are you feeling? What are the thoughts running through your head? How’s your body doing? And so on… It’s sort of a psychic weather report. How are you doing in there? Check in with that, and the rule is; however you’re doing in there is fine, right? Even if it doesn’t feel fine, or maybe it’s chaotic, or maybe it’s anxious, or who knows… however it is in there, is just right for right now. It’s the way it is. So we’re accepting how we are. We’re accepting how we’re doing. We’re accepting how we’re feeling right now, not imagining that we’re supposed to have different thoughts or no thoughts, not imagining that we’re supposed to have different emotions or only good emotions or no emotions or something, but the emotions we’re having are just right for right now. And our body, right now, is just right. 

Maybe you ate a bunch of pepperoni together with a bunch of hot peppers on it, like some of us might have, and there’s indigestion happening, that’s fine. Maybe your legs hurt because you stretched funny, that’s fine right now. Even if you’re experiencing pain, do whatever it takes to relieve that pain. But what is there is fine. So I’ll be quiet for a moment and I want you to just tune into yourself and let however you feel be just right. Right now. Without trying to change it in any way. Okay.

Now you could do a whole hour of that meditation, just accepting how you’re doing, because it’s so different from our normal stance–this aggressive stance where I always need to change how I’m doing. Here it’s; I’m just accepting what’s going on and letting it be there. 

Okay, good. Now let’s begin simply and easily noticing our breathing, not even concentrating on it as such, but just noticing it. Allowing the feeling of the breath to be present in awareness. And if you wish you can do a little light pranayama, in this case meaning some deep breathing with long out-breaths. So if you want you can breathe a little deeper than normal and let the breaths be nice and long, but you don’t have to. We’re not doing tight, narrow concentration on the breath here, we’re allowing awareness to be open, to be broad, to be relaxed, and simply noticing that the sensations of the breath appear in awareness without any effort. You didn’t wake up this morning and, you know, have to turn on your senses. They were just on. Awareness is just aware. The feeling of the breath arises in awareness without us doing anything at all. 

And I also want you to notice in a very, very, light, open way any part of your body that feels relaxed, by relaxed I mean feel kind of neutral and pleasant, feel kind of open and soft and gentle. Now for some reason, when I say that people tend to notice what’s tight and then start fighting it. I’m saying notice what’s already relaxed, what already feels good, what already feels easy and open. And again, just let the noticing of that easy open relaxation be present in awareness. Just let it shine in awareness together with the rising and falling breath wave. This is easy, open, gentle, soft, bright, and clear. Notice that without any effort at all awareness is broad, it’s boundless, it’s clear and bright. It’s like a sky with no ground below. It’s just sky but sky that is awake, sky that is aware. 

Notice now a full moon, a bright circle of white light, a bright full moon rising in the sky of awareness. So imagine that this is an event, though awareness is not imaginary, the bright circle of the rising moon that’s an image you’re creating in the mind. So, see this beautiful perfectly circular, white full moon in this groundless sky of awareness and notice how the light of that moon is both clarifying and awakening, and at the same time soothing and soft. It’s so beautiful and so gentle and at the same time very bright and very penetrating. 

And now, within that moon, see it quite close, within that moon you notice a goddess with a wide open third eye. You can picture any goddess you want but her third eye is wide open and she’s radiating enlightened energy. This goddess is fully, fully, totally enlightened. Remember we’re staying very still and the third eye of this goddess, which is open, looks into your mind, looks into your third eye, and beams a kind of solid light beam of pure wisdom into your mind. So the wisdom and clarity of that perfectly enlightened buddha goddess fills your mind so that your mind is filled with radiant light of liberating awareness, liberating wisdom. 

And then from the belly of the goddess another beam of light comes into your belly bringing health and healing, bringing energy, spontaneity, and playfulness, lots of life force. And the light of that life force that is entering your belly radiates out to your entire body, a powerful, shining light of healing and enlivening radiant spontaneity and playfulness as if you have the energy of a little child running and running and laughing and jumping. Tremendous energy in the body.

And then from the enlightened heart of the goddess a third beam enters your chest and this is the beam of being totally accepted just as you are, completely utterly unconditionally loved just as you are, adored just as you are, held and loved without any changes necessary at all. And the radiant light of that love beaming into your heart shines out through your whole body filling you with love and acceptance from head to toe in every corner, nothing is left out, everything is adored, everything is met with kindness, every part of the body is perfect, every part of your soul is perfect, every part of your mind is loved.

Allow these three beams; the radiant wisdom mind, the enlightened mind in your forehead; the enlightened heart into your heart; the enlightened body into your belly. Keep seeing that and keep feeling those energies as clearly as you can. If you’re sleepy open your eyes and sit up straight, don’t nod out. You’ve got radio goddess wisdom energy beaming into your mind, you’re wide awake. Remember the real word for enlightenment means awake.

This radiant loving enlightened goddess within this moon disc arising in the groundless sky of the mind now comes inside you, comes inside.  Instead of beaming energy, she comes within you and takes up residence in the heart, radiating all these energies from the heart to the mind to the body, filling the heart. And she rests on this moon disk in the heart. The mind is the enlightened wisdom mind of a goddess now. The heart is the loving enlightened heart of the goddess now. The body is the enlightened somatic expression of the goddess now. Those are the qualities. 

And the image of the goddess and the image of the moon dissolve into the sky and we simply rest as awakened mind, liberated mind now, simply open sky. We’re not imagining open sky, we’re not generating it or creating it, it’s just there. It’s okay to rest here with nothing to hold onto, just being open with no ground at all, just being sky with no ground. If you want something to hold onto, you can just notice the breath like wind in the sky, the breath is simply wind moving in the sky of awareness. If thoughts arise, those are just wind in the sky of the mind that dissolve into the sky signifying nothing at all, just wind passing through the sky of the mind leaving no trace at all. If emotions arise, same thing, simply wind in the sky leaving no trace. 

Notice that the sky of the mind, even though there is no ground at all, is utterly stable. Notice directly in your own experience that the sky of the mind has no boundaries. If you look into your own awareness you cannot find a boundary to awareness. We might have ideas about boundaries but those are just ideas. Okay, it’s boundless sky there’s no edge. I can’t find the edge, neither can you find a source. It’s just there. Rest wide awake in this vast sky of the mind with no boundary, no floor, no ground, no boundary, and no source. Any sense of a body at all is simply body sensation arising as wind in the sky of the mind. The sky of the mind is not somehow located in the body, the experience of the body is shining in the sky. The body is not located inside of the world around you. The world around you and the body are located in the sky of awareness, the sky of the mind, just appearances in awareness. There is no time at all in the sky of the mind. The past is a concept that is just wind moving in the sky the mind. Future is just an idea, another thought that blows away like wind in the sky, the mind dissolving into space. Even the now does not exist, that’s just an idea, another idea that blows away into the sky.

There’s just timeless experience, boundless timeless experience itself, knowing itself.

Awareness itself, aware of itself. Notice that the sounds arise as spontaneous appearances in the primordial purity of the sky, sounds just appear and disappear as spontaneous appearances. The sights of the world around are just colors and lights and shapes and textures spontaneously appearing in awareness, vivid and insubstantial. 

Even the sense of being you, the thoughts of you, the feelings of you, the history of you, the likes and dislikes of you, spontaneous appearance and awareness with no basis, vivid and insubstantial, constantly changing. The person is just an appearance in awareness, vivid yet insubstantial. There is the primordial purity of the sky of the mind, the radiant clear awareness, and there is the spontaneous appearance of the ten thousand things of the world vividly, brightly, beautifully appearing. And the two are not different, the primordial purity and the spontaneous appearance can never be separate, they are one activity with two sides–experience itself, experiencing itself. 

What if there’s absolutely nothing to change? What if there’s nothing at all to do? What if you’re already perfect? What if sanity and beauty and love are your deepest nature from the timeless beginning into this perfectly pure, boundless, timeless sky of awareness? 

Again, arises the disc of the moon, bright radiant clear white full moon, lambent and shatteringly soft, and in this full moon again arises this enlightened goddess radiating love and peace and kindness and healing to the whole world, to all beings everywhere, not holding anything back, giving all love and kindness and wisdom and clarity and healing and hope without any remainder. 

Feel that beaming in all directions to every person in this room including yourself, beaming out in all directions to every person in the city, the area, the world, all worlds, all universes–not just humans but every kind of person. Good, let’s end the meditation there.

Feel free to move and stretch, if you’re not used to sitting still for an hour that can be a bit challenging as I mentioned but eventually, you get used to it.

Dharma Talk

Michael: So instead of me just monologuing for a while I’d love to hear your reports or take any questions you have. Otherwise, I’ll start monologuing. So if there’s any stuff you’d like to ask that’d be great.

Questioner 1: Well, I was uncomfortable. Tired. I’m in part interested in meditation because I want to take discomfort as an object of contemplation. I guess you could say on one level I didn’t mind this one, but it’s also about all I ever thought about.

Michael: So the question is about using discomfort as the object of meditation, which is a common object and a really powerful way to meditate. So you were saying that you felt it was all you were thinking about?

Questioner 1: Not all, but I was definitely revolving around that and using a kind of act of will to just say that I shouldn’t move right.

Michael: And so were you kind of white-knuckling it through the meditation? Would that be a kind of description you would use? Sort of like taking it?

Questioner 1: Yeah, for the whole time.

Michael: Okay so that works and yet it doesn’t make the best of the opportunity because meditating on discomfort is a powerful way to meditate and a big opportunity. Whether it’s physical discomfort, you know, my knees and hips hurt or whatever, or emotional discomfort. Very often we, on purpose, bring up emotional discomfort in here as an object, mental discomfort whatever. Being able to meditate on discomfort of any kind is really, really–it’s not just useful, it’s awakening, it’s enlivening, it can actually allow you to unlock a lot of levels of openness because for the most part our openness is constrained by what we’re not willing to feel, right? Huge areas of experience are off-limits because of what we’re not willing to feel. And so when we become willing to feel that stuff suddenly bigger parts of experience are available. You know, if you’re never willing to go into the dark forest, the whole dark forest of the map, part of the map, is just unknown to you. But if you become willing to go into the dark forest, suddenly you’ll find wizards in there and stuff there. It’s interesting even though it’s scary. 

So it’s really important to be able to do this and furthermore, it’s classic, right? This is one of the main ways people over thousands and thousands of years have meditated. And if we go outside of meditation traditions into more indigenous traditions, right, there’s a lot of stuff like pain ordeals or starvation ordeals or you know I’m gonna stay awake for five days and five nights or pierce my skin or whatever, and do that as a sacred ritual. So this idea of working with various kinds of discomfort is very well represented in world history because it works. 

And so when we take physical discomfort as an object it’s really important to understand, it’s got its upsides and its downsides. The upside is; pain is really easy to focus on, right? It keeps grabbing your attention most of the time. In meditation we’re 

kind of struggling to pay attention but with pain or discomfort, it’s got your attention. It’s really easy to notice and stay noticing–oh! oh! oh!

So that’s the easy part, the hard part is having equanimity, and this is really, really crucial. And that is, rather than tensing up against it and turning away and trying to kind of ugh ugh ugh, we relax and open towards it, let it be there, let it be there as big as it wants to be, right? Give it all the room in the world to be uncomfortable and then gradually you’ll notice that that makes it easier to be with, instead of tensing and turning away, right? We give it–it’s already taking our attention so we’re concentrating, so instead of the work of the meditation being concentration the work is to relax into it, open into it.

And so with any discomfort–again this can work with emotions, this can work with some kind of mental discomfort, it works with physical discomfort, if getting right into the core of it is too intense, at first, then we touch the part of it that we can deal with first.  We touch the outer edges of it and sit with that because that’s less intense. We can probably handle it and start opening towards it and relaxing into it and letting it be there. You know, over the years I’ve worked with people with unbelievably intense permanent pain, you know, their whole life is basically agony. And they can’t start out in the white-hot core of the pain, it’s just they like faint or something, it’s too much, but they start on the edge with what they can handle. 

And again, this can be if you’re hit with a big emotion too, it’s just too much to handle. Well, find some spot of it you can be with, and then over minutes or hours or even weeks or months of practice, you learn to get closer and closer to the core of it. And you do that by learning to stay relaxed and open in it, instead of turning away. And the more that you stay relaxed and open in it, a weird thing happens, which is it’s less bothersome. It’s not that the pain level goes down or the discomfort but somehow it bothers you less and furthermore, especially with something like physical pain, the closer you get to the center of it, you’ll start getting much more concentrated, super concentrated.

 If you’re using the pain as the object because it’s just so captivating. So your mind is fully focused and you keep relaxing and opening and relaxing and opening and over some period of time you’ll eventually arrive at the core, the white-hot core of the pain in this maybe it’s just your ankles or something but somewhere in there there’s like that’s the big owie. And you just keep waiting till you can kind of rest right in it while staying, and this is the important part, relaxed and open like not (grunt) but more like (relaxed) that’s hard to do. Got to work up to it. 

And when you’re in the white hot core of the pain, or the discomfort, the emotional discomfort, or whatever and you just stay there relaxed and open that’s when the transformation starts really getting big. It’s transforming all the way but it sort of goes hyperbolic at that moment. Deep transformation, there’s no resistance at all, the discomfort can be as big as it wants and because there’s no resistance it stops being a problem. 

Now it might still be there as big pain. It’s not somehow not pain, but it stops being a problem at that point and actually fine. And that might sound like some kind of, you know, unachievable aspiration or fantasy but working with people in severe chronic pain that’s exactly how you do it. You keep relaxing and opening, relaxing and opening. And one way of talking about that relaxation and openness is the ultimate relaxation and openness, which is this sky-like mind I keep talking about, it’s just relaxed and open. It’s just all the way open already which is why you know that’s the basis of awareness, it’s just relaxed and open and awake. 

But little by little we allow whatever is arising to simply arise just the way it is and we’re so open that’s just the way it is, no matter how awful, no matter how wonderful, no matter how boring, no matter how confusing, no matter how nebulous, it’s fine. So that’s how you work with it. Okay? It’s just allow, allow, allow, allow, and you know you wanna, especially if you’re working with something like physical pain, you’d be aware of your limits, like now I can’t do it anymore. And so you stop until next time, but little by little, for there you get an added break because the more you sit like this, it stops hurting–not out of numbness–but I mean out of practice. Over years your body just gets used to sitting like that and it can sit like this forever. It just doesn’t hurt in any way just because you’ve practiced it. But no matter what kind of discomfort comes up there’s more than enough room for it to just be there.

Questioner 1: Yeah, that was what I was going for I have had that level of concentration with migraines where the painy part isn’t averse. And so it felt like I was hoping to get there with the hip pain but I guess, in a certain way, that was not exactly the same as accepting it because I was hoping to get into that place where it wouldn’t hurt.

Michael:  Yeah, which of course as an initial goal is fine, but to get there you then have to accept where you’re at with it now, that’s right and just gradually go into it. So it takes time, but it will go there for sure. And again, we’re not just talking about physical pain and so it’s important to recognize that like emotional pain, something you don’t want

to feel, exactly the same move, right, is how we work with that. And that doesn’t mean your emotions somehow go away or all turn into you know sunshine and rainbows.They can still be as difficult and painful and dark but you’re fully accepting them and that’s when the transformation occurs, right? Of like oh I can be with any amount of this and it and that’s okay thanks for your question. Part of why we sit still is that if you practiced it even some it starts to have this quality of like bringing you into focused acceptance.

Other questions, comments, reports? 

Questioner 2: I have a challenge where I feel tired.

Michael: Okay, you know what to do, sit with your eyes open, sit up straight, don’t lean into the wall because that’s allowing your back to relax too much, sit up straight and that

keeps you somatically–that’s going to keep your attention bright, eyes open. It’s going to keep your attention bright. If that’s not enough, look up a little bit. That helps to keep the attention, right? If that’s not enough, eventually the thing to do would be very, very, very, very slowly, perfectly quietly, stand up, and then without moving at all just stand meditating. It’s very hard to be sleepy while you’re standing.

So we want to understand meditation as a balance between sleepiness and agitation, dullness and you know kind of like flightiness, and so we’re always kind of weaving this line between being too agitated or being like torporous, and somewhere in the middle there is just this perfect like relaxed awakeness. So if you drink too much caffeine, you’ll go into the agitation part, and it’s very hard to get still. If you start getting dull, haven’t had enough sleep, or any relaxation starts making you take a nap, then you’ve got to steer it into awakeness, a little bit.

So the whole process can be considered to be like this balancing act between those two things. So we want to steer you, at least for now, steer into the more alert attention part. If you go too far that way, then you’ll start being jittery, and you know it’s hard to just be relaxed and open, so we gear down a little bit. It’s–you know, you want to become really good at meditating, just get good at that balance as it gets too sedated, gear it up a little bit, as it gets too geared up, calm it down a little bit. And just get used to those micro adjustments over and over and over and you’ll keep going into the pocket just right, just right, just right. So wake up!

Michael: Any other questions?

Questioner 3: Actually, it’s interesting it happened after the retreat when I would go to sleep, let’s say like at 10 and I would just wake up at like two. Yeah, I was like not anxious, just like super awake.

Michael: That’s different. That’s a really common experience of a lot of meditation is you just kind of wake up in the middle of the night for a while. And what was…

Questioner 3: That wasn’t on the warning label? 

Michael: Consider yourself warned. All you do is just breathe deep and relax and eventually you’ll drift off back to sleep. What you don’t want to do is worry about–oh I’m not getting enough sleep, that doesn’t help.

Questioner 3: It’s an interesting quality, it’s just super…yeah, yeah like you always have like nine hours of sleep.

Michael: Yeah, and so notice, if that keeps happening, you’re not tired.  So it’s not a problem. You’re just more awake. And then after a while, the system will get used to that level of energy and you’ll start having regular sleep again, until more energy comes in.

Questioner 3: Yeah, yeah I think it’s energy.

Michael:  Yeah, but notice it’s fine, right? Actually the only part of it that’s not fine is if you worry about it. Yeah and so you’re awake That’s what’s happening. So usually it’s good to do like a yoga nidra practice or something, so you’re awake but you’re just meditating on how relaxed your body can get and stuff like that. So you’re still getting a deep body rest and it’s fine. You’ll also start having a bunch of dream yoga and sleep yoga experiences usually. So like lucid dreams inadvertently or even lucid sleep where you’re just awake with no dreams, that kind of stuff. So those are powerful experiences. 

So the short version is; that’s a feature! There’s a reason they call it awake. You may get very awake.

Questioner 4: That transported me into like kind of being one with the room, like my mind was the same as the room, and I don’t know, it felt weird to be like–to reach those levels of consciousness that they usually um that they could like reach because

like they can with psychedelics, something but this like and only like maybe like I don’t know maybe 20 minutes or 30 minutes I reached those and I guess by myself I never reached that by myself, so it was good to have someone to guide me. And I’ve been forced to be still for an hour, yeah, so you know…

Michael: Sometimes guided meditations are really helpful, right? Especially because they allow us, in a certain way, to let go. We don’t have to–there’s something about being in the driver’s seat that can make it harder to have those experiences. So if you want to do that during the week the YouTube channel has hundreds of hours of guided meditation, right, and then eventually when you sit you learn to do it on your own. It’s super important to me that everyone maintains their autonomy, you know, like you eventually do it on your own.  Yeah, good fabulous. Other stuff coming up?

Questioner 5: With guided visualizations I have mixed experiences where it feels like I have to do too much, and something in me wants to just like listen to you and believe that like I’m visualizing it with some other asp–or like something that means perceiving it as something other than like–the creation of the image feels too effortful. 

Michael: And yet when I’m saying it, is there an image?

Questioner 5: No, it’s like I can make one but it I don’t want to.

Michael: So what happens instead?

Questioner 5: When I try to create it, it feels powerful but it’s like there’s something in me that’s like I don’t want to do all this work right now. So I’m right now like I’m exploring the experience of just like meditating and listening.

 I’m having– i feel like I’m having deep experiences but I’m curious about this experience or aversion to the effortfulness of image making.

Michael:  Right. It’s very common, very common. Part of it is because what we’re doing is raising energy, right? To put it in kind of a traditional way, we’re shifting into a much higher energy state and so that takes effort, you know, yet it’s very hard to break through the mundane limits of the regular mind without going into a higher energy state. You can do it but it’s sort of like from its own level of just like regular thoughts and stuff. It’s difficult, doable but difficult, whereas when we raise the energy, so to speak, with that vision, you see how there’s a lot of energy there, right? 

Then that has this quality of being able to slice through the kind of quotidian mundane levels of the mind into the openness that’s behind all that. And so that’s one way of describing it and so the effort is a part of it. It doesn’t mean you have to do it, of course, but that’s why it feels that way you’re–not in your case necessarily–but we’re sort of lifting ourselves out of kind of the muddy bottoms into the sky. It takes a little bit to do that, so if outside of class you’re doing something like pranayama or yoga or things like that that have that energy-raising quality, it makes it a lot easier to do this kind of stuff.

We could say that that aversion is the pull of–I’ll just put it in a really traditional way and say it’s like the pull of staying in the muck. It doesn’t want to arise out of it because it doesn’t want to see that. 

So there’s other ways to do it, you know, if we rest in there with enough stillness, it will open up that way too. So I mean you don’t have to do it in one particular way, there’s other ways forward, but what often happens is if we stick with what’s just only comfortable and just only not aversive, that’s exactly the spot where there’s no change or growth. Usually. We’ve got to be willing to go into the dark forest, or climb up the difficult mountain, or something, leave kind of the one safe little sleeping nest we’ve got and go out a little bit, one way or another. So it doesn’t mean you have to like doing visualizations is what I’m saying. There are a lot of other ways to do it but one way or another it’s going to be uncomfortable.

Questioner 5: It’s interesting because I had like a story about it–that I didn’t want to do it because the part of me that was doing that was like the trying-too-hard. It felt like it was like part of my traditional trying-too-hard.

Michael: Yeah, okay, yeah. I always try to hard, right?

Questioner 5:  I’m here, I’m gonna like build this thing, I’m gonna look at it, and it felt like part of that something I’m trying to get away from.

Michael:  Okay, that’s reasonable. Well, a lot of us try too hard. I certainly have a history of trying too hard. I’m gonna really do the fuck out of this meditation. But notice even where it goes, which is, it all dissolves to space. At a certain point, the whole visualization just, we just, it’s a sand castle and we kick it over into space, and that’s when it just goes into total non-effort. But first we used that trying-hard to raise energy and then–you know how with the Dalai Lama and some other monks, they’ll make a gorgeous sand mandala and they spend a whole week and it’s like they’re making this huge gorgeous unbelievably beautiful picture and then the very next thing Dalai Lama comes in wipes it out, the minute they get it perfect, he just wipes it out into space. That’s the idea so you build the visualization, that’s the generation phase and then into empty space that’s the completion phase, and that’s what we’re going for is that wide open boundless totally effortless clarity. But we’re kind of building up and then cutting through. It’s just one way to do it. There’s other ways to do it but that’s–so in other words go with the effort because we’re gonna use it to cut through into relaxation.

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