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The Mountain of Awareness

Streamed live on Nov 4, 2021

Guided Nondual Meditation with Michael Taft

Let’s begin with our setup. What’s the first part of our setup? The first part of our setup is getting in our meditation posture. So I want you to sit up nice and straight in a way that feels good but is also alert and upright. I want you to weave around a little bit. Weave your back like a reed in the wind, a supple fresh young reed in the wind. And just find that place where the back feels absolutely perfectly still and pleasant, where it naturally balances and then the wind dies down and we’re just perfectly utterly still. And then we raise the top of our head a little bit, the back of the head, tuck our chin a little bit and breathe in, and then just let go and relax completely. 

Now for the previous several weeks at that point we spent like 15 minutes relaxing but we don’t always do that. Tonight we’re not going to go through the long guided relaxation part but notice there’s a moment once your posture is set you can do a long relaxation there. Instead I want you to set your intention for this meditation; I’m going to meditate for an hour along with Michael’s guidance in order to…whatever it is right, whatever your goals are. “In order to save all sentient beings,” would be a typical Bodhichitta style vow, but it might just be, “in order to deepen my practice.” 

So, state your intention and then from here very often we do like kind of a visualization, right? Of a deity image or whatever and sometimes we have a metaphor. The metaphor for tonight’s meditation is that we’re gonna sit like a mountain. So we’re sitting like a mountain utterly still, utterly immovable, utterly silent. So that’s our metaphor; sitting like a mountain. Now this is not just a regular mountain. This is the world mountain, maybe Mount Meru, and so it’s like this kind of ultimate mountain. So take on that mountain-ness. We’re sitting in perfect stillness, perfect silence, total immovability. That’s how we’re sitting tonight and then instead of a deity image we’re just gonna do more of a psychological thing.

I want you to think of a time and bring up a memory of when you had total confidence, not when you had arrogance or when you had some kind of blow-hearty overconfidence but rather when you really just knew what you were doing and you knew how to do it. And I want you to picture in front of you; you having that tremendous confidence. So remember a time when you had great confidence Maha confidence and then see it. See that time. See what that was like and feel the feelings of that time of having great confidence and then once that’s very clear what I want you to do is just bring that in, right? So instead of seeing it in front of you, you’re bringing it in and you’re feeling that level of confidence now. You’re feeling how that felt in your body and how that felt in your being, right? So you’re just taking on a feeling of confidence. 

Okay. And now in the same way I want you to remember a time when you felt tremendous joy let’s say love and joy, where all this kind of spontaneous heart opening was happening and maybe it wasn’t spontaneous, who knows, maybe it was because of something in particular but you felt all this love and joy arising. And I want you to see that scene in front of you. Remember it, and see it, and feel in your body, what it felt like to have all that love and all that joy arising, and see it really clearly. And then I want you to–on an in-breath–just take that in. Take the image in and now it actually is you. And feel that love and joy arising in your being right now, right? So there it is. It might not be as strong or it might…maybe it’s quite strong but it’s the same vibe. So, you’re feeling all this confidence, and now you’re feeling all this love and joy, and just notice how you feel now; confident, joyous, loving… and just tune into that. 

These are the actual properties of the already fully enlightened Buddha that you really are, and so imagining a time when you felt that and bringing it up is an exercise in imagination but you’re imagining yourself into a state that is your true state, way down deep inside the state of your already existing Buddhahood. So it’s a little more powerful than just imagining because it’s starting to reveal what’s underneath. It’s like the clouds slowly parting to reveal the moon, right? It’s beautiful and starting to show what’s really there. So even though it’s a imagination exercise, psychological exercise, you can feel that confidence, you can feel that love, you can feel that joy. 

And next I’d like you to imagine a time in your life when you just felt so alive and energized and vivacious, right? It doesn’t have to be excited but just a tremendous amount of strength and health and life and aliveness and engagement in your body, like you just felt fully there, like the best day you ever had at sports or something like that where your body’s just fully alive, fully engaged, fully alert, and just bursting with the vivacity, right? Vivaciousness, bursting with life energy, and picture that in front of you, and feel that aliveness, that life force really really burgeoning and effortlessly upwelling, right?  And see that time, remember that time in your mind, and then I want you to bring that in. Bring that in and feel how it uplifts your body, it uplifts your mind, you feel more energized, more awake, but also it brings those other qualities to the force. So it makes the love and the joy even more effulgent. It makes the confidence even more solid, right? Even more present. So, you’re feeling the confidence, you’re feeling the love and joy, and you feel this kind of tremendous power of the life force. 

Okay, and so again this is tuning in to some of the few, just a few of the properties of the Buddha within. And so even though we’re remembering and bringing up these things in an imaginary way they’re really pointing to what’s actually always already there. And so we’ve learned to do this in a bunch of ways; we can do it with deity images, and sometimes visualizations of things like diamond spheres, and so on, or a sun. If you go over the last many months we do things like that but sometimes we can do this in just this memory way. Just remember having these qualities and take them on and they’re already there so this is more…I’m showing you many methods of doing this and this is like the more imaginative, psychological method, a little bit more of a secularized method, but notice you still feel the confidence, you still feel the love and joy, still feel that tremendous energy in your body, and it feels great. 

So, there you have it. Good, now from this place we’re going to begin doing some Shamatha. 

We’re going to just saddle our minds and so the first object I want you to work with here, in a very relaxed way–you’re relaxed but you’re very energized. Right, smooth energy, it’s not energized like agitated, ready to go start kicking chairs around some room somewhere but rather very still, very smooth, but very awake. Okay, and so the first thing I want you to notice from this place–remember meditating like a mountain–I want you to notice the stillness, and it’s not just stillness in your body, it’s stillness in your mind, and it’s not just stillness in your mind and body, it’s stillness in everything. Okay, so now we’re just we’re just breathing in and out very normally, but we’re not meditating on the breath, we’re meditating on stillness. Just find stillness in your experience and start noticing that. Let’s sit with that for a while together. 

Good. Now, of course, if you’re distracted, if you’re involved in thoughts and mental talk, and imagining stuff, and remembering stuff, and all that–that’s not stillness, right? So we just let that go and refocus the mind on this tremendous stillness–the stillness that exists in the body, the stillness that exists in the mind. It’s not that the mind has to be silent or the body has to stop breathing or something because that’s movement–the thinking, the breathing can happen but you’re not focusing on that, you’re not involved in that in any way, you’re refocused on everything that is already completely still. 

Okay. Good. That’s the stillness of the mountain. Now, I’d like you to notice an adjacent property, something that comes together with the stillness, and this is the silence. The silence at the heart of the world mountain, right? This is utter silence. So, notice the silence in the body again. Maybe your stomach is rumbling or whatever. That doesn’t diminish the fact that there’s tremendous silence in the body. And notice the silence in your mind. Even if there’s thoughts happening there’s also silence there. There’s also silent parts of the mind, focusing on those. Even if there’s sound in the world around you there’s also silence in the world around you.  So, you’re focusing now on not only stillness of the infinite world mountain but also the silence. It’s very beautiful silence, very restful. So, let’s be with this silence now. 

Now, of course, if you’re getting distracted by non-silence, remember all that noise and hubbub is allowed to be there, but I want you to come back to just the silence. Rest in the silence in the body. Rest in the silence that’s there in the mind. Rest in the silence that’s there in the world around you. Keep letting go of… just letting it be. Let go of the noise, come to the silence and focus on that. Be with the silence. 

Wonderful. Now, again remaining energized, remaining alert, not only do we contact stillness and silence we contact vast space. There’s tremendous space within and around this world mountain–it’s just boundless space, space with no boundary of any kind. It’s still. It’s silent and it’s tremendously vast. I don’t want you to imagine space. I want you to just notice no boundaries. If boundaries come up that’s just like noise or movement, we just kind of look past those to stillness, look past those to silence, past the boundaries to spaciousness that’s already present. We don’t have to make spaciousness happen. So, rest in vast spaciousness. Don’t struggle with finding spaciousness, it’s there. Struggle is tight and struggle is constricted and struggle collapses space, so let go, relax, don’t struggle, and notice that space is already always present together with the silence and the stillness. So just relax and notice space. Just allow this space to permeate everything. The stillness of this vast space, silence of this vast space, the openness and receptivity of this vast space all come together to be tremendous, utterly restful and also alert, awake, bright, clear.

Good. Now, let’s notice that from this place of silent spacious stillness we can allow awareness to simply rest in itself, awareness rests in that just means awareness shows itself to awareness and we notice the stability like a mountain. The stability of awareness itself–just like the silent stillness and spaciousness–the awareness itself is silent, is still, is spacious…

Things may come and go within awareness but the awareness itself is like a rock. It’s like a mountain. It’s immovable. So, just allow awareness to rest in itself. 

Now, many people find it’s easier to do this with the eyes open but you can meditate with your eyes open or closed whatever you like. Just be with this bright crystal clear pure awareness resting in itself like an infinite world mountain, massive mountain totally immovable, totally at peace. If that feels real unstable or real hard to do come back to focusing awareness on stillness, silence, and spaciousness, but notice the awareness itself is already the stillness, the silence, the spaciousness itself. It doesn’t need anybody to focus on it. It’s already aware of itself. We’re just resting in that. So, each time awareness moves up away from rest into grabbing onto something, into trying to control, or manipulate, or change, just let go. Just rest. Come back to resting in stability. It’s very very stable, this awareness, like a mountain. Rest as stability. 

Stay bright. Stay alert. Stay clear. This vast still awareness is very very alert, very awake.

From this space of vast silent still awareness, tremendously clear awareness, I want you to try to find your personality. Where is the conventional you that walks around in the world and has opinions and likes and dislikes and a history and a story and a biography and…where is that now? And by where is it I don’t mean as an idea. Don’t think of an answer like it’s right here and I want you to look and find it. Let this vast still awareness simply look and see if it can find any such entity, any such personality. And if it finds thoughts and feelings of a personality I want it to look very, very clearly. I want you to look very clearly now and see; do you really know where they’re located? Do you really have a sense that they’re located anywhere? Look clearly now into that. Keep looking, notice that the more you try to pin it down, this personality, the more you can’t actually find it. 

Good. Now I have another question that I want this vast silent stillness to investigate, meaning; look now, don’t answer from the mind, don’t answer from thinking, don’t answer from memory, don’t answer from concept. Just look directly and that question is; where is your mind? Find your mind, right now. If you think you found it look and see if you actually know where that is. Where is it located? So find your mind, right now. Keep looking. 

Where is your mind? Can you actually find your mind? Have still silent spacious awareness just look directly. You don’t need to think about this, you just look in experience. Where is the location of the mind? 

Okay. Now, notice you can’t find your personality, you can’t find your mind, but maybe you can find some effort. I want you to notice, right now, where is there any effort? 

And as this awareness vast, still, silent awareness notice any effort? See if you can actually pin it down. Can you find effort? Even the effort of looking for effort, where is that effort? 

Good. What if there’s nothing to do? What if there’s absolutely nothing to change? 

What if there’s nobody to do or change anything? What if this vast silent still awareness is already perfect? Already complete. What if it’s always been here? And always will be here in the eternal present? What if this awareness is like a mountain resting in itself? 

Utterly at peace, utterly at ease, totally crisp, bright, awake, alert, clear… 

What if this awareness is utterly soft and gentle and kind, at war with nothing, at peace with everything? What if there is nothing that is other than this awareness? And what if this awareness itself is not a thing at all but is utterly empty and yet present at the same time? What if? 

Dharma Talk

All right my friends, let’s end the meditation there. And very, very slowly and gently, and at your own pace and ease, feel free to move your body. Feel free to stretch and wiggle and shake it out if you wish. Feel free to take a drink of some kind and just notice that this vast silent still awareness is still present; it didn’t go anywhere. You’re just perhaps allowing it to bind its attention into thought and feeling now, and getting into body sensations, and checking out the room around you, and getting more involved. 

Notice behind all that there is, the awareness is still there. It’s utterly still utterly clear, utterly lucid, utterly awake, utterly spacious, utterly without personality, utterly without mind, utterly without effort. It is simply empty awakeness, always there. It never goes away. It’s always there. 

So, even though we’re done meditating you might notice that, as I’m always saying, the world as we conceive it is inside out. We think that awareness is a little thing that happens in our brain, and our brain is in our head, and the head is part of the body, and the body is covered in clothes, and sitting perhaps in a room, and that room is in a city, in a country, on a continent, on a planet, in a solar system, and we see the world like that. And that’s one perspective. It’s not a false perspective but it’s not the perspective of awareness. 

The perspective of awareness is utterly the opposite of that. It’s inside out from that. What we see is that the world, the galaxy, the solar system, the world, the continent, the country, the city, the room, my clothes, my body, and even my mind, my brain, my sensations, my experiences, all of that exists inside awareness. All of that is inside awareness, and the body sensations simply arise in awareness and are noticed. The thoughts and feelings simply arise in awareness and are noticed. The external sights and sounds and sensations arise in awareness and are noticed, and they then do their thing and then vanish away. And then they just vanish away, but even the sense of your personality simply arises inside awareness. Even the sense of your mind is something that arises in awareness. Even the sense of a body at all, your body, arises inside awareness. It’s not really inside but that’s how sometimes we talk about it because awareness is primary, these other things are within it. You are not primarily a person with a mind having awareness, awareness is just aware of the feelings, a person, or the thoughts and feelings of a mind. But none of those things actually have their own existence from their side, so to speak. They only exist because they arise in awareness and even awareness isn’t a thing as such, it’s empty.

It’s very beautiful to see how all the things that arise in awareness; the thoughts, the feelings, the body, the mind, the person, and all the other things that arise in awareness; the world, the sky, the trees, the sunset, the ocean, some geese, all of these things that arise as the world arise in the same awareness as the awareness of the personality, the thoughts, the feelings, in the mind. And they’re all together in the same awareness, and in that sense they’re not separate at all. In fact, they are brethren. They are family. All these things, all other people, all animals, all life, and even all matter, all space, all arises inside this awareness, and thus, is in some way family, is some way equal. Even though it has all its own differences too. We’re not erasing the fact that blue is different from yellow, or that the beautiful geese are different from the wetlands over which they fly honking. They have their differences and yet they all arise within the same awareness and thus have an underlying unity, and underlying familial connection, and underlying brotherhood and sisterhood and siblinghood, that we can connect to and in fact that we were never ever separate from. 

So, notice that right now. Notice that right now. Everything has its own unique difference, individuality and yet it’s all united together in awareness. And even awareness itself is not a thing. You can’t reach out and touch it. You can’t find its location. You can’t find its origin or destination. It’s not an object. Notice that now.

So that’s what we’re looking at; that this pristine complete timeless boundless stillness of perfect awareness has always been present, isn’t located anywhere, and is–if there’s any identity at all that’s identity–everything else is stuff arising in awareness and is in fact kind of made of awareness. 

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