Guided Nondual Meditation with Michael Taft
Okay, so we’ll do something we haven’t done before. Sit with your hands like this on your thighs. Palms up. And I want you to just breathe in through your hands. So the palms of your hands have holes that you can breathe through. Just take big deep breaths through the palms of your hands for a few minutes. Feel the air rushing up your arms and down into your belly and then back up from your belly and out your hands.
All right. So on the out-breath, you can put your hands back wherever you want them. And just check in with yourself asking the question: what’s it like to be me right now? So just tuning into your state of mind, your state of heart, your state of body, the state of life. What’s it like to be inside your skin in this moment? And just for the time of this meditation, let that be just right. Meaning no matter what’s going on there, let it be that way. Don’t have any agenda to change it. Just allow yourself to be exactly the way you are. For once letting go of the agenda to constantly make it something different, make it something better, make it something it should be, and instead just letting it be exactly what it is.
And then into the space of being you right now, just allow yourself to notice, without any particular focus, the rising and falling of the wave of the breath. So we’re not narrowly attending to that, we’re just, in a completely normal way, noticing the coming and going of the breath, or we could say, the rising and falling of the breath wave. So your mind stays nice and open, nice and wide. Not narrowing down on anything in particular, but aware of this rising wave of breath and then the falling wave of breath. And let’s stay with that together for a few minutes here.
Just continuing to allow the mind to be relaxed and open and simply noticing that the breath comes and goes without doing anything particular with it, but just sitting and relaxing and opening.
And if it’s available to you, I want you to take up a metaphor of meditation tonight as if we’re meditating like a tree. Meditate like a tree and in fact, if this works for you, imagine in front of you a beautiful tree. It can be whatever kind of tree, but it’s ancient and thriving, and tremendously beautiful. So either feel that or imagine it or just feel like a tree, but this tree has roots that go down into the core of the Earth.
And so Earth energy is rising up spreading out through the trunk and branches and leaves of the tree. This ancient, grounded, humble energy that is paradoxically both humble and noble. And the branches of the tree spread out into the vast, open sky, and the brilliant warm, healing, sacred light of the Sun is soaked up by all the leaves of the tree and runs down the branches and into the trunk.
Remember we’re staying absolutely motionless.
And you can imagine in the center of the tree in the trunk there’s a place where the sunlight energy and the earth energy meet and mingle in the core or the heart of the tree connecting the earth and the sky. And when those connect the tree is filled with blossoms and with fruit and with birds and animals. Now either feel that, or picture that, or imagine that as clearly as you can.
And while you’re doing that just allow yourself to really let go. Let go of any tension in your head or face, or any in your front or back, your belly or your back. Release all tension from your arms and legs and hands and feet. Allowing yourself, as you kind of bask in the presence of this beautiful tree, to just completely relax and let go without any effort. Just being in the presence allows you to simply drop now much more deeply into a relaxed, open, pleasant, being with.
And in which not only your body relaxes but your heart loosens and opens. And on the next set of breaths, you notice yourself coming together or merging with the tree so that the tree body and your body are one body. Your roots go down to the core of the earth. And on the in-breath, you feel the sunlight pouring in from above filling your entire body. And on the out-breath, you feel the earth energy rising from below meeting in the heart and opening your heart more and more beautifully, more and more perfectly. Feeling the tremendous vitality and aliveness and generativity and beauty and grace of this tree, and the harmony and balance of the earth energy and the sky energy coming together in your heart.
Now gradually allowing the mind to expand upward and outward into more and more of the sky. Because we’re rooted so deeply in the earth, the mind can expand upward and outward and upward and outward. Naturally, easily, effortlessly rolling open like the sky. If the mind starts closing down around any particular object–grabbing on, tightening, constricting–just relax. Let it return to its natural effortless, vastness like the sky. Holding on to nothing, allowing everything, utterly easy and open.
Good. Notice now, in this sky of awareness, that body sensations appear. There’s the feeling of body and those are just sensations flowing through the sky of awareness, just like wind in the sky. The sensations are there. They have various properties. Flowing like wind in the sky and not remaining anywhere. Constantly changing and moving and open and free. Even difficult sensations, even painful sensations simply like wind moving through the sky. Notice that these body sensations have no particular center. They just arise in the sky of awareness and flow there for a while like wind and then pass away like wind, without any particular location.
Let’s notice something similar about any emotions that are arising. Whatever they might be. No matter how strong or how wispy and minute, emotional sensations simply pass through the sky of the mind like wind, not sticking on anything, not disturbing the sky and yet there in all their complexity and detail. The sky of the mind remaining tremendously open and easy, relaxed and vast. There’s room enough for all body sensations. There’s room enough for all emotions. None are rejected, none are suppressed or denied. They’re all welcome.
And just allow the question to arise in the sky of the mind: What emotion have I been trying to not feel, trying to avoid, trying to suppress? And whatever that is, just let that arise now unimpeded. There’s more than enough room in the sky of the mind for whatever we’ve been trying to not feel to be present. And then allow the question to arise: What feels this? and then look. What feels this? and then look.
Good. Now notice that into the vast sky of the mind of awareness the winds of thoughts are rising and falling. Various thoughts coming and going with no home, no place they come from, no place they go to. The winds of the thoughts do not disturb the sky of the mind in any way. Not a problem at all and also not special, they’re just winds.
And then into this vast, wide, open, effortlessly boundless sky of awareness, allow the question to arise: What knows these thoughts? What is aware of the winds of thought? What is that? Look. You can’t answer that question with more thoughts you have to look.
Now into the sky of the mind is arising the feeling of being you. And the feeling of being me, that sense of personality and history and story that you tend to carry around, that’s just arising like wind in the sky, unique, fascinating, blowing around like winds in a vast, open, bright blue, heavenly sky, not disturbing the sky in any way. Coming from nowhere, returning to nowhere. Mercurial zephyrs of being you swirling around.
Into the sky of the mind allow the question to arise: What knows this being? What knows this personality? And then look, What knows it?
Good. Now into the vast sky of the mind arises the winds of this experience meditating. Maybe with aches and pains, maybe with difficult emotions, maybe with chaotic thoughts, maybe with a sense of self that is judgmental or harsh. Notice the winds of this moment of experience rising and falling in the sky of the mind. Never the same in one second to the next. Changing this way and that. Not bothering the sky at all and yet there in all their richness and detail.
And the next moment of the experience arises and blows around the sky of the mind and the next moment. And a question arises: What knows this moment? You can’t answer that with words you have to look. Look now. What knows this moment? If you think you found it, look closer. And what notices that the winds of body sensation, and the breezes of emotion, and the Zephyrs of thought, and the various airs and winds of being a self, and being an experience are all part of the sky of awareness. Not separate at all. Naturally and spontaneously each of them knowing themselves, effortlessly, without any center and with no rim.
What knows that? Now look. Look. Look. Noticing that even the branches and roots and trunk of the tree and the leaves are not different than the sky. And feeling the light, the warm, life-giving light of the sun flowing in the branches on the in-breath and the grounding, healing, earth energy flowing on the out-breath. And feeling the groundedness and aliveness of this tree.
And in your image allowing the tree now to shrink down so that it lives in your heart, utterly alive, tremendously beautiful, burgeoning with flowers and fruit, birds and animals living in the tree, the nests have babies in them and the tree glows with a light of sanctity and grace, blessedness. And where will you plant the seeds of that tree? Where will they find rich soil and take root?
Very good. Now, with me, together let’s chant Om mani padme hum very loudly, very resonantly a few times, like maybe nine times.
Om mani padme hum, Om mani padme hum Om mani padme hum…
Good. Let’s end the meditation there. Feel free to move and stretch.
Dharma Talk, Q&A
Om Mani Padme Hum is the mantra of the Bodhisattva of compassion called Avalokiteshvara usually which means she who hears the sorrowful cries of the world. She who listens to the cries of the world. And Om is of course Om, the universal Mantra. And then at the end we’ve got Hum. Sometimes I hear people say Om mani padme om. It’s Om mani padme hum. That hum or hung, depending on how you’re pronouncing your Sanskrit, is the seed syllable of Mahakala, this super intense protective deity, tantric form of Shiva. So Mahakala. And then in between we’ve got the Mani Padme which literally means Jewel Lotus. And so you can hear translations like it means the jewel is in the lotus, but of course that’s not there linguistically, but it’s really just saying to the Jeweled Lotus. So probably we’re calling Avalokiteshvara by another name like a Bodhisattva name Jewel Lotus, like a pretty name. So Om to the Jewel Lotus Hum. It’s kind of an open-source Mantra. You don’t have to have any initiations or whatever to use. I like that one.
So notice what it’s like to be you right now. We did a whole bunch of checking out stuff, what it felt like to feel your body and feel your emotions and allow thoughts to just be there. And even: What it was like to allow personality to simply arise? Or this experience of this moment to arise? So notice now is it different in any way from when we started? And what’s that like? And it’s kind of paradoxical because I said check out what it’s like to be you right now and then don’t change it, or don’t feel like you have to change it in any way and then we basically spend an hour changing it, but not with any agenda, but simply that it’s always changing anyway. So you can just sort of go through these steps and as an experiment and see what happens, not as some kind of mechanistic sequence of change.
So what’s it like to be you right now? And much more importantly, who knows it? Or what is knowing that? Really often you’ll hear an answer to that question but really you can’t answer it with words and you can’t answer it with memories and you can’t answer it with rationalization you can’t answer it with, at least you can, but you can’t do it honestly just from thinking about it. You have to look. So as I’m always saying, it’s like a where’s Waldo puzzle, you can’t figure that out, you just look.
So when I say, what knows this? It’s not, Oh I got to figure that out or I know the answer to that, it’s no, look, right now, look. So do it right now. Look. What is knowing this moment? Can you find it? And what’s so interesting is, when you notice you can’t find it, hint, you can’t, that it is very easy to start saying, Oh that’s the special separate thing that knows, even though I can’t find it, it’s like the space of the thing that is aware. And then the thoughts and body sensations and emotion and sense of self and all that is a kind of like happening inside that or that’s like fish in the water of awareness or something. And it’s not that that’s not true but it’s like that’s only half true.
It’s only half true because all those things are, in a sense, not any different than awareness. They’re the expressions of awareness. They’re the waves on the ocean or whatever. So that it’s not the case that we have this special awareness that knows experience and experience is something else. If anything it is the experience. We are the experience or at least aren’t separate in any way from the experience. We could almost say the experience is the ornament of awareness. So even your kind of most dark, judgy, contracted, shitty thought is still a pure expression of this knowing, absolutely perfectly pure, as pure as anything else.
So the arising of this room right now and everyone and everything in it and all your most intimate internal sensations and emotions and memories are like this effulgent expression of knowing.
So I’m curious if that’s landing for you? Or if you had a meditation experience you’d like to share? Or if some burning question is arising that you feel like throwing at me. Although why I would know the answer, who knows, but if something’s arising for you that you’d like to share, raise your hand and I’ll call on you and feel free to share it. We always have to kind of break the surface tension here. There’s like the first goer. So in a minute, I’ll just call on some random victim unless somebody’s brave enough to share their experience or ask a question or critique me intensely that might be fun.
Questioner 1: It was the first time where I felt like I was able to meditate and it was very special.
Michael: What did it feel like to meditate for the first time?
Questioner 1: It felt like I took a step away from myself. I went into another room of like a very healthy distance.
Michael: So you got to kind of have a little bit of perspective on yourself.
Questioner 1: Yeah, it felt like watching a movie where I was a character
Michael: Yeah, and that felt impactful.
Questioner 1: Yeah, I think I’m a little tired of myself.
Michael: Aren’t we all, right? This could be a real relief. Excellent thanks for sharing and letting me just call on you. Who else has something to share before I just start calling on you? You feel the rising tension…
Questioner 2: Okay, choosing your adventure. My question is why, what’s the point of doing this? What’s the point of doing anything?
Michael: That’s two questions and do you mean them to be expansions one of the other or do you want it to really be two questions?
Questioner 2: The second question is a broadening of the first question as your reading suggested.
Michael: Okay so you’re kind of asking me what’s the meaning of life right? Would you say that’s a good…
Questioner 2: In the context of the stuff that you know about that I won’t go into great detail. I’m sort of having a hard time and the way in which I’m having a hard time with something that I had practiced for several years in the hopes of not having happen to me, and given that that did happen to me, I sort of don’t know why I should show up to the spiritual practice besides things like it feels nice and it’s relaxing.
Questioner 2: That’s why I said you chose your adventure.
Michael: No, yeah, I’m down for it. So, first of all, it feels nice and is relaxing. That’s already something. That’s already a reason and if you completely shrug those off, then the rest of the reasons will probably be shrug-off-able as well, but I would say there’s something about greeting our fate with grace and with acceptance and maybe even with love that is the meaning of wisdom because every life is going to encounter really difficult shitty stuff. Perhaps even the very things that person dreaded the most and yet all of us have to work with that.
Something that we can–I almost never do this, you guys know I don’t do this–but okay, so classic Buddhist story… This is when the historical Buddha was walking around in India and a woman came to him with a… whose infant child had recently died and she was in abject grief of course and the Buddha comforted her and was very kind and so on. And yet she kept asking why? So it wasn’t just about being comforted, there was this question of why. And so he said you know we’re in such and such a village here. I want you to knock on the door of every house in this village and ask them if they have had any misfortunes or grief. And so she goes from house to house and of course, every one of them have also had loved ones die, have also had terrible things happen to them, have also seen their worst fears come true, have also suffered.
And the point there wasn’t kind of the dickish move of trying to minimize her suffering at all, it was about that question why and to point out that this befalls everyone and the meaning of wisdom is to respond gracefully and perhaps even beautifully to that experience. And that in a profound way we’re not picked out for special punishment, no matter how much it feels that way or no matter how painful it actually is and it is painful, but every human and probably every being experiences that grief, that pain, that sorrow and ask themselves why.
I remember one time when I was like maybe five I got really excited about the pasta that was cooking and grabbed the pot of boiling water with one hand, kind of accidentally, and I can still feel the spot of my hand there. I just burned myself so badly and I’m like sobbing and I was really little, and I just kept asking “but Mommy why, why did that happen to me? why did that happen to me?” and of course, my mom is crying. And I mean it comes with having a belly button, right? I mean that’s life. But it’s not that’s life in kind of a callous, Buck up Buttercup kind of way, it’s a why do we do this? We do this so that we can respond with grace and with beauty and maybe even meaning-making to tragedy, as well as celebrate and create and be generative and give thanks for everything.
So that’s at least some of the reasons to do stuff. And notice we’re all here together. You are not alone. See if you can find someone in this room who hasn’t suffered something terrible and hasn’t felt alone and like a special you know punching bag of God or whatever. Tell me if you find someone because we all know that and with our open hearts and camaraderie we can
meet you there. That’s another reason we do this. Okay? I’m glad you came tonight.
Anything else? Other questions, comments?
Questioner 3: I find the prospect of becoming more wise and graceful very motivating and yet so far, I guess through practice, I’ve seen ways that I maybe don’t grab so hard on experience.
Michael: That’s already wiser and more graceful. Notice that when we’re tense and contracted and grabby that’s graceless and also tends to hurt.
Questioner 3: There’s a part of me that’s curious if alongside that, I guess absence of clutching or absence of grasping, I noticed that at best so far it’s like I can kind of gently see that I’m flailing or rejecting my experience. It’s like I’m more gently rejecting my experience.
Michael: Excellent or reject it intensely but just notice it clearly.
Questioner 3: I notice there’s curiosity whether continued practice leads to a source of action that feels wiser as well, more attuned to what the moment needs somewhere, or what would add to the moment in a way that would be wiser and more graceful?
Michael: I love the question. I think you can’t help it. It’s not practice like you’re gonna beat yourself into that or somehow file yourself into that. It’s just by relaxing and opening and maybe just by giving thanks that kind of responsiveness starts to happen more easily and more often. It might be the case like I was saying last week, that just saying yes to whatever is arising might be the whole thing. No matter how hard that is. Right? Thanks.
Questioner 4: Reflecting from the last two questions, I think for me either accepting or finding a way to deal with difficult times feels more natural or almost the thing that feels safer to accept that that’s what’s gonna be the future and be ready for it. Then enjoy things or even have the or the prospect of it could be bad but it could also be amazing, the amazing side of it in the moment and when I even envision the future, that part feels harder. It doesn’t come naturally. So I almost feel like I’m just getting to this level of peace and contentment, but joy seems much harder.
Michael: So you’re saying the idea of finding joy in whatever may arise is harder.
Questioner 4: To allow myself to enjoy the moment or to allow myself to think that life could be good. It’s easier for me to be like, Oh life could be very bad, I’m gonna still be happy even if things go bad but the thought of things being good…
Michael: Is more terrifying. How come? What would be the downside of everything going well?
Questioner 4: It’s uh, I don’t know why, I cannot imagine it as much, but I guess it comes down to fear that I would rather not even have the hope of it because then I’ll be disappointed.
Michael: Right, if someone came to you, let’s say you had a younger sister. Do you have a younger sister? Okay, so good, so pure imagination. You have a younger sister and she came to you and said, “I’m so in love with this person, but I can’t tell them and I don’t want to do anything about it because I’m so afraid that it will go away.” What would you say to your sister? Would you say “Don’t do that, guard yourself and go be safe?”
Questioner 4: I wouldn’t say that, but I would really struggle saying go for it.
Michael: Wow yeah, okay.
Questioner 4: It’s deep.
Michael: It’s deep and yet you see that if you kept saying that what would life become?
Questioner 4: Lame.
Michael: Lame, yeah extremely lame and still bad things would happen. So you get only the bad side right.
Questioner 4: Well that’s why I brought this up.
Michael: But you already know the answer. You have to do it anyway. We don’t get born here because it’s safe. If you want ‘safe,’ this is not the planet.
Questioner 4: What’s stopping me? How do I get past it?
Michael: Just see the fear for what it is and recognize, like I’ve been saying, like bad stuff will happen too but that’s okay. Good stuff happens and I mean you have to enjoy and celebrate the good stuff, otherwise why even bother?
Questioner 4: It’s much harder accepting the good.
Michael: Yeah well, there you go there’s your work.
Thank you, thanks for your questions and comments everyone.