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What If?

What If?

Nondual Guided Meditation with Michael Taft

So let’s begin simply by checking in. Just tune into yourself and notice what’s going on. Ask yourself the question, what’s it like to be me right now? And you check into your body, check into your emotions, your mind, and whatever else. Just check in with yourself, what’s it like to be you right now? And whatever it’s like, that’s the perfect way to be right now. So, however it is, whatever you find, is exactly the right way to be right now. So let’s just check in with that for a minute.

What if exactly the way you are right now is the best possible way to be?

Good. Now, as usual, let’s just begin with a little bit of some stabilization. So I want you to just relax into the vast open sky of your mind and into that vast unimpeded boundless sky just notice, without any focusing, without any effort, just notice that the sensation of breathing is noticed and the sensation of breathing rises and falls and is noticed in the sky of awareness, without any effort it rises and falls like a wind rising and falling in this vast open sky. And let’s just be with that together for a while here.

We’re not focusing our mind, our awareness is wide open. The sensation of the breath rising and falling in awareness is available without attention, without the tension of attention it’s just naturally present. If the sky of awareness tightens down into a ball around thinking, just allow the thinking to dissolve back into the sky, and relax back as awareness. If the mind tightens around a thought, just relax the tightness, allow the thought to, just of its own accord, drop away and the mind returns to the vastness of boundless sky.

Good, now into this sky of awareness, this boundless sky, allow an image to arise, an image of a fountain. It can be made of anything and it can have any liquid in it, but this fountain is the fountain of pure liberation, fountain of pure enlightenment. I want you to see very clearly this fountain is flowing with the waters of liberation. I remember one time I was at an art installation in Los Angeles and there was a large fountain with a clear liquid in it and the sign said that it was a fountain of pure liquid LSD. You can have whatever liquid in your fountain you want, but notice that it’s got certain qualities, this fountain has certain properties. One is that it’s full of energy, it’s constantly moving and flowing and shifting and changing. It’s never static or stale, it’s fresh and clean and full of energy. Really notice those properties of its freshness and cleanness and vivacious, lively, energized quality, and feel that same energetic quality coming into your body now.

Good, now notice that the fountain has more qualities, it has the quality of kindness, and it’s flowing with a sense of love and joy and compassion, overflowing, spraying, bubbling kindness and joy and love. And feel those properties too, coming into your heart now, heart overflowing as a source of love and joy and kindness. Good. Furthermore, notice that the waters, or the liquid in this fountain, has a sense of tremendous clarity and wisdom, it’s overflowing with awakeness, vivid, bright, clear, beautiful awakeness. 

And this hyper-lucid quality of wakefulness and clarity and wisdom is entering your mind now all together. See the fountain flowing with wisdom and clarity and bright, shining awakeness, lucidity, love, joy, and compassion, and a kind of springy, bubbly, playful energy of spontaneity and liveliness. On an in-breath bring that fountain into your body and have your body turn into the fountain, so that you yourself are the fountain of liberation, you yourself are the fountain of awake awareness, you yourself are the Buddha, and feel the energy of the fountain flowing upward out the top of the head into the sky and raining back downward, as a rain of all those qualities, beautiful peaceful rain of liberated and joyful kindness and lively playfulness. 

What would it be like to be a fountain of pure liberated love and wisdom? Just be with that now. Be that now.

And now let that all fall away and just rest as boundless, timeless sky of awakeness. This is simply resting anything at all that arises in the sky of awakeness. It just dissolves back into the sky without leaving a trace of any kind. If you’re sleepy sit up straight, if you’re really sleepy, or just if you feel like it, sit with your eyes open. This is a sky of boundless wakefulness. And I want you to ask yourself now, what would it be like to be completely free? What would it be like to be totally liberated? I don’t like to think about an answer or imagine anything, just ask that question and come back to resting as the sky, it’s a boundless sky. What would the mind of perfect freedom be like?

Again, if thoughts come up, we’re just letting those go, ideas arise, they just dissolve back into the sky. We’re not imagining answers or thinking.

Good, now ask yourself the question, what would it be like to have a heart overflowing with love and kindness and joy? Good, now ask yourself, what would it be like if the body itself were the energy of pure freedom, playfulness, spontaneity? The body, just as it is, exactly the way it is, what if that were the energy of pure liberation? Not some other body, not your body is somehow better or fixed but this exact body, the energy of pure liberation, pure playful, spontaneous freedom. What would it be like if there were absolutely nothing to change, no plans to make, nothing to fix, everything already complete and perfect? All thoughts of any kind just dissolve into boundless sky effortlessly, naturally, unimpeded. What if the place of your saddest most terrified broken aloneness, what if that place, were identical to your deepest awakening?

Good, what if all those things are actually true and you, right now, just exactly the way you are a fully awake enlightened buddha? Right now, utterly free, utterly kind, wide awake. Recognize that now. Recognize your already existing awakened heart and rest as that, without changing anything.

Now again, into the sky of liberated utterly joyous, boundless awakeness imagine this fountain again, the fountain of pure, in this case, joy, kindness, belonging, and compassion, love, and picture this fountain radiating out from your body in all directions, shooting out so high and so wide that it’s bringing this love and joy and kindness to everyone everywhere, all people everywhere, all animals everywhere, all beings of every kind everywhere, and by everywhere I mean in all universes, the energy of touching their heart filling them with a real sense of being seen and held and loved and nurtured and cared for and then because it’s an imaginal fountain turn it up 10 times, 10 times as strong, 10 times as gentle, 10 times as sweet, and then even more, and then even more. Soaking universe after universe in divine love and joy and kindness.

And then, let go of it all and just rest as space, fundamental freedom, fundamental fullness. 


Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Good, now you can let go of the meditation, feel free to move and stretch.

Questions and Answers

Michael: Good, so anyone have any comments or questions?

Questioner 1: So it was easier to sit this time.

Michael: Very good. Were you practicing in the meantime?

Questioner 1: I went to the gym.

 Michael: You went to the gym. That’s its own kind of practice. Very good. Other comments or questions?

Questioner 2: What was the very last thing that you said to end the meditation? What does it mean?

Michael: So, that’s a very traditional Sanskrit verse, Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. Bhavantu comes from the verb to be, it’s cognate to the English word be, so the Bha there is the same as be. Bhavantu is a subjunctive so maybe. It’s interesting bhavana or bhava, same verb, can also mean to meditate, so there’s a kind of interesting valence there. But in this sentence, it means to be. Sukhino, let’s leave that for later. The first part lokah is the same as the English word location. In this case, it means everywhere in all locations, lokah in all locations. Samastah–may all beings, everyone everywhere, may they all be. And then the third word out of four is sukhino anyone know the word sukha? Sukhino–may they all be happy, so may everyone everywhere be happy. Very, very straightforward Sanskrit verse that I really like, and since Sanskrit is linguistically related to English parts of it are understandable if you know what to listen for. 

What else?

Questioner 3: When you use words like vast sky or vast mind in the meditation, nothing really happens and like…

Michael: Good, nothing’s supposed to happen.

Questioner 3: But there’s a reason why you mention these words, right?

Michael: Yes. So, it can sometimes seem as if the mind is kind of tight, or kind of small, and certainly, if we’re feeling real agitated or anxious or ashamed or something, it can really feel like we’re locked inside a tight little ball, a very uncomfortable little ball in our mind. But it’s funny, that’s kind of a trick we play on ourselves because one thing the mind can do is kind of curl back on itself, if it feels like it. And that can be kind of uncomfortable.

But for a reason that nobody knows, although it’s probably just some kind of playfulness, we choose to do that, and we’ve learned to do that, and our society reinforces us doing that, curling back in that tight little ball. But that’s not the true condition of the mind, at all. The true condition is just boundless space and a luminous cognizance. So it’s not just dead space, it’s really awake space without any tightness in it at all, and so I’m just inviting you to notice that about your own mind. And if you don’t notice it, it’s because you keep looking inside the tight ball, using tight energy to look inside the tight ball, and so it’s like you keep playing the trick on yourself. And yet, the minute you just relax for a second from doing that, it’s just open.

Okay, so it’s not that something’s supposed to happen or like, you know, the light shines–it just goes from narrow to tight, that kind of effort, to just relaxed, open, okay? But what’s interesting is even me doing that is more effort than it really takes, just that gesture of my hands is more effort than it really takes. Seriously, it’s just because the harder you effort, the tighter you’re making the ball, so you know like the Chinese finger trap thing? I don’t know what we really call that, but you know it’s like a thing where you try to pull your finger out and it gets tighter and tighter, that’s what it’s like. So the more that you try to get out of the tight mind by tension or pulling or tightness, it just gets tighter. But it’s a kind of magic trick where you just relax and it’s just not tight anymore. Okay? If that doesn’t make sense, just keep–I keep inviting you to notice and eventually you go, oh yeah, that was always there. 

So if there was a gunshot right now off in the distance, this is America, there’s a gunshot off in the distance, would you hear it? Yes or no?

Probably, of course, you’d hear it. How did you hear that? How did you hear it? Because awareness is in all directions, right? It’s already there, so awareness is already naturally wide in all directions. And it’s only because we’re on purpose tightening down into a little ball, and we get trained to be focused in that way, and we get paid to be focused in that way, and we get praised for being focused in that way, we forget that you can just be open. But that’s what your mind wants to do, just relax and be open. So when I say those words, I’m just pointing to what’s always been there and inviting you to recognize what’s already there, okay? You don’t believe me but that’s okay.

Questioner 3: No, I believe you. 

Michael: Please, don’t believe me, just notice it for yourself. 

Questioner 3: If I relax too much, I feel like I just fall asleep. That’s my issue right now. 

Michael: Sure. And again, that’s because we keep ourselves so tight with a lot of anxiety and tension and if we relax the natural thing is to conk out. Okay, but even when we’re conked out the awareness is just as awake. You’ll still get woken up by the gunshot. So the constant background of our lives…and so eventually you’ll notice that even in the deepest sleep you’re just as awake. Okay, so for now, if conking out is a problem meditate with your eyes open, sit up straight, and just relax. Typically, not in your case, I don’t know you, but very commonly there’s something we’re trying not to notice, something we don’t want to feel, or something we don’t want to think about, and so we either stay real anxious or if we start to relax we go unconscious, so we don’t have to feel it or notice it. So the trick there, not necessarily for you, but for lots of people, is to on purpose look for the thing you don’t want to feel and feel it, or think about the thing you’re trying to avoid thinking about, and just be with it for a while. And then all of a sudden you can be more awake when you relax because there’s nothing to avoid. Sounds pretty easy. Thanks for your question. 

What else? I want some hard questions or some really stupid questions.

Questioner 4: How strict is the no-moving rule?

Michael: Way stricter than what you did.

Questioner 4: I picked a position, I was trying to save my back, and I realized halfway through that my knees are on fire. That’s all I could think about the whole time.

Michael: I saw it. So either sit in a chair or get a higher cushion. You can stack two up so that your hips are way above your knees. That’ll probably do it or like I say, just sit in a chair.  It’s not–we’re not sitting rigidly still, it’s relaxed, okay? So if it starts to be real uncomfortable I invite you to either allow that discomfort to be the opening that you go through to awakeness. It can really work or again next time just have a chair. It’s great to have you here. 

Questioner 5: In a situation where it’s kind of hard to relax like that is it still preferable to try and like enter that vast space? I forget how you worded it. Or do you want to try and focus on that thing that you’re probably avoiding?

Michael: It’s a judgment call. If you’re really agitated, then just see if you can relax but if you’re really conking out, see if you can wake up a little bit by sitting up straight or opening your eyes. But if you notice you’re too agitated, which means your mind is going all over, see if you can just breathe deep and relax. If you’re conking out, try to sit up straight, open your eyes. But if what you’re noticing is a kind of resistance or avoidance or a bouncing-off feeling, like you’re bouncing off, then you might want to investigate and instead of ‘what’s it like to be a perfectly awakened dachshund’ or whatever my questions were, you’d say, what am I avoiding right now? And then just open and it will come up.

Okay, so that’s how you might do that. And that might be a wild ride. It might not be five minutes. That might be a whole hour of sitting with that but eventually, I mean that’s worth doing, and then eventually you’ll notice you can really start to drop in. Okay?

Questioner 6: I’m thinking about this moment in the meditation when you said something about you’re kind of inviting all these really sort of positive experiences of kindness and love and whatever, and then I think at some point you invited something like feelings that we struggle with and then said something like, what if they were the same thing?

Michael: I said, what if your most broken sad aloneness were the same as your deepest awakening? 

Questioner 6: Can you speak more about that?

Michael: Yeah, so again it’s kind of related to what we were just saying or what I was just saying where in this way of working it’s not that you have to feel great all the time or are trying to be this perfect thing, or only have good emotions, or only nice thoughts, or whatever. All thoughts, all emotions all states of mind, all states of being are still doorways to awake awareness. They’re just as awake. 

And, in fact, what starts to kind of impede that is if there’s things we don’t want to feel and don’t want to think and don’t want to experience. That starts to build a kind of obfuscatory Berlin Wall, you know, like a real wall seemingly between you and awake awareness. So that stuff that we’re trying to avoid, in essence, we’re kind of avoiding our self. And so, the way through, the way in is always through, right? We go in, in, in, in… So those places where you’re like, I’m so broken and alone and and and… it’s I’m too sick to ever be healed and too insane to ever be awake, and no nobody could possibly love me, and how can I… you know, that kind of feeling right inside the center of that–I mean feel it right now, right inside the center of it. It’s just as awake as anything else. It’s just as clear. It’s just as spacious. It’s just as sacred. It’s just as pure. We don’t avoid that, or somehow put that in the basement and, you know, try to never feel that. Instead, we make friends with all, all, all thoughts, all feelings, everything that arises, right? It’s the only way. It’s the only way. And it’s that thing of, you know, you’re sitting there and you wake up at 3 a.m and just how magnified some of that negative content can become, right? It can just seem like you’re a little child again, and you’re just so afraid, we’re so alone, or so broken, or whatever and that moment can be like the best meditation you’ve ever had. 

You know where you just say yes to that and just notice that the core of that is shining with real clarity, and beauty, and a kind of aliveness, right? A kind of real aliveness. No, it’s not that we’re on purpose, you know, soaking in that. Although, if you want to do that sure, but you know when that comes up that we’re used to thinking like, oh, that’s the bad thing, that’s what I want to make go away, and banish it forever. And that banishing is like a banishing of ourselves, it banishes our own awakening. Our own liberation means all the things are accepted, all the things are included, all this. 

How could any state of thought or feeling ever hurt your awake awareness? They can’t and, in fact, they’re actually the expression of it. They’re made of it. All the highs and lows and beauty and darkness, all of it. So we welcome all that. And you’ll notice, all of a sudden, you can drop in in a way that you weren’t able to before because before you were bouncing off, and bouncing off, and bouncing off, but because you said yes you didn’t bounce off, you went in. Okay?

When I was a really little kid my sister went to girl scout camp and she came back after weeks, and I was–we were little enough that her being gone for like two weeks was a big deal–I was like, oh my god, you’re back! And she brought with her a little toy, you know it’s like a little naked guy with big hair, a troll. Yeah, one of those, and she had this wooden plaque like that big that using a magnifying glass someone had burned into it the slogan do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain which I still remember even though I was like four when I first saw it because she brought back the engraved plaque and I was like, oh it’s like really important. Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain and it’s the same idea. Not that we’re trying to kill fear but go in and the wholeness is there. When we don’t want to feel something, we don’t want to experience something, that’s we’re creating fragmentation within ourselves. And what we’re practicing here is wholeness, real wholeness, not just pretty wholeness. So what thing are you avoiding? What thing are you–I feel like I give this talk every week–what thing are you trying not to feel or think? That’s the way forward. Thanks for your question. Yeah.

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