What Is Consciousness?
Consciousness is you—it is the Being that is aware of these words. Beyond the field of body and mind, beyond the conditioned beliefs from culture, beyond the ego personality and all of its activity, there is pure, ever-present awareness; pure consciousness; pure Being. This is our true nature, yet because of cultural conditioning, most people are unaware of the truth of who they are. We mistakenly identify ourselves with the body and mind, and often suffer greatly because of this.
It has long been taught by mainstream science that Consciousness is a product of the brain—even though scientists have not been able to locate exactly where in the brain Consciousness exists. This theory of Consciousness being a product of the brain does not account for other forms of life that exhibit behaviors of sentience that do not have a brain. Jellyfish, for example, have no brain, nor do plants, cells, bacteria, or minerals. Yet, all appear to react to external stimuli, all appear to have some degree of Consciousness.
The classical worldview of physics asserts that the Universe is material—made from solid basic building blocks called particles. This material world is based in time and space; and is regarded as being highly predictable. The classical worldview, however, gives no explanation for Consciousness. It does not tell us how matter produces Consciousness, nor does it even appear possible for matter to produce Consciousness. Accepting the classical view has caused most people to perceive themselves as insignificant, purely material creatures in a Universe in which they don't seem to belong.
There is another way of understanding the Universe, however, but science has held much resistance towards it, because if mainstream science were to accept it, it would completely change their current worldview, as it doesn't fit into the current scientific model. This new (yet actual quite ancient) understanding is that matter does not create Consciousness, but rather Consciousness creates matter. This is the worldview held by many ancient wisdom traditions, and it has also been proposed by many leading quantum physicists.
Quantum physicists have theorized that Consciousness is the ground of all existence—that at the source of all matter there is a field of Consciousness, where all things exist as possibilities and potentialities. They state that the reality we experience is only a temporary manifestation of the deeper reality of this quantum field of Consciousness.
“All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”
―Max Planck, Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist, known as “The Father of Quantum Theory”
The video below provides an introduction into the mysterious world of quantum physics, and what it reveals is that Consciousness is far more involved in reality than we have been taught to believe by mainstream science.
The above video is an introduction to the famous Double-Slit Experiment in which physicists discovered that the very act of recording the data—of measuring, or observing the electrons—determined whether they behaved as particles or waves. In physics this is known as the measurement problem. The measurement problem points out that the nature of an electron changes when you look at it or try to measure it. It collapses from being a wave into a particle in space and time, which is what we see as reality.
The Double-Slit Experiment reveals that particles are not really what they appear to be. Particles are momentary manifestations of a deeper level of reality, a reality that physicist David Bohm has named "The Implicate Order." Particles are only manifested in space and time—only come out of the Implicate Order—once they are observed or measured. This means that an electron—the core element of what we call our physical reality—is only a particle of matter when someone is looking at it. Otherwise, it is a wave, and is not solid at all.
This discovery poses some serious questions about the nature of reality. All matter—everything that we perceive to be solid and real—exists as waves, and only manifest as particles in space and time when we observe them, showing clearly that there is no reality independent of the observer, no reality independent of Consciousness. Without Consciousness, there can be nothing to be conscious of. On the same token, without something to be conscious of, Consciousness cannot know that it exists. How can there be an observer without something to observe? And how can something be observed without an observer?
“Although mind and objects of mind are considered two different fields, in fact, they are one. Mind is the perceiver and objects of mind are the perceived. But perceiver and perceived can never be separated; they make one whole. Objects of mind do not arise independently of mind. Objects of mind—including the body, the feelings, and all other mental formations—are products of mind.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist Monk and Teacher
The Truth is, that we couldn’t possibly conceive of a Universe that exists apart from our perception, as every experience of what appears to be an objective reality, could not possibly exist without a subjective consciousness there to bring the world into form. Subject and object, like two sides of a coin, make a single whole—one cannot exist without the other.
You are far more important than you might believe yourself to be. Most people feel as though they are only an insignificant human in a vast universe with no meaning or purpose. Quantum physics shows us, however, that we are far more involved in our reality than we could possibly imagine. The entire universe may only be a manifestation of your/our Consciousness. Take these words that you are reading, for example. They appear to be outside of you, but they are really being viewed in an area located in the back of your brain where vision takes place. They are being created and experienced within your own mind. Everything you experience is being experienced within your own mind. You cannot and will not ever experience something apart from your Consciousness, and this is true for all experience. All experience exists within the field of Consciousness.
Mainstream science currently views everything as a continual evolution of physical processes, but they have no explanation for how physical processes give rise to subjective experience. This has often been referred to in science as “the hard problem.” An objective reality cannot give rise to subjective consciousness, but based on new discoveries in quantum physics, we now know that Consciousness can give rise to a reality that is seemingly objective.
For the sake of having a model to work with, let us imagine that our Universe is really a virtual reality. A virtual reality cannot compute itself; it needs a computer. According to theories in digital physics, Consciousness is the computer for our Universe. Consciousness is not something produced by the brain or body, but rather the brain is merely a receiver of Consciousness. This would explain much of the strange phenomena that mainstream science is currently unable to explain, such as the phenomenon of remote viewing, in which people are able to see and accurately describe things that are out of range of the sensory perception of their physical bodies. It would also explain such phenomena as outer-body experiences, or astral travel in which people report being able to leave their physical bodies and explore different realms of the Universe. It would also make more sense of the mind-over-matter phenomenon of the placebo effect, in which people have been able to heal a range of illnesses, from minor colds to life-threatening diseases, simply through the power of their subconscious beliefs. According to the worldview of modern science, these types of strange phenomena make no sense, and are usually dismissed without further investigation, even though phenomena of this kind continue to occur, and have been reported by thousands of people throughout history. Based on the theory that Consciousness is not a result of physical processes, and is outside of space and time, it would make sense that mind has such a powerful influence over physical reality.
If we can accept that Consciousness is not produced by physical reality, but is rather the computer of our virtual reality, we will also have to acknowledge that since it is not material, it cannot be modeled. This would explain why so many mystics state that the true nature of reality is ultimately unknowable, as it is beyond what is perceptible to us in the physical world. This is described in the ancient text of the Upanishads when it states that, “He who thinks God is not comprehended, by him God is comprehended; But he who thinks that God is comprehended knows him not. God is unknown to those who know him, and is known to those who do not know him at all.” Even in China a similar understanding was held by the great sage Lao Tzu when he wrote, "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be named is not the eternal name."
Consciousness cannot be modeled because it is the computer running the model—the computer running the virtual reality that we call the physical universe. It cannot be perceived because it is the one perceiving. Thus mind is the primary force in the universe—matter and energy being secondary. As conscious beings, we are all tapped into the computing power of the computer computing the universe, which means ultimately we are the computer. Individual Consciousness is a reflection of Universal Consciousness, and vice-versa. Or as it is described in the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta: Atman (the individual soul) is Brahman (the universal soul). We are not individual drops in the ocean; we are the entire ocean within a drop. The All is in the one, and the one is in the All.
In the ancient Hermetic text of The Kyballion it states that “THE ALL IS MIND; The Universe is Mental.” According to a direct quote from The Kyballion: “This principle embodies the truth that “All is Mind.” It explains that the ALL (which is the substantial reality underlying all the outward manifestations and appearances which we know under the terms of “the material universe,” the “phenomena of life,” “matter,” “energy,” and, in short, all that is apparent to our material senses) is SPIRIT which in itself is UNKNOWABLE and UNDEFINABLE, but which may be considered and thought of as AN UNIVERSAL, INFINITE, LIVING MIND. It also explains that all the phenomenal world or universe is simply a Mental Creation of THE ALL, subject to the Laws of Created Things, and that the universe, as a whole, and in its parts or units, has its existence in the mind of THE ALL.”
All around the world there are ancient traditions which knew that Consciousness was the primary force in the universe, and that our physical reality was only a projection of Consciousness and was far less real than it appeared to be. These ancient wisdom traditions teach that our suffering is caused by our bondage to the material world—by mistaking the material world to be the ultimate reality, and by being ignorant of the true reality of our Consciousness.
"This is not the real reality. The real reality is behind the curtain. In truth, we are not here. This is our shadow."
-Rumi, 13th Century Poet & Sufi Mystic
Just as many Quantum Physicists state that Consciousness is the ground of all being, many mystics also claim that Mind, Awareness, God, or Spirit is the source of all creation. In the Tibetan tradition of Dzogchen, it is said that Rigpa is the fundamental awareness, the true nature of the mind, the ground of all experience. In the Indian tradition of Advaita Vedanta it is said that Brahman is the underlying reality of all existence. In Taoism it is known that the Tao underlies all phenomena. All around the world it has been known that Consciousness is the one constant of all experience—everything changes, except for the awareness in which all things change.
Consciousness is the essence of the Universe, the essence of all life, the essence of who we are. We all share this Consciousness, we are all a part of this greater whole. Everyone and everything is you, and you are everyone and everything. When you realize this deeply, you will begin to see yourself in others, and the eyes of love and compassion will awaken within you.
In Buddhism, this mind of compassion is referred to as "bodhicitta," bodhi meaning "awakened," and citta meaning "mind." It is only when we are able to see ourselves in all things and recognize our interconnectedness that we will then have the correct view and understanding, from which harmonious actions and lifestyles will arise.
To awaken to this mind of bodhicitta is to awaken the heart, to awaken compassion, kindness, and care for oneself and others (for in reality there are no "others"). To awaken the mind of bodhicitta, however, one must also realize the true nature of phenomena from their own experience. No one can realize it for you. This is where the journey of awakening becomes far more individualized. Science has accomplished a lot, and it will continue to do so, but there comes a point when we must turn away from the so-called objective reality, and turn our attention on to the reality within our own being.
"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve."
—Max Planck, Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist
We want to help you discover your true nature—the deeper level of Consciousness that precedes the egoic thinking mind—and provide you with a practical way to do so. There are many traditions, practices and methods that can help you in your process of self-realization, and certainly it is an individual journey in which one must discover the Truth for oneself. But we have found that in our experience, the Tibetan Bön-Buddhist tradition of Dzogchen, offers a very profound and practical framework for self-realization, and we would like to share this framework with you so that you can apply it in your own life to discover the true nature of your own mind.
"Liberation from suffering occurs when we recognize and abide in our true nature. That which recognizes is not the conceptual mind; it is the fundamental mind, the nature of mind, Rigpa. Our necessary task is to distinguish, in practice, between the conceptual mind and the pure awareness of the nature of mind."
—Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
The below passage is an excerpt from the book, "The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep" by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. We do not claim the rights to this information, we are merely sharing it for the benefit of all beings who read it:
"The conceptual or moving mind is the familiar mind of everyday experience, constantly busy with thoughts, memories, images, internal dialogues, judgments, meanings, emotions, and fantasies. It is the mind normally identified as "me" and "my experience." Its fundamental dynamic is engagement with a dualistic vision of existence. It takes itself to be a subject in a world of objects. It grasps at some parts of experience and pushes others away. It is reactive, wildly so sometimes, but even when it is extremely calm and subtle--for example, during meditation or intense concentration--it maintains the internal posture of an entity observing its environment and continues to participate in dualism.
The conceptual mind is not limited to language and ideas. Language--with its nouns and verbs, subjects and objects--is necessarily subject to dualism, but the conceptual mind is active in us before the acquisition of language. Animals have a conceptual mind, in this sense, as do infants and those born without the capacity for language. It is the result of habitual karmic tendencies that are present before we develop a sense of self, even before we are born. Its essential characteristic is that it instinctively divides experience dualistically, beginning with subject and object, with me and not-me.
The Mother Tantra refers to this mind as the "active manifestation mind." It is the mind that arises dependent on the movement of karmic prana (life force), and manifests in forms as thoughts, concepts, and other mental activities. If the conceptual mind becomes completely still, it dissolves into the nature of mind and will not arise again until activity reconstitutes it.
The moving mind's activities are virtuous, non-virtuous, or neutral. Virtuous actions host the experience of the nature of mind. Neutral actions disturb the connection to the nature of mind. Non-virtuous actions create more disturbance and lead to further disconnection. The teachings go into detail regarding the discrimination between virtuous and non-virtuous actions, such as generosity and greediness and so on. This, however is the clearest distinction: some actions lead to greater connection to Rigpa (consciousness) and some lead to disconnection.
The ego bound by the duality of subject and object arises from the moving mind. From this mind all suffering arises; the conceptual mind works very hard, and this is what it accomplishes. We live in memories of the past and fantasies of the future, cut off from the direct experience of the radiance and beauty of life.
Non-Dual Awareness: Rigpa
The fundamental reality of mind is pure, non-dual awareness: Rigpa. Its essence is one with the essence of all that exists. In practice, it must not be confused with even the subtlest, quietest, and most expansive states of the moving mind. Unrecognized, the nature of mind manifests as the moving mind, but when it is known directly it is both the path to liberation and liberation itself.
Dzogchen teachings often use a mirror to symbolize Rigpa. A mirror reflects everything without choice, preference, or judgement. It reflects the beautiful and the ugly, the big and the small, the virtuous and the non-virtuous. There are no limits or restrictions on what it can reflect, yet the mirror is unstained and unaffected by whatever is reflected in it. nor does it ever cease reflecting.
Similarly, all phenomena of experience arise in Rigpa: thoughts, images, emotions, the grasping and the grasped, every apparent subject and object, every experience. The conceptual mind itself arises and abides in Rigpa. Life and death take place in the nature of mind, but it is neither born nor does it die, just as reflections come and go without creating or destroying the mirror. Identifying with the conceptual mind, we live as one of the reflections of the mirror, reacting to the other reflections, suffering confusion and pain, endlessly living and dying. We take the reflections for the reality and spend our lives chasing illusions.
When the conceptual mind is free of grasping and aversion, it spontaneously relaxes into unfabricated Rigpa. Then there is no longer an identification with the reflections in the mirror and we can effortlessly accommodate all that arises in experience, appreciating every moment. If hatred arises, the mirror is filled with hatred. When love arises, the mirror is filled with love. For the mirror itself, neither love nor hatred is significant: both are equally a manifestation of its innate capacity to reflect. This is known as the mirror-like wisdom; when we recognize the nature of mind and develop the ability to abide in it, no emotional state distracts us. Instead, all states and all phenomena, even anger, jealousy, and so on, are released into the purity and clarity that is their essence. Abiding in Rigpa, we cut karma at its root and are released from the bondage of samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth).
Stabilizing in Rigpa also makes it easier to realize all other spiritual aspirations. It is easier to practice virtue when free of grasping and the sense of lack, easier to practice compassion when not obsessed with ourselves, easier to practice transformation when unattached to false and constricted identities.
The Mother Tantra refers to the nature of mind as "primordial mind." It is like the ocean, while ordinary mind is like the rivers, lakes, and creeks that share in the nature of the ocean and return to it, but temporarily exist as apparently separate bodies of water. The moving mind is also compared to bubbles in the ocean of primordial mind that constantly form and dissolve, depending on the strength of the karmic winds. But the nature of the ocean does not change."
—Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep
The purpose of providing the above passage was to show that there is a distinction between our overactive thinking mind, and the deeper awareness that the thinking mind arises from. We want to help you discover the true nature of your own mind, to discover your primordial essence, which is absolutely pure, perfect, and complete as it is. The conceptual mind is the source of all suffering. It causes us to resist the impermanent and ever-changing nature of reality, propelling us to endlessly seek for and grasp at pleasurable experiences, and avoid experiences which are unpleasant. It causes us to live in a world of judgments and discriminations which we impose on reality and distort our view in the process. It causes us to live in confusion, unaware of who we are, and unaware of the stories that we tell ourselves—stories that define our lives, and often stories that keep us in a mental prison of suffering.
None of the stories you tell yourself are a truthful representation of reality. They are all based on your conditioning, your memories, your language, your habits, and the many impressions that have been made on your mind. The mind is a powerful thing, and if we do not recognize the essence of the mind, we can easily get lost in the mind and its projections.
By recognizing your true nature, and stabilizing yourself in it, you allow life to take its natural course, flowing with change and embracing the reality of your direct experience. By recognizing your true nature, you find freedom from the suffering created by the mind, and you find peace within yourself, opening yourself up to the beauty and mystery of life.
Having an intellectual understanding of these concepts is great, and often very necessary, but it will not take you all the way. If you want to realize your true nature you must do so yourself. No teacher, book, or article can do that for you. You must apply this information to your own life, and be open to what it can reveal to you.
"If you never try, you can never be successful; if you do try, you might surprise yourself."
Having the intellectual understanding is great, but it must be balanced with practice and personal experience. We have provided information and instruction on meditation practices below, and we highly recommend learning them and applying them to your daily life. This information is powerful and transformative, and if you are looking for ways to positively change in your life, we cannot overstate the value of learning and applying this information.
For those who want to further their knowledge and understanding of what has been discussed in this page, we recommend checking out the book "The Answer Is YOU" by Joseph P. Kauffman.
Shamatha meditation—mindfulness or concentration—is a foundational meditation practice because it calms the mind, helps one become aware of the present moment, and trains the mind to stop wandering and producing unnecessary thoughts, but to instead remain at peace in the here and now.
If we want a seed to grow and produce fruit, we need to give it the proper care and attention. To help the seed of an awakening mind grow to maturity, we strongly recommend the practice of Shamatha meditation. The instructions are simple, but to develop and maintain a daily practice is often challenging and is completely up to you and your own efforts. We hope that we can provide you with the essential knowledge and inspiration to practice Shamatha meditation frequently, so that you may receive the many benefits that this simple practice can provide.
• Take a seat. Find a place where you can sit and relax, preferably a quiet place with minimal distractions. Sit in a comfortable position—you can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit on the floor with your legs crossed, you can sit in lotus position, you can kneel—all are fine. The important thing is that you are stable and your body is relaxed. It also helps in many ways to maintain a straight spine—the posture of our body influences the posture of our mind and also helps us to remain more stable and alert.
• Set a time limit. If you are new to meditation, it can help to choose a short amount of time, such as 5 or 10 minutes, and gradually increase the length.
• Observe your breath. Close your eyes and observe the inhalation and exhalation of the breath moving through your nostrils. Keep your attention focused only on the sensations of breath in the nose area, as having a smaller area of focus helps to sharpen the mind. Simply sit and watch your breath coming in and going out. Don't try to control the breath in any way, just observe the natural breath. Allow the breath to be as it is.
Some meditation techniques use mantras as they inhale and exhale, count numbers, or say words, but in Shamatha meditation we do not do this. We simply observe the direct reality of this moment—seeing and feeling the breath as it is. Mantras, counting, and using words may help keep concentration, but it is easy to get lost in them and forget to see the reality of the breath. In this meditation the direct experience of the breath itself is our object.
• Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensations and awareness of the breath and wander to thoughts and other distractions. When you notice that your mind has wandered—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath. If you lose your breath for longer times, kindly keep practicing and trying to shorten the length of time that you forget your breath. Ultimately, we aim to be able to observe the breath continuously without getting distracted by thoughts or sensations.
• Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just acknowledge them, let them go, and come back to your breath.
The practice is as simple as that. You sit, you observe, you get distracted, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible.
Each time that we meditate, we are rewiring our brain, strengthening the connections between neurons, and increasing the capacity of our concentration and awareness. Most importantly we are liberating ourselves from our prison of endless thinking and training the mind to be aware of the reality of this moment—the only true reality.
The mind is like a muscle, and we should exercise it regularly so that it can function optimally. Meditation is something that we should be happy to practice, it is not something that we should look at as a chore. It brings us freedom and opens us up to the present moment of life, helping us become aware of the ways that our minds work, our habits and patterns of thought, the stories we tell ourselves, and the many ways we are resisting the present moment and preventing ourselves from being happy.
It is important that while meditating, you do not to try to resist or suppress what comes up in your mind, but just acknowledge it, witness it, and allow it to be. Everything is impermanent, so whatever arises, let it be, and it will pass. There is no way to quiet your mind or to stop the thoughts from arising, and that is not the goal here. All you’re trying to do is pay attention to the present moment, without judgment, and without getting distracted by the thoughts that arise.
The goal is to become aware, and to learn to rest in your awareness and accept the things that enter and leave the space of your awareness. When meditating, also try to notice if there is any tension that you are holding in your body (typically people hold tension in the face, brow, jowl, shoulders, and back) and see if you can relax the tension in your body. We often unconsciously hold a lot of tension in our bodies that isn't necessary, and that causes our bodies harm. By becoming aware of this tension, we can consciously relax it, and heal our bodies in the process.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, and the benefits of meditation are incredible. Meditation has been proven to:
• Lessen worry, anxiety & impulsive actions
• Reduce stress, fear, loneliness & depression
• Enhance self-esteem & self-acceptance
• Improve resilience against pain & adversity
• Increase optimism, relaxation, & awareness
• Improve self-control & reduce addictive tendencies
• Improve mood & emotional intelligence
• Increase mental strength & focus
• Increase memory retention & recall
• Enhance cognitive skills, problem solving & creative thinking
• Improve focus & manage ADHD
• Improve immune system & energy level
• Improve breathing & heart rate
• Reduce blood pressure
• Increase lifespan & longevity
• Increase self awareness & mental clarity
• Develop inner peace
Meditation has such a positive effect on us because it allows us to relax, to reconnect with our bodies and our breath, and to become aware of who we are beyond the mind. It enables us to observe the mind’s conditioning and how it habitually responds to thoughts and sensations. Many of the physical ailments that people have originate in the mind, and so meditation often has a great effect on us physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Spiritually, meditation is of great importance because it takes us beyond the mind into a space of pure awareness, where we realize that we are not our mind or any of the thoughts that arise in our mind. We are pure Consciousness, we are Spirit, we are Life itself, and within us is an infinite ocean of potential. Meditation reconnects us with our source, and empowers us as the free and creative beings that we naturally are.
In Tibet, Shamatha meditation is called “shi-ney.” Shi means “peace,” and Ney means “to stay.” So this meditation is teaching us not to follow the habit of escaping ourselves and escaping the present moment, but instead learning to stay with ourselves, and learning to find peace within ourselves. This meditation is found in almost every tradition, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Sufism, Christianity, and many others. But you can be a follower of any tradition, or do not have to follow any tradition, to practice it. The purpose of this meditation is simply to transform the busyness that is our normal mental state into relaxation, calm, and focus. In doing so, we gain freedom from our minds and the suffering that the mind produces, we become aware of our true nature which is the ever-present awareness that precedes the mind, and we discover new levels of peace, happiness, & freedom.
Dzogchen teaches that the knowing that is present in every experience is unconditioned by every experience. This knowing, this awareness, is eternal, unchanging, and ever present. We are not the object of knowledge, we are the knowing itself. Our true nature is this awareness—unchanging and ever present.
In Sanskrit the nature of this awareness is often referred to as Sat Chit Ananda, which means existence, consciousness, bliss. They say that that is our true nature. Existence, consciousness, bliss. We simply are. We exist. We are aware. And the nature of our awareness is pure and blissful.
It is difficult for us to grasp this because it is something that can’t be understood conceptually. It can’t be known through intellectual knowledge alone. It has to be experiential. It cannot be the object of knowledge, it is the knowing itself. In the words of the Indian Sage Shankara, “For He is the Knower, and the Knower can know other things, but cannot make Himself the object of his own knowledge, in the same way that fire can burn other things, but cannot burn itself.” The aim of Dzogchen meditation is to get in touch with this natural state of being—the true nature of awareness; the natural state of bliss.
Eckhart Tolle, a modern spiritual teacher, once said that “You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” From our experience, we have also found this to be true. The realization of who you are at your deepest level enables you to find peace and contentment within your own being, letting go of all the things you have mistakenly identified with, along with all of the suffering that was created around these false identifications.
“Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.”
We would like to provide a meditation now to help you get in touch with the truth of who you are, to realize your true nature as pure awareness. This type of meditation is called “Non-Conceptual Ceditation.” But before we begin the meditation, we would like to offer a passage from the book "The Answer Is YOU" so that we can better understand what “non-conceptual” really means:
“The Buddha did not spend much time talking about the creation, origin, and meaning of the Universe. His focus was on providing people with a practical way to be free of their suffering. Though we can see from his teachings that he had profound wisdom and a deep understanding of the nature of reality.
He realized that there is an ultimate reality that is beyond beginning and ending, beyond up and down, beyond coming and going, beyond birth and death, beyond being and non-being—and he called this ultimate reality Nirvana. Nirvana is the absence of all notions, the absence of all concepts, and the absence of all mental constructions of any kind. It is not something that we run after or strive to attain; it is the very ground of our existence.
Many of us suffer because we are caught in the notions that we have a beginning and an ending, that we have a birth and a death, that we are the same or that we are different. But when we touch our true nature, the nature of Nirvana, we transcend all of these notions and become free.
These notions and concepts that our minds create are the source of all our fears, and consequently are the source of everything that prevents us from feeling love, freedom, and happiness. When we drop all of our notions and reach the state of Nirvana, we are no longer afraid of birth and death, of being and nonbeing, or of any of the ideas that our minds create.
True freedom is freedom from the known, freedom from concepts, freedom from the idea of being the one Self or of being a separate self. True freedom is the freedom of touching our true nature—the freedom to just be, right here and now, in the unknowable, indefinable, and immeasurable beauty and mystery of the present moment.”
--Joseph P. Kauffman, The Answer Is YOU
In the book, a quote from Suryanarayana Raju is also provided:
“At present your awareness is object knowing awareness. Unless you are mentally free from the objects you will not be free in the present moment. Don’t think objects of you just physical, there are inner objects like ideas, beliefs, dogmas, desires, ambitions, craving to become something, fears, etc. If you can see the transiency of these objects your mind will be free from these objects and your awareness then becomes pure. Only pure awareness has the capacity to be present in the present moment because it has no distraction towards objects. The harsh reality is that your awareness is continuously distracted by the objects because you are investing something in them and so you will never be able to be present in the present moment. All the time you are projecting something from your past experiences which we call mind into the future thus missing the present. Missing the present means you are missing life because life is always a new flow in the present moment and unless we are with that flow we will not be able to participate in life. At present what we call life is nothing but perpetuation of dead past and we cling to this past because we feel secure in the past because it is known and we are afraid to live life in the “present” which is always new and unknowable. We are all afraid of leaving the known which is like death and we don’t dare to live the unknowable. To live with the unknowable we must first be free of inner and outer objects.”
– Suryanarayana Raju
Non-Conceptual Meditation is about getting in touch with the unknown, indefinable, yet ever present reality of life. It is about not only discovering our true nature as pure awareness, but cultivating the habit of being in this awareness, so that we may flow with life, rather than clinging to life or resisting life.
Dzogchen has been translated as “The Great Perfection” because it gets us in touch with that state of perfection within ourselves where nothing needs to be done, nothing needs to be fixed, and nothing needs to be improved. Everything is perfect just as it is. We just need to rest in our awareness, and allow life to flow naturally.
The great sage and founder of Taoism Lao Tzu said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
This quote really captures the essence of non-conceptual meditation. When we begin the meditation, we need to drop all of our goals and intentions. If we are holding on to any expectations, it is not Dzogchen meditation. Then, whatever comes up, just let it come; let it be. We let things pass through unhindered, and they dissolve naturally. We just watch. Even if you “the watcher” appear, it’s no different—just watch that and let it be. There is no need to internally question or analyze anything that appears. Just remain open and resting. The thoughts will come and dissolve on their own. Just remain the unattached observer. Do not label the thoughts. Do not judge them, criticize them, or try to understand them. Just let them come, and let them dissolve. In Dzogchen this is called liberation upon arising—the mere appearance of the thought is its liberation—it comes, and it goes. We let it come, we let it go. All while remaining centered in the peace of our ever present awareness. We are awake, but unengaged.
We sometimes think of meditation as a kind of escape from our hectic world. For example, we just want to be free from harsh and loud noises so that we can sit in a place that is quiet and peaceful. Dzogchen teachers have discovered that peace does not have to be dependent on our circumstances, but rather it is dependent on us and our ability to relax and be open to whatever arises. In non-conceptual meditation, the need for our outer environment to be peaceful is really an inner tension, one that needs to be let go of. So whatever comes to us and whatever we feel, think, or perceive, allow it to merge completely with the meditation and perceive that there are no distinctions between this and that, you and I, no need for pushing away or taking in. Just allowing everything to be.
Lower any expectation you might have of the meditation. We are not doing it to gain or accomplish anything. We are doing it to be free. We are allowing everything to arise without creating an inner resistance. Whether the noise is coming from outside of you, or inside your head, it is all just noise, all part of one big happening, and we are just observing this happening, and allowing it to happen on its own, without our need for involvement. We are allowing our minds to be like space. Space allows everything to exist within it, yet it is not bound by anything. So too, our minds can become like space. We can welcome whatever arises, and we can let go of whatever passes, while we remain unaffected in our foundation of peace and stillness.
In the Shamatha meditation (the most commonly practiced meditation), we focus on one object, typically the object of our breath. In this meditation however, we do not have any particular focus, but instead we are just resting in our natural state of awareness. It must be stated though, that if your mind has a great habit of distraction, it is best to practice Shamatha first for a while in order to calm your mind and increase its faculties of attention. Shamatha provides an excellent foundation for other practices.
In Non-Conceptual Meditation, We are not engaging in what arises, but we are not resisting it either. We are simply learning to stay in our center, and to allow our center to stay open to all experience. The basic instructions for this meditation are “Relax and open.”
• Set a time limit for the meditation (not always necessary, but helpful for beginners).
• Close your eyes (this meditation may also be practiced with the eyes open, but for beginners, closed eyes are recommended), and let go of all expectations you might have of the meditation.
• Relax your mind, your body, and your breath, and just observe. It is important that you do not feel rushed or have a sense of urgency—there is nowhere you need to be other than right here and now.
• Allow yourself to be in this state of relaxed, unattached, unbound, open, observing.
• Allow thoughts, emotions, and sensations to enter and exit your awareness on their own accord. Do not give your energy and attention to what comes and goes, simply allow it to be.
• Just remain relaxed in this open awareness.
• If you get distracted, and your attention becomes focused on an object of awareness, simply notice it, and come back to your spacious, open, observing.
• Rest in this natural state.
The Dzogchen teachings are based on the idea that enlightenment and primordial purity is our natural condition, it is the pure state of mind that exists within all beings.
We can realize this in our own experience, and if we are sincere, we can even sustain this realization in our everyday lives. It cannot be sustained through force, but really it comes down to relaxing deeply to the subtle level of mind that is one with the true nature of reality. So we must practice as often as possible in order to become accustomed to a reality that we have misperceived until now. It becomes crucial that we also learn to take our practice out of sitting meditation and into everyday life. This is often referred to as “post meditation” and it involves maintaining mindfulness in our everyday lives. Practice being mindful of where you are and what you are doing as you go through your day. Use the short pauses that constantly occur between activities to relax your mind and focus on your breath—such as waiting in line, in traffic, at a red light, or whatever activity causes you to pause. Use this pause to relax and reconnect with your primordial center of peace.
It is also helpful to recognize that all beings have the same true nature, and while there may be differences in appearance, that inner reality at the core of our being is one and the same. If we can remember this, we can have compassion for others. Even if people act in a way that is disrespectful or violent, it is because they are ignorant of their true nature. People that hurt others only do so because they are hurt themselves. If we can find that place of peace within us, we can act from that center, and we can help others find peace as well.
"The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror; it grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it recieves, but does not keep."
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