This guided meditation explores consciousness through a Tibetan Buddhist lens. What does it mean to be aware? Is your mind limited to your physical body? And who is it that observes your thoughts?
(This meditation is part two of our interview with Dr. Anil Seth)
[00:00:13] Scott Snibbe: This is a meditation on consciousness—in particular, the Tibetan Buddhist view of consciousness—and how we can directly experience and explore it.
So, settle yourself into a meditation position to start. You can cross your legs and elevate your cushion if you like. Or you can sit in a chair with your legs straight out and down.
You can put your hands in your lap with your thumbs touching, if you like. Or you can put your hands on your knees too, whichever way is comfortable for you.
Then straighten your spine and tilt your neck down a little bit. Relax your shoulders and the muscles in your face.
You can mostly close your eyes, if that’s comfortable, letting in a little bit of light, which keeps you awake. Or you can close them all the way if you get distracted and open your eyes if you get sleepy.
Start out a meditation with a motivation.
One nice motivation is just to think “there’s nothing better I could be doing with my time right now than to go inward for a few minutes.” To figure out who I am beneath my thoughts, sensory experiences, and even my personality.
There’s nothing better I could be doing with my time right now than to go inward for a few minutes.
And to do this in order to deepen my own happiness, my own sense of meaning and purpose in life, and also my ability to build deep relationships with others, and even to make the world a better place. Meditation can help a little bit with all those things.
We’ll focus on the breath for a minute, before we get into the meditation on consciousness in order to stabilize and settle the mind. Bring your mind to your breath, either at your nostrils as air comes in and out, or with the rise and fall of your abdomen.
If thoughts, feelings, or perceptions arise—which they will—try and just let them pass by. Whatever arises in your mind also naturally disappears from your mind, and there’s no need to pull it close and examine it. There’s also no need to push it away.
When other thoughts, feelings, or perceptions arise in your mind, in your consciousness, just let them pass by like clouds passing through the clear sky.
Your mind is like that clear sky. So, for one minute, focus on the breath.
What is watching your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions?
Now, we move on to exploring consciousness, awareness, the mind.
See if you can become aware of thoughts again, also feelings in your body, perceiving sounds, light through your eyes.
Then notice how there may appear to be an observer. There are thoughts, feelings, perceptions that come and go, but what is it that watches those thoughts, feelings, and perceptions?
And just for a short moment, see if you can feel the difference between those two.
Clarity and awareness of the mind
Then try and notice if you see in the mind a clarity; that there’s a clarity to the way that your mind reflects whatever appears within it. And that clarity you might experience like a mirror or a lens.
Try and see that clarity of your mind, its ability to reflect whatever comes and goes within it.
Then see if you can become aware of a knowing aspect to the mind. In addition to reflecting what appears to it, the mind can also engage with, know, what appears to it.
This is what distinguishes us from, say, computers that could analyze something but wouldn’t really know it. That’s what it means to be conscious and aware.
See if you can become aware of that knowing aspect of the mind. This is a common definition of the mind in Buddhism, that the mind is clear and knowing.
The mind is clear and knowing.
Now steer your mind to look at itself, consciousness looking at consciousness, awareness looking at awareness.
Transcending your identity
And try to examine that experience of awareness with curiosity and openness.
Does that space seem bright or dim?
Does the space seem small or large?
Is the space of your mind limited to your head or to your body?
As you let your mind widen to encompass the room, does it feel as if the mind is the size of the room?
As your mind expands, does the mind feel as big as your town, your state, your country, the whole planet, or even to the solar system, the galaxy, the universe?
Does your consciousness feel like it is aware of other consciousness?
Do other people’s minds appear within the space of your mind? Are you aware of them or do you feel separate from them?
How does it feel when the mind experiences itself, when consciousness looks at consciousness?
Does it feel pleasant or unpleasant? Does it feel welcoming?
Maybe this is closer to who we really are, the space of awareness that transcends your identity, your personality, even your thoughts and feelings.
Pure awareness at the root of your conscious experience, what it means to be alive.
If that experience feels good to you, see if you can remind yourself to remember it during the day when you’re caught up with ordinary experience, thoughts, feelings, conflicts, and urges.
That this deeper aspect of your consciousness is always there, underlying all experience. It can be a place to remember and return to, to help center you and deepen and stabilize your sense of presence, openness, and even joy.
And then you can come out of the meditation.
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