The Incredible Mind Altering Meditation of Sky Gazing and How To Do It

Sky Gazing

There is a meditation practice within Tibetan Buddhism called Sky Gazing it comes from the Meditation tradition of Dzogchen – which strongly emphasises resting in a natural state free from conceptual elaborations. This natural state is wide open, clear and lucid; it neither rejects anything or clings to anything and is sometimes referred to as spontaneous awareness. It is spontaneous because nothing has manufactured or created it, like having to meditate or having to be calm.  It always has been there and therefore is also called primordial awareness.

The clear blue sky is the closest external example of what this natural state is like. The clear sky is also a metaphor for the natural states indestructibility. Just like the sky is not affected by the passing weather neither is our natural state stained by thoughts or emotions no matter how strong they may be. This is a liberating view in the field of meditation. No longer do you have the idea that you have to purify and remove all the negative states of mind, now there is a teaching that directly points to an aspect of yourself which is your essential nature.

This nature is pure right from the beginning and accessing that awareness is what sky gazing skilfully aims to do.

Another important things to understand is that the sky like nature of your mind is always there, it is permanent. All other mental states come and go. This is the reason enlightenment is possible. If disturbing and negative states where permanent or fundamental to the mind they could not be removed, but because all negative states are impermanent and not an essential nature of the mind they can be removed. This is great news.

Sky gazing is apart of the Dzogchen tradition which is considered the highest spiritual path within Tibetan Buddhism and has been kept secret and only given to the most devout students, but as one Meditation Master has said in these times of strong materialism, chaos and disturbing emotions there needs to be an equally strong practice that can counter those negative forces and sky gazing is a practice that can do just that.

“Sky gazing is a way to feel release from the narrow confines of the personality or ego. It connects a person to the vast, expansive, clear, open, space of awareness that is their authentic nature. It brings relaxation, peace, joy, and a fresh, crisp sense of connecting to reality; the natural state of things.”

Before I explain how to do it I would like to include here the psychology of why it’s so powerful. My Buddhist teacher always emphasised how the mind is clear like water and whatever you focus on colours that clear awareness. By it’s very nature the awareness is clear and pure but gets muddied and coloured by focusing our attention on negative thoughts and disturbing emotions. In fact just like water becomes muddied our mind becomes the same as what we focus on. If we focus on anger our minds become anger, if we focus on our ego our minds become the ego. In this way what you focus on is like cordial and your mind is like water, once they are mixed together they become almost inseparable. This is where sky gazing comes in. By gazing into the clear sky you can experience the purity of awareness without it being coloured by thoughts and emotions, this is an amazing discovery, which you can realise for yourself, it does not require belief it requires practice.

Your awareness becomes clear and open too like the sky and this becomes an access point for the clear and lucid spontaneous awareness of the natural state itself.

The key to the natural state is that it is both empty, without boundaries like the sky but it is also lucid and cognizant, the realisation of these two inseparable things, emptiness and awareness, as your true nature is your enlightened nature which does not need to be created because it’s always there –  it needs to be discovered.

This meditation unlike others has the eyes wide open and this is also a great way to train because it does not shut anything out but opens up to all things. This can have a profound effect on the mind to keep the eyes open while in a meditative state. A great Dzogchen Master Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche explains:

“Present awareness is empty, open, and luminous; not a concrete substance, yet not nothing. Empty, yet it is perfectly cognizant, lucid, aware.”

sky gazing

I have practiced sky gazing and I must say it is by far the most direct path to an enlightened experience. I have so far been technical in my explanation but the experience is nothing less than poetic and magical. An open expansive state beyond the bounds of normal thinking, its clarity is only surpassed by its indescribable quality, any only people who have sat on a high mountain and gazed out at the eternal nothingness have probably had a glimpse of what I am trying to put into words.

Open, naked, enormous and all engulfing. A moment of timeless unity where all things seem so vivid yet so incredibly insignificant.

As I mentioned Dzogchen or sustaining the natural state of non-conceptual awareness  is literally the highest and most advanced practice of all of Tibetan Buddhism. It is something that can take you to full awakening of enlightenment in a few short years and is also been called Tibetan Zen for its similarities to the cutting simplicity of Zen Buddhism. The enlightened Master Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche says this about the meditation tradition:

“…. the heart of all practices is included here, in simply sustaining the luminous nature of this present awareness….If you search elsewhere for something better, a Buddha superior to this present awareness, you are deluding yourself.”

How To Practice Sky Gazing

Method 1:
1. Find a high place with a good view of an expansive clear sky. (You can also lie on your back outside and try it)
2. Sit comfortably and for a few moments calm your mind with long deep slow breaths.
3. With a good posture tilt your head slightly upward and with a noble disposition gaze without distraction or dullness into the clear expansive blue sky (best done on non cloudy days).
4. Let go of all thoughts allowing them to pass by like clouds and encourage your awareness to slowly merge with the expansive blue sky
5. Notice how inner thoughts evaporate into your inner sky like awareness like clouds evaporating in the sky.
6. Recognise that this open and expansive experience is actually the most fundamental and natural state of your being.
7. Sustain this recognition of an open and expansive state as being for as long as possible and return to it when you get distracted.

Method 2.
1. Find a high place with a good view of an expansive clear sky. (You can also lie on your back outside and try it)
2. Sit comfortably and for a few moments calm your mind with long deep slow breaths.
3. With a good posture tilt your head slightly upward and with a noble disposition gaze without distraction or dullness into the clear expansive blue sky (best done on non cloudy days).
4. Fully concentrate on your breath going in and out without getting distracted or becoming dull.
5. Follow the breath out with your awareness and notice or imagine how it dissolves into the sky in front of you.
6. Follow the breath in with your awareness and notice or imagine how it dissolves into the inner space of your sky like awareness.
7. Keep following the breath in and out noticing it dissolve into outer space and inner space repeatedly.
8. Notice and fully recognise that the outer sky is exactly the same as the inner sky like mind and allow yourself to dwell in this non dual realisation without distraction and without dullness- The inner space is one with outer space.

NOTE:
Whilst this meditation is meant to be done on a high up place it also can be done right now at your computer. There is always space in front of you that you can merge with and recognise as your true and authentic natural state. Even the space between you and the computer can be used to shift your attention from objects to clear open space. Try it now.

Written by Chad Foreman

New Study Reveals Another Astonishing Difference Between The Brains Of Meditators & Non-Meditators

Human knowledge is constantly evolving and changing, yet most of us believe scientific theories to be fact rather than working understandings of a topic. But they are theories, and our understanding of ‘what is’ continues to change. These are always difficult times, because long-held beliefs enforced by scientific dogma are, for many people, difficult to adjust or relinquish. Anger and disbelief are common reactions, no matter how thoroughly an old theory is disproven. Just think back to when we discovered the Earth was round, not flat, or that Earth was not the center of the universe — the Catholic Church went so far as to persecute and even put to death scientists and ‘free-thinkers’ who opposed them.

Fast forward to today and, fortunately, much has changed. Although several industries that we rely upon are plagued by corruption, fraud, and disinformation, some would argue that it’s not as bad as it used to be, as evinced by the scientific study of concepts once deemed to be spiritual ‘nonsense’ by the community, like meditation, or non-material science.

Over the past few years alone, a wealth of scientific data has outlined the many benefits meditation can have on our biology, furthering strengthening the scientific validity of the mind-body connection.

For example, an eight-week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined that meditation can literally rebuild the brain’s grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey matter. They also released a study showing that meditation can have a significant impact on clinical symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  The study showed that elicitation of the relaxation response (a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress) improves symptoms in all these disorders. It was also recently discovered that meditation creates a distinct network of anti-aging genes and improves cellular health.

This time, new research from the UCLA School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology has shown that long-term meditators have younger brains, with higher concentrations of tissue in the brain regions most depleted by aging. The study found that meditation can protect against the decline we normally see occurring through old age and keep our brains young.

According to the study, “On average, the brains of long-term meditators were 7.5 years younger at age 50 than the brains of non-meditators, and an additional 1 month and 22 days younger for every year after 50.”

Pretty remarkable, isn’t it? Some showed a brain that is a full decade younger.

The study used brain imaging data from a previous study that had examined the impact of meditation on cortical thickness. To compare the brains of meditators aged 50 and over to the ones of non-meditating controls, they went through the data. Both groups included 22 women and 28 men with an average age of 51.4 years. Meditators had close to 20 years of meditation experience on average, though experienced ranged from 4 to 46 years.

A press release by the university explains further:

It is important to note that this study relied on estimates of brain change based on age and not actual values. Although these findings are consistent with prior research that detected significant differences in brain structure among meditators compared to non-meditating controls, results of the present study are inferential, and do not answer questions regarding how many years of meditation are necessary to attain this effect, or whether structural brain change directly corresponds to cognitive, behavioral, or psychosocial functioning.

The authors conclude by hypothesizing several different explanations for the results they observed. Firstly, meditation could be stimulating growth in neural structures and promote increased connectivity and efficiency within neural networks. Secondly, it “buffers the brain and nervous system against the deleterious effects of chronic stress, which may reduce pro-inflammatory response, stimulate telomerase activity, and inhibit age-related brain change”

This is precisely why these practices are being introduced into the workplace and at school.

These current findings can now be added to a long and growing list suggesting that meditation (along with other mindfulness-based practices) does wonders for our biology, and is another great example of how, sometimes, we don’t need scientists to validate something that is clearly already known. This isn’t the first time ancient wisdom has been validated by modern science, and it certainly won’t be the last.

How to Meditate

A common misconception about meditation is that you have to sit a certain way or do something in particular to achieve the various benefits that it can provide. All you have to do is place yourself in a position that is most comfortable to you. It could be sitting cross-legged on the floor, relaxing in a chair, or lying down in a bed — it’s your choice.

Another common misconception about meditation is that you have to “try” to empty your mind. One important factor I enjoyed reading from the study mentioned above is that participants were engaged in “non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.” When meditating, you shouldn’t try to “empty” your mind. Instead, try to let your thoughts, feelings, and whatever emotions you are experiencing at the time flow. Don’t judge them and don’t attach to them; just let them come and go and recognize that they are transitory.

I also believe that meditation is a state of being/mind more than anything else. One does not have to sit down for half an hour and “meditate,” so to speak, in order to reap the benefits of it, or to be engaged in the practice itself. One can be engaged in meditation while walking, for example, or while preparing for sleep. Throughout the day, one can resist judging their thoughts, letting them flow until they are no more, or just be in a constant state of peace and self awareness. Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one way to meditate.

“You will have to understand one of the most fundamental things about meditation: that no technique leads to meditation. The old so-called techniques and the new scientific bio-feedback techniques are the same as far as meditation is concerned.Meditation is not a byproduct of any technique. Meditation happens beyond mind. No technique can go beyond mind.”

– Osho

That being said, partaking in the style of meditation that involves actively sitting down, breathing, and concentrating on quieting your mind or on a specific intent can be particularly helpful. The following article can help you with that: “How To Meditate: 6 Methods That Can Get Anyone Meditating.

To read more articles from Collective Evolution on meditation, click HERE.