The Nature of Mind
“By nature, the mind is open and clear. This is who we are, fundamentally. Openness is the source of our being, and in openness we are connected to all of life. What obscures us from recognizing this source is similar to the way clouds obscure the sun. The sun is always shining, but from our vantage point - namely, our identification with our problems - we don’t recognize the radiance. We are simply more familiar with identifying and dwelling on problems, and we’re used to solving them with our conceptual mind. But it is through non-conceptual awareness that we are able to directly experience the mind’s openness.”*
Non-conceptual awareness can be directly experienced (even if for a moment) by “resting” your body, speech, and mind. Yuthok Yonten Gonpo (the father of Tibetan Medicine) gives the following instructions:
Let your body rest, sitting as it is, relaxed, like a mountain.
Let your gaze** rest, without moving, as it is, like an ocean.
Let your mind rest, as it is, in its natural awareness.***
When we bring our body, speech, and mind to rest, we have the opportunity to recognize the Nature of our Mind. We are then said to be resting in the “Natural State” or abiding in “Natural Ease.”
When resting in the Natural State, we can experience
1) an infinite Spaciousness, both within and without us,
2) a deep sense of Silence and peace permeating throughout all Space, and
3) a Nourishing Warmth of Loving-Kindness, arising within and radiating outward. ****
In this experience, we can become aware of an underlying Stillness in which all movement occurs. The direct experience of Radiant Spaciousness, Silence, and Stillness is not an idea imported from the east, but, in fact, is at the root of Western Philosophy and Medicine as well.*****
*Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, in his Awakening the Sacred Body: Tibetan Yogas of Breath and Movement (Hay House, 2011).
**Other texts and instructions relate the word “speech” rather than “gaze” to the movements of the ocean. When our thoughts (internal speech) are turbulent, our state of mind is analogous to a tempestuous sea. When our thoughts are calm (there being very little movement in our mind) our state of mind is likened to a serene lake. We can calm our turbulent thoughts and emotions by simply listening to them (though this can take extensive and intensive practice!). This practice is then called “Settling the Body, Speech, and Mind (into the Natural State).”
***From Dr. Nida Chenagtsang’s Mirror of Light: A Commentary on Yuthok’s Ati Yoga (Sky Press, 2016).
****Further descriptions and methods for experiencing this Spaciousness, Silence, and Radiance can be found in Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s A-Tri Dzogchen: Recognizing the Nature of Mind in the Bön Tradition (Sacred Sky Press, 2022).
*****The direct experience of the Natural State in Ancient Greek is termed hesychia (ἡσυχία). According to the Pre-Socratic philosopher and physician Parmeneides (6th - 5th century BCE), through hesychia we can experience a reality that exists beyond this world of the senses (from Peter Kingsley’s Reality (Catafalque Press, 2020)). Peter Kingsley expertly expounds upon Parmeneides’ teaching and Pre-Hippocratic healing methods, including “incubation” (similar to Tibetan dark retreat practices), dream-work, and ecstasy in both his In The Dark Places of Wisdom (Golden Sufi Center, 1999) and Reality. The practice of ἡσυχία is also at the very heart of the mystical tradition within the Eastern Orthodox Church. Father Francis Tiso contends that the Nature of Mind (Dzog Chen, commonly translated as the “Great Perfection” or “Unbounded Wholeness”) teachings that appeared in written form in Tibet (9th century CE) may have been influenced by the monastic writings of the Eastern Church, beginning with Evagrius of Pontus (4th century CE). See his Rainbow Body and Resurrection: Spiritual Attainment, the Dissolution of the Material Body, and the Case of Khenpo A Chö (North Atlantic Books, 2016).