by Chad Foreman
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.