The Practice of Vast Open Sky

Body like a mountain
Breath like the wind
Mind like the sky
~Tibetan Meditation Instruction

A number of meditation traditions have practices that are a dropping of the ego into wide open awareness.

I’d like to share this kind of practice with you, because it is one of the most powerful experiences you can have.

What happens when you open your mind to seeing its vast open nature … is transformational. You are no longer stuck in the smallness of our usual self-centered world. You become free.

Imagine getting into a frustrated story about someone else, about how they’re behaving. If you can free yourself from the smallness of this worldview, drop the ego and let your mind open into the vastness of the open sky … you are all of a sudden much more open, much less constricted, much more relaxed. You can deal with the other person in a loving way, in an appropriate way that doesn’t come from pain or fear.

Just as important: you are all of a sudden fully immersed in this moment. You are experiencing the moment just as it is, without the added layer of your story about what’s going on. Without judgments or ideals, without getting caught in thoughts about the other person. Just pure experience. And it is absolutely gorgeous.

So let’s explore this practice.

Practice With Me: The Vast Open Sky

Start by sitting in a comfortable but upright position, with your eyes open, relaxing into an awareness of your body and breath. Just notice what it’s like to be alive right now.

After a minute or so of that, tune into the sounds all around you. Just receive them, without judgment, without labeling them. Just notice how you can have a wide open awareness of all sounds. You don’t need to do anything about them. You are just experiencing the sounds, arising and then fading away.

Next, open your awareness to all sight sensations around you, without labeling or judging them. Just notice light all around you. Just be aware of shapes and colors and textures. Let your awareness open to soak in all sight sensations, from all around you.

Let your awareness relax into an openness that takes in all sensations all around you. Open to the sensations of your body, the sensations outside of your body, and let them all become one big field of awareness, no separation between what’s inside you and what’s outside you, just one ocean of sensation.

You can sit in this vast open sky of awareness, and then the cloud of a thought might arise. Instead of getting caught up in the cloud, allow the sky of your mind to observe the thought cloud floating gently by.

Be the sky, observing everything without getting caught up in one thing.

Notice the vast open nature of your mind. This is the primordial state of your mind, what the Buddhists call your “Buddha nature” or your innate goodness. It is free, wide open, unconstricted, egoless.

It is pure awareness, pure love.

Using the Vast Open Sky Practice in Daily Life

If you didn’t quite get the above meditation, don’t worry. It can take a little practice, but what’s important is to just relax into it, don’t strain yourself, don’t strive to attain it. It’s already there, you just need to relax and get out of the way of it.

Practice it daily, every morning.

Then try it when you’re walking somewhere. Open your mind like a vast open sky. Walk as you practice this open awareness, letting your ego drop away and just being present with the experience of the moment.

Try it when you’re washing a dish. When you’re showering. When you’re drinking tea.

You can maintain this vast open mind even while talking to someone, doing a task, engaging with the world. With practice.

When you get better at this, it becomes freeing, in any moment. You might be caught up in your thoughts about someone or some situation, but then the thoughts become less heavy, and you suddenly have space to consider them, to let them float away or to consider a loving or appropriate response.

You can be with someone and connect with them in a deeper way, as you realize that they too have this vast open nature, this innate goodness. In fact, you are both a part of the same limitless blue sky.

Reproduced with permission from Leo Babuta's Zen Habits