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Our authors and book editors offer these choice written selections for your contemplative reading and inspiration.

Lama Surya Das: Natural Radiance


One instant of total awareness is one instant of
perfect freedom and enlightenment.

—The Wisdom Deity, Manjushri

Some people think meditating is closing your eyes and trying not to think, or that meditation is simply a process to calm and clear the mind. That is known as concentrative meditation, or tranquility meditation—a process of creating a special focused state of mind like light or bliss, hearing a celestial sound, or saying a certain mantra. Buddhist meditation practices also include loving-kindness meditations, meditations on compassion, healing meditations, visualization meditations, and many other kinds of meditative disciplines, which you can learn elsewhere.

All forms of mindfulness meditation—the practice of observing things as they are—are “natural” in the sense that they bring us back to our present experience: reality. In the context of this program, however, “natural meditation” refers specifically to Dzogchen meditation. Practically speaking, the function of Dzogchen meditation is to awaken naked awareness—a state that exists beyond the realm of conceptual forms, culture, or belief systems.

The essence of Dzogchen meditation is called rangshar rangdrol in Tibetan (“by itself arising,” “by itself liberating/releasing”). Thus one appreciates the empty yet luminous, vividly appearing form of all created things, outer and inner. Thus, natural meditation is not a process of suppressing thoughts or feelings, nor of being carried away by them, but of simply becoming aware of their spontaneous, unhindered display, their arising and passing on, moment to moment. Like a surfer riding ocean waves, the Dzogchen practitioner does not try to iron out the waves of thought and perception, to flatten out the mind, or to flatline the brain waves. As a skilled surfer knows, the bigger the waves, the better the surfing. For the meditator, it is a process of enjoying the blissful awareness of seeing through things as they arise, and, like the floats in an Easter parade going by, the more the merrier and the better the show. Through this awareness, we can enjoy the process and know that it is just a show by enjoying the display while simultaneously remaining unentangled by it. Tilopa said that it is not outer things but inner clinging and fixation that entangle us.

Dzogchen meditation is based on three vital points: first, natural body as Buddha’s body; second, natural breath and energy as Buddha’s breath and energy; and, finally, natural heart and mind as Buddha’s heart-mind. The instructions are the same in each case; leave it as it is. This acceptance of what is as it is helps us to balance effort and non-effort in our practice of the natural Great Perfection.

Therefore, in Dzogchen meditation we practice natural body, natural breath and energy, and natural heart-mind—the “three naturals”—combined with leaving things as they are, letting be, letting things come and go, seeing things as they are and not as we would like them to be—and certainly not as they are not. With practice, we get used to trusting the ongoing flow and lawful karmic unfolding of things when we simply leave them as they are. We see that things may be empty of solid substantial reality, but they continue to manifest and affect other things, which are also empty of solid substantial reality but have their own effects, which also have to be considered.

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