On its own - Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2022.10.26

Sam Harris

What we are looking for, is that quality of consciousness that is ever present, simply this bright circumstance, wherein everything else appears all on its own.

The expression "everything appears on its own" is typical for Dzogchen. It is already used in one of the most important works by Tilopa, the Ganges Mahamudra or here, read by Jayasara Samaneri

(Verse 26) Let the cloudy waters of thinking settle and clear. Let appearances come and go on their own. With nothing to change, the world you experience becomes mahamudra. Because the basis of experience has no beginning, patterns and distortions fall away. Rest in no beginning, with no self-interest or expectation. Let what appears to appear on its own and let conceptual ways subside. (Tilopa, nd)

The key point about the phrase "on its own" means that there was no one who did it, no one who produced the mental events (by planning for them).

Thoughts, emotions, and sensations appear, but it´s not as if we can pre-determine our next thought, emotion or sensation. If one looks at one´s own mind in meditation, it becomes pretty clear experientially, that thoughts think themselves. There is no "thinker" in the sense of someone who plans and executes the next thought. I mean it´s very simple to prove this: just try to pre-plan your next exact thought.

So, the best way to deal with life is to relax, and let things happen, rather than efforting to make them happen. Just observe.

But, this should not be misunderstood: it does not mean passivity or inaction in daily life. It just means that also the action in daily life comes into life out of this vast space of awareness. Nothing wrong with driving the kids to school, planning an evening in the restaurant, or improving the blog post.

But, what´s superfluous is the mental tension and effort that comes with it. As if one had a choice to pick - say - duck over chicken.

As if one had had a choice, at the moment, to treat one´s child in a way that one later will regret. It doesn´t mean that one has the liberty to mistreat a child, or neglect it, with the excuse "it´s not me anyway who does it, the mistreatment just appeared on its own". One should be the best parent one can be. But one can only act from the basis of knowledge one has, and those decisions about whether to buy ice cream or not pop up from somewhere, like everything else. Too often then, one turns back and regales oneself with what one should have done...".

If one observes deeply enough, there is no chooser. The choosing happens. We can´t go deep enough to figure out why X happened. As in the saying "We can´t choose who we fall in love with".

On a practical psychological level, I find, this idea - or rather practice - leads to a wonderful degree of relaxation and non-judgementality. No wonder, therefore, that Dzogchen is loved by therapists, e.g. Bruce Tift (2015) in "Already Free".

There is a related idea to this: the proposition that everything "appears on its own", is related to the idea (or rather, meditative experience) that there is no Self. And thus, there is no free will. And therefore, Sam Harris is the most well-known proponent of the idea that there is no such thing as free will. This idea is founded on meditative experience.

It means, that with some meditative Dzogchen practice one can experience oneself as a kind of robot, which is a somewhat odd experience. To the robot, everything must be appearing on its own (had they the capability of self-observation), as the robot did not do its own programming.

Therefore, if one thinks about "appearing on its own", it´s quite a substantial statement, and not everyone agrees with it.


Harris, S. (2012b). Free Will (Rough cut edition) (Trade Paperback). Free Press. https://www.amazon.com/Free-Will-Deckle-Edge-Harris/dp/1451683405

Sam Harris [Skeptic]. (2012, March 28). Sam Harris on ‘Free Will’ [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g

Tift, B., & Tami. (2015). Tift, B: Already Free: Buddhism Meets Psychotherapy on the Path of Liberation. Sounds True Inc.


Tilopa. (n.d.). Ganges Mahamudra. Unfettered Mind. Retrieved 26 October 2022, from https://unfetteredmind.org/pith-instructions-on-mahamudra/

Tilopa, T. old M. S. J. (2020, June 19). Tilopa’s Song to Naropa - Mahamudra - ‘The Ganges Mahamudra’ - Kagyu Lineage [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wVcxfeFZgQ&feature=youtu.be

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