top of page

Mixing space with awareness: experience of non-duality

TBD. This post is still a mess. It needs to be merged with two others

  • How to use imagination to generate a meditative experience of collapsed borders between inner awareness and outer world (without substance)

  • Using a traditional "mixing" imagery, involving sight and breath,, a mixing instruction as described below.

The essential point of the mind is to focus as if dissolving the mind in the midst of the external expanse of the empty sky( Gyaltsen 2022, p 876)

This post talks about space as metaphor for mind in Buddhist meditation teaching.

Let's start with Bernard Kastrup, a contemporary philosopher who sounds like a 13th century Buddhist:

In fact, Kastrup is talking about what the Buddhists called the "inseparable pair" of the vast expanse and lively awareness.

For me, the initial quote ("the essential point...") it is one of the most beautiful and poetic renderings of pointing out instructions of the "mixing" type.

A pointing out instruction is a special type of detailed guidance on how to do certain meditative activities.

The mixing type of pointing out instruction aims to induce a non-dual experience (rather than a conceptual understanding only) It achieves this through a physical activity such as looking or breathing in specific ways, where one mixes, or blends, inner and outer. For example, one blends mind and space.

In fact, this very exercise is the root of Dzogchen.

The mixing or blending or unification of consciousness and space is a key practice of Dzogchen. In fact, it is the root of Dzogchen practice. (Barth, 1998/2007).

In the following text , "looking directly into" means an experiential awareness.

Awareness is most likely to be recognized once positively free of conceptual thought elaborations. The lion´s gaze and mixing awareness and the sky are the special instructions to look directly into the face of awareness so as to recognize the lucidity brightness, intensity and awakeness of awakened awareness that is always right here in the immediate experience of one's mind. (Yungdrung, 2022)

Note: the "Lion´s gaze" is a metaphor where awareness looks at itself. You find an explanation and example here.

What is a non-dual experience?

In a non-dual experience, the felt border between Inner/Outer, Awareness/Outer or Self/Outer dissolves partially or entirely.

The meditator has no more the perception of being a separate independent Self that is observing an outer independent reality. There is only the seeing process itself.

The mixing instruction quoted above lets the meditator imagine an intermingling of two "substances", namely space and awareness. Awareness is poured into space, and space is poured into awareness.

  • Substance 1 is awareness/ consciousness/ Self.

  • Substance 2 is the outer visual space, or, the sky which represents the space.

Substance 1 and substance 2 are mixed together: awareness is poured into space, and space is mixed into awareness. The end-result is one single surrounding and field of awareness-space that permeates everything.

Initially, there is a crucial difference between awareness and space: awareness is "knowing," whereas space is not.

Then, when one "mixes awareness with space", the quality of knowing is transferred into the space surrounding the meditator. In the meditator´s mind, the space in front of him acquires the same kind of "liveliness" as the inner awareness.

There are several versions of this meditation/visualization. One of them uses only the visual system, the other includes the breath. Below, I have stripped down both versions to their essentials. The original texts are somewhat longer.

When I meditate, using any of these two approaches, occasionally the space in front of me obtains a kind of vibrational liveliness.

Non-dual experience from a science point of view

Around minute 30

"For the first time, a model of non-dual awareness..."

"The space is the space of the entire predictive Bayesianmodel"

(Taft and Chandaria, 2022, December)

The predictive model and the phenomenon of "gripping" (or grab, in Dan Brown´s language)

"The gripping seems to take place at the higher levels, more at the level of concepts" (min 29), rather than at the lower sensory perceptions.

Mixing space with awareness

The supreme method here to realize the nature of mind, is to unite space and awareness. When thus mixing space and awareness, you spontaneously purify all fixed notions. Such as a reality and characteristics, negating and establishing, And you abide in the truth of suchness, dharmata, Free from dualistic subject-object cognition. (Aryadeva, 2022)

In the retreat, the corresponding space yoga instruction was

look into the space in front of you, and mix that space with awareness. Mix awareness with space.


Mix the space into your awareness so that it's one field of knowing awareness-space saturating everything.

The effect on me

It turned out, that for me, doing this old Mahamudra technique was one of the most useful instructions. Both in terms of meditation progress, as in dealing with everyday life "afflictive emotions".

Viewing space as permeated with "my" awareness reconstituted aspects of the tone of the psychedelic mystic I have described elsewhere. It shifts my conscious into a mode, where I begin to realise objects as constituted / fabricated / constructed by my own mind, and as appearing in the container of awareness.

In addition, my perceptual field becomes infused with what appears like subtle vibratory energy. Lastly, it seems to prepare and support the view described as "awareness showing itself by itself through itself to awareness".

So, here they are stripped down to the bare essentials.

Example: Tilopa Space Meditation

The original Tilopa Space Meditation consists of two basic simple instructions.

  1. Look into the space in front of you

  2. Mix your awareness with space.

This is more or less the version used by POGW

Example: Sam Harris Space Meditation

Sam Harris, in one of his Daily Meditations in the Waking Up app, uses this more complex form of mixing instruction:

  1. Gaze unfocused into the space in front of you

  2. And as you breathe in, imagine breathing in all that you see. Just inhale the visual field. Inhale the visual.

  3. Get a sense for yourself

  4. And as you breathe out, imagine exhaling yourself into all that you see.

  5. So breathing in, the world comes rushing in. And breathing out, consciousness itself goes out into the world.

As a result, the outer world becomes an inner reflection, and your felt Self seems to permeate the space in front of you.

Example : Self-Arising Threefold Embodiment of Enlightenment

Meditate that the intensity of awakened awareness rises up by mixing it into the open surrounding empty space, and by that conceptual thought will be overpowered through this practice. You will separate the brightness of awakened awareness from the dregs of residual conceptual thought". In other words, as the field of awarenes becomes transparently brighter, it is easier to recognize how awakened awareness is distinct from ordinary awareness by its brightness, awakeness , intensity, or sacredness. (P 39)

Example: The Ocean of Definitive Meaning

The following example of dissolving is particularly intriguing. It involves a complex visualisation of an "onion" of ever more subtle substances, into which on dissolves.

So you visualize yourself as being in the midst of this truncated cube of yellow light, which is the mandala of earth, as though you were, for example, inside a room. You think that outside that is the mandala of water, which is a quite thick disc of white light. ... So, just as the earth mandala is your dwelling, so to speak, the water mandala is the dwelling or the container for the earth mandala, and is also seen as being more subtle than it. In the same way, outside of and containing the water mandala is the fire mandala: a triangle of red light, again having thickness so that it can contain the water mandala. Then finally outside of and containing the fire mandala is the mandala of wind: a semicircle of green light, also having thickness so that it can contain the fire mandala. In the context of this meditation the mandala of space, which is the container for wind or air, is thought of as empty space, as not having any kind of shape or form. So you visualize all of that, and once it has been visualized, you then think that the mandala of earth, which is the innermost part of the visualization and the basis of your perspective, dissolves outward into the mandala of water. Then in the same way, the mandala of water dissolves outward into the subtler mandala of fire. Then, the mandala of fire dissolves outward into the even subtler mandala of wind, which finally dissolves outward into the utterly subtle mandala of space. At that point, you simply allow your mind to rest in the absence of focus of any kind but without distraction. (L. T. Namgyal & Rinpoche, 2011, 35-36

Example: Henrik Shukman about Sound and the "space of awareness"

Henrik Shukman uses the "mixing" approach in a meditation about sound.

..not can we really distinguish between the space Oo the soundscape, and our awareness of the soundscape. Letting the two become one. We could call it the space of awareness. (Shukman, 2022 n.d.)

Awareness is most likely to be recognized once positively free of conceptual thought elaborations. The lion´s gaze and mixing awareness and the sky are the special instructions to look directly into the face of awareness so as to recognize the lucidity brightness, intensity and awakeness of awakened awareness that is always right here in the immediate experience of one's mind. (Yungdrung, 2022)

Example: expanding light

The following mixing instruction relies on the visualisation of light that represents awareness.

Consider that all your knowledge is there, complete in your being right now. Visualize a light. Behold it and the knowingness quality which is present with it. Now visualize a light above, beneath, in front of, behind, to the right, and to the left of this light. Each light is just as pure and bright as the central light. Now let each one of these serve as its own center with six lights around it. Keep doing this until all of space is filled with this pure bright light. Your awareness should be mixed with this. Then dissolve the light into space and mix your awareness with it. (Barth, 2007)

Example: Mixing "Hungs" with space and objects

This example shows a method to meditate using a "mixing"-visualization using so-called Hungs. It is taken from Keith Dowman´s "Dzogchen Daily Practice" (Dowman 2020d).

Hung or HUM is a sacred syllable or mantra in Dzogchen that represents the primordial sound of the universe and is used in meditation practices to invoke qualities of enlightened mind. It can also be used as a visualization tool, where it is imagined as a bright red light starting from the heart and expanding to fill the entire body and surrounding space.

In the example, the Hungs are visualised as bubbles which can form into clouds etc.

Sitting in vajra-posture, visualize in the torso a large sky-blue HUNG, and emanating from that HUNG a cloud of sky-blue HUNGs of all sizes mixed with the breath and powerfully exhaled in a lengthened outbreath. Of the cloud of HUNGs, separate HUNGs vanish into the structures, the bodies, the objects in the immediate visual field, mellowing, gentling, and dissolving their substantiality and perceived form. Eventually we will be looking at a realm of pure color and shape, the visual field suffused with light. In an open field, the blue HUNGs may enter into both the nano-realm and macro-realm.
Then, on the inbreath mix the breath with the mind and retract the HUNGs into the large blue HUNG in the torso. From the HUNG in the torso a myriad of small s HUNGs vanish into the internal parts of the body: into the organs — heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, brain and glands and so on — and the vascular and nervous systems. Every cell in the body contains a tiny blue HUNG, and the HUNGs populating the body dissolve its substantiality so that each inbreath transforms the body into a body of blue light.

More "mixing"

There are actually two types of "mixing" concepts in Tibetan Buddhism.

Mixing awareness with space / sky as described above is the first .

The second meaning of "mixing" is the transfer by the meditator of the meditative view (e.g. One Taste) into daily life (Yungdrung, 2022)


ChatGPT Prompt

In which contexts is the term "mixing" important in Buddhist meditation training?

Aryadeva. (2022b, August 17). Prajnaparamita Upadesa by Aryadeva. Retrieved 5 September 2022, from

Barth, P. (2017). A Guide For Mahamudra Meditation (English Edition) (3rd ed.) [PDF]. Mahamudra Meditation Center, Petaluma, USA. (Original work published 1998)

Sam Harris Daily Meditation 2022.09.11 - Attention on attention - Lion´s view. (2022, September 12). Till Gebel. Retrieved 23 September 2022, from

Gyaltsen, T. S., Brown, D. P., & Gurung, G. S. (2022). The Precious Treasury of the Expanse and Awakened Awareness: The Ornaments of the Definitive Secret (English Edition) (2nd ed.). Mustang Bon Foundation.

Namgyal, L. T., & Rinpoche, K. T. (2011). The Ninth Karmapa’s Ocean of Definitive Meaning (New ed). Snow Lion.

Shukman, Henrik. (n.d.). Sound Field, 2022.09.07. In Sam Harris Waking Up (App).

Taft, M., & Chandaria, S. (2022, December). Meditation and the Bayesian Brain with Shamil Chandaria. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from

Yungdrung, D. G. (2022, January 7). The Pith Instructions for the Stages of the Practice Sessions of the A-Tri (A Khrid) System of Bon Dzogchen Meditation (G. Sonam Gurung & D. P. Brown, Trans.). Mustang Bon Foundation.


A thought on...

bottom of page