"Meditating Like a River"--given below--is a simple, flowing, accessible form of awareness practice. It introduces us to the nature of mind, of being, gently training us in a method that allows us to recognize this essential nature, and to rest there.


We practice awareness meditation in order to realize the true nature of mind: the true nature of reality. We are never apart from truth; it is always flashing through the ever-changing phenomena of experience and appearance--but usually we don't recognize it because we are caught in habitual patterns of body, speech and mind that distract and confuse. Awareness practice cultivates the inward attention that cuts through delusion.

We can practice on awareness in formal meditation sessions and also in all the circumstances of ordinary life. At the beginning we practice for very brief periods--from a few seconds to, say, ten minutes--to entrain repeatedly the experience of swift, fresh, unmistaken clarity.

This natural clarity of our mind is what recognizes our thoughts and emotions and that within which they move: mind itself. Thoughts and emotions constantly arise and dissolve; this is mind's natural play. Recognizing this flow relaxes our grasping and clinging to our thoughts (or anyone else's)--because we see, over and over again, that they are insubstantial, appearing and disappearing like waves on water. Seeing natural mind, unchanging and unmoving, shows us our true nature, unchanging and unmoving, unborn and undying. In union with great love and compassion for all, this is the liberating method that establishes us in joyous certainty.


Meditating Like a River



River Flowing Zion

This meditation is based on the gracious teaching of the loving lama, His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche: “Instead of cultivating emptiness, cultivate mind that recognizes. That is the wisdom mind—that is buddha mind.”


Thus, instead of trying to empty your mind of thoughts, emotions, images, churnings, when you perceive them arising look right at them, recognize them...and relax in this awareness. Change nothing.  Neither banish, grasp nor follow your thoughts. Allowing your focus to soften, expand, very subtly you begin to discern that which recognizes the mind’s contents and movement: Awareness itself, the true nature of mind, our own buddha nature.


With heartfelt devotion, gratitude and love call forth the blessing of the guru, stirring vast love and compassion for all.


Spine erect and easy, open eyes gazing softly, breathe naturally—and exhale completely. As if releasing an arrow, at the end of the out-breath suddenly let go.


Unless you are going to die right then, the next in-breath naturally, effortlessly occurs. Do three cycles of this nourishing breath.


Now rest, not focusing the eyes on any particular thing, while gently turning your inner gaze within. We can all easily see “what’s going on in our minds,” can we not? So now, whatever arises in your mind, recognize it, let it be, just as it is...and relax in that simple recognition. Another thought or feeling arises; again, simply recognize it...and relax in awareness. That is our meditation.


Throughout, in any doubt or discouragement, supplicate the guru!  “Lama, please heed me! Bless me to recognize and rest in Awareness!”


We meditate in this way for many short periods during our meditation session. In the brief intervals we refresh ourselves, stretching, standing, walking...still alert and aware.


Just like this—like a river coursing freely in its own true bed—we return again and again

to the fresh, awake mind that recognizes.



The Tibetan tradition of Buddhadharma offers exquisite, profound approaches to awareness practice--such as Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Nature of Mind--that are said to liberate in a single lifetime. In these traditions faith and devotion, especially to the guru, are considered essential, and in some cases specific empowerments are required in order to receive the teachings and carry out the practices. I have had the great good fortune to practice in this way, in the care of great gurus, and warmly encourage you to do the same if you desire to and can.

     However, many cannot find their way to the formal traditions of Dharma, and many desire to practice for love, compassion and awakening without engaging a formal, named path. Awareness, the pristine nature of mind, is our true nature, so it is always and everywhere available to all. For this reason, I seek ways to make simple, accessible forms of awareness practice available to all who can benefit from them.

     "Meditating Like a River," inspired by the teachings of my very traditional and limitlessly wise and loving lama, arose in my mind suddenly one day in 2006, and I wrote it down to share with my spiritual friends. Test it for yourself. If over time it gradually increases your clarity of mind and your compassion and love for others, then it is a good practice for you; if not, not.

     If you have questions about your practice, please consult a qualified teacher.


 © Meditation text copyright 2006 by Barbara Du Bois; may be freely distributed if text is unchanged.