Nondirective Meditation: The Only Show in Town

Nondirective meditation (NDM) is the only show in town. I will be reorganizing the site in the near future to place NDM as the primary practice and will provide guides and information about it.

Here are the benefits I have experienced so far:

  • Releases muscle tension, performs myofascial micro-unwinding (cumulative, getting better each day), and corrects posture over time. Because it is a right-brain mode (of “allowing” rather than “controlling”), NDM puts the right brain back in charge of the body so it can fix these things behind the scenes while you meditate. For me, it is absolutely obvious that this is the case. I guarantee it. Directive meditation (DM) however starts off with a strong left-brain mode which can actually tighten posture via intensity of concentration.
  • None, or very little, “Dark Night”. NDM causes you to meditate at your own pace and, because there aren’t any “goals” (at least not in the same way as there are in DM), it does not suck you into believing you are progressing along some map or are stuck in some territory and need to meditate your way out. I believe it is possible that much of the Dark Night may be caused by DM practice itself and the strong (and arguably unnatural) mental states DM causes. E.g. in DM you use powerful concentration to create a blatantly altered state, whereas with NDM, jhanas come and go as they please and feel like extensions of natural consciousness, perhaps what your cat is experiencing as he sits upright with his eyes closed on his favourite cushion.
  • Spontaneous natural flowing joy arising during the day “for no reason”. This is also cumulative and permanent. An example is: I was walking around the supermarket today just thinking, This is fucking amazing. This kind of joy is tangibly different from the dopamine-opioid dumps from blatant altered states (e.g. DM jhanas, energy work etc.) which begin to slowly wane as soon as you exit the state. This joy is “transparent”, is everywhere at once, does not go away, and has no “cause” (meaning it cannot be attributed to anything you “did”, which is kind of the deal with DM, e.g. do energy work → enjoy some altered state for some time).
  • Conditions letting go of attachment. I had got into the pattern of using highly directive meditation in order to attain altered states. This bred a lot of attachment to those states (and to altered states in general), and to all sorts of other things in my life. With NDM however I can honestly say I have no attachment to altered states, one reason perhaps being that progress is quite clearly progressive and cumulative regardless of whether a blatantly altered state happened or not.

Finally – and perhaps this pertains to my last point more than the others – life has taken on far more of a “dreamlike” quality. The urgency is gone. There is more time. And I have started having bizarre thoughts such as, “The universe is the greatest story ever told”, which would have been unconscionable to me even a few months ago.

Get started with nondirective meditation:

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41 Responses

  1. Arpan says:

    ” This joy is “transparent”, is everywhere at once, does not go away, and has no “cause” ”
    This is exactly the kind of joy that hindu scriptures talk about as the one that should result from ideal spiritual practice: Ahaituka(hetu= cause, ahaituk= uncaused)

    “This kind of joy is tangibly different from the dopamine-opioid dumps from blatant altered states (e.g. DM jhanas, energy work etc.) ”
    What’s happening on the kundalini/energy front now ?

    • Illuminatus says:

      Kundalini is bright and shiny, always liquid (whereas before was more a “beam” often felt with a “jolt”) and is more “permeating”, meaning it gets into places it couldn’t before, and is finer — this shows that structures blocking its flow have been dissolved by NDM.

  2. Sebster says:

    Yes! I love it! 🙂

  3. Morgan says:

    I remember back before you got into concentration meditation your advice was “just put awareness in the body and allow the feelings to move. the body knows”. Which sounds like a kind of combination directive/non-directive. Directive as you have to direct your awareness, but non directive in that you allow the body to feel what it wants to feel.

    What do you think of that meditation now?

  4. Gary says:

    What is the difference between this and mindfulness meditation that is taught all over US?

    • Illuminatus says:

      The most common mindfulness meditation is mindfulness of breath, in which you watch the breath coming in and out. This facilitates the letting go of thoughts since you will “return to the breath” before a thought fully grips you, meaning you detach slightly from your thoughts and they become similar to movies playing on a screen rather than something that controls you.

      Nondirective / “Do Nothing” meditation however does not do any of that! You do not watch the breath. Instead you let the mind do whatever it wants and relinquish control entirely. Leo explains it quite well:

      • Gary says:

        Thanks! I will check out the link when I get home from work. This is both interesting and confusing at the same time. If you let the mind do whatever it wants, how do you differentiate between daydreaming?

        • Illuminatus says:

          The main difference is that you are sitting still, usually with your eyes closed and looking straight ahead, and probably with a timer set. So the setting is very different from idle daydreaming.

          Finally, I would say the most important difference is the INTENTION. You are intending to meditate, to reach a state of mental clarity, oneness, joy, and whatever other goals your spiritual system specifies (if you have one, which is probably a good idea), at some point in the future. So, you meditate today to become those things weeks, months, years in the future. This intention is simply not present with idle daydreaming.

          I believe practice with strong intention to become a better person is the most powerful way to meditate. The intention really drives the whole thing forward. And you have already established that intention on some level, else you would not be seeking out sites like this.

  5. andrew hutchinson says:

    Love that you’ve ended up here buddy.

  6. Kevin says:

    Awesome! Definitely gonna try that meditation out.

  7. Betha says:

    A few weeks ago I was in a perpetual state of pure joy for many days straight, a week or so. I attribute this to my meditation practices, because such phases have begun to arise at regular intervals. In those states it feels as if I am somewhat sugar-high and the world becomes a colourful playground where everything is light, easy, effortless and fascinating. I was perfectly happy to do nothing and sit in my cloud of happiness from one day to another. It was such a fun time.

    • Arpan says:

      That’s an awesome breakthrough, especially for a beginner.
      It’s important to continue the practice even during such phases, as it can lead to even greater insights and bliss, and most importantly: permanent integration.

      • Betha says:

        Indeed it is. In those days I lengthen my meditation time, because even that becomes effortless. The week I just described has been the most potent and noticeable phase so far. The joy usually manifests as a subtle and quiet contentment that can arise in unexpected times.

  8. BabaFella says:

    Is there any merit in using different mudras in nondirective meditation? Open hands on the knees makes the meditation more receptive, but I also enjoy using gyan mudra which makes the meditation more energetic

    • Illuminatus says:

      I typically start off with dhyana mudra out of habit but often my hands will just relax and want to sit in my lap on top of each other, palms down.

      So, it doesn’t matter.

  9. Matt says:

    I find myself falling asleep a lot whether I practice in the morning or the evening. How does one fight this or avoid it entirely?

    • Illuminatus says:

      I’m not sure you can fight it or avoid it. Nondirective meditation is as much about allowing the mindbody the motions it needs to go through as it is about gaining insight. So, if you fall asleep, you probably need to sleep.

      The 8-hour chunk of time for sleep assigned by society to the 11pm–7am block (thereabouts) is nothing more than a sloppy average built around the working day. I doubt this is an ideal cycle for many people. Personally I’ve found that I get my best sleep in the daylight hours of 7am–1pm. If I sleep in this period I’m a different person in terms of energy and outlook. I intentionally have a job that starts at noon so I can pick up some of those golden hours. But really I have to wait till the weekend. I was self-employed for many years to sleep the pattern I wanted, but the result of that was social isolation which is worse than being a bit tired.

      By the way, the BBC ran a report saying that antidepressants DO work — but the shock news is that the top-performing one is agomelatine, a MELATONIN ENHANCER. I suspect that it works by simply adjusting one’s sleep cycle to the 11pm-7am slot so your “golden hours” fall on the societally-prescribed block.

      As for your problem, you will have to track your sleep hours like I did to figure out what’s going on. To reiterate, if you’re falling asleep during meditation, then I see no other answer than “YOU NEED TO SLEEP.”

      • Kevin says:

        Sleep seems to be the main modulator of mood. I have used not sleeping for a night to induce hypomania in myself. I do not do these things anymore as they are very damaging in the long term and the crashes are not fun.

        In summer 2016 I had no job and was relying on my savings. I slept at 6 am and woke up at 2pm. I had so much energy and mental clarity it was unbelievable. Are we wired differently genetically, or is everyone functioning sub-optimally?

        If melatonin is this effective in being an antidepressant then I wonder what effect supplementing with OTC melatonin has? Also one can take 5-HTP 5-6 hours before sleep and darken one’s environment 1-2 hours before sleep. The 5-HTP will convert to serotonin and when the environment gets dark, the serotonin will convert to melatonin.

        I’m worried about supplementing with 5-HTP since anytime I have taken it I’ve noticed a drop in focus and motivation. Apparently it down regulates dopamine production by completing with it.

        Maybe darkening the environment and meditating for 30 mins before sleep can release enough melatonin so one does not need to rely on pharmaceuticals and/or OTC supplements.

        Just thinking out loud here lol

        • Illuminatus says:

          >Are we wired differently genetically, or is everyone functioning sub-optimally?

          Both. I consider humans similar to an ant colony; within each tribe some are “night owls”, genetically programmed to guard the camp at night. For these people, the societally conditioned sleep block (11pm–7am) is nothing short of a disaster. The only way to figure out your true sleep pattern is to actually take a couple of weeks off work and find out when you would naturally want to go to bed and wake up. The first few days won’t be included in the study however because they are recovery days.

          >If melatonin is this effective in being an antidepressant then I wonder what effect supplementing with OTC melatonin has?

          OTC melatonin has the following effects on me. It causes me to go to sleep fast, but it doesn’t KEEP me asleep. I will wake up after an hour feeling groggy and will have to retake the supplement. The difference with the antidepressant version is that it is blocking the transporter so the melatonin stays in the synapse. I also found tolerance built quickly to OTC melatonin.

          I never got anything from 5-HTP and felt it was a scam. Am I right in recalling that the science does not support the idea it is converted to serotonin?

          Personally I have for a long time thought that serotonin is a red herring when it comes to mood. Many things affect its levels but I am of the impression it is not a “primary cause” but rather just reflects a general picture of what’s going on. Melatonin, dopamine, and the opioid system have always been more interesting to me (and possibly DMT, which I am starting to think does play a role in meditation’s altered states e.g. jhana).

          • Illuminatus says:

            I just wanted to make clear: I have never taken the melatonin antidepressant. I have only tried the OTC supplement version.

            I looked at agomelatine and it is available in the UK without prescription but costs a lot: I think it was around £30 for 30. Maybe if I get some donations this month I would be willing to do a trial and make a post about it. 😉

            I do not suffer depression and haven’t for many years. The only reason I would try it is to see if it was able to rewire my optimum sleep hours to 11pm-7am.

      • Matt says:

        An interesting perspective. I like that you don’t put the ‘blame’ on me. My sleep has been awful. I work second shift and don’t have much room to experiment with sleep hours. I started meditating again a few weeks ago and I was falling asleep like a baby whereas sometimes I’d stay up all night. So I didn’t complain I just didn’t know if it was good meditation. Also my eyes were constantly twitching and in pain and meditation/ sleeping from it seems to have cleared that completely up.

        When you guys describe do nothing or awareness watching awareness, you simply mean being and looking out correct? Pure observation of raw sensation?

        • Illuminatus says:

          @Matt: Sleep is so fundamental to the equation that it is pointless trying to qualify something as “good meditation” if you are sleep deprived. The desire to sleep will simply be moved to the front of the queue rendering your meditation attempt largely pointless.

          You should consider making a life decision to get a job that allows you to sleep your biologically wired sleep pattern (and take time to find out what that is). I think it’s important enough to think seriously about (though I am stopping short of actually “recommending” you pursue some course of action since that is clearly your decision alone).

          >When you guys describe do nothing or awareness watching awareness, you simply mean being and looking out correct? Pure observation of raw sensation?

          I don’t think it reduces well to one sentence. Leo explains it pretty well here:

  10. Magician123 says:

    What is your take on the time limits placed on many of the non directive meditation techniques?

    For a lot of them you are to meditate from ranges of 15-30 minutes twice a day. The reasons given for not doing more are the supposed diminishing effects of further time spent or the excessive ‘de-stressing’ that could occur.

    I’m talking specifically about TM/NSR, Surya Ram and CMR. The other one’s, which appear to me as pure, no mantra ‘Do nothing’ meditations, are advocated without any time limit attached. Also from what is stated in about NSR (and I believe is the same with TM), the necessary 3-4 minute resting period that follows the 15 minute mantra time IS the Do nothing meditation.

    • Illuminatus says:

      It is a complex question and there is a lot going on there. Factors include:

      – Goals of practice. Read this post about the “two levels of meditation”; the paragraph starts with the words “In his core method…”:
      Are you trying to become enlightened or just be a better version of “current you”? Obviously wanting to go all the way would necessitate far more practice and longer sits.

      – Increasing “energy”. Whatever you label this term (I have heard: piti / kundalini / energy / prana to name a few) there is “something” which increases as part of the metamorphosis of meditation. Longer sits tend to generate this more quickly. This can cause changes in perception and behaviour of meditators. Perhaps the time limits imposed on TM etc. are there to protect the user from advancing too fast.

      I think the issue overall, and which teachers are trying to manage, is that meditation can cause sudden perceptual shifts which can be ungrounding.

      Ultimately though, if you want to go all the way, you want the nondirective acceptance of “what is” to become your default perceptive state, and that will take long sits until the thing unwraps itself permanently.

      • Illuminatus says:

        By the way, I do not consider TM-style mantra meditation to be particularly “nondirective”. If you consider my scale defined here ( then TM would perhaps be a 0.7 (so, quite directive, really).

        The TM-style mantra Arpan wrote up is, in my experience, HIGHLY energizing. It is a powerful altered state. So the time limits are understandable in this respect.

        This is VERY different from very nondirective meditations such as Do Nothing, or my What Is meditation, which are close to zero on my scale. I see no reason why those true nondirective meditations would require time limits at all. In fact, I would recommend 2+ hour sits with those if you want to see the fastest gains in meditation!

        • Magician123 says:

          Thank you for your in depth answer, it was really helpful and is allowing me to see how I will shape my practice going forward.

          I have been practicing NSR on and off for nearly two years, and did see improvements in my life while I was practicing. I guess the reasons I dropped it were losing effects incorrect practice as well as moving onto other techniques that I thought may be better/quicker and also would give me profound bliss but I was never successful with them.

          Right now I am thinking of using ‘I Love You and Forgive You’ or ‘Love’ mantra at the start of my meditation in the same ‘soft mantra’ style of TM/NSR, then moving to my NSR mantra for 15 – 20 minutes and then extend the resting period into significantly long ‘Do nothing’ practice which will hopefully give me those fast gains.

          I was wondering whether the ‘high energising’ affect of the mantra – which I feel as more as a buzzing sensation while stress leaves the body – will impede on the ‘Do nothing’ practice that would follow or would it not matter?

          The ‘I Love You and Forgive You’ mantra is something an ex TM practitioner David Landau (

          In his own words he spent decades doing TM but did not find lasting peace and happiness until he came upon the above mentioned phrase while meditating. What he presents is that this phrase combined with the state achieved in meditation, will allow the higher self as well as the subconscious to heal one’s shadow without our interference.

          • Illuminatus says:

            Tony Daniels seems to be saying he went all the way with a TM-style mantra meditation. It sounds like he just accessed the nonduality state until it became his default way of being.

            In this sense, it may be the case that it does not entirely matter which meditation you practise; the process unfolds at its own rate for each person. And, if someone makes it with one meditation type, they will then tend to sing its praises as the one true method.

            The key is awareness. Developing awareness ever further seems to be what takes you there. All I can comment at this stage is that nondirective appears to create more rapid gains by not trying to force the metamorphosis but instead just “getting out of its way” so it can proceed at its own pace.

            • Arpan says:

              In the latter part of that video Tony Daniels makes an interesting point: (paraphrasing)
              “Many people tend to more or less perfect some semblance of Non Duality. They tell people that there is no individual and feel unwilling to leave that heautiful state for the dualistic individual consciousness for wordly tasks.
              They have stopped short of full awakening, after which you can feel individual and universal as 2 aspects of yourself. You can feel your infinity and simultaneously narrow down to a perfect concentration on a task at hand.”

              • Illuminatus says:

                Good quote!

                Ingram being a prime example of that intermediate realm (while still calling himself an Arahat — wow).

            • LuminousBliss says:

              He used TM, a mantra until the mantra dissolved and he just became aware of non dual awareness. Some people need an object as not for everyone it’s easy to access this awareness . But the best is just to take the shortcut and be aware of awareness if you can.

              • Arpan says:

                @ LB: have you shut down your blog ?
                Re Awareness: Yes, Do Nothing, CMR and TM a, no matter what I start with, it becomes AWA in no time.
                Infact, Do Nothing has bcm exactly AWA for me.

            • Magician123 says:

              Thanks again for responding.

  11. Jajaru says:

    I’m so lost, I’m so confused, both in my practice and my life in general.
    For the past 3 months I’ve been practicing self inquiry for 50 straight minutes everyday, I switched to self inquiry from concetration meditation after reading about it on the internet.
    My results where nothing, I’m still stuck in countless thoughts during meditation. So I took a different aproach.
    I’m a firm believer that we are our body and that the way we breath plays a crucial role in the way we feel.
    My belly is really tight and my breathing pattern is all over the place so I decided today to change my meditation practice to a body awareness/breath watching one, I just watch my breath going deep into my belly without trying to judge it or control it, so I’m somewhat still doing a non-directive meditation but my “gaze” is towards my belly. In self inquriy you just “sit back” and watch your being be, what I do is “sit back” and watch my breath be.
    I believe that energy = awareness and when you adjust your awareness towards somewhere you drive your energy there too, so I’m adjusting my awareness towards my breath and belly in hope that said energy will fix the problems there.
    I know that you Illuminatus have come a long way and your breath and belly are probably fine-adjusted, but I just wanted to post this because I know there are other people out there with tight bellies and bad breathing patterns who need to fix them but just how I said: Don’t force yourself to fix them, just watch your breath, watch your damaged breath and belly and love it for what it is, just let the breath do what it wants to do and let it all go away.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Jajaru, 50 minutes every day for 3 months is quite an achievement, so well done!

      I am of the opinion that ALL of that meditation helped you, whether you noticed it or not. There is a lot of work to be done, mostly unconscious, before one can consciously experience things like bliss, equanimity etc. This time period varies between individuals. I did not get any bliss states for the first two months of meditation when I started 10 years ago. However, during those two months, my insomnia disappeared by itself. I also noticed time periods with fewer thoughts began happening. Then, I got a jhana one day. It took a long time to get another one, though.

      So, I think work is happening all the time, provided you are meditating and bringing some awareness to things that ordinarily you wouldn’t.

      If you are happier with your new method though, feel free to continue with it. There is not really any harm in switching method from time to time; just keep coming back to whatever works.

      >Don’t force yourself to fix them, just watch your breath, watch your damaged breath and belly and love it for what it is, just let the breath do what it wants to do and let it all go away.

      I do not believe you are damaged nor do you need to think of yourself as damaged; meditation is a metamorphosis to something better, a complete personality change that unfolds over time. Just think about what you wish to become; for this it is useful to watch inspiring videos of people who have made it, such as this guy: or read blogs of people who have made it, such as this woman:

      We have other sources listed here, in this useful Q&A:

      • Jajaru says:

        Thanks a lot Illuminatus, be well.

      • Jajaru says:

        Ok, here I am again.
        To anyone who read my previous comment: ignore what I said, I’m no master to give advice like that.
        There can’t be non-directive meditation while also forcing yourself to watch the breath or watch your 3rd eye or watch your thoughts.
        I tried meditating with watching my breath as a silent observer but during the meditation I realized that just trying to watch the breath distracted me even more. All this wanting: “the wanting to watch my breath, the wanting to correct my posture through meditation, the wanting to be something else from what I am now” was distracting me, by making these thoughts I couldn’t surrender to what it is, I couldn’t face the truth of what is.

        • Illuminatus says:

          For the record, I find watching the breath EXTREMELY difficult. In the early days I was much more comfortable with it as the breath would come and go as it pleased for the most part. As my concentration intensity increased however I found that even mild attention would greatly affect the breath, constricting it and controlling it. The days of “passively” watching the breath are far behind in my rear view mirror. If I want to use the breath as an object now, I have to do a special breath, which is similar to the breath you do as you fall asleep — the emphasis is on the out-breath, the “down energy”, at the nostrils, as though I am literally trying to go to sleep while staying awake. The process is almost 100% under my control — a 1.0 on the directive scale.

          Believe it or not some people’s meditation does not fuck with the breath in this way. More power to them. But if watching the breath distracts you or causes the breath to warp uncomfortably then simply switch to PURE NONDIRECTIVE (Do Nothing, my “What Is” meditation, CMR, or whatever) and forget the breath entirely. There is nothing wrong with doing this! Different people need different approaches.

  12. Takara says:

    Thanks for breaking it down like that!

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