"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about progressively opening your heart and calming your mind enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call! Musings on Life and Practice by a long time student of meditation.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Wing and a Prayer

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake 
is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
― Pema Chödrön


``Do not be afraid," the Voice called to him. ``Hang on to the wind and trust!"
-- from "Tale of the Jumping Mouse", 
in Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm

Back in 1970, my kid brother David, who was in many ways my Guru long before I knew much about gurus and the Practice, sent me a handwritten copy of the "Tale of the Jumping Mouse".  A denizen of Haight-Ashbury for years, David had come across it before it appeared in Hyemeyohsts Storm's book, Seven Arrows.) 

I was transfixed.  

"Tale of the Jumping Mouse" was one of those stories.  It resonated deeply with the Heart of the Matter for me.  Stirred to the core, my heart chakra opened through a torrent of tears.  (Those were the days, huh.)

An allegory, "Tale of the Jumping Mouse" traces the journey of a simple mouse who heard something one day, a faint roaring sound that the others didn't appear to hear amidst the scramble of their day to day existence.   His Essential Curiosity stirred, this mouse summoned up the courage to take the Grand Leap to discover the Source of the sound.  He left the confines of his normal life to discover a world of great beauty and wonder.  

With the help and guidance of other creatures, through repeated acts of courage and the willingness to serve others again and again, Mouse developed his Medicine as Jumping Mouse.  In the end, (or perhaps, the beginning), the Jumping Mouse became Eagle.  

Years ago, I read of a society in the South Pacific where the children were taught to fly in their dreams as the main spiritual practice. Psychologist Carl Jung believed that flying dreams symbolized the basic human desire for liberation.  Although, I probably personally identify more with Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (another spiritual allegory of the early 1970's) than with an Eagle, it seems that the symbol of flight captures something essential about the Spiritual Path.  It certainly did for me.

So what does Sitting have to do with Flying?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Visible to the Naked Eye

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.”
― William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell 

Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh



The trees across the way are shrouded in mist this morning. Although there is still a hint of green and red brown in the butterfly bush at the edge on the garden the world is awash in grey tones.  There was a time when a grey day like this would invariably send my spirits spiraling downward.  

That doesn't happens so much these days. I blame the Practice for this turn of events. 

Awhile back,  I ran into one of my dharmabum buddhies on the bus to Orange.  Like me, a regular daily practice is a central part of his life these days.  We proceeded to compare notes on Life and Practice.  (I can't think of anything else I'd rather hear about.)

At one point, I characterized him as "a Lifer" and he grinned and alluded to the many times he's fallen off the wagon.  Yet, to him at this stage of the journey, Life and Practice are "not two".  The look in his eyes was unmistakable. He was aware of the Real Deal.  I think, deep down, we all are.  Manifesting the truth of it in our own lives is only a matter of time, effort -- and Grace*.

As I sense it, Mindfulness Practice is nothing more, and nothing less, than getting in touch with the Truth as it exists in each and every moment of our own experience. 

Although as the Practice unfolds, there can and will be moments of outright wonder and gratitude and bliss, all the experiential big bang moments of human consciousness imaginable, they aren't the Heart of the Matter.  In fact, an attachment to going for the gold and getting all the goodies can hang you up as much as any other grasping.  It's much more about just "assuming the position" --again and again.  It's much more about paying full attention to this very breath, this sight, this sound, this feeling.

Then, at a certain point, it becomes obvious.  

There just isn't anyplace to go other than where you are.  There is nothing more extraordinary than the ordinary.  If you look deeply, Infinity is visible to the naked eye. 

Looking up from the keyboard, taking a breath and relaxing my shoulders, I gaze out the window.  

The mist out there is clear as a bell.

I love it when that happens.   


* I think it's wise to embrace Grace as an essential part of the picture and remember that the individual "I" didn't set the Universe up this way.   It's the boundless and infinite One Love, unadorned by this individuated costuming, that's responsible.  Alhamdulillah 

Originally posted December 2013.  Revised

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Attitude of Gratitude

Since childhood, holidays have been difficult for me.  I always intuited that something Spiritual was hovering over my shoulder, hiding in the shadows cast by dazzling lights and the hollowness of the widespread, often drunken, merriment.  A child often SEES.  With that insight, the disparity between "the way it's 'spozed to be" and "the way it is" becomes striking. 

The approach of Thanksgiving brought my identical twin brother Lefty to the computer to share his thoughts on this traditional American holiday, in a post entitled "Thanks -- and No Thanks." It seems he couldn't face the image traditionally presented about Thanksgiving without pointing to the reality of our history.  (You can find his thoughts at Rambling On with Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.*).  

Today, I could expand on his offering to go on a rant about the rampant commercial insanity of Black Friday as well.  People getting into brawls in their frenzy to acquire gifts to celebrate the upcoming birthday of the Prince of Peace seems pretty far from the mark, no?

But I won't.   

As Thich Nhat Hanh once said, "suffering is not enough."  Sometimes you have to consciously turn your gaze toward the good things that light up your life.  No matter what the "darkness" brings, they are ALWAYS there to acknowledge.  I wrote about the Saving Grace of Gratitude on Thanksgiving 2013,  and I'd like to share it with you again today.  Happy Thanksgiving.  
One Love, 
Lance

"A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.”
  -- Albert Einstein

 "Be grateful to everyone."
-- The 13th slogan of the Lojong Trainings


I'm sometimes amazed -- and often amused -- as I observe my heart/mind floating down the stream of consciousness sitting here at the keyboard in the attempt to write something helpful for the MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call.  

Today, with Thanksgiving on the horizon, I sat for a few moments facing the relatively blank New Post screen, then wandered around a bit on the web tracing the word "gratitude" along various strands of thought, trying all the while not to get too far afield.

Now I'm sitting here with my chest heaving, tears rolling down my cheeks,with images of Bing Crosby as freakin' Father O'Malley playing across the screen at Mind's Memory Lane Theater.   
 
WTF? How in the world did I end up here?
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