"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, June 17, 2017

Me and My Shadow

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back...They’re like messengers that show us,
with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck."
 --  Pema Chödrön

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, 
but by making the darkness conscious...Knowing your own darkness is the best method
for dealing with the darknesses of other people."”
-- C.G. Jung

Many folks experiencing a lot of stress in their lives are drawn to meditation.  It's only natural to want to chill out and, to be sure, Mindfulness Practice can provide many moments of deep calm and clarity.

Yet -- and this is generally not proclaimed in the slick internet ads  -- it is also true that a regular mediation practice can bring to the surface a lot of feelings that we have assiduously managed to repress, deny or avoid as we scurry ahead in our lives.

Conditioned to operate in a fast-paced materialistic society, one that keeps us focused outwardly for fulfillment, we just keep moving.  Once we slow down and sit still for awhile to focus inwardly, our world changes.  Although we can experience greater calm,  it is also not uncommon to encounter darker, more distressing emotions.

Contrary to what we might think, this is a Good Thing.  It's a sign that the Practice is working!

In the process of a deepening Practice, we no longer skim across the surface.  We actually begin to get in touch with the aspects of our conditioning that have subconsciously operated to create the way we see and react to the events of our lives.  (How often have you winced and thought "damn.  Why did I say/do that!?)  The good news is that, with Practice, we are able to make conscious what had been subconscious.  Over time, we are able to observe and navigate the more troublesome aspects of ourselves with increasing clarity and ease. 

Truth in Advertising

Adrift in momentary delusions of grandeur, I sometimes joke about beginning a high profile advertising campaign for Monday Morning Mindfulness with full page bold print ads, billboards and television commercials proclaiming something like:
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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trouble in Mind

"Trouble in mind, babe, I'm blue,
but I won't be blue always
Yes, the sun gonna shine,
in my back door someday
-- Big Bill Broonzy, "Trouble in Mind"

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent,
dynamic nature of your own being and of reality,
you increase your capacity to love and care about other people
and your capacity to not be afraid."
-- Pema Chödrön, Practicing Peace in Times of War


I Sit for an hour most mornings.  That's been the case for a long, long time.  

At this point, I have no idea whether this is a sign of advanced practice, personal inadequacy -- or outright addiction. 

I suppose it could be said that this daily ritual is a result of my personal commitment to Practice. It doesn't feel like that anymore.  It's just what happens when I roll out of bed.
For Better or for Worse 
Over the years I've learned that labeling a particular meditation session "good" or "bad" is missing the point.  Although I certainly notice my own tendency to prefer the pleasant sensations of a particularly bright, calm and spacious quality of consciousness over the claustrophobic storm clouds of doom and gloom or the buzzy feeling of endless discursive prattle, it is precisely there that Practice begins and ends: we notice.

I suppose this may be the primary lesson of Buddhism 101: A whole lot of needless suffering seems to emerge from the conditioned habit of mindlessly grasping onto the pleasant and reflexively rejecting the unpleasant.  Bringing that process into the light of Mindfulness opens a new world of possibility.  As we bring Mindfulness to the present moment, oftentimes we see quite clearly that the "trouble in mind" is quite ephemeral.  Most often, it is just held in place by the current story line, the narrative we carry on in that section of mind that emerges as thought.  

Seeing that clearly, the skies clear, the sun returns -- sometimes instantaneously.  

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Yet, it is true that there are deeply troubled waters in life.  Mindfulness Practice then becomes the bridge to a deeper understanding.  Gently and courageously opening our hearts and minds to the horrors and sadness of life, exploring and embracing the human condition as we experience it with diligence and care, brings forth a deep transformation.  And, wonder of wonders,  it increasingly allows us to open to deeper levels of joy and peace and amazement as well. 


When we are no longer deeply invested in grasping for one thing and pushing away another, a new sense of ease and appreciation emerges.  When we aren't attempting to dam the river of life to suit our own, generally un-examined,  preconceptions,  the flow gets to be even more deeply interesting and worthwhile.  

At times, the river of life dances and sparkles, reflecting the brilliant sun. At times it glowers. brandishing storm clouds as it broils downstream.  It is still the river.  As we taste our True Nature, we see that we, too, are the river.  At that point, as we flow inexorably to merge with the sea, True Love becomes increasingly possible. 

It just takes Practice.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Gateless Gate*

 Originally Posted July, 2013.  Revised.


"You knock at the door of reality,
Shake off your thought wings,
Loosen your shoulders,
And open.
---Rumi

"And you shall know the Truth,
and the Truth shall make you free."
---Yogi Jesus of Nazareth



Last Monday's MMM Circle again provided some food for thought--and the impetus to move beyond thought--as a we compared notes on Mindfulness Practice.  

At several points, as the group grappled with the various issues that had come up during the week as we worked to put the Practice into practice, the limits of discursive thought and "reasoning" became more than obvious.

I loved it.

At one point one of the Irregular Regulars, in her own inimitable style, jumped with both feet into the apparent contradiction between the dictum to always "be here now" and the need to take care of life's necessary activities such as planning, paying the bills, etc.  

She then moved on to the apparent contradiction between the notion that "we are One" and our individual uniqueness, asserting:
      "I mean we're all one, but we're not.  We're the same, but we're each different, ya know?"

I think  Zen monks of old would have had a ball.

As it was, the Circle spiraled onward and we turned to the more apparently "practical" concerns of Practice, comparing notes, exchanging tips, etc.  Yet, as best I can sense it, the points that Michelle had raised echoed themes presented in some of the fundamental koans of Zen.

It didn't surprise me, really.

It's become more and more obvious to me: when there is a commitment to live life consciously, when there is a willingness to examine our experience of Life in depth rather than allowing the messages we have internalized from our upbringing to create our realities from beneath the level of our awareness, Life Itself can and will provide us with the necessary questions -- and the necessary answers!

The fundamental paradoxes that Zen Koan study thrives on are inherent in the way conceptual thought operates.  With some time and effort, we each come to the Gateless Gate of Zen.  And, the good news is that we each have the ability enter into a deeper and richer reality than we've been conditioned to experience.   You don't have to be a formal Zen student to approach and gain admission.  You don't even have to be a Buddhist.

It's like Jesus proclaimed, "Ask and you will receive. Knock and it will be opened."
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