"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 24, 2017

The Sky's the Limit

 “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”
― Pema Chödrön

“As the mind becomes a little more quiet the sacredness of everything 
within and without becomes clear to us.”
― Norman Fischer

 


Yesterday morning, I had yet another occasion to thank my lucky stars for having stumbled into the Practice years ago.

I awoke from a bevy of somewhat haunted dreams feeling quite sad.  Thanks to the Practice, a few moments later, I was plucked from my homemade rowboat as it skimmed across the River Styx hellbound for Hades, and wisked to seventh heaven by a guardian angel sent by God.  

No lie!

WTF?

Lest I risk blowing any shred of credibility I may have garnered and/or being plucked from this perch at my favorite coffeehouse by burly men brandishing straight jackets, perhaps I better reword that.

So:

When I first awoke on the embers of a dream to a gloomy, overcast morning yesterday, I was aware that I was feeling sad.  Having spent many hours Sitting Still Doing Nothing over the years, it seems that these days at least a modicum of Mindfulness is generally available.  So, I was aware that my first thought was "something's wrong".  This was quickly followed by the thought "I'm depressed", which evoked fear and fleeting memories drawn from earlier experiences of burn-out and despair.  The next thought was "these are just thoughts."

I then shifted the focus of my attention to what I was hearing.  A bird outside the window began to sing.  It was Beautiful.  My mood lifted immediately.

I can still thank my lucky stars, right?

(Although I still may have not recouped any semblance of credibility, the burly guys just shrugged and left.)
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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.