"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about calming your mind and opening your heart 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, March 17, 2018

Just a Few Thoughts

"One can appreciate and celebrate each moment -- there is nothing more sacred.
There is nothing more vast and absolute.  In fact, there is nothing more."
-- Pema Chödron, 
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. 
Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

March Snow 2014
March is definitely being March here in western Massachusetts.  Lions and lambs continue to chase one another in circles as we are teased with mild days, then pummeled with various wintry mixes.  

Tonight, the hilltowns to the west of us will plunge toward zero degrees again, as the National Weather Service predicts a steamy 12° for us.  This is a week or so after I spent an afternoon in shirtsleeves.


And then there's always the March SNOW(s)!  Although the last two Nor'easters managed to spare the Pioneer Valley, Mother Nature will continue to do as she does.  If history repeats itself, we could still get some real snow before She rolls up her sleeves and gets serious about her Spring chores.  There's a lot of greening to be done.

Then again, maybe we won't get anymore snow before then.  Then again, maybe...

"Thinking, thinking." Ah.

I was thinking up a storm.  Tending to to speculate, fantasize, judge, compare, exaggerate, "thinking mind" can create all sorts of story lines about the weather -- or anything else imaginable.  All too often, it's just another snow job.  Much ado about nothing.  Yet most of us do it, most of the time.

Time to sit back and take a deep breath.

When I pause to gaze at the sun and shadows playing across the tawny world outside the window, there is an immediate shift.  When I open to the sounds of the birds twittering, the wind whispering through leafless trees, and the surf-like sounds of the traffic humming along High Street -- when I let go of the story lines, come to my senses, and feel myself sitting here breathing, the world immediately expands.  Not constrained by the fetters of thought, Life becomes vast and wondrous.

 This happens every time I pause and stop typing.  

(You could, perhaps, pause here for a moment or two and open up to those other channels of your own experience right now before moving on to click  (READ MORE)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

How Sweet It Is

"Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment.
It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation."
 --  Rabindranath Tagore

"What you seek is seeking you!"
-- Rumi

When I woke up that morning over 50 years ago, I had no idea that the trajectory of my life through time and space would be very much determined that afternoon.

It was the summer of 1965.  I had just finished my freshman year in college and was back home in a small town north of Chicago, working in a factory again for the summer.  As I had done for several summers, I  gave myself a $5/week "entertainment" budget and saved the rest to fund my education.  I spent three of that week's dollars in a matter of moments at a table of used books at the Lion's Club White Elephant sale in the small park near the center of town.

For years now, I've realized that two of the books that I bought that day had a profound influence on me. The first, The Wisdom of Buddha, published by a Buddhist organization in Japan was my first introduction to Buddhism.  When I flipped it open and scanned a few pages, I thought, "Wow.  That's interesting.  This sounds like what Jesus was teaching in the Bible!" This began the exploration of Buddhist teachings and practices that was to inspire and sustain me over the years.

The second book was another small tome, The Wisdom of Gandhi.  Deeply touched by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, I had read that Dr. King had been deeply touched by Gandhi.  That was good enough for me.  Poking my nose into that book immediately brought forth another 20% of that week's allocated "mad money," and set the tenor and tone of my life's political activism.

It was only today, after a powerful experience yesterday evening, that I remembered that there was a third book I bought that afternoon. 

Connecting the Dots

I had climbed in front of the computer to begin work on this week's post with the thought that a number of recent posts have focused on the importance of contemplating the inevitability of death (Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:"Reality Asserts Itself",
Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call: The End Game).  Although this contemplation is, I think, quite fundamental in sustaining a commitment to Practice, there is the flip side: the cultivation of a deep awareness of the utter Preciousness of Life. 

In fact, if you use the Four Reminders of the Lojong Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism as a frame of reference, those posts had put the proverbial cart before the horse.  An awareness of the reality that life ends is actually the Second Reminder of Point One of the seven training points that encompass this series of 59 training slogans.  (For more, see A Layman Looks at Lojong.)

The First Reminder, as translated by Chogyam Trungpa is: "Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life."  This contemplation, when taken to Heart, can change everything. Those moments in which we personally experience the Preciousness of Life are worth the price of admission, which in this case is free, but may require some time and effort.  (Contemplation doesn't mean thinking about something for a minute and then having your mind scurry on to an unrelated focal point.)

Sitting there at the computer, allowing my mind to flow gently down the stream of this contemplation, relaxing to soak in the Preciousness of Life, a title for this post emerged: How Sweet It Is!

I had no idea where that would lead.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

One Love, One Heart

“In Chinese, the word for heart and mind is the same -- Hsin.
 For when the heart is open and the mind is clear 
they are of one substance, of one essence.” 
-- Stephen Levine

"Love is not what we become but who we already are."
-- Stephen Levine

This has been one of those times.  The computer screen sat here and stared blankly at me for quite awhile. Neither of us seemed to have a clue as to what today's "MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call" might be.

I slept in this morning for the first time in quite awhile.  Although I did awaken at around 5:30 as usual, I read for a bit, then turned over and did  "dozing meditation" in and out of dreams and sleep until 9:45!  I guess being sick for a while, then hustling through days of catching up with everything except sleep finally caught up with me. 

Having dragged myself out of bed so late, I noticed feelings and thoughts emerge that tended towards making a decision to skip this morning's Sit.  It was late. The sunlight and the hiss of traffic on High Street outside the window beckoned me to pack up the laptop and right head down to Greenfield Coffee.   In this scenario, I'd quaff some coffee and sit right down with the laptop to begin this week's blog post.  I was late, after all.  There were many things on the to do list.  There were lots of reasons to keep moving.

I Sat instead.

These days settling into that one hour morning meditation comes quite naturally most the time.  Sometimes, like today, a real "decision" has to be made.  I need to whomp up a bit of discipline.  I didn't feel like Sitting.  I had to stand in the way of my own momentum.  I actually had my hand on the door handle before pausing and taking a deep  breath.  I then turned around, and headed back to the altar. 

Usually, though,  the momentum of a Life of Practice usually just carries me along like an autumn leaf floating on the surface of a dancing brook under a clear blue sky.  Life flows on.  It's nightime, then it's morning.  I awake. I get up, go pee, I Sit.  The real "decision" was made a long time ago.