"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!

The Musings of a Long-time Student of Meditation

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Just Listen

"Listening is a very deep practice.You have to empty yourself. 
You have to leave space in order to listen...
In deep listening we listen with the sole purpose of 
helping the other person feel heard and accepted." 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Healing comes from our innate capacity for deep listening.  
This deep listening or seeing is not through our eyes or ears, 
but through our heart and soul."
-- Jack Kornfeld 

There is, perhaps, no more important form of meditative discipline than what Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh calls deep listening.  It connects us to ourselves, to one another -- and to our true nature.

Our time on the cushion in formal meditation is essential.  Yet, it is what happens next that really matters. It is there, in the midst of our day-to-day lives, that our kindness, compassion, and wisdom are actualized -- or not.  

Beans in our Ears

Most of us have learned the prevailing form of listening in our society.  Much of the time we don't really listen.  We listen, not to connect deeply with the experience of another, but to reply.  Although our ears and eyes and finer sensibilities are operational as we listen, most of our attention is absorbed into the commentary running through our heads.   

As a matter of habit, we automatically analyze, compare, judge, relate it to an associated personal experience, advise, counsel, or otherwise react without a deep awareness of what is really going on -- either inside ourselves or the other person.  As a result, whole realms of emotional and intuitive energies remain beneath the level of our awareness.  Rather than connect, we often end up bouncing off one another.

It doesn't have to be this way.

We can actually learn an entirely different way of listening to another person -- and to ourselves!  We can go deeper.  We can empathize.    

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Wherever Two or Three of You Are Gathered

"To begin a sangha, find one friend who would like to join you for sitting meditation or walking meditation or tea meditation or sharing."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Everyone has the seed of Buddhanature within them."
--Thich Nhat Hanh

I've felt it distinctly.  I've heard it from lots of folks in the Mindfulness Circles over the years, too.

Meditating with other people is different than meditating alone. 

It only makes sense. 

After all, at a fundamental level, we are not inherently isolated individuals, separated from one another (and the rest of the universe) by some impenetrable barrier.  As Alan Watts wrote years ago, we are not merely,"skin encapsulated egos."  

As best I can sense it, we are, each of us, a focal point of energy in a interconnected web of energy that is inseparable from what some folks refer to as God.  Although I may not feel the truth of that in each and every moment, I've experienced this enough to know it to be the Real Deal. We are not just in this together.  We ARE this together.

So, sitting together in meditation will actually feel different.  Especially when we then take time to compare notes on our lives and meditation practice.  As we learn to open our hearts and minds to one another, to listen to one another mindfully, without judgment, we can actually feel our connection more readily.

Although the existence of a spiritual dimension to reality has been proclaimed by mystics and spiritual teachers throughout the ages, we live in a society where materialism has dominated the cultural landscape for centuries.  The entire thrust of our conditioning has operated to disconnect us from that spiritual dimension.  This has happened for generations.  Yet, with commitment, time, energy -- and grace -- we can return to our True Nature as spiritual beings.  

With Practice, we can get real.  We can access our heart's boundless wisdom.  In our heart of hearts, we can experience the healing power of Connection -- to ourselves, to one another, and to the infinite One Love that we emerge from and return to each moment. 

The Mindfulness Heart Circle

In 2012, I was asked to teach a meditation class at a local yoga studio.  I replied that I would gladly facilitate a weekly group meditation practice -- and do it for free.  Retired, living on a small fixed income, I would barter as the studio caretaker for use of the space as I had done in order to take classes there.

Having begun the exploration of yoga and meditation as a college senior in 1969, having practiced with a number of major (and not so major) teachers over the years, I felt quite deeply that the hierarchical nature of traditional institutional Buddhism was not unlike that of the other major world's religions.  The patriarchal structure that institutionalized power over rather than power among members of a community, was deeply problematic.  It was clear to me that authoritarian structures serve to disempower human beings, and lead to subtle, and not so subtle, abuse of the human spirit.  I'd seen that with my own eyes, felt it in my own body.  

I'd also seen that the commercialization of spiritual practice in our society, like all aspects of life in a capitalist society, operates to prevent access to people of limited economic resources.   The so-called New Age Spirituality that blossomed during my lifetime was nothing new.  A whole lot of money was changing hands.  The deep healing that is available through a committed meditation practice and alternative forms of healing flowed primarily through an economically privileged, mostly white, sector of our society.  American Buddhism had become the Upper Middle Way.  

As a person who had grown up in poverty, who had spent time in foster care as a kid and  experienced homelessness as an adult, I wasn't comfortable with putting a price tag on human liberation.  The healing I'd receive through Practice was priceless.  I didn't want to capitalize on it. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020


We can suppress anger and aggression or act it out,
either way making things worse for ourselves and others.
Or we can practice patience: wait,
experience the anger and investigate its nature.
---Pema Chodron

“Just because anger or hate is present does not
mean that the capacity to love and accept
is not there; love is always with you.”
---Thich Nhat Hanh

The Universe is exquisite.  

Once you hitch your wagon to Practice and roll out, you are going to get the lessons along the way that are needed to take you deeper --whether you like it or not!  This might be especially true if you have the unbridled chutzpah to publicly ramble on about your experiences. 

More than once here in this blog, I've spent time presenting the notion that simply "cutting loose of the storyline," is the ultimate fix.  When we have enough presence of mind to refocus our attention from the realm of discursive thought to explore what is going on in our breath, body, and heart, sometimes hell dissolves and heaven is revealed in the blink of an eye.  (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Once Upon a Time...)   

The operative word here is -- sometimes.

As the years roll by and the Practice deepens, I have experienced an instantaneous transformation quite often.  Yet, during the last past week, Life has interjected a pretty dramatic bevy of upset apple carts and broohahas into the Grand Mix.  It seems a bit of Karmic Comeuppance was necessary.  Hopefully, getting my tail burned with my own anger will burnish my humility and compassion a bit.  It's certainly been enough to remind me that it can take a lot of work and a whole lot longer than a "blink of an eye" to learn something from a situation -- and regain a sense of wonder about it all.  

The lesson?  

Being a calm and kind, clear and compassionate, human being is NOT that easy.  It is a daunting discipline.  It takes commitment, courage, patience, skill, time and effort.  It takes Practice.

Then and Now

As a child and a young man I had what folks might call an extremely bad temper.  Having grown up in the midst of a lot of anger and physical violence, I would react to things in my world with bursts of violent emotions -- and even violent behavior.  Throughout childhood, I could fly into a rage and smash things and strike out with the worst of them.  My kid brother and I fought like cats and dogs. Our last furniture breaking brawl took place when I was in college.  

It would still take years to quell those patterns.

Perhaps, the deepest gratitude that I have to the Practice is that I am no longer likely to get extremely angry.  Annoyance and irritation usually is about as bad as it gets.  I'm grateful that it usually doesn't spill out of my mouth without immediate recognition and re-calibration.

Yet, life being life, usually doesn't mean never.  Recently, I hit a deep pool of anger for the first time in quite awhile.  I was angry.  Really angry.  Thankfully, after launching a few unkind words, I withdrew.  ( I wish I had withdrawn before I launched those misguided missles, but, obviously there were deeper lessons to be learned.)