"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

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Lojong: Training the Heart and Mind

"True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings." -- Pema Chödrön

"In all activities, train with slogans."-- The 9th Lojong Slogan

I've had my nose buried in books a lot this past week, diving once again into a stack of works on the Lojong Trainings.

Although the 59 slogans of this Tibetan Buddhist system of training the Heart and Mind were passed on as secret teachings in Tibet by the ninth century emigre Indian teacher, Atisha, they were codified and opened to a wider audience by Tibetan teacher Geshe Chekawa in the 12th century.

Now, in the 21st century, that audience has become worldwide.  Here, in the melting pot of American Buddhism, there are numerous translations and commentaries on these Teachings in English -- and not only by teachers in the Tibetan tradition of  Pema Chödrön and her teacher Chögyam Trungpa.  In fact, these days my favorite book on Lojong is that of Zen teacher, Sensei Norman Fisher.  His book, Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong, rocks!

In print, in digital media, and on the web, viewing the vast array of material on Lojong available today is like peering at the rainbow facets of a diamond while slowly spinning it around in the sunlight.  It's dazzling.

How cool is that?

The Theory and the Practice

Of course, studying is one thing.  Unlearning the habits of a lifetime is another.  Since we were in the womb (if not before that,) we've each been immersed in a pool of energies that have conditioned us in ways that disconnect us from our True Nature.  Rather than face the world with an open heart and clear mind, we were taught to distrust ourselves, others, even life itself.  In light of this deep-set conditioning, the effort to recover our natural compassion and wisdom takes commitment, energy, and patience.  

It takes Practice. 
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Saturday, October 10, 2020

It's Only Words

The secret of Buddhism is to remove all ideas, all concepts,
in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate, to reveal itself.”
― Thich Nhat Hạnh
 
"The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
"

―  Tao Te Ching

In the world of Zen, words and concepts are not generally held in high regard. 

It's not surprising that some students even got smacked by crotchety old Zen masters for their "loose lips."   

Words can be pretty damn tricky.

A case in point:  The realm of words creates a situation where the word "swearing" could either describe what emerges when a person angrily launches into a foul-mouthed condemnation of something or it's opposite.  Swearing is also what happens when a person wholeheartedly takes a sacred oath.

So what does the word "swear" actually mean?  (For that matter what does "mean," mean? I mused that Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call: What's Love Got To Do with It?)

Over the years, it's become clearer and clearer to me that any particular word, or even a whole string of those slippery devils, at best, can only hint at the Truth.  Most often, they just lead to a more complicated web of endless definition. 

I've found that, like Life itself, meaning is inseparable from context.  It emerges from an essential connection to a whole matrix of experiences which, in turn, are ultimately inseparable from the Whole Universe.   

This makes real communication extremely interesting.  It involves myriad factors beyond the actual exchange of words.  In fact, if you are really paying attention during a conversation, what is not said may be more meaningful than what is said.   The devil isn't merely in the details.  The devil is the details -- when those slippery devils operate to take us further and further away from the Truth.  Truth, I have found, is ultimately a matter of Heart, not the thinking mind.

Yet, staying connected to our hearts is not easy.  It takes Practice.  And Practice takes courage, effort -- and Commitment.

Commitment!?

Oh no, not that!
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Sunday, October 4, 2020

A Good Cry

“Crying is one of the highest devotional songs. One who knows crying, knows spiritual practice. If you can cry with a pure heart, nothing else compares to such a prayer.  Crying includes all the principles of Yoga.”


“In the Lakota/Sioux tradition, a person who is grieving is considered 
most Wakan, most holy."

Emmet Kelly 1898-1979
Some time ago,  I came across the above quote by Swami Kripalvanandji while preparing for a yoga class that I was going to teach later that day.  I immediately emailed it to a dear friend who was having a rough time.

She replied that it helped -- a lot.  After reading it, she had headed out to her garden to have a good cry.  It was exactly what she needed.

Growing up in today's society, most of us have learned to avoid crying like the plague.  Widely seeen as a sign of unacceptable weakness and frailty, we are conditioned to keep a stiff upper lip, to steel ourselves against this natural expression of heartfelt feeling.  
 
Although this conditioning is considered to be a "male," thing, most of the women I know often fight back their tears.  In our society, these patterns of resistance to a natural human expression are quite pervasive. 

That being said, I actually hesitated for a moment to plunge ahead here.  After all, you don't see glitzy promotional commercials proclaiming: Mindfulness Practice: Guaranteed to make you cry! Maybe I'd better "lighten up" a bit?  I might get sued by the professionals promising peace and joy.  After all, isn't Buddha's Third Noble Truth the freakin' Cessation of Suffering?