"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.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Down in the Valley

"The valley spirit never dies.
It is the unknown first mother,
whose gate is the root
from which grew heaven and earth.

It is dimly seen, yet always present.
Draw from it all you wish;
it will never run dry."
-- Tao Te Ching (tr. Waley, 1934)

"When conditions are sufficient things manifest. When conditions are no longer sufficient things withdraw. They wait until the moment is right for them to manifest again."
-- Thich Nhat Hahn, No Death, No Fear



Across the Road from 108 House
Yesterday's drizzle turned into a more substantial rain last night here in the Pioneer Valley.  

I came awake at about 4:30 AM, then rolled over to face the open window.  I then listened as the rain's song wove itself in and out of dreams for a couple of hours.  It was simply luxurious. 

By the time I emerged to shower and Sit, the rain was, once again, a whisper of a drizzle.  A few moments later, as I ambled out to trek across the field in pursuit of a cup of coffee at Atlas Farm Store, that whisper faded into a few puffs of mist wandering silently along the ridge.  Spellbound, I then watched as one, then another, faded from view, disappearing into the arms of the gentle breeze sweeping along the ridge.

Now you see it.  Now you don't. 

That brought to mind the time that Betsy and I sat on the shore of a pond north of here a few years back and watched in amazement as white puffs of clouds emerged from the womb of a clear blue sky.  One by one, flowing from north to south, each took form to stream across the sky for a few moments before again disappearing from view.

Mother Nature couldn't have painted a clearer picture of the Real Deal.  

As Practice develops,  it becomes more and more apparent that we are of the nature of clouds emerging and disappearing in the vast sky of existence.  Watching closely, we see this is happening each and every moment of our lives in the stream of sensations, feelings, and thoughts that play through our awareness.  They emerge and disappear.   

As we take the time and make the effort, we are able to sustain a semblance of calmness and clarity to then embrace the pain and fear that may surface at the cusp of this perception of the ephemeral nature of all phenomenon. Beyond that, we come to sense directly the insubstantial and impermanent nature of our own personal existence.

That, I suppose, doesn't necessarily sound like good news.  And, yet...
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Being There

“One can appreciate & celebrate each moment — there’s nothing more sacred.
There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more!” ― Pema Chödrön

“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else,
but simply to realize where you already are.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

There are those Perfect Moments.

As I sat in meditation this morning, a male ruby-throated hummingbird zipped from behind me, passing over my left shoulder to feed on the lavender blossoms of a hosta plant in Betsy's back yard garden.

Hovering about three feet in front of my nose, it spent a few moments there dancing from flower to flower before moving to the monarda to my right for a few moments.   It then flew straight towards me before stopping to linger for a moment about six inches off my my right cheek.

Convinced, I suppose, that I wasn't in the same league as Betsy's amazing array of multi-colored sweetness, he then kicked it in gear and disappeared, passing within a few inches of my right shoulder.

"Whirrr............Silence."

Enough said?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Child's Play

“The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind.”
― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind 


"I tell all of you with certainty, unless you change and become like little children, 
you will never get into the kingdom of heaven."
--Jesus, Matthew 18:3, ISV


I awoke this morning to the sound of rain and crisp, cool air floating through the windows alongside my bed.  Un-detered, the crickets and katydids of late summer sang their parts in the pre-dawn symphony as I rolled over and set the alarm to 6:30 a.m to give myself a couple of more hours of sleep.  Moments later, I rolled over again and turned the alarm off.  Although I had thought otherwise, I was ready -- or so I'd thought. I got up and sat down to the laptop to stare at a blank screen -- and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

After awhile, I got up again, set the timer, walked over to the altar in the corner of my bedroom,  lit a stick of incense and Sat down in front of a different blank screen.  I meditated.

Now, an hour later, I'm ready -- I think.

A Tea Party: Zen Style


There is a well known story from the Meiji era (1868-1912) about a prominent university professor who visited master Nan-in to inquire about Zen.  As the professor prattled on, demonstrating his vast knowledge of Buddhist philosophy and doctrine, the master began pouring his guest a cup of tea.  He then continued pouring as the cup overflowed onto the table and floor.  No longer able to restrain himself, the professor shouted, "Stop. The cup is overfull! No more will go in!".  Nan-in replied, "You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you'll have to empty your cup." 

Although I first read that story in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones back in 1970,  I now realize I had only glimpsed the rim of that empty cup.  Even as a 24 year old, fresh out of college and engaged in my first year of teaching school, I certainly "got" that there is a difference between the accumulation of knowledge and actual wisdom.  By then, I'd run into factory workers during my seven years of summer employment that appeared to have a better handle on the Real Deal  than my college professors. I also sensed from the story that arrogance probably wasn't going to cut it with a Zen master.  (I've personally had the opportunity to have that verified a number of times over the years.  Sigh.)

Little did I know, though, that this teaching, like the coffee down at Dolly's Diner, was being served in a bottomless cup.  
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