"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, February 18, 2017

Nothing Special, No Big Deal: Part One

"Though my heart burns like a glowing hot coal, my eyes are as cold as dead ashes"
--  Soyen Shaku, Roshi

"If nothing is special, everything can be."
-- Charlotte "Joko" Beck, Nothing Special, Living Zen

After two significant snowfalls this past week, storms that left huge mounds of plowed snow along the highways and byways of my life here in Massachusetts, it seems that Mother Nature is now moving to melt her way into spring. 

If the National Weather Service's ten day crystal ball is to be believed, the daily high temperatures will be moving through the upper 40's into the 50's over the course of the next week.  Not bad for February, no?

Or is it?

Sitting here I could get lost in all sorts of thoughts about the weather.  Once again, we've had an unusually temperate winter.  Gazing at the melting white snowfields outside the window, my mind could create a long rant about the specter of global climate change in a heart beat.  (There certainly appears to be ample scientific evidence, after all.)  

On the other hand, having seen lots of my friends suffer through some sort of respiratory bug again this week, I could narrow my horizons and spin off fantasies of personal climate change -- conjuring up dreams of moving my tail to a gentler and even warmer clime. 

Yet, when I just return to my senses here and now; feeling the sensations  of my breath and body as I sit here, watching the tapestry of soft color outside the window, listening to the deep, deep silence occasionally augmented by the twitter of a bird, it is quite easy to let go of those particular story lines.  Just Sitting Still and letting the thoughts drift away, there is no problem.  

The weather?  No big deal.  At the moment, it simply is.

Friday, February 10, 2017

What's Love Got To Do With It?

"Hatred never ceases by hatred. It is healed by love alone. This is the ancient and eternal law."
-- Buddha
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind
 and with all your strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”
-- Jesus


An octogenarian friend of mine told me the other day that she was making Valentine's Day cards again this year to send out to some of her special friends.  

My first thought was, "how cool is that?"  Since she is quite a collage artist, I must admit my next thoughts were, " I hope I make the cut. I'd love to get one."

Love to get to get one? Hmmmm...?

I don't know how it plays out in other languages, but it seems to me that the word "love" in English is amazingly imprecise.  It covers a vast range, from the "greater love hath no man than to lay down his life" style of sacrificial selflessness to the most possessive and jealous form of desirous grasping imaginable.  The word "love" casts a net that includes both the enlightened activity of the Bodhisattva Green Tara -- and painful flailing of folks ensnared by the Green Eyed Monster.  

Yet as the quotes above indicate, we have it on "good authority" that the key to the Real Deal is Love.  So, what does the word "love" really mean? 

Eeek! 

Here we go again: What does the word "mean" really mean?  Its "meaning" runs the gamut from ultimate significance and purpose, to simply being nasty, from the Golden Mean to the Blue Meanies.  Damn.  I mean give me a break here.  LOL

It's Only Words...

Love? Meaning? These words certainly seem important, yet getting to the Truth of the Matter seems problematic, no?  Conditioned as we are in a world that stresses the importance of conceptual thought, of words, much of our awareness is tied up in the stream of thoughts that dominate our attention.  Yet it's obvious that words can be quite sloppy, perhaps not all that useful in our quest for fundamental clarity.

The Zen tradition stresses this.  At one point, during a teisho in sesshin years ago at the Rochester Zen Center, Bodhin Kjolhede Sensei asserted, "Every time I open my mouth,  I'm lying!"  

He had obviously -- and very passionately -- opened his mouth at that moment.  Was he telling the truth -- or lying?
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Saturday, February 4, 2017

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 would gave myself a $5 a week "entertainment" budget and saved the rest to fund my education.  I spent three of those dollars that afternoon 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, I've realized that two of the books that I bought that day had a profound influence on me.  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 saying in the Bible!? " This began the exploration of Buddhist teachings and practices that was to emerge, 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. 

I had climbed in front of the computer to begin work on this week's post with the thought that since I had ended up focusing on the inevitability of death last week, (Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:"Reality Asserts Itself"), I should probably balance it off a bit with the flip side of that assertion.  As certain as there is Death, there is this very Precious Life existing here and now.

In fact, if you use the Four Reminders of the Lojong Teachings of Tibetan Buddhist tradition as a frame of reference, last week's post had sort of put the 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."   The teachings about this slogan are seen as support for a deep personal contemplation.  This contemplation, when taken to Heart, can change everything. Actually experiencing the Preciousness of Life is a wonderful gift.

Sitting there at the computer, allowing my mind to flow gently down the stream, quickly elicited the title "How Sweet It Is" for this post.  

I had no idea where that would soon lead.
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