"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 Longtime Student of Meditation

Monday, January 17, 2022

A Time to Break Silence

Yesterday, I spent much of the day in silence.  Today, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I'd like to share a piece my identical twin Brother Lefty posted at Rambling On with Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.* If you haven't heard Dr King's "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" -- delivered at Riverside Church, exactly one year to the day before his assassination, you can listen to it at the bottom of the page.

 
"When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, 
are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, 
extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
-- Dr. Martin King Jr.
Speech at Riverside Church, April 4, 1967


"It is my firm belief that Europe of today represents not the spirit of God or Christianity but the spirit of Satan.  
And Satan's successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips.  
Europe today is only nominally Christian.  
In reality, it is worshiping Mammon."
-- Mahatma Gandhi, 
Young India, August 9, 1920.
 
The Truth, The Whole Truth, and....


For decades now, the corporate media has celebrated Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech -- and assiduously buried Dr. King's views on economic justice, materialism, and militarism.  Like Mahatma Gandhi, King's message was essentially Spiritual.  They each saw clearly that Mammon worship, the soul-sucking evil of materialism/consumerism, was alive and unwell, lurking in the belly of capitalism.

Throughout history, racism and economic exploitation have always walked hand in hand.  The prosperity of the capitalist English Empire and that of it's rebellious offspring, the USA, were built squarely on the horrors of genocide and slavery.  Sadly, although its current forms (cultural genocide, systemic poverty, and jailhouse slavery) are widely ignored or explained away, this continues today.

Like my identical twin brother, Lance, I usually tend to be more Buddhist than Christian in my lingo.  Yet, I just gotta say it out loud:  Capitalism is the work of the freakin' DEVIL!  I agree with Mahatma Gandhi. Capitalism the dark side of the force.  It is built on exploitation, and it fosters greed.  It is capitalism that drives climate change -- and it is taking aim on the survival of the planet.

The Bottom Line

Dr. King, like Gandhi, was a Holy Man.  He sought to alleviate the suffering created by a political and economic system that feeds on greed, hatred, and delusion.  Like many other prophets throughout history, both King and Gandhi threatened the ruling order  -- and were martyred. 

Although Dr. King focused on the evil of racism in his "I Have a Dream" speech that late summer day in Washington DC, his words were delivered to the throng that had assembled for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  This effort, which he had helped organize, challenged economic exploitation and suggested bold governmental action to alleviate poverty. The FBI claimed the event was inspired by Communists and lobbied to prevent it from happening.

King continued to march.  He continued to preach love and championed a non-violent response to a system that has always used violence.  Like Jesus of Nazareth, and a myriad other martyrs, Dr. King knew full well that he would most likely be killed for challenging the ruling order -- and he chose Love instead.

Dr. King's assassination, five years after the "I Have a Dream" speech, occurred when he traveled to Memphis to support striking Afro-American municipal sanitation workers as the leader of the National Poor People's campaign.  That campaign demanded an Economic Bill of Rights which included five planks:

1. "A meaningful job at a living wage"
2. "A secure and adequate income" for all those unable to find or do a job
3. "Access to land" for economic uses
4. "Access to capital" for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses
5. The ability for ordinary people to "play a truly significant role" in the government


When's the last time you saw the Economic Bill of Rights highlighted in the corporate media coverage of Dr.  King's life? 

A Time to Break Silence

These are unsettling times.  There is no doubt that Trump's legion of misanthropes, materialists, and military men waiting in the wings to reclaim power.  Now, more than ever, it is a time to break silence.  Dr. King did so, dramatically, on April 4, 1967, at the Riverside Church in New York City.   

On that day, Dr. King proclaimed, "these too are our brothers," and came out against the US involvement in the Vietnam War with a passion and an eloquence that many believe caused his assassination exactly one year to the day later.

The corporate media today ignores this speech and remains silent.  I hope you don't.  Please listen and pass this along.  Then join some folks and speak out -- with love in your heart!

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!  

(More Rambling on with Brother Lefty )

Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence



 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

All is Calm, All is Bright

“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”
― Pema Chödrön
 
Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior 
can make a proper cup of tea.”
― Chögyam Trungpa



A daybreak stroll has become a regular part of my mindfulness practice again this week as Christmas emerged then disappeared in the rear view mirror.
 
Taking the time to leave the comfort of a warm house in late December to experience the world outside as it awakens to the day has helped mend and energize this 75 year old body -- and sooth my soul.  Being Present for the Silence, and opening to the sights and sounds of the emerging light and activity that each day brings, continues to inspire me.
 
Of course, the temperatures have been pretty gentle for this time of the year.  Although I've had to brave a few mornings that cast rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow in my path, I haven't had to encounter the frigid sub-zero temperatures or fierce northwest winds Mother Nature can deal out in the midst of a New England winter -- yet.
 
Yikes. With this thought, I immediately notice myself face-to face with the specter of the Global Climate Crisis.  It's seems pretty clear to me at this moment. We, as a species, lost in the throes of greed, fear and delusion, are racing toward an environmental armageddon.  Sitting here, I notice more thoughts tumble into view.  Then I let them dissolve and bring my attention to the feelings flowing through my awareness.  Moments of fear, frustration, helplessness, horror, each emerge.  Then they melt into a deep sadness as I continue to breath deeply, soften, and open my heart. 

Continuing to breath into my heart, I know that others feel this deep sadness too.  It's not merely my own isolated personal sadness.  It is the Sadness, part of the human condition.  Opening, softening, inhaling deeply and slowly, I breath the fullness of this feeling into my heart as I recite two of the traditional Brahmavihara phrases:  "May all beings be safe. May all beings be free from suffering and the roots of suffering."

As the in breath continues, I notice a sense of spaciousness re-emerge as first my belly, then my rib cage expand.  Then, my tender, warm, achy-breaky heart is comforted in the embrace of a calm, clear, expansive open awareness that seems to extend throughout and beyond space and time as the in-breath continues. 
 
As in-breath becomes out-breath, the words "May all beings be at peace" float on that breath as it dissolves outward into the Essential Oneness.  At times,  in my mind's eye glows with a translucent visualization of the clear and brilliant eyes of countless beings resting in full awareness of their Buddha nature.  The visualization radiates outward from my heart on the wings of the out breath.

As above, so below.
Breathing in.  Breathing out.  Taking and sending, I continue to practice this morning's form of Tonglen Practice.  (For my take on Tonglen Practice see Taking It to Heart)
 
At this moment, my heart glows as deep joy dances with soft melancholy.  I've come to rest in the vast expansiveness of the One Love which resides deeply within each of us -- and infinitely beyond us all.  As above. So below. The world glistens and comes alive as the miracle that it is.
 
All is calm.  All is bright.
 
Now, once again, I connect with my intention to be clear enough and kind enough to help bring about the changes needed to create a sustainable, cooperative, and peaceful world.  As I've done for decades, I recite the Bodhisattva Vows.  Now, I'm ready to face the day.  
 
How about you?

(For more on Tonglen Practice, see "How to Practice Tonglen by Pema Chodron", Lion's Roar, December 20, 2021)

Originally posted December 2015.  Revised today as part of my morning Practice.

 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Mission Impossible

"Taking the bodhisattva vow implies that instead of holding our own individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, we become open to the world that we are living in. It means we are willing to take on greater responsibility, immense responsibility. 
In fact it means taking a big chance."
-- Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

“When you love, you have to act. If you say that you have a lot of love but you don’t do anything then that is not love that is merely lip service."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh
 
In the past month or so, I've been surfing across a deep yearning for more downtime.
  At first glance that may seem surprising. After all, I do Sit Still Doing Nothing  -- a lot.


If it only were that easy.

Out to Save the World

One thing that drew me to Zen and Mahayana Buddhism in the first place was the ideal of the Bodhisattva.  A public servant in the deepest sense, the Bodhisattva even forestalls entering Nirvana, in order to address the suffering of the world.  This idea resonated deeply with the inspiration I felt as a young teen as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, proclaiming their intention to even love their enemies, challenged this country to live up to its professed ideals.  A few years later, the emergence of SDS and Anti-War movement and the anti-materialistic, psychedelic spirituality of the youthful "counter-culture" set a trajectory for my life that continues to this day.  

Each morning I recite the Bodhisattva Vow as I finish morning meditation.   I first came across a Hippy Zen version of these four statements of commitment in Hey Beatnik: This is the Farm Book in 1974.  I was transfixed.  I got goosebumps.  In that moment, I knew that there wasn't anything better to do with my life.  (Here is a link to an on-line .pdf version of this classic work.)

By then, like many of us who were navigating our way through the confluence of Eastern Spirituality and the Psychedelic Revolution, I had experienced a number of "Awakenings."  The Most Profound One had nothing to do with anything in my bloodstream except the byproducts of meditation, breakfast, and lunch.  For a few precious moments, I had a glimpse of Our Perfect Oneness.  What had been theoretical and abstract, a belief, became real and tangible to me. 

I only wish I had had a spiritual mentor at the time-- or even been more inclined to listen to my friends at that point. It may have made things a lot easier along the way.  Even knowing what the bottom line is, over the years I've made most every dumb mistake possible.  LOL

Although I have read (and recited) other versions and translations of the Bodhisattva Vows over the years --some of the Tibetan versions are quite poetic and beautiful -- this is the passage I read that day years ago: 

"I don't have an ultimate goal in life. I believe in the vow of the Bodhisattva. And that says that sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all. The deluding passions are inexhaustible, I vow to extinguish them all. The way of the dharma is impossible to expound, I vow to expound it. It is impossible to attain the way of the Buddha, I vow to attain it. And that keeps you busy. "

-- Stephan Gaskin, Hey Beatnik!

Excuse me.  My chest is heaving and tears are streaming down my face -- again.  I gotta go get some kleenex.  I'll be back.
(READ MORE)

Monday, November 29, 2021

Argh!

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 an immediate fix to disturbing emotions.  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 such an instantaneous transformation quite often.  Yet, during the last past week, Life 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.  This weekend, 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.)
(READ MORE)