"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.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Once Upon a Time.........

“The Buddha’s principal message that day was
that holding on to anything blocks wisdom.
Any conclusion that we draw must be let go." 
---Pema Chodron, 
The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

"The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao."
---Lao Tse, Tao Te Ching

The irony is exquisite.  I'm sitting here at the laptop poised to sprinkle some words across the screen in an effort to capture the essence of the notion that words can't really capture the Essence.  (Fat chance, eh!?)

After choosing the two quotes for this post, the next thought was, "Ah, I'll just leave it at that, choose a graphic, and hit "send" and head out for today's adventure: my first visit to Laurel Lake.  But, that seemed a bit too cutesy, a tad too easy.   I am, afterall, making an attempt to live what Roshi Kosho Uchiyama has characterized as "a life of vow."  I've committed to a weekly post as part of my commitment to Monday Morning Mindfulness.

When push comes to shove, a set of commitments are all that I really have to bring to the plate. The rest is in the hands of the Cosmic Pitcher.   Although I have certainly put in my time in the batting cage, all I can really do is be Present as best I can and take my best swing if it appears to be in the strike zone,  let it go by if it ain't. 

And here's the next pitch.....

In chapter 8 of The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness,  Pema Chodron not only
offers what I sense is a valid "take" on the Way It Is, but gives us a useful and practical way to carefully, gently and persistently alter the nature of the way we experience Life.  Entitled "No Such Thing As a True Story", she points out that we create our own world moment to moment as a result of the way we think, what we believe.  

This notion probably isn't new to anyone who has been exploring Eastern Spirituality.  Yet, it's not the "belief" about how beliefs alter our perceptions of things that is most important.  What is important is realizing that we have the option--moment to moment--to let go of the thoughts that are spinning through our brain.  We can, instead, focus on the underlying experience of our life in that moment: the actual sensations of sight and sound and touch and feeling, the experiencing of the energies at play within our own bodies and beyond.  We can actually shift our awareness from our heads to our hearts.  That's where the real action is.

Although making the choice to let go of the "storylines" that tend to run through our brains takes having the courage and gentle persistence to explore even what is painful and scarey with a great curiosity, that's where all the Miracles exists.  With Practice, simply remembering the mental note "thinking",  ultimately can shift our experience of reality dramatically.  Sometimes it can take us from hell to heaven in the blink of an eye.

Of course, for most of us, the "habit" of focusing most of our awareness on the content of our thoughts is deeply ingrained.  It is, after all, the major means we use to "control" our world.  We create a superstructure of "knowing" to protect us from the sometimes queasy, achy-breaky sensations that emerge from of the ultimate uncertainty of it all.

Oftentimes we've learned to stay in our head to avoid what is in our hearts. 

Our "thoughts about the matter" are also the primary foundation of our identity as we experience it.  The "I" that we experience is, in large part, the sum total of the conclusions we have drawn about the the nature of reality and how we fit into it.  Even if that "I" is generally stressed and unhappy, we cling to it.  It can be scarey as hell to throw it all up for grabs and proclaim, as the founder of the Providence Zen Center Korean Zen master Seung Sahn often did, "Don't know.  Straight ahead!" *

Yet. that is precisely the gateway to the Real Deal. 

Mindfulness Practice, both in formal meditation, and in those moments that we actually "notice" what we are experiencing, increasingly offers the possibility of exercising more conscious control over how and where we focus our attention.  With gentle persistence, we begin to open to Life in a kinder, clearer, and more complete way.  We come to see that we are way more than we thought.

And that's my story and I'm sticking to it--or not!

* In Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, Pema describes this as a three-fold process:
Let go of the storyline. Feel what is in your heart.  Open to the next moment with no agenda.

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