"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 12, 2013

The Gateless Gate*

"You knock at the door of reality,
Shake off your thought wings,
Loosen your shoulders,
And open.
---Rumi

"And you shall know the Truth,
and the Truth shall make you free."
---Jesus of Nazareth


Last Monday's MMM Circle again provided some food for thought--and the impetus to move beyond thought--as a we compared notes on Mindfulness Practice.  At several points, as the group grappled with the various issues that had come up during the week as we worked to put the Practice into practice, the limits of discursive thought and "reasoning" became more than obvious.

I loved it.

At one point Michelle, in her own inimitable style, jumped with both feet into the apparent contradiction between the dictum to always "be here now" and the need to take care of life's necessary activities such as planning, paying the bills, etc.  She then moved on to the apparent contradiction between the notion that "we are One" and our individual uniqueness, adding, "I mean we're all one, but we're not.  We're the same, but we're different, ya know?"

I think Zen monks of old would have had a ball.

As it was, the Circle spiraled onward and we turned to the more apparently "practical" concerns of Practice, comparing notes, exchanging tips, etc.  Yet, as best I can sense it, the questions that Michelle had raised echoed themes presented in some of the fundamental koans of Zen.

It didn't surprise me, really.

It's become more and more obvious to me: when there is a commitment to live life consciously;  when there is any sort of willingness to examine our experience of Life in depth rather than allowing the messages we have internalized from our upbringing to create our realities,  Life Itself can and will provide us with the necessary questions--and the necessary answers. 

The fundamental paradoxes that Zen Koan study thrives on are inherent in the way conceptual thought operates.  With some time and effort, we each come to the Gateless Gate.  And, the good news is that we each have the ability enter into a deeper and richer reality than we've been conditioned to experience.  Like Jesus proclaimed, "Ask and you will receive. Knock and it will be opened."

Like Zen koan study, Life itself is designed to blow your mind.  It is designed to transform question marks into exclamation points.  All we have to do is really pay attention.  How else can we perceive the absolute Sacredness of our every day experience in the midst of a sunny summer day?  How else can we perceive Beauty in the eyes of a child?

The promise of Mindfulness Practice is that we increasingly become more able to answer these fundamental questions for ourselves from a quality of consciousness that embraces not only thought, but our bodies, feelings and intuition as well. Just because conceptual thought throws up it's hands and walks away without an easy answer, doesn't mean that answers don't exist. The most important ones just don't always come packaged in words.

As one's heart opens and the mind becomes calmer, the Truth can be as simple as experiencing the next breath.

How cool is that?

*The Gateless Gate is a classical collection of Zen koans compiled by Chinese Zen Master Wu-men in the 13th century.  In some forms of Zen, koan study is a primary practice.  Students have to demonstrate an understanding of what often appear as conundrums, ridicules and paradoxes.  
"What is the sound of one hand clapping?" is one of the most famous in the West. 

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