"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, May 30, 2014

Be Still and Know

Originally posted, December 26, 2013

(In the midst of long, busy, often highly emotional, days attending to family matters here in Oklahoma, I needed to cut loose of the task of writing a blog post this week and just re-post a "golden oldie." Deciding to select that past entry "I Ching"style, here is what the Universe came up with.  Written the day after Christmas, pointing to the importance of each day's Morning Practice in my life, it feels particularly relevant to me at this point in the journey.  
I hope you find it helpful as well. --Lance)



“Be still.  Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.
When there is silence one finds the anchor of the universe within oneself”
― Lao Tzu

“Space and silence are two aspects of the same thing. The same no-thing. They are externalization of inner space and inner silence, which is stillness: the infinitely creative womb of all existence.”
― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment 


In the midst of the scurry of the holiday season; often adrift in a sea of activity and noise (I'd forgotten that many folks leave their televisions on, running in the background), I was especially aware of how precious each morning's meditation was to me this past week.  Flowing through days and evenings chock full of visitations and meals and excited flurries of paper-ripping, my cushion seemed like an oasis.

Touching Stillness, even for a few brief moments, is like sipping clear, crisp spring water on a steamy summer day.  Paradoxically, it's also like feeling the warm glow of a fireplace, snuggling at home on a snowy evening peering through the window at the moon.  In Stillness, the Presence emerges.  In a silent whisper, it sings of the Ineffable, that space where the fundamentally mysterious and completely ordinary meet to form the fabric of Life itself.  

Although I use a variety of meditation techniques, I've found that the foundation of Practice is
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Answer, My Friend, Is the Wind Blowing

"OOOOk-lahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain,
And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet, 
When the wind comes right behind the rain."
-- from "Oklahoma" by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein

"If you know how to contemplate the beauty of nature with the eyes of the Buddha, 
you will not say that your life has no meaning."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, "The Eyes of the Elephant Queen", 
I don't know how much research Rogers and Hammerstein did as they wrote the musical, "Oklahoma", but they sure nailed one thing.  I've been here in Central Oklahoma for a week now and there has been a significant stiff breeze blowing each and every day of my stay. Though I haven't seen any fields of "wavin' wheat" here in the fringe suburbs of Oklahoma City, nor yet experienced a rainstorm in this area which is still experiencing "severe to extreme" drought conditions, the wind has come "sweeping down the plain" each and every day.  

I saw the movie version of "Oklahoma" as a nine-year old child, and as I sit here in the library of the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma reviewing the lyrics of the title song, images and feelings cascade through my awareness --and tears emerge.  Portrayed in musical cinema and filtered through the experience of a child now 68 years old, the storylines and songs of this exuberant piece of Hollywood entertainment, when looked into deeply, whisper of the truth and beauty and joy of Life.  I guess if you really look deeply into most anything that is probably true.  My heart sings "Oh what a beautiful morning",  as I feel the whole "high side" and "low side" of our human condition played across the screen of memory. 

In the culture of the 40's and 50's of the United States some issues, of course,  were assiduously ignored.  The plot ignores the tragic history of conquest on this continent by European colonists and the cruel reality that Oklahoma itself was originally the western terminus of the infamous "Trail of Tears".   In fact, the "cowboys and the farmers" that were the major characters of the tale were  beneficiaries of another round of broken treaties, opening Indian Territory to land speculation and "homesteading". 

It's ironic that in  the title song, our Fundamental Connection to Nature, perhaps the hallmark of the Native American Spirituality, is underscored again and again as the lovestruck cowboy, Curley, sings of his envisioned future with his beloved "farmer's daughter".  In the chorus he proclaims "we know we belong to the land" and envisions the perfection in moments sitting with Laurey watching a hawk circling in the sky with "the wheat wavin' in the wind."

Beyond the infatuation of the romantic love being portrayed is, perhaps, yet another artistic rendering of the universal intuitive perception of our ultimate interdependence in the web of life.  In an era where many of us are increasingly separated from nature by the veil of technology, I'm glad that Thich Nhat Hanh and others refer us back to being Mindful of the natural world that we flow from, flow through, and flow into as our flesh and bones return to Mother Earth for recycling.

When Jesus recommended that we consider the lilies of the field, I don't think he was just making a 
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Thursday, May 15, 2014

When It Rains.......

“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both.  Gloriousness and wretchedness
 need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. ” 
-- Pema Chodron

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free.”
Thích Nhất Hạnh, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: 
Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation 

If all goes according to the current plan, twenty-four hours from now I'll have my nose pressed against the window of an airliner watching the sprawling landscape of Chicago, Illinois receding into miniature behind me.   By then, I will have gotten up early, finished packing the bags I'll schlepp with me, traveled an hour by car, spent a few hours in two different airports and traveled about 800 miles through the air.  A few days ago, none of this was in the plan.  Life is like that.

In the past couple of weeks I've been in the ER, cancelled planned activities to stay with a sick partner -- and then cancelled even more plans to fly out to spend time with an ailing brother.  

Zounds! What's next?

When it rains, it pours.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Solid Grasp of Reality

“In reality there are no separate events. Life moves along like water,
it's all connected to the source of the river is connected to the mouth and the ocean.”
-- Alan Watts, The Essential Alan Watts

It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance 
to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation.
All I could do was grin.  At a Mindfulness Circle this week, eight of us had gathered  to meditate and explore the second slogan of the Lojong Trainings: "Regard All Dharmas As Dreams".

Although all assembled, myself included, are essentially beginners in the study of these Teachings, I imagine the energetic, sincere, often profound, sometimes amusing, discussion that emerged could have been a conversation among senior monks somewhere.  Although a couple of folks, perhaps quite aware of the limitations, perhaps even the inadvisability, of placing our collective attention on words and discursive thought didn't participate, the rest of us jumped right in. 

As I understood it, what materialized was no more, no less than a conversation about the true nature of reality and our individual ability to actually experience the truth of our existence. Although none of us is really a Buddhist scholar and many of us may not even consider ourselves Buddhists,  assertions about Emptiness, Impermanence, Non-Self, Co-dependent Origination, Interdependence and Oneness, were offered and explored,  dissected and re-assembled.  

In about half an hour we covered a lot of ground exploring the "groundlessness" of existence.

I loved it.  At several points the fundamentals of Zen were touched on as phrases were turned, then turned on their heads without altering the meaning at all!  It was an absolute hoot -- relatively speaking.  Even when there was apparent "disagreement" with a presentation or mode of presentation, it still felt like we were all basically on the same page.  There was an underlying fabric of good will and good heart all the while.

It made my heart glow.

Gaining a "solid grasp of reality" is considered one of the important aspects of growing up in
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Friday, May 2, 2014

Knocking at Heaven's Door

"One of my favorite subjects of contemplation is this question: 
“Since death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain, 
what is the most important thing?”
-- Pema Chodron, 


"On the day I die, when I'm being carried
toward the grave, don't weep. Don't say,
He's gone! He's gone. Death has nothing
to do with going away. The sun sets and
the moon sets, but they're not gone..."
-- Rumi

Hospitals have never been among my favorite places -- even as a visitor.  I'm certainly grateful that the subject of Death has been a focal point of Practice, study, and conversation in my life recently, because yesterday I found myself in the emergency room of the local hospital with oxygen tubes at my nostrils, wired to a couple of machines listening to the someone crying down the hall.  I hadn't recognized that sound as crying until the young woman who arrived to take blood samples said, "She's really having a hard time of it." I had just experienced the sound as another background sound among the whirrs, buzzes, clicks, and beeps of this busy small town medical center.

I had been laying there for close to an hour at that point, meditating whenever I wasn't being conscientiously poked and prodded (verbally or physically) by the staff.  Earlier that day I had arrived at the clinic of my primary care physician to explore a nagging chest pain that I had been experiencing for awhile.  Since I have a history of cardiac disease and live with two stents installed in my heart, she had concluded it was probably wise to get to the ER and run the standard tests to determine whether my ticker was firing on all cylinders or not.  

Now, laying there in the ER,  touched by the compassion of the young technicians voice,  I had turned my attention to the sound down the hall.  The distress of the person was apparent.   As often happens these days when i notice an emotional discomfort, my first thought was to begin Tonglen practice. Already fairly adrift in a clear, relaxed and spacious awareness, I drew the sound and those feelings into my heart on the in-breath, then released with the out-breath into the caring spaciousness of my heartfelt wishes for that person to be at peace.   The moment I began,  I heard the blood technician's voice asking, "are you okay?"