"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 Long-time Student of Meditation.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Listening With Our Hearts

(It was not a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, and I wasn't able to craft a new post this week.  So as I've done in the past, I turned back the clock and looked at the blog post from a year ago.  I found it to be quite helpful at this point.  I hope you do, too!  --One Love, Lance)

“The intimacy that arises in listening and speaking truth is only possible 
if we can open to the vulnerability of our own hearts. ”
--- Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others 
and relieve others of their suffering....."
---from the Fourth Precept of Thich Nhat Hanh's Tien Tiep Order



A friend, who had attended  MMM Beginner's Mind and Beyond when a break in her schedule gave her the opportunity, was struck by the openness displayed by folks in the MMM Circle that day.  "Folks were so honest" she said with her eyes glowing a bit "--painfully honest!" I smiled and thought, "Whoo hoo!" --and felt a deep gratitude for what emerges on Monday mornings these days. 

The opportunity to converse openly and honestly about what is nearest to our hearts and soul is a rare and precious thing today. In the hustle bustle of our prototypically materialistic society comparing notes on the Spiritual dimension of our lives doesn't happen all that much.  In fact, when I was a kid we were told not to ever talk about religion--or politics. 

Obviously, I didn't follow the rules.  I majored in political science in college--and have been an avid student of Spirituality for a long, long time.  The wisdom teachings that arise in the mystical traditions of all the world's religions and how they play out in the reality of our day to day lives is profoundly interesting to me.  I can't think of anything I'd rather yak about.

Of course, communication, in it's true sense, is much more than conversation.  Communication happens on many levels.
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Child's Play

"I tell all of you with certainty, unless you change and become like little children, 
you will never get into the kingdom of heaven."
--Jesus, Matthew 18:3, ISV

“The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind.”
― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind


I awoke this morning to the sound of rain and crisp, cool air floating through the windows alongside my bed.  Un-detered, the crickets and katydids of late summer sang their parts in the pre-dawn symphony as I rolled over and set the alarm to 6:30 a.m to give myself a couple of more hours of sleep.  Moments later, I rolled over again and turned the alarm off.  Although I had thought otherwise, I was ready -- or so I'd thought. I got up and sat down to the laptop to stare at a blank screen -- and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

After awhile, I got up again, set the timer, walked over to the altar in the corner of my bedroom,  lit a stick of incense and Sat down in front of a different blank screen.

Now, an hour later, I'm ready. I think:


There is a well known story from the Meiji era (1868-1912) about a prominent university professor who visited master Nan-in to inquire about Zen.  As the professor prattled on, demonstrating his vast knowledge of Buddhist philosophy and doctrine, the master began pouring his guest a cup of tea.  He then continued pouring as the cup overflowed onto the table and floor.  No longer able to restrain himself, the professor shouted, "Stop. The cup is overfull! No more will go in!".  Nan-in replied, "You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you'll have to empty your cup." 

Although I first read that story in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones back in 1970,  I now realize I had only glimpsed the rim of that empty cup.  Even as a 24 year old, fresh out of college and engaged in my first year of teaching school, I certainly "got" that there is a difference between the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom.  By then, I'd run into factory workers during my seven years of summer employment that appeared to have a better handle on what the Real Deal was than most of my college professors. I also sensed from the story that arrogance probably wasn't going to cut it with a Zen master, a fact that I've had verified a number of times over the years.

Little did I know, though, that this teaching, like the coffee down at Dolly's Diner, was being served in a bottomless cup.  

This week, the Wednesday Mindfulness Circle explored the 6th slogan of the Lojong Teachings: "In post-meditation, be a child of illusion."   One of the most haunting of the 59 aphorisms that make up this Tibetan Buddhist system of mind training, it is also, perhaps, one of the most radical.  It seemingly flies in the face of conventional wisdom.  Rather than exhorting us to "grow up and get real", we are encouraged, instead, to recapture the open and spacious sense of wonder that characterizes the mind of the child as we arise from our meditation cushion to move through the day to day activity of our lives. 

As Mindfulness Practice develops and we become more acutely aware of the fluidity and transparent nature of our own thoughts and emotions, the ephemeral nature of "mindstuff"
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wherever Two or Three of Us

"To begin a sangha, find one friend who would like to join you for sitting meditation or walking meditation or tea meditation or sharing."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Everyone has the seed of Buddhanature within them."
--Thich Nhat Hanh


Meditating with other people is different than meditating alone.  Everyone I've talked with, in Monday Morning Mindfulness and elsewhere, seems to agree.  It feels different to sit in silence with others. 

To anyone who has glimpsed the Essential Oneness (and I maintain most of us have, at least as children), it only makes sense.  After all, at a fundamental level, we are not merely isolated individuals. As Alan Watts wrote years ago, we are not,"skin encapsulated egos".  In fact, we intersect.  Not only are we "in this together" -- we ARE this together.  I find that being conversational about this Reality can be quite inspirational! 

The Mindfulness Circles I participate in each week have continued to confirm a belief that I've held for quite awhile now:  Anyone who makes an effort to explore Life and Practice consciously, and has the opportunity to compare notes on this effort with others similarly committed, will come to understand themselves and others at a deeper level.  As this happens, a sense of community will develop --and Practice will deepen.

Although the basis of one's Practice is highly individual (like Smokey says, "only YOU can prevent forest fires"), the support that a community of like minded spiritual practitioners can offer can be extremely helpful, if not crucial.  In fact,  traditionally the Buddhist Sangha it is seen to be as important as the Buddha and the Teachings, one of the Triple Gems of the Refuge Vows.  Similarly, a community of believers apears to be fundamental to the practice of the other major spiritual traditions of the world as well.  

As I sit here with wisps of memories of what has occurred during the Circles these the past few  (READ MORE)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Take a Hike, Buddhy!

"Some people say that only walking on burning coals or walking on spikes or on water are miracles, but I find that simply walking on the earth is a miracle. 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, "A Guide to Walking Meditation

"I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, 
works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster 
than the speed of thought or thoughtfulness.”
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking 

This morning's meditation was buzzyIt was one of those days when even a few moments of clear and calm awareness, unconstrained by the prattle of discursive monkey-mind, was greatly appreciated.  For the most part though, it seemed like I was doing a mantra practice more than Mindfulness Practice.   Unfortunately, the chosen mantra wasn't something exalted like the Tibetan Buddhist Om Mani Padme Hum.  It was the mental note, "thinking thinking," repeated over and over.  

And over.  

And over again.

Fortunately, this is one of the mornings that my choice to give up a personal vehicle was worth its weight in both green and gold.  The walk from 108 House toward the bus allowed me to connect quite directly with the Ongoing Miracle.  Although it was abbreviated by the offer of a ride by one of my neighbors, I felt a great gratitude once again for the practice of walking meditation.  Mindful of body and breath, mindful of the sensations of sight and sound and smell, I was again made aware that the Pure Land and the Kingdom of Heaven are to be experienced in this very life.

Walking meditation is widespread among the various traditions of Buddhism.  I see reflections
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