"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.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Sounds of Silence

(The energies and activities of the past week here in Chicago haven't given me the time and head space to create a new post this week.  So, as I've done a few times over the past months, I decided to re-publish a previous writing.  Having driven by the hospital where my dad passed away 40 years ago with my sister a couple of evenings ago, I thought that I would use a post I wrote during a previous visit about my experience of meditating on the grounds of that hospital.  Dad was on my mind.

So, I read the post, but, for whatever reason, it didn't feel quite right at this point in time.  I then surfed through a number of other posts before finally using the "I Ching" technique I've used a couple of times in the past.  I just clicked to a random date and said "this is It!"

As you'll see, Synchronicity once again prevailed.  The Universe is a most amazing place. 
-- One Love, Lance) 

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED, AUGUST 30, 2013. REVISED
"Be still and know that I am God."
-- Psalm 46:10

"The quieter you become the more you can hear."
-- Ram Dass 

I remember my dad yelling, angrily, demanding that we kids shut up so he could get some "peace and quiet."  The threatening tone of his voice and likelihood of imminent violence usually did shut us up--at least for awhile. 

Dad loved to fish.  One of my strongest visual memories of him is of the day I looked out the front window of our apartment and saw him silhouetted against the sunsparkles of the lake a couple of hundred feet offshore, sitting quietly in his beloved rowboat, fishing pole in hand. 

Dad could sit like that, motionless, surrounded by the stillness of that small Northern Illinois lake for long periods of time just peering at the red and white bobber.  Most often, he returned to shore seemingly in a good mood, calmer, quieter, more content. 

I noticed. 

It wasn't at all surprising that when his doctor advised him to finally retire and "just go fishing", my dad did just that. He bought himself a camper and a trailer, and for much of final year and a half of his life, he traveled and fished from coast to coast.

I think the quest for "peace and quiet" is probably universal.  Thich Nhat Hanh once wrote that even the businessman's smoke break was an attempt to stop and breath, to find a moment's peace within the busyness.  The promise of the Practice is that we that we can engage in that journey with some degree of skill, that there is actually some method to our madness.

As today's quote from Ram Dass points out, there are deeper and fuller realms of experience available to us.
(READ MORE)
As we cultivate Mindfulness, we are more likely to notice ourselves being calmer, quieter.  The cacophony of random thoughts and feelings and bodily tensions tend to release their grip a bit, and a sense of silent spaciousness emerges in our lives. Yet--and here's where it gets interesting--we are also more likely to experience sounds and other sensations more vividly.  Sometimes it may be helpful to remember to look at Ram Dass's statement a bit differently:
The quieter you become, the noisier it gets!

As more time and energy are devoted to Mindfulness Practice, there will be times on the zafu that the volume knob on thoughts and uncomfortable feelings may get fully cranked to the right.  Oftentimes at those points, our attachment to a model of "peace and quiet", will generate a level of resistance to that experience and we will think we are having a "bad" meditation.  That, of course, is not the case.  In actuality, it may well be a sign that the Practice is deepening!

Layers and layers of restlessness and dissatisfaction and pain and fear can and will emerge at times, during a period of meditation.  Many of us have stuffed that stuff down for years.  (I've met Dad in all his not so peaceful guises incarnated as "my" emotions many times over the years.)  At these moments, the courage and care we devote to staying with the Practice offers the possibility of healing our hearts and minds at deeper and deeper levels.

With compassion and effort, as gently and diligently as possible, we choose to persist.  Although it's not "easy", it can be as simple as letting of the storylines running through our mind, then exploring and fully feeling what we are experiencing before moving our awareness back to our meditation object--again and again and again.

At a certain point, you come to notice that the episodes of "noisy" patterns of thought and emotions are less frequent and pass more swiftly.  It just takes Practice.

There is also another way, perhaps a bit more pleasant, that the volume knob can also get cranked up as we cultivate the Practice. It happened to me last Monday.

For those of you who don't attend Monday Morning Mindfulness, MMM meets at Community Yoga, a studio perched on the second story of a building half a block from the main downtown intersection of Greenfield, MA.  Although there isn't much traffic as the Early Bird session begins at 7 AM, by the time the Beginner's Mind and Beyond Group meets for our opening period of meditation at 8:30, there is often a steady flow of stop and go traffic streaming through the stoplights.  It can get pretty noisy. Especially on an August morning with the window's open.

At one point this past Monday during the 8:30 Sit, a pause in the traffic noise emerged.  Suddenly, it got quiet.
It got really, really QUIET!

At that moment, what my first Zen teacher may have called the Soundless Sound, became delicious, distinctly tangible.  Then, as I sat there feeling the Presence,  that ineffable sense of vast spacious stillness didn't dissipate at all as the next car approached.  It persisted.  The whirr of that car's engine emerged, peaked, and then slowly dissolved within it's embrace.

I love it when that happens.

Thanks, Dad.

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