"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, May 29, 2015

Standing at the Gateless Gate

"With continued practice and the right kind of firm yet gentle effort, 
calmness and mindfulness and equanimity develop and deepen on their own..."
-- Jon Kabat-Zinn,  Wherever You Go, There You Are: 
Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life 

 "As the mind becomes a little more quiet the sacredness of everything 
within and without becomes clear to us.”
-- Norman Fischer,  In an interview with Kate Olsen



Rain clouds at the bus stop this afternoon
Gratitude came easily this morning.

After a month of bone dry weather, Mother Nature graced us with rain last evening and promises more today.  The birds seem to have noticed.  The overcast morning echoes with their animated song. 

Although the drought still prevailed yesterday morning, I felt a deep gratitude then as well.  My own "inner" weather was the source of that thankfulness, though.

I had just arrived at the bus stop en route to an appointment with the eye doctor, when I realized that I had forgotten to slip my insurance card into my wallet before leaving the house.  A quick look at the cellphone verified that there wasn't enough time to return to the house to get it.  My fate was sealed.  At that moment I realized that I would have to appear at the receptionist's counter to face another moment where I'd be asked, "Can I see your insurance card, please?"

At this point, you might wonder where the hell gratitude comes in here-- unless, of course, I am outing my own masochistic tendencies.  Which I'm not.  (I don't think.)
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In the past, what would have emerged at that moment as I stood there under a deep blue sky on a gorgeous late spring morning, would have been the opening scene of a horror show that would have played across the movie screen of my mind for the next 45 minutes -- at least. 

Back then,  a whole sequence of physical, emotional and mental reactions would have erupted to make the remaining time at the bus stop, the ride to town, and the half mile walk to the doctor's office a virtual tour through the depths of hell.  Fear, anger, self-hatred (how could I be that STUPID!), anguish, self-pity and the like each would have had their moments at the helm.  Totally stressed out, innumerable images of worst case scenario encounters with demonic receptionists spouting flames and detailed policies would have raged through my mind's eye, consuming my attention and adding even more adrenaline to an already overtaxed blood stream that was set to defy the limits set by my blood pressure medication.  It would not have been a pretty picture.

None of that happened yesterday.

The moment I realized what the deal was, two or three fleeting mind-moments of "uh-oh" and "what now?" emerged. Immediately the worst case scenario appeared as "re-scheduling the appointment" which was followed by the thought "no big deal".  On the Standard Scale of Emotional Intensity nothing registered more than a 1.5 out of 10.  At no time did any of it really dominate my awareness.  It was just part of the Big Show.

I then took a full, deep breath of cool morning air -- and grinned. Curious as to how it was all going to play out, I stood there under a deep blue sky on a gorgeous late spring day, feeling grateful to be alive. 

I blame the Practice for that.  

In the Zen tradition they speak of the Dharma Gate of Ease and Joy.  At this stage of the journey I seem to have somehow staggered through to the other side -- at least a lot of the time.  Now, held in the embrace of the One Love, even the gnarlier aspects of life are usually quite easily acceptable.  The nitty-gritty and the grand have become the warp and woof of the Ongoing Miracle of Life.

I write this not as a means of boasting, but as encouragement.  If a poor boy from  Chicago can survive childhood emotional and sexual abuse, mental illness in his family of origin, physical abandonment, foster homes and the generic neuroses endemic in contemporary society to heal and become relatively sane and absolutely content, I sincerely believe everybody can. 

On the Way Home
It's been a journey of boundless grace as much as guts and gumption.  I am infinitely grateful to have come of age at a time when the Teachings of the East were in wide circulation here in the U.S. of A, when Christianity was on the streets embodied by the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Berrigan Brothers, when the herbs and magic medicines of various Shamanic traditions were commonly shared among friends.  

Now at age 69 I find myself hanging out at the Gateless Gate propping it open as best I can, ready to welcome anybody who wanders by.  It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it, right?