"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.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The End Game: Take Two

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.  
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

“One can appreciate & celebrate each moment — there’s nothing more sacred.
There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more!” 
― Pema Chödrön

I'll start my seventh decade on the planet on Saturday.  Sitting here awash in a feeling of wonder, Life seems quite surreal at the moment.

I like it when that happens.

As I sit here peering out of these eye sockets, I am quite aware that although every cell in my body has died and been replaced any number of times over the course of the the past 69 years, the sense of "me-ness" that emerges as I sit here isn't a whole lot different than it was at age 17 when I spent a few moments on a Saturday afternoon in September vividly aware that my life was infinitely precious -- and undeniably finite

There, present to each breath and each step, struck by the exquisite beauty of the sights, sounds and smells of a crisp blue sky autumn day ablaze with color, I knew.  The truth of the matter was self-evident:  This moment would pass.   The next moment would pass.  And the next.  

Then, at some point, so would "I". 

I had no complaints.  The deep poignancy of those moments was just too majestic to resist.  It was the Real Deal.  Miraculous and mysterious, it was obvious in those moments that Life/Death was the only game in town. I could and would live -- and die -- with that.

Although I have certainly found myself plunging into all sorts of self-induced confusions and doubts and dismays over the years, I've managed to wend my way back into the ordinary sacredness that permeates each moment more and more these days.  I'm grateful to the Teachers and Teachings that have guided me on this journey.

Now, quite aware that I have more yesterdays in my pockets than tomorrow, I'm sitting here with a spring rain tap dancing in the darkness outside the window just as I stood there in the bright sunlight of that autumn day half a century ago.   Awash in the mystery of time and the Timeless, feeling the finite and infinite embrace one another,  I have no complaints.

I blame that on the Practice. 

(The Mystery of Life/Death was the focus of Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call: The End Game last Hallowe'en as well. )

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Our Gang

"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

"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."
-- Jesus, Matthew 18:20, Holy Bible (NAS) 

Our Gang Contemplates A Dog's Buddha Nature
Although these days I meditate alone for an hour in the morning as the day begins, and I now observe a personal Day of Mindfulness each week,  I also meditate with others.  A lot. 

It makes a difference.

In Buddhism, as in most of the world's religions, a community of kindred spirits is seen as an integral part of one's Spiritual Practice.  In fact, a commitment to Sangha (a group of one's fellow practitioners), along with "taking Refuge" in the Buddha and the Dharma, is one of the Triple Gems, the foundational vow of Buddhism.  In other faiths as well, a commitment to the fellowship found in churches, temples, mosques, ashrams and monasteries, etc. is also often seen as an important aspect of one's Path. 

I suppose that stems from the fact that humanoids, like most species of beings on this planet, naturally operate as members of groups.   We sentient beings travel through life, often moving as One whether we realize it or not, in packs, herds, flocks, prides, gaggles, colonies.  There are Buddhist, Islamic, Christian and Hindu schools and there are schools of tuna and salmon.  We live and breathe in concert with others.

Although human beings, especially here in the modern capitalist west, have a belief structure that reinforces the notion of "individuality", our fundamental interdependence plays out moment to moment.  Even when you are by yourself, alone in your room thinking, those thoughts are existing in a language you didn't invent that itself has been collectively evolving for a long, long time.   The meanings emerge to you , not as isolated phenomenon, but in the context of your past and currently perceived future interactions with other members of your family and tribe. 

Unlike most species though, we human beings have the ability to then choose which group to associate with.  Although we are born into a group, a clan, a village, a nation, if we are fortunate enough to realize and act on it, we then get to choose our gang, the folks we run with.  We can choose our colors, costumes and customs.  For those of us on the Path, ideally, our gang is a group whose values, aspirations, and intentions support our own, not one devoted to some sort of mayhem.  (although as Little Rascals, a bit of minor mayhem can be quite delightful, of course)

Over the years, I've found that if those aspirations are, like mine, to cultivate wisdom and compassion, the support and guidance provided by a meditation group can be  invaluable.   
(READ MORE)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Give It a Rest, Buddhy (Take Two)

 "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, 
because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
"-- Genesis, 2.3, Holy Bible, New American Standard

"Somehow we must find a way to allow each worker a day of mindfulness. 
Such a day is crucial. Its effect on the other days of the week is immeasurable."
--Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness


Today, a pair of robins and a pair of red-wing blackbirds played in the tree outside the window during my Morning Sit.  Although the Vernal Equinox is still a week away, the birds know it's a done deal.  No matter what Mother Nature comes up with (freezing rain tonight to put an icing on the remaining blanket of snow), Spring has Sprung! 

Tomorrow (Actually later today. I'm sitting here in the wee hours of Sunday morning),  I will take a personal Day of Mindfulness for the seventh week in a row.  Although I began this weekly ritual at the end of January more out of desperation than forethought (see MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call: Gone Fishing ), it has emerged as a deeply important part of the Practice for me.  Although I've learned to never say never, I can't imagine not making this "observation of the Sabbath" a permanent part of the my tour through the Impermanence of this incarnation.  (That sentence probably sent the ghost of my high school grammar teacher shrieking in horror, but I think came through that succession of multiple negations in the correct place, no?)

Recommended by such notable authorities as Zen Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and God,
the idea of taking one day a week to remove oneself from the world of work and worldly activity has been around for a long time.  Although I tend to look at much of the Holy Bible as a tour through myth and metaphor, and have never felt comfortable with conceptualizing God as a gray-bearded old coot at a Heavenly control panel, like all the other ancient scriptures of the world, this ancient tome points the way to a Transcendental Truth as best conceptualized by the various authors and commentators involved.

In the Bible it appears that God, after laboring to create Heaven and Earth for six days, took a day off to rest -- and sanctified that day as Holy.  In the Judeo-Christian tradition the Almighty then turned around and told us to take a day off as well.  That expectation was even written in stone on the tablets that that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.  And although Moses later had a hissy fit and smashed the tablets,  God commanded a do-over,  and observation of the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments that was later included in the Ark of the Covenant.  As one of the Top Ten, taking a day off is even higher on the list than not lying, stealing, cheating and killing people.  That seems to make sense.

Why?
(READ MORE)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Just a Few Thoughts

{As has happened a few times in the past couple of years, a delightfully busy week (some of it being Grandpa) left me little time to write a new post.

So, once again,  I decided to republish the post from exactly one year ago. Interestingly, I had been thinking about writing a bit about perceiving and overcoming the limitations of "Thinking Mind" this week-- and that's exactly what I wrote about last year.  Maybe that's all I ever write about? LOL    What do you think? -- One Love, Lance}

 
A Moment's Thought
Originally Published, March 7, 2015. Slightly revised.

"One can appreciate and celebrate each moment -- there is nothing more sacred.
There is nothing more vast and absolute.  In fact, there is nothing more."
-- Pema Chödron, 
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. 
Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

Chicago last year looking like MA this year.
I had thought that we folks in Western Massachusetts really had a lot of snow on the ground.  Now, after a 17 hour drive westward, it seems like a dusting.  The Chicago area really has a lot of snow on the ground!

Of course if I was in the mountains of Colorado,  even this could be seen as "no big deal".  And so it goes.  The thinking mind, tending to compare, tending to exaggerate, tending to speculate, can create all sorts of storylines about the winter snow cover.  It can and will do that about anything and everything.  All too often, it's just another snow job.

When I just gaze at the sun and shadows playing across the snowfield outside the window, when I open to the sounds of the birds twittering, the wind softly moaning, and the traffic humming in the distance here at my son's house north of Chicago, when I let go of the storyline and just feel myself sitting here breathing, the world immediately expands.  Rather than being constrained by the fetters of thought, Life becomes vast and wondrous.

It happens every time I pause and stop typing.  (You could, perhaps, pause here for a moment or two and open up to those other channels of your own experience right now before clicking READ MORE)