"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.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Day by Day: A Few Tips on Daily Practice

 “The gift of learning to meditate is the 
greatest gift you can give yourself in this lifetime.” 
-- Sogyal Rinpoche

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment,
our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be
filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
― Thich Nhat Hạnh



I would say that 90% of the folks who have wandered into one of the Mindfulness Circles I facilitate have already tried mediation.  Comparing notes on Practice, most of those folks have expressed that there was an obvious improvement in the quality of their consciousness --and in their lives -- during the times that they practiced, but they had been unable to maintain a regular daily practice.

Sound familiar?

The inability to maintain a daily practice is, I think, quite widespread.  It's fun to see a newcomer to the Circle mention, often somewhat sheepishly, that they hadn't been successful in establishing and sustaining a daily practice, only to discover when I ask for a show of hands, that everyone there has had -- or continues to have -- that same experience.

It only stands to reason.  The entire thrust of our social conditioning operates against sitting still in silence.  Taking the time to notice what is actually going on in our mind and heart in the present moment isn't widely supported.  Creatures of habit, we are individually and collectively awash in habitual patterns of noise, stimulation, and activity, often feeling stressed and fatigued.  Sometimes aware of a subtle, or not so subtle, discontent with ourselves and our lives, we race on yearning for it to be different.

The Good News is that it can.
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Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Real Revolution

I believe that the Real Revolution isn't about violence.  It's about the cultivation of love, wisdom and compassion in our individual lives -- and in the world.  I'm grateful that I'm not alone in seeing that.

Last year at this time, I attended one of the early meetings of the Refuge Recovery group in Oklahoma City as they shared their first reading from the newly published book, Refuge Recovery. The book's author and Dharma Punx founder of the Against the Stream Society, Noah Levine, Rocks!  Although his teaching is geared toward those recovering from drug addiction and alcoholism, I believe it's relevant to all of us.  In this modern world where most of us are addicted to the attitudes and behaviors promoted by a highly materialistic and individualistic culture, Levine is talking Real Revolution!

Since several people have asked me recently about his incredibly insightful and valuable addition to Dharma Practice in the context of recovery from addiction, I'm reprinting last year's post about Noah Levine's work-- and adding information on local Refuge Recovery weekly sitting groups. 

I'm also adding a directory of other sitting groups in the Pioneer Valley to the MMM Website and would encourage folks here -- and elsewhere -- to seek out a local group to meditate with on a regular basis.  If you can't find one, start one.  It's how the Revolution happens!    
One Love, 
Lance
  
You Say You Want a Revolution?
First published, June 12, 2014. Revised.


“We have the ability to effect a great positive change in the world, starting with the training of our own minds and the overcoming of our deluded conditioning. Waking up is not a selfish pursuit of happiness; it is a revolutionary stance from the inside out, 
for the benefits of all beings in existence.”
Noah Levine, Against the Stream: A Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionaries

"There's a rebel within you.  It is the part of you that already knows how to break free from fear and unhappiness.  This rebel is the voice of your own awakened mind.  
It's your rebel Buddha, the clear intelligence that resists the status quo."

Noah Levine
My brother Hal and I played a doubleheader Wednesday evening.  After sitting with the Prairie Wind Sangha at Windsong Innerspace, we stayed around to sit with Refuge Recovery, a nascent OKC group inspired by the teachings and work of Buddhist teacher Noah Levine, the self-described "Dharma Punk" founder of Against the Stream Meditation Society.  

It made this old hippie/yippie child of the 60's heart glow.  

I came across the work of Noah Levine a couple of years ago and got my hands of a copy of Meditate and Destroy, a documentary film featuring his life -- and his life's work with incarcerated youth and drug addicts in Los Angeles.  As the old saying goes, "it takes one to know one."  
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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Here Comes the Sun?

 "Things are not as they seem - and nor are they otherwise."
-- Lankavatara Sutra


“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake 
is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
― Pema Chödrön


I'm awake at 4 a.m. and the birds are beginning to stir in the darkness outside the window -- an hour before sunrise. 

Sunrise? 

Calling that moment "sunrise" is, of course, a classic case of our human propensity to conceptualize things from a limited perspective.  That isn't really a problem.  The problem is that we then tend to grasp onto the words that describe those relative positions as the absolute truth.  

I imagine any number of Zen students over the years have been whacked by their teachers along the way for being so sloppy in their use of language as to appear to be claiming that they really know what is going on -- while missing the point entirely.

If I choose to believe what I have learned along the way -- and in this case I do because it seems that we have actually had some folks brave enough (or crazy enough, perhaps) to place themselves on top of a huge tin can full of explosive chemicals so that they could be catapulted high enough into the sky to look over their shoulders and take snapshots of the situation -- the sun isn't actually rising at all.  We could just as readily call that magic moment of cosmic peek a boo "earthdrop" -- although that doesn't seem nearly as poetic. 
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Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Sky's the Limit

 “You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”
Pema Chödrön

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready
to abandon our views about them.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace 

Yesterday morning, I had yet another occasion to thank my lucky stars for having stumbled into the Practice years ago.

I awoke from a bevy of Full Moon inspired, somewhat haunted, dreams feeling quite sad.  Thanks to the Practice, a few moments later, I was plucked from my homemade rowboat as it skimmed across the River Styx hellbound for Hades, and wisked to seventh heaven by a guardian angel sent by God.  No lie!

WTF?

Lest I risk blowing any shred of credibility I may have garnered and/or being plucked from this perch at my favorite coffeehouse by burly men brandishing straight jackets, perhaps I better reword that.

So:

When I first awoke on the embers of a dream to a gloomy, overcast morning yesterday, I was aware that I was feeling sad.  Having spent many hours Sitting Still Doing Nothing over the years, it seems that these days at least a modicum of Mindfulness is generally available.  So, I was aware that my first thought was "something's wrong".  This was quickly followed by the thought "I'm depressed", which evoked fear and fleeting memories drawn from earlier experiences of burn-out and despair.  The next thought was "these are just thoughts."

I then shifted the focus of my attention to what I was hearing.  A bird outside the window began to sing.  It was Beautiful.  My mood lifted immediately.

I can still thank my lucky stars, right?

(Although I still may have not recouped any semblance of credibility, the burly guys just shrugged and left.)
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