"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.

Friday, July 24, 2015

As It Is

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage 
and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

"Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquility, 
nor is it attempting to be a better person. It is simply the creation of a space in which 
we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games,
our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes. "
― Chögyam Trungpa  

I guess I've always been a bookworm.  

Although I also loved riding my bicycle, wandering through fields, and playing baseball as a kid, I read -- a lot.  

One summer in Chicago, as often as I could, I would climb up on the flat roof of a garage in the alley behind the three-flat we lived in at the time, to pour through book after book.  As I remember it, Huckleberry Finn was my favorite.  In the midst of a rather troubling and chaotic childhood, Mark Twain invited me to join Huck, and journey down the river on my rooftop raft to a different -- and seemingly more alluring -- world.

Nowadays, I don't read much fiction, but there is still usually a stack of books close at hand.  Most of them are related to meditation and spirituality.   At this point, pouring through books isn't jumping on a raft to escape the realities of my life.  This ongoing journey through the Teachings is a means to stay in touch with those realities.  

The book at the top of the stack these days is Chögyam Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.  This is my fourth or fifth time through it in the past forty years. Once again, I find myself marveling at the depth of insight presented -- and the new layers of understanding that seem to emerge with each reading.  (I imagine another decade of daily meditation Practice and a number of meditation intensives between this reading and the last may have helped. LOL)  

I found myself grinning from ear to ear.  Again and again. 
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Friday, July 17, 2015

Once Again: Lighten Up!

Stephen at Monday Night Class, San Francisco circa 1969
Although, in my humble opinion, Spiritual Practice isn't about all the bright lights and fancy magical stuff, sometimes the Universe  does really lay One on you, an event that defies any rational explanation.

It happened almost exactly a year ago one morning as I struggled to write a fitting memorial to Hippie Spiritual Teacher Stephen Gaskin. Stephen had recently made the Grand Transition at that point, and I was sitting there when...

Ooops. I almost let the cat out of the bag.

With another deep bow to Stephen -- and to a Most Amazing Universe -- I want to share, once again, the post from that day.   Beyond the Mysterious Magic Manifested, it's encouragement to "lighten up" bears repeating.

Lighten Up!   
Originally Posted July 12, 2014

A couple of night's ago, unable to get back to sleep after a nocturnal "nature call", I had tried to write a memorial to Hippie Spiritual Teacher Stephen Gaskin, whose Life -- and recent Death -- touched me deeply.   I got nowhere.  I gave it up and read a bit of a Tenzing Norbu Mystery before finally stretching out to meditate into sleep once again.

Still on the mend from the events of the past month, I've been mostly laying low, staying away from the computer and cell phone as much as possible, allowing myself to Heal after a couple of false starts had showed me quite clearly how energy depleting my addiction to these "devices" can be. 

This morning, I was quaffing my first cup of coffee in a couple of days (another addiction under modification) watching bubbles of confusion and angst float through my awareness, not quite sure what to do about my commitment to the MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call this week.  I still was struggling with an attempt to put into words my thoughts and feelings about the passing of Stephen, a man whose Presence and Teachings had such a  profound impact on my life.

Then, (probably with a furrowed brow), I decided to reach for my cell phone to check my email, perhaps just fall back and select an old post to republish this time.

At that very moment the phone "dinged"with an incoming email. Peering down I read the notification:
"Monday Morning Mindfulness
Lighten Up! Posted 18 January 2014"

WTF!!!???

I have no idea what strange permutation of the Google space time cyber continuum could have possibly generated and delivered to me the email version of a post I'd written  almost six months before -- especially at that very moment!  

How could I not lighten up?  

I broke into a bemused grin as I clicked it open.  Just receiving this unsolicited and inexplicably"cosmic" MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call would have been enough to make my decision (just read, introduce and re-post this one for sure) -- and make my day.  

I began reading the post.

It got even more mind blowing!
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Friday, July 10, 2015

Judgment Day

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”
J. Krishnamurti

"Judge not and ye shall not be judged"
 ― Jesus of Nazareth

I don't the think there is any greater freedom than being Present to our lives without the distortion caused by Judgment Mind, the conditioned mental/emotional process of evaluating what we experience as bad, wrong, condemnable. 

If one is paying attention, the difference between the warm, bright, spaciousness experienced as we maintain the clarity of an open heart, and the constricted, narrow, claustrophic texture of a quality of  consciousness imbued with judgmental thoughts and feelings, is obvious.  In any one moment, it can literally be the difference between heaven and hell.

Growing up immersed in a society that is highly judgmental, most of us have been deeply conditioned to experience our lives in terms of good/bad, right/wrong, should be/shouldn't be.  In fact, our ego sense. with is felt separation and isolation from "the other" is largely built on and maintained by the thoughts and various mind states that emerge from this conditioning.  Even in it's mildest form, that of liking/disliking, it can generate thoughts and feelings that separate us from ourselves and others in any particular moment. 

It is actually quite fun to see for yourself how that plays out on the meditation cushion.  

At times, we can clearly see Judgment Mind in full blown operation.  The gracious spaciousness of mind at rest collapses as the ranting and raving and blaming of judgmental thoughts cascade across the surface of discordant feelings.  

As Practice develops, we get more adept at noticing whether we can just take a breath and put some kindness and space around that and let Judgment Mind go it's merry way-- or whether we get swept away, ultimately getting judgmental about being judgmental!  Watching the process closely, it can pretty quickly become another obvious example of the Divine Sitcom that we humanoids are capable of co-creating.

In one of those episodes, I saw how the thought  "I don't like myself." provided a wonderful opportunity to examine the experience carefully, in the lens of Mindfulness.  Letting go of that particular narrative, the experience became a kaleidoscope of momentary feelings, variations of what we might label as anger, fear, and pain.  Without the support of the storyline, these soon dissipated.  At that point, exploring the the issue of just "who" the hell it is that doesn't like "who" eventually produced wonder -- and a chuckle.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Season's People: In Memory of Stephen Gaskin

"There is a plane of experience, other than the three dimensional plane, which can be felt by a human being...If people never get above the merely signal level of communication, and don't become telepathic, they haven't explored their full human birthright."
-- Stephen Gaskin

"We are all parts of God.  Each one of us has an electrical body field that surrounds us, and a mind field that goes on to infinity."
-- Stephen Gaskin

Stephen Gaskin (February 16, 1935 - July 1, 2014) with his wfe, Ina May
One year ago today, Stephen Gaskin passed away at age 79 at his home on the Farm, the intentional spiritual community he had helped to found in rural Tennessee in 1971.  More than anyone, Stephen's teachings informed my ideas about the nature of Reality and the work to be done during our sojourn on this planet.  (I came across the Bodhisattva Vow for the first time in The Farm's first book Hey Beatnik!)

A decade older than many of the young folks who flocked to San Francisco in the mid-sixties as part of the Psychedelic Revolution, Stephen always maintained he was more of a Beatnik than a Hippie.  Yet, wearing tie-dyes til the end, Gaskin was a central figure in the burst of spiritual energy that encircled the globe during the 1960's and 70's, catapulting many of us into a   Collective Kensho that transformed our lives.  Claiming that they were "out to save the world," Gaskin and 50 bus loads of Hippies circled in for a landing in Tennessee to form what was, for a time, the largest commune in the world.  Although the size and structure evolved over the years, The Farm is still there.

Although I was a lightweight when it came to psychedelics, the Collective Consciousness at that point in history was so energized that even I had a number of compelling out of body experiences, saw aura's, experienced powerful moments of synchronicity and telepathy and, ultimately, had an experience of Perfect Oneness that fulfilled my deepest aspirations and dispelled any fundamental fear about death -- all without drugs.  (Although, admittedly, I also had some very wonderful moments while under --or perhaps, over --the influence of various medicinal herbs and compounds back in the day.)
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