"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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Attitude of Gratitude

Since childhood, holidays have been difficult for me.  I always intuited that something Spiritual was hovering over my shoulder, hiding in the shadows cast by dazzling lights and the hollowness of the widespread, often drunken, merriment.  A child often SEES.  The disparity between "the way it's 'spozed to be" and "the way it is" becomes striking. 

The approach of Thanksgiving brought my identical twin brother Lefty to the computer to share his thoughts on this traditional American holiday, in a post entitled "Thanks -- and No Thanks." It seems he couldn't face the image traditionally presented about Thanksgiving without pointing to the reality of our history.  (You can find his thoughts at Rambling On with Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.*).  

Today, I could expand on his offering to go on a rant about the rampant commercial insanity of Black Friday as well.  But I won't.  As Thich Nhat Hanh once said, "suffering is not enough."  Sometimes you have to consciously turn your gaze toward the good things that light up your life.  No matter what the "darkness" brings, they are ALWAYS there to acknowledge.  I wrote about the Saving Grace of Gratitude on Thanksgiving 2013,  and I'd like to share it with you again today.  Happy Thanksgiving.  -- One Love, Lance

Originally published November 29, 2013 (Revised)
"A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received
and am still receiving.”  
-- Albert Einstein

 "Be grateful to everyone."
-- The 13th slogan of the Lojong Trainings

I'm sometimes amazed -- and often amused -- as I observe my heart/mind floating down the stream of consciousness sitting here at the keyboard in the attempt to write something helpful for the MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call.  Today, I sat for a few moments facing the relatively blank New Post screen, then wandered around a bit on the web tracing the word "gratitude" along various strands of thought, trying all the while not to get too far afield.

Now I'm sitting here with my chest heaving, tears rolling down my cheeks,with images of Bing Crosby as freakin' Father O'Malley playing across the screen at Mind's Memory Lane Theater.   
 
WTF? How in the world did I end up here?
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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sacred Space (Reprise)

(After an intense run of heightened activity, with family matters and the Save the RLC's Greenfield Center campaign bringing up a burst of emotional clouds at one point, the skies have cleared once again.  Taking a bit of space to delight in the Gracious Spaciousness of it all, I'm offering forth, once again, a previous post.  I hope you find the space to appreciate it.  One Love, Lance)


 "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.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

“Delight in itself is the approach of sanity. Delight is to open our eyes 
to the reality of the situation rather than siding with this or that point of view.”
― Chögyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation


When I was growing up, being called a "space cadet" was not necessarily a good thing.   Unless you were in the astronaut training program at NASA or something like that, being called a space cadet generally meant that you had a hard time staying in touch with "reality".   A space cadet tended to drift off somewhere, not paying much attention to the elements of the "real world".  Things like being at the right place at the right time doing the right thing weren't exactly a space cadet's forte.

Yet, it could very well be that many space cadets had a leg up on the rest of us.

Being conditioned in the rat race of the modern world, our legs were usually fully engaged spinning the hamster wheel of an invisible, but very captivating, mind cage that most people call "the real world."  The space cadet seemed not to take all that so seriously.  He or she would frequently step off the mainstream merry go round to see what else was happening, peering into an "inner realm" that seemed much more interesting.

Nowadays, I choose do something like that for about 13 hours a week.  I call it a formal meditation practice.

I would gladly accept the title of space cadet at this stage of the journey, because in a very real way that is exactly what the Practice is.  Our "inner space" is the final frontier.  In examining the nature of my own experience, in exploring what had previously been subconscious, I've seen directly that there is a whole lot more to reality than meets the eye -- or at least the two eyes we generally have been trained to use in the conventional way.  ( I won't get into a discussion of third eyes and supernatural vision and Visions here, but...)
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Silence is Golden

 “Be still.  Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity. 
When there is silence one finds the anchor of the universe within oneself” 
― Lao Tzu

 "Be still and know that I am God."

― Proverbs 46:10 

There were fifteen of us gathered to Sit Together in Stillness at the Recovery Learning Community's Greenfield Center last night.  The Silence was Golden.  As I rang the bell to end our first period of meditation, bowed and looked around the room, I knew that I wasn't alone in feeling the Presence.  The energy was palpable. As one person mentioned as we went around the Circle to compare notes on Practice, "you could hear the silence!" Others nodded. Everyone knew exactly what she meant.

I love it when that happens.

Our essential Oneness becomes less theoretical.

Immersed as we are in a patently materialistic society, a milieu that fosters greed, speed, fear and frustration, we have been conditioned to experience our world through mental and emotional states that manifest a lot of noise and motion.  Bombarded with stimulation and stress, our minds habitually filled with incessant chatter, most of us have spent untold hours being constantly distracted and disconnected from our True Nature.  

Coming to rest in the clear, open and spacious quality of consciousness that emerges as we Sit in Stillness is a precious experience.  Unfortunately,  it's all too rare. That has enormous consequences -- and not only for our individual happiness.  A glance at the evening's news makes it obvious: the future of our planet hangs on it.  More of us need to get our act together.  

Thich Nhat Hanh and thousands Sit in Silence, London, 2012
Thankfully, this does seem to be happening. What we experienced in that room yesterday is happening more and more around the world. And as more of us turn toward the Practice (in whatever form it takes), as more of us take the time to Sit Still and rest in the embrace of the Silence, we just might be able to manifest the type of kindness, compassion and wisdom that is needed to save this ole suffering world.

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it, right?
 
Passing the Hat for the RLC's Greenfield Center

The Wednesday (and Tuesday) Mindfulness Circles take place at the Recovery Learning Community's Greenfield Center, the hub of a vibrant and very special peer support community here in Western Massachusetts.   It's existence has been threatened by a recent shift in the town's priorities for CDBG funding.  With a bit more compassion for my friends in the clergy who have to do this all the time, I'd like to "pass along the donation basket" and ask you to consider to join in the effort to Save the RLC's Greenfield Center. 


If you'd like know more about this: Here's a guest column I wrote for our local daily:

Here's a 5 minute video on the effort:
https://www.youcaring.com/western-mass-recovery-learning-community-rlc-419925
(You can also make a donation at that link or the button to the left) 

and, if you still want more:
In his own inimitable -- and a bit more blatantly political -- style,
my identical twin Brother Lefty blogged about it yesterday as well!
Rambling On with Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.*


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Try A Little Tenderness

 "When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”
― Pema Chödrön

 “Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.”
― Chögyam Trungpa

I suppose in some people's eyes, I'm definitely "a bit touched."  

These days, I spend much of my time meditating, studying spiritual texts, and yakking about matters of spirit, heart, and mind.  I even let slip, in some circles, that I've felt the Presence of what some folks call God, others may call Buddhanature or Allah.  (I try not to mention it where it is likely to lead to an embarrassed silence, the shuffling of feet, furtive glances toward the nearest exit, etc. ) 

Having dedicated my life to "all sentient beings" before I even knew that what I was doing was known as the Bodhisattva Vow, I've stumbled ahead for a long while now in a sometimes crazed, but generally sincere, effort to get my act together well enough to at least not cause too much harm -- and, perhaps, even help out a fellow traveler once in awhile.

For the past decade now, one of the most useful tools in my own roadside service toolkit has been Tonglen Practice as taught by American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. Although, like many of us 'back in the day", I had experienced a rapturous opening of my heart chakra at various points and was firmly convinced of the existence of Transcendent Love, I found that actually being a loving person wasn't all that easy.  Blinded by the subconscious patterns of an ego conditioned in a patently neurotic society, much the time I could be a real jerk.  I didn't have much of a clue about the sheath of armoring around my heart that distanced me from others -- and myself. 

Although I had put in a lot of time on the meditation cushion and was not a stranger to various "exalted states", I hadn't truly appreciated how the natural inclination to seek security and the natural tendency to defend myself from anything unpleasant had operated since childhood to "harden my heart".  (Hell, I always thought I was a real softy!)
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