"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.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Light Reading

"There is a vast store of energy which is not centered, which is not ego's energy at all.  It is this energy which is the centerless dance of phenomena, the universe interpenetrating and making love to itself"
--  Chögyam Trungpa

"Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquillity, nor is it attempting to become 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


Chogyam Trungpa 1939-1987
I realized, yet again, that I'm pretty far gone.  An inveterate bookworm, a perpetual student, a Dharma Geek of the first order, the "I" that sometimes thinks I am me, grinned as the decision was made to do some recreational reading -- and I found myself picking up Chogyam Trungpa's The Myth of Freedom: and the Way of Meditation

There's nothing like a little light reading, right?

Back in the day, this book was my first exposure to Trungpa Rinpoche and his presentation of Tibetan Buddhism.  By then, I'd already been swept up in the collective kensho of the late sixties and early seventies, but most of my actual contact had been with Zen tradition and the Hippy Zen of Stephen Gaskin and his tribe.  Along the way, I'd already experienced a number of "openings" and "peak experiences" -- as had many of us.  It was a time that the collective consciousness of an entire generation was steeped in the teachings and meditation practices of the East -- and the mind altering herbs and medicines of the psychedelic revolution.

In a grand warping of the space-time continuum, many of us, at least temporarily, had gone on Retreat from the pervasive rat race of our capitalist society, to spend some timeless time exploring Life Beyond the confines of the business as usual concerns of mainstream society.  At some point, whether it happened in a meditation hall, around a campfire in the Rockies, in a rock hall, or elsewhere many of us had "Been There".   Awestruck, awash in the Boundless Presence of Eternal Perfection, the One Love -- for at least a few moments -- we knew: there was a Spiritual Dimension to life!  Depending on the setting, we may have even awakened the next day without feeling tired and burned out, and realized that this all had something to do with "the pearl of great price" that Jesus had spoken of. 

In my case, I cashed it in as best I could -- and pocketed that pearl.  Glimpses were one thing, but seeing my way clear to be a kind, compassionate and clear-minded person in any sort of consistent way was another. Although I sensed that commitment to a life of Study and Practice and Service was essential, I didn't have much of a clue of what that would really look like for me.  (That would only take another 40 some odd years. LOL)

As a young man who had entered the Buddhist stream swimming toward "liberation", the title of Trungpa's book, itself, was mind-blowing.  The MYTH of Freedom?  WTF?  What's this got to do with meditation? Wasn't Freedom the ultimate goal?  Wasn't that the escape from suffering that the Buddhist's promised? 

As I remember it,  I poured through the book, intrigued and haunted by the imagery, but confused, not ready to grasp the underlying subtleties of his presentation of meditation and the Buddhdharma.  And, having heard via the grapevine of Trungpa's rather "unconventional" lifestyle, I was a bit skeptical.  When I got to the final section on devotion to the guru, I thought, "no way, buddy" -- and moved on. 

I didn't get back to it for another thirty years.

I did keep practicing though as the zig-zags of my life continued through stints in residence at Insight Meditation Society and Zen Mountain Monastery, numerous jobs, relationships and family, successes, failures, even homelessness.)

And Then 
(READ MORE)
And Then

Ten years ago, a good friend of mine handed me a copy of Pema Chodron's Start Where You Are: A Guide to Living a Compassionate Life.  When I opened it and read "this book is about awakening the heart', I got goosebumps.  As someone whose idea of zazen was to remain in a very clear, very calm consciousness, I thought to myself, "Oh...the Heart! Duh." Something deep inside me shifted.  

I poured through the book, amazed.  And I kept Sitting.

Since then, although I have never been in her Presence, the Teachings of Ani Pema, a continuing Daily Practice, and my Spiritual Friends have been the Triple Gems of my life.  Along the way, it seemed only natural to revisit the works of this Masterful Teacher's Teacher -- especially since Trungpa Rinpoche's Training the Mind: and Cultivating Loving-Kindness is a primary text for the Lojong Teachings, the traditional system of Heart Training that Chodron practices and teaches.  (Here's a brief annotated bibliography of other commentaries and materials on the Lojong Trainings)

So, during the past decade, I've re-read The Myth of Freedom cover to cover a number of times.  Each time his words have gotten clearer --and even more humbling, as I peer into the vastness of the mystery.  Today, on a day when I had some time to spare, for no particular reason other than to play, I just picked the book off the shelf and flipped it open to a random page after Morning Practice.  

The brief section on Mindfulness and Awareness seemed like an old friend, whispering "Remember!"  Trungpa's description of the crisp precision of just seeing what is there, while also noticing the spaciousness that infuses and surrounds it, immediately brought me to my senses.  Putting the book down, I relaxed into the dreamlike but vivid beauty of the sun streaming through the window, the chorus of birdsong outside, the simple delight of breath and body, the miracle of eyes seeing, ears hearing.  Sitting there, calmness and exhilaration, stillness and motion, form and the formless, all danced as One.  My heart glowed in gratitude.

Light reading, indeed.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

sounds like a joyful sit. Nice. The balancing of form and formless, while we are here, is...the daily practice. Buddha says one re in incarnates again and again and again.

To re incarnate less and less each day, until we awaken to the 'I AM' that brings one to the purest joy, is all that is. To know oneself, to know the knower,to be. The laughing Buddha and The Bible seem to express the way to find that balance. There is a whole page in the index of a Bible to direct the reader to verses on joy, there are 8 verses to direct the reader about mourning. Laughter with each new awakening can lead to greater joy and less re incarnations,... the narrow path of enlightenment.