"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, April 23, 2016

A Love Affair

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You're able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, 
and your mind open. 
 ― Pema Chödrön, 
Practicing Peace in Times of War

We now see that the only way that we could love ourselves is by loving others, 
and the only way that we could truly love others is to love ourselves. 
The difference between self-love and love of others is very small, 
once we really understand.”
― Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion: 
Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong
 

As I've mentioned before, here and elsewhere, I think the Hippies had it right.  It IS all about Peace and Love.  

Although most of us were a bit too young and crazy to pull it off at the time, many of us had been to the mountain top.  There we saw the Real Deal.  But seeing that-- and even believing that -- isn't enough.

The task of actually being a peaceful and loving human being is no mean feat.  It takes commitment, effort, discipline, courage and patience.

It takes Practice.

In the Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist worlds the term "Love" isn't generally used to describe the Ultimate State of Being. They approach the Ineffable with different concepts and understandings.  I think that is actually pretty helpful to us Westerners.  We are pretty sloppy with the word "love". 

For us, the word "love" is quite ambiguous.  In English, what we call "love" can be that warm glow that emerges from the ethereal domain of unconditional, unselfish agape,  or it can be the fiery emotion that erupts from the nether realms of green eyed monsters and wrathful, jealous gods.  It's pretty clear that "I love you so much that I'll kill anyone who looks at you, then you, too..." isn't exactly what Jesus had in mind when he taught about Love, right?  It seems at least a bit more precision would be helpful.
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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Still Knocking on Heaven's Door

"One of my favorite subjects of contemplation is this question: 
“Since death is certain, but the time of death is uncertain, 
what is the most important thing?”
-- Pema Chodron, 


"On the day I die, when I'm being carried
toward the grave, don't weep. Don't say,
He's gone! He's gone. 
Death has nothing to do with going away. The sun sets and
the moon sets, but they're not gone..."
-- Rumi
Originally posted May 2, 2014. Revised.


Hospitals have never been among my favorite places -- even as a visitor.  

I'm certainly grateful that the subject of Death has been a focal point of Practice, study, and conversation in my life recently, because yesterday I found myself in the emergency room of the local hospital with oxygen tubes at my nostrils, wired to a couple of machines listening to the someone crying down the hall.  

Laying there, I hadn't recognized that sound as crying until the young woman who arrived to take blood samples said, "She's really having a hard time of it." I had just experienced the sound as another background sound among the whirrs, buzzes, clicks, and beeps of this busy small town medical center.

I had been laying there for close to an hour at that point, meditating whenever I wasn't being conscientiously poked and prodded (verbally or physically) by the staff.  Earlier that day I had arrived at the clinic of my primary care physician to explore a nagging chest pain that I had been experiencing for awhile.  Since I have a history of cardiac disease and live with two stents installed in my heart, she had concluded it was probably wise to get to the ER and run the standard tests to determine whether my ticker was firing on all cylinders or not.  

Now, laying there in the ER,  touched by the compassion of the young technicians voice,  I had turned my attention to the sound down the hall.  The distress of the person was apparent.   As often happens these days when i notice an emotional discomfort, my first thought was to begin Tonglen practice. Already fairly adrift in a clear, relaxed and spacious awareness, I drew the sound and those feelings into my heart on the in-breath, then released them with the out-breath into the caring spaciousness of my heartfelt wishes for that person to be at peace.   The moment I began,  I heard the blood technician's voice asking, "are you okay?"

Thursday, April 7, 2016

ARGH! (Again)

We can suppress anger and aggression or act it out,
either way making things worse for ourselves and others.
Or we can practice patience: wait,
experience the anger and investigate its nature.
---Pema Chodron


“Just because anger or hate is present does not
mean that the capacity to love and accept
is not there; love is always with you.”
---Thich Nhat Hanh


The Universe is exquisite.  Once you hitch your wagon to Ceaseless Practice and roll out, you are going to get the lessons along the way that are needed to take you deeper --whether you like it or not!  (That might be especially true if you have the chutzpah to claim you have a clue and then publicly ramble on about your experiences. )

Last week, I spent time here presenting the notion that simply "cutting loose of the storyline", the process of refocusing our awareness from discursive thought to other aspects of our experience (preferably what we are feeling in our heart), can sometimes take us from hell to heaven in the blink of an eye.  (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Once Upon a Time...)  

Although I certainly have experienced something approximating that quite often, perhaps a bit of Karmic Comeuppance was necessary to burn my tail. and burnish my humility and compassion a bit.   The lesson?  Being a calm and kind and clear and compassionate human being is NOT that easy.  It is a daunting discipline that takes courage, patience, skill, time and effort.

To wit:

During the past week, Life has interjected a pretty dramatic bout of upset apple carts and a deep funk into the Grand Mix.  It's been enough to remind me that it certainly can take a bit longer than a "blink of an eye" to regain a sense of ease and wonder about it all.  It may even take what may seem like one hell of a long time.

As a child and a young man I had what folks might call an extremely bad temper.  Having grown up in the midst of frequent anger, verbal and physical abuse, I internalized the patterns -- with a vengeance.  Not infrequently, I would react to things in my world with bursts of fiery emotions -- and even physical violence.  I could roar and smash things and strike out verbally and physically with the worst of them.

As a result of my rather chaotic and bruising childhood, I was also quite prone into falling into a deep, deep funk.  Even when my external life seemed relatively successful, I could get really, really depressed.  A dark amalgam of frozen anger, fear and pain would emerge to dominate my attention, zap  my energy,  and turn my world upside down for days at a time -- if I was lucky.  At times over the years, it swirled me down into the classic "burn out" experienced by all too many folks involved with human service and political activism.  

Nowadays, I feel quite grateful to the Teachers and the Teachings, especially the View and the Heart Practices taught by Pema Chodron and others.  Through Grace and Practice, neither Fire nor Ice are very common emotional energies in my life.  They may emerge, but generally they dispel readily. 

BUT, there are still times...
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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Once Upon a Time

“The Buddha’s principal message that day was
that holding on to anything blocks wisdom.
Any conclusion that we draw must be let go." 
---Pema Chodron, 

"Don't know.  Straight ahead."
Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn, 1927-2004
Founder, Providence Zen Center

The irony is exquisite.  I'm sitting here at the laptop poised to sprinkle some thoughts across the screen in an effort to capture the essence of the thought that thoughts can't really capture the Essence. 

To be honest, after choosing the two quotes for this post, my next thought was, "Ah, I'll just leave it at that, choose a graphic, and hit "send".  But, that seemed a bit too cutesy, a tad too easy.   I am, after all, making an attempt to live what Roshi Kosho Uchiyama characterized as "a life of vow."  As well as the Bodhisattva Vow and a set to other personal commitments that frame my life, I've committed to doing what I need to do to publish a weekly post.  (Admittedly, I do fall back at times and rewrite/republish some "oldies, but goodies" -- like today. LOL)

When push comes to shove, it seems to me that a set of commitments is all that I really have to bring to the plate.  The rest is in the hands of the Cosmic Pitcher.   All I can really do is commit to showing up, putting in my time in the batter's box, then taking my best swing if it appears to be in the strike zone -- or letting it go by if it ain't.  (Egads, I'm thinking in baseball metaphors. It must be Spring!)

And here's the Pitch.....
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