"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.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Dance

"We are already what we want to become."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Life is the dancer.  You are the dance."
-- Eckhart Tolle


I didn't Sit this morning.  

The heat apparently didn't come on last night, leaving the room frigid, with a stiff northwest wind rattling the window alongside my bed as I came awake.  I got up, and as is the ritual, went to the bathroom.   

Then, I strode back across the cold floor and immediately grabbed the heating pad and an extra blanket  -- and crawled back into bed. I didn't plan on falling back to sleep. 

As I often do, as soon as I laid down I placed my awareness on my body and breath, consciously stretching and relaxing a bit, noticing some thoughts and feelings spin through my awareness as well.  Predictably, the first bevy of thoughts was a rather daunting "things to do list".  

When I let those thoughts go and turned my attention to the underlying feelings, I noticed a tightness in my chest and belly.

As I lay there, I could easily label that collection of thoughts and feelings as "me" being anxious and fearful.  "I" was worried about not accomplishing all that "I" wanted to get done today.  In the old days, that collection of thoughts and feelings could capture my attention to the point of distraction, disarray, and despair.  Totally identifying those thoughts and feelings as me, I would ride that train at full throttle -- until it derailed.  A number of times over the years, those clusters of mind states even consumed me over the course of months, and my life became an utter train wreck. 

Then and Now

As I lay there this morning it was different.  Within a moment or two, no longer attaching a lot of attention to the thoughts, I was breathing the underlying feelings deeply into my heart with the wish that I could feel those feelings for all of us, and that we all would be free from such suffering and the roots of such suffering.  My heartfelt aspiration that all of us be at peace rode the long, slow release of the out breath.  I didn't have to choose to Practice at that moment.  After about a decade of working with Tonglen, more and more it has become a habitual response. 

Floating on the breath of Tonglen Practice*, embraced in the gracious spaciousness of Mindfulness and Awareness, the fear and stress quickly morphed into a pang of deep sadness for the struggle that is part of the human condition.  Then that sadness dissolved into a feelings of deep gratitude for the nobility of our collective efforts to be kind and compassionate, then a sense of wonder about Life and Practice. 

Then,  there was just breath and body, the wind howling outside the window.  

Then a few dream bubbles danced into my awareness -- and burst.  

When I awoke later, I was warm and well rested.  I looked at the clock.  It was too late to Sit  -- but I was ready to Dance into a busy day.

A Devoted Fan of Life and Practice

One of my favorite Zen stories comes at the end of Dogen's Genjokoan: Actualizing the Fundamental Point.   Here it is:
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 Zen master Baoche of Mt. Mayu was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, "Master, the nature of wind is permanent and there is no place it does not reach. Why, then, do you fan yourself?"

"Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent," Baoche replied, "you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere."

"What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?" asked the monk again. The master just kept fanning himself. 

The monk bowed deeply. 

Although I moved on from Zen to focus on different forms a number of years ago, I'm still a devoted fan of Dogen's Master Baoche -- and Practice.  Although Bob Dylan wrote long ago that "the answer is blowing in the wind", it seems to me at this stage of the journey, that it's more like "the answer is the wind blowing."   Practice seems inextricable from Life itself.  They are "not two".

In the Lojong Trainings of Tibetan Buddhism one of the Five Strengths that we are encouraged to practice is Familiarization.  In a nutshell, this teaching points out that our efforts at diligent practice over time will result in certain practices and mind states becoming familiar terrain.  No longer special projects, something to strive for, something to do, they become embedded in your way of life.  

I can say that in my experience this appears to be True.  

Although, Life being Life, the roller coaster ride of "easy" and "hard"still operates.  There still are the ups and downs of richer and poorer, better and worse, and sickness and health.   That's the stuff of life.   Yet, with Practice the vows made to cultivating kindness and compassion make the ride increasing workable -- and increasingly worthwhile.

In Gratitude

I am deeply grateful to have been born in an era that allowed me to "come of age" in the late 60's, to have stumbled into the Collective Kensho of those days with Teachers and Teachings from the world's religions showing up in North America to share their wealth.  I'm grateful to have been in it for the long haul, which at age 71 (in two weeks), ain't as long as it used to be.  Yet, like Ram Dass proclaimed years ago,  this is "the only dance there is."  I intend to bop 'til I drop.  

That's good enough for me. 

So,  I'm off to Sit with the #OMG! (#Occupy Meditation Group!) at our Noon MeditationVigil on the Town Commons.  That'll keep me on the streets and in trouble.

How about you?

What are you up to? 
* For an excellent introduction to Tonglen Practice see Pema Chodron's "Transforming the Heart of Suffering" in Lion's Roar.   

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

For me, there is no greater blessed feeling than knowing... the capability of being a vessel for universal life force energy, God's love. As it pass through, enjoying the results is all there is. Love in motion.
Scared support is within and all around. This gift is to all who seek to find, Consciousness. We are truly never alone. Tuning in, is knowing you are loved, your life has purpose, all is well.

Happy Spring, Happy Birthday!

Lance Smith said...


❤️🙏 Namaste!

Lance Smith said...

🙏
❤️
Namaste!