"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, April 21, 2017

Both Sides Now

“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

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. 
You need to accept yourself.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

Although it is nearly 50ºF outside with spring birdsong and brilliant sunlight pouring through the open window, a 20 mph northwest wind that occasionally gusts as high as 40 mph doesn't make it a day for lollygagging and lounging outside. 

I guess I'm grateful for that.  I'm committed to a blog post today -- and one less temptation is helpful.       (I just looked down at my cup.  It's empty.  I'm tempted to run down for some more tea.  It's going to be one of those kind of days. LOL)

Although this morning's hour long Sit was quite focused, I can sense that there is a bit of restlessness as I sit here at the computer.  Pausing to breath and observe this restlessness more closely as it plays across the rising and falling of my abdomen, it seems to mirror the wind.  Windblown leaves of mild fear, confusion, anticipation, excitement scurry past the window of my attention and disappear.  Like the wind outside there is movement, then stillness, then movement.  Like my breath, there is movement, then stillness, then movement.  

In the gaze of Mindfulness, sitting here at the screen observing what emerges each moment, it becomes clear that there is also stillness within the movement -- and movement within the stillness.  Stopping to notice, the world expands -- and glows.

It's nice when that happens.

It seems that the a number of folks in this week's Mindfulness Circles, myself included, reported that it was being a pretty "rough" week.  Although I was tempted to surf over to one of my favorite astrological websites to check out what in the world (or what out there) was going on, I don't think an extraterrestrial explanation is necessary.  As the Practice develops, we get more directly in touch with the human condition, more in tune with the way it IS.

Although there is no doubt that there is a greater sense of spaciousness and ease that emerges as we take the time and make the effort to meditate regularly, over time it's probable that we will also get in touch with a lot of subconscious emotional patterns and the narratives and unconscious beliefs (i.e., I'm a really inferior human being, all human beings are mean, etc.) that hold them in place.  Both on and off the meditation cushion, as we open our hearts and gaze more deeply at our experience, at times it may seem that all hell is breaking loose.  

It is.

This is actually a good thing.
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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sad But True

This world- absolutely pure
As is. Behind the fear,
Vulnerability. Behind that,
Sadness, then compassion
And behind that the vast sky.
 --Rick Fields

 “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 


Sometimes, insight and healing emerge slowly during the course of Practice.   

Like spring unfolding across the palette of April and May, our world slowly greens and blooms.  What was dark, harsh and frigid, slowly brightens, softens and warms.  At a point we notice:  It's different now than before.

At other times, insight and healing emerge like a bolt of lightning!

 Zap! 


Sometimes bursting forth with a torrential downpour of tears, sometimes not, a Grand Gestalt cyrstallizes in a heartbeat.  In a flash, in an instant, we really get It! Or perhaps, more accurately-- It gets us.  It's different now than before.

The Genuine Heart of Sadness

Awhile ago, I was fortunate enough to be at Himalayan Views, a nearby spiritual gift shop/bookstore, to hear a woman describe one of those moments.  Suffering from what had beeen diagnosed as "clinical depression" since adolescence, she had come across one of Pema Chodron's teachings years later that focused on what Pema's teacher, Chogyam Trungpa called "the genuine heart of sadness. "

Zap!

As the woman read that passage that day, an awakening had come in a flash.  Reality asserted itself.  She knew
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Friday, April 7, 2017

Always Maintain a Joyful Mind?

It's been another busy week.  With hours of Doctor's appointments and long, complicated telephone calls, one hour commutes, and chores and errands for two, I didn't find much time to work on this week's post.  So, in anticipation of our first REAL sun sparkler spring day,  I'm sharing this early April post from three years ago again.  It brought a smile to my face
 -- and,  I hope Mother Nature takes the hint!
One Love,
Lance

Always Maintain a Joyful Mind?
Originally Posted, April 3, 2014

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a deep joy.” 
-- Rumi

 "Notice everything. Appreciate everything, including the ordinary. 
That's how to click in with joyfulness or cheerfulness."
-- Pema Chodron


I actually didn't mind the long, intense winter at all this year here in Western Massachusetts.  The abundant snow and ice were just fine with me.  Even a frigid February that extended its way through the month of March didn't seem to phase me.  It was what it was.  In fact, it was often quite grand.

That being said, Tuesday here in the Pioneer Valley was different.  Although Spring had occasionally whispered in our ear for weeks, on Tuesday she stepped up to the microphone and proclaimed in no uncertain terms, "I'M HERE!"

And everybody knew it.

On the sun washed sidewalks of Greenfield, good cheer was ubiquitous.  Steps were lively.  Joyful Mind was in the air, palpable -- and shared.  Strangers greeted one another with nods and smiles.

Although I was acutely aware that here in Western Massachusetts the strains of George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" could quickly morph into "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" in the grand soundtrack of Mother Nature's movie, it didn't matter.  It was a done deal.  Mother Nature could turn on a dime to blow yet another Nor'easter in our face (it was April Fool's Day after all),  and I'd just blow her a kiss.  We were home free.  Spring had arrived!

In the Lojong Training of Tibetan Buddhism, a series of aphorisms is memorized, studied, and used in training the mind to expand beyond it's usual conditioned patterns.  Operating as mental reminders to frame our experience in particular ways -- both on the meditation cushion and off -- these 59 slogans, arranged as 7 main points, can be quite helpful in cultivating an open heart and a clear head.  Prompted by one of the regulars at Monday Morning Mindfulness, I've jumped into an exploration of Lojong for eight or nine months now.  Being at heart a Spiritual Practice Geek, I've read and re-read the presentations of Chogyam Trungpa, Pema Chodron, and Zen Teacher Norman Fischer, surfed through the on-line course of commentaries by Acharya Judy Lief, poked around for other commentaries.  (In the past year, I've also poured through the commentaries by B. Alan Wallace and Traleg Kyabgon)

Some of these slogans seem pretty obvious: Don't be jealous, don't malign others, etc.   We probably have heard them from our parents, Sunday school teachers, from some of our kind and upstanding friends. Others call for an understanding of the basic principals and teachings of Mahayana Buddhism or some of the unique notions of Tibetan Buddhism.   Reading the commentaries by contemporary teachers usually brings them into focus pretty quickly and makes them accessible and applicable.

Then there are some like slogan 21:  Always Maintain A Joyful Mind!

I think a common first reaction to that is "WTF?  Are you kidding me?"
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