"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! The Musings of a Long-time Student of Meditation

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Visible to the Naked Eye

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.”
― William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell 

Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh



The trees are shrouded in mist this morning. Although there is still a hint of deep red in the almost bare burning bush across High Street from my new perch here at the Weldon Hotel, the sky has disappeared.  At this moment, the world is awash in somber tones of grey and tan.  

There was a time when a grey, gloomy morning like this would invariably send my spirits spiraling downward.  I could get really depressed.  Confined to the tunnel vision of my own thoughts and feelings, I would become oblivious to the Ongoing Miracle we are immersed in.

Today, that didn't happen. I blame the Practice for this turn of events. 

Although I would be dashed between the rocks and hard places of my own unexplored childhood trauma and dysfunctional conditioning any number of times over the years, the Collective Kensho of the late 60's and my own Peek Experience of Infinite Perfection gave me enough of a Jolt to propel me on a journey that turned towards Spiritual Practice again and again. 

Now, at age 71, although I am no stranger to Sadness, it seems I've found a way to Not-Do Depression so much.  The inner belief structures and narratives that could operate to lock it into my current reality just can't seem get a toe-hold in the Gracious Spaciousness of Awareness that I've found to be accessible much of the time.  (Of course, I put my butt on the zafu 12-17 hours a week, often with other people, during Fall Ango. )

The Theory and the Practice

So, here's the Deal.
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Monday, November 13, 2017

A Bit Touched

 "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 in the head."  

These days, I spend much of my time meditating, studying spiritual texts, and comparing notes about matters of spirit, heart, and mind with as many folks as I can.  

I even let slip in some settings that I've felt the Presence of, sometimes even heard the Voice of,  what some folks may call God (or Tao or Buddha or Allah or Krishna or a myriad other names for the Groundless Ground of Being that will always dance beyond our ability to name it.) 

Over the years I've learned to be a a bit more discrete about yakking about these experiences, though.

  I try not to mention these Openings where it is likely to lead to an embarrassed silence, furtive glances toward the nearest exit -- or maybe even somebody dialing 911!  (Although I say that lightly, in all seriousness this has been an unfortunate reality for all too many of my fellow mystics in a society that doesn't understand such things.)

Looking back, I guess I've always been a bit touched.  Often dismissed as a dreamer or an idealist, sometimes with obvious scorn by those who considered themselves to be"realists," I had dedicated my life to serve "all sentient beings" before I even heard that phrase or knew of the Bodhisattva Vow.  It just seemed to make sense to be kind and giving rather than engage in the selfishness and cruelty I saw in the world around me.

For much of my life, I've stumbled ahead in a sometimes quite bizarre, sometimes crazed effort to understand what the Real Deal was well enough to lend a helping hand where I could.  I've often crashed and burned in the process, blowing a fuse trying, all too desperately,  to serve.  I hadn't truly appreciated how the natural inclinations to seek approval and security and defend myself from anything unpleasant had operated since childhood to distort my vision and "harden my heart"  with layers and layers of frozen childhood trauma, sadness, fear and anger.  Hell, I always thought I was a real softy!  

Little did I know.

Live and Learn

Although my journey continues to involve a variety of practices emerging from several spiritual traditions, for the past decade one of the most useful tools in my personal roadside service toolkit has been Tonglen Practice as taught by American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron and others.  Like many of us 'back in the day," having experienced a number of compelling visions and rapturous openings of my heart chakra, I was convinced of the existence of a boundless and mysterious energy that I now call One Love.  Yet, in the day to day reality of my life I discovered that actually being a loving person wasn't all that easy.  Blinded by the subconscious patterns of a deeply wounded ego, immersed in the energies of a patently neurotic society, much the time I could be a real jerk, failing miserably to even help myself stay free from harm.  Even after experiencing the Infinite Grace of Our Oneness, I still didn't have much of a clue about the sheath of armoring around my heart that distanced me from others -- and, more importantly, from myself.  

Although I was blessed to be able to attend retreats along the way with Stephen and Ondrea Levine and Joanna Macy that provided opportunities to access and melt away some of that armoring, years later, I still stumble ahead noticing daily how much remains.  Now 71 years old, I've realized that there is no end point.  Opening the Heart is a Ceaseless Practice.  

Saturday, November 4, 2017

For Now

"Life will give you whatever experience is helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.
How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience
you are having at the moment."
― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

"One can appreciate & celebrate each moment — there’s nothing more sacred. There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more!”
― Pema Chödrön



After raining heavily all night, the sun broke out as I came upstairs a few minutes ago.  Streaming through the skylight, it played across the floor as I entered.  The windblown dance of light and shadow, woven of sun, tree and partially open blinds brought a smile to my face.

Then, as quickly as it had emerged, the sun again disappeared into the thick sea of gray clouds.  That brought a smile to my face as well.  

I walked over to raise the blinds, expecting to see the glistening, now pink-brown, late autumn leaves of the maple tree outside the window waving in the wind.  Startled, I found I was face to face with the stark gray brown of empty branches.  It was now November!  Only a few leaves, scattered among the wet branches remained.  "Oh yeah," I thought. "It rained hard all night.  Duh."  I smiled again.

I guess I'm pretty easy these days -- at least much of the time

Once the fundamental Impermanence of what Uchiyama Roshi called "the scenery of our lives" is directly seen -- and accepted -- we have the opportunity to embrace Life with an increasing degree of ease, grace and kindness.  Within the ever-flowing energies that we encounter, we see that there is always nothing more, and nothing less, than Life as it exists in the Present Moment.  

Although the thoughts and emotions that emerge from the causes and conditions of our personal and collective histories can make it appear otherwise, what is right there in front of us is a constant Invitation to the Dance.  We can either explore the possibility of opening our hearts and minds (and our eyes and ears and arms, etc.) to accept and appreciate the Absolute Miracle of the Mystery that we are part of -- or not.  It's just that simple.

Of course, simple doesn't necessarily mean easy.  
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