"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 17, 2018

Just a Few Thoughts

"One can appreciate and celebrate each moment -- there is nothing more sacred.
There is nothing more vast and absolute.  In fact, there is nothing more."
-- Pema Chödron, 
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. 
Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace



March Snow 2014
March is definitely being March here in western Massachusetts.  Lions and lambs continue to chase one another in circles as we are teased with mild days, then pummeled with various wintry mixes.  

Tonight, the hilltowns to the west of us will plunge toward zero degrees again, as the National Weather Service predicts a steamy 12° for us.  This is a week or so after I spent an afternoon in shirtsleeves.

Sigh.

And then there's always the March SNOW(s)!  Although the last two Nor'easters managed to spare the Pioneer Valley, Mother Nature will continue to do as she does.  If history repeats itself, we could still get some real snow before She rolls up her sleeves and gets serious about her Spring chores.  There's a lot of greening to be done.

Then again, maybe we won't get anymore snow before then.  Then again, maybe...

"Thinking, thinking." Ah.

I was thinking up a storm.  Tending to to speculate, fantasize, judge, compare, exaggerate, "thinking mind" can create all sorts of story lines about the weather -- or anything else imaginable.  All too often, it's just another snow job.  Much ado about nothing.  Yet most of us do it, most of the time.

Time to sit back and take a deep breath.

When I pause to gaze at the sun and shadows playing across the tawny world outside the window, there is an immediate shift.  When I open to the sounds of the birds twittering, the wind whispering through leafless trees, and the surf-like sounds of the traffic humming along High Street -- when I let go of the story lines, come to my senses, and feel myself sitting here breathing, the world immediately expands.  Not constrained by the fetters of thought, Life becomes vast and wondrous.

 This happens every time I pause and stop typing.  

(You could, perhaps, pause here for a moment or two and open up to those other channels of your own experience right now before moving on to click  (READ MORE)
A Few Thoughts on Not Thinking

Now, after a moment (did you actually pause and take a few conscious breaths?), thoughts work their way into my fingers, and you and I continue -- and therein lies the rub.  The dance that you and I are engaged in involves words and thinking.  At this very moment, they are a primary form of our connection through time and space.

That being the case, I will now use the mode of cyber-print connection to pester any of you who didn't pause before:

Please close your eyes take three, slow, deep, conscious breaths.  Feel your body.  Feel your heart for a few moments before you continue.  Listen to the sounds emerge in the space around you.  Then open your eyes and look around you for a moment or two before continuing to read.
Feel the difference!?

Okay.  Hmmm... What was I thinking?

Oh, yeah.

Although the Zen tradition stresses that thoughts and words are "limited" in their usefulness, it's not that thoughts are badIn fact, the part of our being that generates thoughts is itself an absolute wonder.  I marvel at the magical emergence of thoughts, at their expression here as my fingers dance along a keyboard to create a stream of words across this screen.  

It's sheer magic.

Yet, it is also true that thoughts can serve to ensnare us incessantly in a web of distraction -- at best.  At their worst, our thoughts create a "reality" that is distorted in deep and fundamental ways.  Catapulting us out of the moment at hand into endless dramas about yesterday and tomorrow, thoughts can, and do, make mountains out of molehills.  They then propel us to scramble up slopes that don't actually exist!  This happens all the time.

Yet, when our thoughts our held in the embrace of Mindfulness and Awareness, they can be marvelous tools.  They can be harnessed skillfully to improve the quality of our lives in substantial and practical ways.  Something as simple as creating a budget or planning out a course of action for the morning can ease our way through our world.

Thoughts are also capable of poetic brilliance.  They are capable of expressing insights and inspirations that help bring us into our hearts and into the wonder of the present moment.  
Although it's clear to me that we meet Truth directly through a sensibility beyond words, the thinking mind in itself isn't bad.  It is just part of this amazing package we have been graced with as human beings in this incarnation.  Like anything else, it simply is. 

Reality? It's Beyond Words

One of the major merits of Mindfulness Practice is that we are able to expand our awareness to embrace thought in the arms of a clearer, kinder, compassionate, and more comprehensive quality of consciousness.  The process of Sitting Still and merely noticing that we are thinking, making the mental note "thinking" with as much grace and gentleness as we can muster before returning our attention to our breathing, (and/or our bodily sensations, our other senses, or other meditation object), can be transformative. 


With Practice, the quality of our own experience shifts.  

No longer dominating our attention like an overbearing soloist in the unique hymn of our own experience, the thinking mind returns to its proper place as a member of the choir.  

As we return to the present moment with all of our senses engaged, with our eyes attuned to the symphony of colors around us, as we feel the dancing sensations of our breath and body, as we hear the sounds play across the ever-present silence, something shifts.  

Reality asserts itself.

With our hearts and minds open to the vast, spacious, boundless universe of Awareness, the Present Moment emerges as the Precious Miracle that it is.  The Heart of Reality, existing both deeply within us and infinitely beyond us, embraces us as we embrace it.  The One Love becomes self-evident. 

Our thoughts can sing in harmony with this -- or not.  In the all-embracing heart of the present moment, even apparent dissonance isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It simply is.  With Practice we can embrace that as well. 

At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it -- or not. 

2 comments:

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the lovely new metaphors of choirs and hymns <3 Sending warm, sunny wishes from Philadelphia, Lance!

Lance Smith said...

Hey Stephanie,
Thanks for the sunny wishes! You've crossed my mind often but Life continues to be full and engaging -- and the thoughts never worked their way into my fingers! May Spring spring forth with many moments of Joy, Love and Tranquility for you and yours.
One Love,
Lance