"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, October 27, 2018

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 God -- although some folks may call this Shunyata or the 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 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!  And 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.  I was quite fortunate, really.  I was usually able to "pass."

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 attempting to be kind and helpful, to serve "all sentient beings." It was important to me even before I heard of the Bodhisattva Vow.  It just seemed to make sense to be me.  Why not 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 the Real Deal.  I wanted to be able to lend a helping hand in a way that may make a difference.  I wanted to get to the Heart of the Matter, to discern the Truth.

To be sure, 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 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, I made a lot of mistakes.  Much the time I could be a real jerk, failing miserably to help others, or even myself free themselves from suffering.  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 operated to distance me from others -- and, perhaps more crucialy, 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 that armoring in precious moments, our early conditioning and its constant reinforcement in the world around us are powerful. years later, I still stumble ahead noticing daily how quickly I can disconnect from boundless, tender, openness that always exists in our Heart of Hearts. 

The Practice of Tonglen has been a godsend.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

For Now

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is 
 to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, 
to experience each moment as completely new and fresh.   
― Pema Chödrön
“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

 
After raining heavily all night, the sun broke out moments ago.  Streaming through the window, it played across the floor as I entered my bedroom.  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 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 crab apple tree outside the window waving in the wind.  Startled, I found I was face to face with the stark gray brown of mostly empty branches.  It was now Fall!  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.  I blame it on the Practice.
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 itself as it emerges each moment 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 is this very 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 each moment-- or not.  It's just that simple.

Of course, simple doesn't necessarily mean easy.  

It takes Practice.
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Saturday, October 13, 2018

For Crying Out Loud!

“Crying is one of the highest devotional songs. One who knows crying, knows spiritual practice. If you can cry with a pure heart, nothing else compares to such a prayer. 
 Crying includes all the principles of Yoga.”

“All the books of the world full of thoughts and poems 
are nothing in comparison to a minute of sobbing, 
when feeling surges in waves, 
the soul feels itself profoundly and finds itself."
― Hermann Hesse, The Fairy Tales of Hermann Hesse  


Emmet Kelly 1898-1979
Some time ago,  I came across the above quote by Swami Kripalvanandji while preparing for a yoga class that I was going to teach later that day.  I immediately emailed it to a dear friend who was having a rough time.

She replied that it helped -- a lot.  After reading it, she had headed out to her garden to have a good cry.  It was exactly what she needed.

Growing up in today's society, most of us have learned to avoid crying like the plague.  Widely characterized as a sign of unacceptable weakness and frailty, we are conditioned to keep a stiff upper lip, to steel ourselves against this natural expression of heartfelt feeling.  Although this pattern is pervasively seen as a "male" characteristic, in my experience, many of the women I know are also  conditioned to avoid crying.  As a result, our patterns of resistance to crying are pretty pervasive. 

That being said, I actually hesitated for a moment to plunge ahead here.  After all, you don't see too many glitzy promotional materials  on Mindfulness Practice promising to bring you to tears. Maybe I'd better "lighten up" a bit?  After all, isn't Buddha's Third Noble Truth the freakin' Cessation of Suffering?