"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, July 13, 2019

Lighten Up!

Stephen at Monday Night Class, San Francisco circa 1969
IMHO, Spiritual Practice isn't about bright lights and all that fancy magical "woo woo" stuff.  Nothing should insult our basic intelligence.  Yet, sometimes the Universe  really does lay one on you.

It happened almost exactly five year ago one morning as I struggled to write a fitting memorial to Hippie Spiritual Teacher Stephen Gaskin who had recently made the Grand Transition.

With another deep bow to Stephen -- and to a Most Amazing Universe -- I want to share, once again, the post from that day.   Beyond the Mysterious Magic Manifested, it's encouragement to "lighten up" bears repeating.

Lighten Up!   
Originally Posted July 12, 2014

This morning, I was quaffing my first cup of coffee in a couple of days watching bubbles of confusion and angst float through my awareness.  I still was struggling with an attempt to put into words my thoughts and feelings about the passing of Stephen, a man whose Presence and Teachings had a  profound impact on my life.

Then, (probably with a furrowed brow), I decided to reach for my cell phone to check my email -- and perhaps just fall back and select an old post to republish.

At that very moment the phone "dinged"with an incoming email. Peering down I read the notification:
"Monday Morning Mindfulness
Lighten Up! Posted 18 January 2014"

WTF!!!???

I have no idea what strange permutation of the Google space time cyber continuum could have possibly generated and delivered to me the email version of a post I'd written six months before -- especially at that very moment!  It had never happened before.  (and hasn't since)

How could I not lighten up?  

I broke into a bemused grin as I clicked it open.  Just receiving this unsolicited and inexplicably"cosmic" MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call would have been enough to make my decision (just read, introduce and re-post this one for sure) -- and make my day.  

I began reading the post.

It got even more mind blowing!

As I often do, I had begun the post with two quotes.  The first was from my current Dharma mainstay, Pema Chodron.  The second quote was from from Stephen Gaskin! (who I've rarely quoted here.)

Try as I may, I have no rational explanation for any of this.  All I can do is grin, offer a deep gassho to Stephen, and to the Primordial Comedian of the Cosmic Mystery Medicine Show -- and renew my commitment to lighten up!  Here's that post!

Lighten Up!
Originally posted January 18, 2014

  "The key to feeling at home with your body, mind and emotions, to feeling worthy to live on this planet, comes from being able to lighten up. When your aspiration is to lighten up, you begin to have a sense of humor. Things just keep popping your serious state of mind."
---Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

"Get your mind unbound and free; and then from the loosest, highest, best place you have, with the fastest and most humorous mind you can get together, you can reach out and make a try at  understanding Spirit."
---Stephen Gaskin, This Season's People

All too often, it seems like those of us who are sincere spiritual seekers can get a bit too stodgy.  It's not surprising, I suppose.

Although some of us may have experienced lives of relative comfort and success, to then realize that there was still something lacking, I think many of us were drawn to the Practice because we'd had a hard go of it.  We'd led lives that included serious trauma and/or significant emotional distress.  

So, when we stumbled across Buddha's First Noble Truth, it rang true.  We knew suffering to be real in our lives.   Reading on, we learned that this Sage had also proclaimed that there was a reason for suffering. -- and, even more importantly -- a freakin' way out!!?

Seriously?  Damn.  Sign me up!

Even if we were drawn to other spiritual traditions as we entered the Practice, I think there was often a similar dynamic.  Whether we were seeking nirvana or heaven,  sat chit ananda or atonement, we were looking for Light at the end of the tunnel, some form of release from this "veil of tears".  Then, whatever our path, at a certain point we knew that if we "wanted out" we had to get serious about it.  

Very, very, serious.

Unfortunately, some of us then got deadly serious about it.  I, for one, know that at one point my friends used to hate to see me coming.  I could quickly squeeze the life out of any party.  I was so serious!  I didn't realize that the Practice could involve having some serious fun.  I didn't realize that in order to really see the Light, it is helpful, maybe even crucial, to Lighten Up.

Although some forms of humor can be mindless and cruel, I think humor, at its best, is High Magic.  It's a Holy Balm, a Healing Art.  If some future Worldwide Buddhist Conference was considering the addition of a ninth element to the Eightfold Path, Right Humor would get my vote. Although I don't think that the College of Cardinals would go for it at this point, I'd also recommend that any candidate for Pope should be able to master appropriate "one liners" -- preferably off the cuff.   I'm hoping that at some point an archeologist will unearth ancient scrolls containing the Jokes of Jesus to educate future Popes -- and, of course, strengthen my case.

But I digress...
(READ MORE)

Sunday, July 7, 2019

High Times: In Memory of Stephen Gaskin

"There is a plane of experience, other than the three dimensional plane, which can be felt by a human being...If people never get above the merely signal level of communication, and don't become telepathic, they haven't explored their full human birthright."
-- Stephen Gaskin

"We are all parts of God.  Each one of us has an electrical body field that surrounds us, and a mind field that goes on to infinity."
-- Stephen Gaskin

Stephen Gaskin (February 16, 1935 - July 1, 2014) with his wfe, Ina May
In meditation, the subjective nature of Time becomes  obvious.  Sometimes, an hour zips by.  At other times, I've felt like a dazed prizefighter hanging onto the ropes of a painful existence waiting forever for the bell to ring.

And that's only one hour.  

As I get older, it becomes increasingly impossible to grasp the nature of concepts like a "year".  These days it feels easier at times to sense the mysterious nature of the Timeless in the boundless expansiveness of each moment.

I guess my head sort of goes to that place whenever Stephen Gaskin crosses my mind as it did this morning.  It seems surrealistic to me that it has been five years since he passed away at age 79 at his home on the Farm, the intentional spiritual community he had helped to found in rural Tennessee in 1971. 

More than anyone, Stephen's teachings informed my ideas about the nature of Reality and the work to be done during our sojourn on this planet.  I came across his rendition of the Bodhisattva Vow for the first time in The Farm's first book Hey Beatnik!  I was hooked.  

At that moment the vow took me.  

A decade older than many of the young folks who flocked to San Francisco in the mid-sixties as part of the Psychedelic Revolution, Stephen always maintained he was more of a Beatnik than a Hippie.  Yet, wearing tie-dyes til the end, Gaskin was a central figure in the burst of spiritual energy that encircled the globe during the 1960's and 70's, catapulting many of us into a Collective Kensho that transformed our lives.  Claiming that they were "out to save the world," Gaskin and 50 bus loads of Hippies left San Francisco to circle in for a landing in Tennessee to form what was, for a time, the largest hippy commune in the world.  Although the size and structure evolved over the years, The Farm is still there.

Although I was a lightweight when it came to psychedelics, those were High Times.  The Collective Consciousness was so energized that even I had a number of compelling out of body experiences, saw aura's, and experienced powerful moments of synchronicity and telepathy that were mind-boggling -- even without drugs in my system at those times.  Ultimately, I had an experience of Perfect Oneness that fulfilled my deepest aspirations and dispelled any fundamental fear about death. (Admittedly, I also had some very powerful moments while under --or perhaps, over --the influence of various powerful medicinal herbs and compounds.)
(READ MORE)

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Child's Play

In post-meditation, be a child of illusion.
― the 6th Lojong slogan

“I tell all of you with certainty, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”
-- Yogi Jesus of Nazareth

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain, and crisp, cool air floating through the windows alongside my bed.  Undettered, the chorus of songbirds sang their parts in the predawn symphony as I rolled over and set the alarm to 6:30 AM to give myself a couple of more hours of sleep.  Moments later, I rolled over again and turned the alarm off.  Although I had thought otherwise, I was ready -- or so I'd thought. 

Today was blog practice.  I got up and sat down to the laptop to stare at a blank screen -- and waited.  

And waited.  

And waited some more.

After awhile, I got up again, set the timer, and walked over to the altar in the corner of my bedroom.  There, I  lit a stick of incense and Sat down in front of a different blank screen.

Now, an hour later, I'm ready -- I think.

There is a well known Zen story from the Meiji era (1868-1912) about a prominent university professor who visited master Nan-in to inquire about Zen.  As the professor prattled on, demonstrating his vast knowledge of Buddhist philosophy and doctrine, the master began pouring his guest a cup of tea.  He continued pouring as the cup overflowed onto the table and floor.  

No longer able to restrain himself, the professor shouted, "Stop. The cup is overfull! No more will go in!".  Nan-in replied, "You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you'll have to empty your cup." 

I first read that story in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones back in 1970. I now realize I had only glimpsed the rim of that empty cup.  

Even as a 24 year old, fresh out of college and engaged in my first year of teaching school, I certainly "got" that there is a difference between the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom.  By then, I'd run into factory workers during my seven years of summer employment that appeared to have a much better handle on the Real Deal than most of my college professors.  I also sensed from the story that arrogance probably wasn't going to cut it with a Zen master, a fact that I've had verified any number of times number of times over the years as I ran into brick walls with Aries male bravado.

Little did I know, though, that this teaching, like the coffee down at Brad's Place, was being served in a bottomless cup.  

Then and Now

For several years now, I've been studying the Lojong Slogans.  After reading a number of commentaries a number of times, I began casting a daily slogan from among the 59 slogans for contemplation and practice last year.  I continue to be amazed at how helpful they have been.

Today, I cast the 6th slogan of the Lojong Teachings today: "In post-meditation, be a child of illusion."  One of the most haunting of the 59 aphorisms that make up this Tibetan Buddhist system of mind training, it is also, perhaps, one of the most radical.  It seemingly flies in the face of conventional wisdom.  Rather than exhorting us to "grow up and get real", we are encouraged, instead, to recapture the open and spacious sense of wonder that characterizes the mind of the child as we arise from our meditation cushion to move through the day to day activity of our lives. 

As Mindfulness Practice develops and we become more acutely aware of the fluidity and transparent nature of our own thoughts and emotions, the ephemeral nature of "mindstuff"
(READ MORE)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Listening with the Heart

"Listening is a very deep practice.You have to empty yourself. 
You have to leave space in order to listen...
In deep listening we listen with the sole purpose of 
helping the other person feel heard and accepted." 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Healing comes from our innate capacity for deep listening.  
This deep listening or seeing is not through our eyes or ears, 
but through our heart and soul."
-- Jack Kornfeld 

There is, perhaps, no more important form of meditative discipline than what Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh calls deep listening.  It connects us to ourselves, to one another -- and to our true nature.

Our time on the cushion in formal meditation is essential.  Yet, it is what happens next that really matters. It is there, in the midst of our day-to-day lives, that kindness and compassion are actualized -- or not.  

Beans in our Ears

Most of us have learned the prevailing form of listening in our society.  Much of the time we don't really listen.  We listen, not to connect deeply with the experience of another, but to reply.  Rather than listen deeply, we are thinking of what we are going to say next. 

Although our ears and eyes and finer sensibilities are operational as we listen, much of our attention is locked into what is running through our discursive minds.   

As a matter of habit, we automatically analyze, compare, judge, relate it to an associated personal experience, advise, counsel, or otherwise react without a deep awareness of what is really going on -- either inside ourselves or the other person.  As a result, whole realms of emotional and intuitive energies remain beneath the level of our awareness.  Rather than really connect, we often end up bouncing of one another.

It doesn't have to be this way.

We can actually learn an entirely different way of listening to another person -- and to ourselves!  We can go deeper.  We can empathizeWe can listen with our hearts.    
 (READ MORE)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Judgment Day

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”
― J. Krishnamurti

“We sow the seeds of our future hells or happiness by the way
 we open or close our minds right now.
 ― Pema Chodron

I don't the think there is any greater freedom than being Present to our lives without the distortion caused by Judgment Mind.  

This deeply engrained process of evaluating what we experience as bad, wrong, condemnable can dominate our lives.  It is embedded in the language we use to describe and communicate our experience.

If one is paying attention, the difference between the warm, bright, spaciousness experienced as we maintain the clarity of an open heart and mind, and the constricted, narrow, claustrophic texture of a quality of  consciousness imbued with judgmental thoughts and feelings, is obvious.  

In any one moment, it can literally be the difference between heaven and hell.

Growing up immersed in a society that is highly judgmental, most of us have been deeply conditioned to experience our lives in terms of good/bad, right/wrong, should be/shouldn't be.  In fact, our ego sense, with its perceived separation and isolation from "the other" is largely built on and maintained by the thoughts, opinions, and various mind states that emerge from this conditioning.  Even in it's mildest form, that of liking/disliking, Judgment Mind  generates thoughts and feelings that serve to separate us from ourselves and others in any particular moment. 

It is actually quite fun to see for yourself how that plays out on the meditation cushion.  

At times, we can clearly see Judgment Mind in full blown operation.  The gracious spaciousness of mind at rest collapses as the ranting and raving and blaming of judgmental thoughts cascade across the surface of discordant feelings.  

As Practice develops, we get more adept at noticing whether we can just take a breath and put some kindness and space around that and let Judgment Mind go it's merry way-- or whether we get swept away, ultimately getting judgmental about being judgmental!  Watching the process closely, it can pretty quickly become another obvious example of the Divine Sitcom that we humanoids are capable of co-creating.

In one of those episodes, I saw how the thoughts  "I don't like myself.  I'm bad." provided a wonderful opportunity to examine the experience carefully, in the lens of Mindfulness.  Letting go of the particular narrative generated by Judgment Mind, the experience became a kaleidoscope of momentary feelings flowing through my awareness. Moments of anger, fear, and pain emerged -- and soon dissipated.  Without the support of the storyline, they had nothing to hold onto.

At that point, I was able to look deeply and explore the paradoxical nature of "Self. "  Just "who" the hell it is that doesn't like "who?" Peering at that brought a sense of wonder -- and a chuckle.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A Few Tips on Creating a Daily Practice

 “The gift of learning to meditate is the 
greatest gift you can give yourself in this lifetime.” 
-- Sogyal Rinpoche

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment,
our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be
filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
― Thich Nhat Hạnh


I would say that ninety percent of the folks who have wandered into one of the Mindfulness Circles I facilitate have already tried mediation.  

Comparing notes on Practice, most of those folks have expressed that there was an obvious improvement in the quality of their consciousness --and in their lives -- during the times that they practiced, but they had been unable to maintain a regular daily practice.

Sound familiar?

The inability to maintain a daily practice is quite widespread.  It's fun to see a newcomer to the Circle mention, often somewhat sheepishly, that they hadn't been successful in establishing and sustaining a daily practice, only to discover when I ask for a show of hands, that everyone there has had -- or continues to have -- that same problem.

It only stands to reason. 

In today's world we are individually and collectively awash in noise, stimulation, and activity.  Creatures of habit, the entire thrust of our social conditioning operates against sitting still in silence.  Often feeling stressed and fatigued, we scurry ahead,  sometimes aware of a subtle (or not so subtle) discontent with ourselves and our lives.  Taking the time to notice to stop, relax, and get in touch with what is actually going on inside of us isn't widely supported. 

The Good News is that it can be.

More than anything, the establishment of a regular daily meditation practice may be the key to making the difference.  At this stage of the journey, I've learned that there are some things that  have helped me and others to bring this about.  Perhaps, they can help you as well.
(READ MORE)

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Where Two or Three are Gathered

"To begin a sangha find one friend who would like to join you for sitting practice or walking practice or tea meditation or sharing."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"For where there are two or three of you gathered in my name, 
I am there amidst you."
-- Jesus of Nazareth 


As I sit here with the memories of the past few weeks of Mindfulness Circles,  I'm struck with a sense of awe and a feeling of deep gratitude.   

In a peer setting, where none of us claims to be the "Teacher," I've often felt like I've been sitting in a Council of Buddhas.   

Although 73 years of Life and 50 years of Practice usually cause me to season my declarations of Truth with the proverbial grain of salt,  at the moment I'm inclined to proclaim something that seems Quite True to me:

Anyone who makes a commitment to explore their own experience consciously through meditation with a group, and then takes the opportunity to compare notes on their Lives and Practices with the others, will come to understand themselves, one another, and the nature of Reality at a deeper level.   

You Can Feel the Difference

Meditating with other people is different than meditating alone.  Everyone I've talked with in the Mindfulness Circles (and elsewhere) seem to agree.  It feels different to sit in silence with others.  Holding space for one another with an open heart and an open mind, we are held in the embrace of  the space we share.  Being Present, we can feel one another's Presence.  This Presence is the Presence.

It only makes sense. 
No matter what a culture fueled by capitalism proclaims, we are not merely isolated individuals pitted against one another.   

As Alan Watts wrote years ago, we are not "skin encapsulated egos."  We are each unique and different, but we are not separate.  In fact, we intersectEven modern science realizes that.  Not only are we "in this together" -- we ARE this together.  I find that being conversational about this Reality can be quite inspirational!   

It also feels different to give voice to our actual experiences in a setting that is committed to the practice of deep listening and the cultivation of a clear, non-judgmental quality of consciousness.  Through Council Practice, in the Mindfulness Circles we each have the time to speak openly and honestly about our lives as others listen mindfully without judgment or comment.  

As we do in basic sitting practice, the participants in the circle attempt to notice when we are thinking about what a person is saying, to let that go, and then return our attention to listening with our ears and eyes -- and our hearts.  Several times in the past couple of weeks, individuals have expressed their gratitude to the Circle for providing a space where they can be completely open and honest about their lives.  

As one member expressed it, "Here I know I can always be real!"  

The Real Deal

Again and again during the past couple of weeks, various members of the Circle have offered forth, sometimes with tears in their eyes, powerful insights into the heart and mind.  These Truths came forth as simple expressions of their own experience.   
 
Although I continue to be grateful to the teachings that I continue to pour through (there are always stacks of books on my nightstand, kitchen table, and elsewhere), it was again made obvious to me "The Teachings" are beyond any teacher or set of traditional teachings.  They transcend Buddhism or Christianity or Taoism or any of the traditions that have emerged. They emerge from Life itself.  

IMHO, we all have the on-board equipment to recognize Truth, to Love, to Heal.  That's the Real Deal.

It makes my heart glow.

Click here for a Brief (one page) Mindfulness Circle Facilitation Guide.  Why not start your own?  For more information, feel free to contact me at thishazymoon@gmail.com 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

ARGH!!

We can suppress anger and aggression or act it out,
either way making things worse for ourselves and others.
Or we can practice patience: wait,
experience the anger and investigate its nature.
---Pema Chodron


“Just because anger or hate is present does not
mean that the capacity to love and accept
is not there; love is always with you.”
---Thich Nhat Hanh


The Universe is exquisite.  

Once you hitch your wagon to Practice and roll out, you are going to get the lessons along the way that are needed to take you deeper --whether you like it or not!  This might be especially true if you have the unbridled chutzpah to publicly ramble on about your experiences. 

More than once, I've spent time here presenting the notion that simply "cutting loose of the storyline," choosing to refocus our attention from discursive thought to other aspects of our experience (preferably what we are feeling in our bodies and heart), can sometimes take us from hell to heaven in the blink of an eye.  (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Once Upon a Time...)  

Although I certainly have experienced this quite often, perhaps a bit of Karmic Comeuppance was necessary to burn my tail -- and, hopefully, burnish my humility and compassion a bit.   During the last past week, Life interjected a pretty dramatic bout of upset apple carts and broohahas into the Grand Mix.  It's been enough to remind me that it certainly can take a bit longer than a "blink of an eye" to regain a sense of wonder about it all.  

It may even take what may seem like a hell of a long time.   

The lesson?  Being a calm and kind, clear and compassionate, human being is NOT that easy.  It is a daunting discipline.  It takes commitment, courage, patience, skill, time and effort.  It takes Practice.

Then and Now

As a child and a young man I had what folks might call an extremely bad temper.  Having grown up in the midst of a lot of anger, I would react to things in my world with bursts of violent emotions -- and even physical violence.  My kid brother and I fought like the proverbial cats and dogs. 

Even into young adulthood, I could fly into a rage and smash things and strike out with the worst of them.  Hanging out with my college jock peers didn't help matters.    Luckily, a lightweight at only 5'2",  throwing my weight around wasn't all that successful.  It was usually a kamikazi mission, so I learned a little to cool it a bit.  Suppression, however, didn't really work.  I still could get really angry all too easily.  

Perhaps, the deepest gratitude that I have to the Practice is that I no longer am likely to get all that angry, no longer prone to lash out verbally or physically.  Annoyance and mild irritation usually is about as bad as it gets these days.  I'm grateful that it usually doesn't spill out of my mouth without immediate recognition. 

Yet, life being life, usually doesn't mean never.  Recently, I hit a deep pool of anger for the first time in quite awhile.  
(READ MORE)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Standing at the Gateless Gate

"With continued practice and the right kind of firm yet gentle effort, 
calmness and mindfulness and equanimity develop and deepen on their own..."
-- Jon Kabat-Zinn,  Wherever You Go, There You Are: 
Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life 

 "As the mind becomes a little more quiet the sacredness of everything 
within and without becomes clear to us.”
-- Norman Fischer,  In an interview with Kate Olsen



Rain clouds at the bus stop
Gratitude came easily that morning.

Unlike this year's incessant springtime showers, we had been in a drought for months.  Overnight, Mother Nature had graced us with rain and was promising more. 

The birds seem to have noticed.  The overcast morning echoed with their animated songs. 

Living in South Deerfield at the time,  I had just arrived at the bus stop en route to an appointment with the eye doctor, when I realized that I had forgotten to slip my insurance card into my wallet before leaving the house.  A quick look at the cellphone verified that there wasn't enough time to return to the house to get it.  At that moment I realized that I would have to appear at the receptionist's counter to face the moment where I'd be asked, "Can I see your insurance card, please?"

My fate was sealed. 

At this point, you might wonder where the hell gratitude comes in here-- unless, of course, I am outing my own masochistic tendencies.  Which I'm not.  (I don't think.)
(READ MORE)

Friday, May 10, 2019

Getting Down to It

"Taking the bodhisattva vow implies that instead of holding our own individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, 
we become open to the world that we are living in. 
It means we are willing to take on greater responsibility, immense responsibility.  In fact it means taking a big chance."
-- Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You're able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, 
and your mind open. "
-- Pema Chödrön

Stephan Gaskin at the Helm in early 70's
Even in retirement, living a lifestyle that is relatively uncluttered by modern American standards, I still find myself pretty darn busy much of the time.  Sometimes I find myself yearning for more downtime.

At first glance that may seem surprising. After all, I spend hours and hours each week Sitting Still Doing Nothing. 

To wit: I meditate for an hour most every morning.  Since the heyday of #Occupy Wall Street! I also meditate with some other folks for another half hour at noon most days on the Greenfield Town Commons.  I also Sit with four Mindfulness Circles each week.   I participate in Be Still and Know: An Interfaith Day of Mindfulness one Sunday each month. 

So, you'd think that I'd have downtime down at this point.  And yet...

Out to Save the World

One thing that drew me to Zen and Mahayana Buddhism in the first place was the ideal of the Bodhisattva, the person who forestalls personal Nirvana in order to address the suffering of the world.  This idea resonated deeply with the inspiration I felt as a young teen with the quest of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement.  A few years later, the emergence of the Anti-War movement and the anti-materialistic spirituality of the youthful "counter-culture" set a trajectory for my life that continues to this day.  

Each morning I recite the Bodhisattva Vow as I finish morning meditation.   I first came across a Hippy Zen version of these four statements of commitment in Hey Beatnik: This is the Farm Book in 1974.  I was transfixed.  I got goosebumps.  In that moment, I knew that there wasn't anything better to do with my life.  (Here is a link to an on-line .pdf version of this classic work.)

By then, like many of us who were navigating our way through the confluence of Eastern Spirituality and the Psychedelic Revolution, I had experienced a number of "Awakenings."  The Most Profound One had nothing to do with anything in my bloodstream except the byproducts of meditation, breakfast, and lunch.  

For a few precious moments, I had a glimpse of Our Perfect Oneness.   What had been theoretical and abstract, became totally real and tangible to me.  (I only wish I had had a spiritual mentor at the time-- or even been more inclined to listen to my friends at that point. It may have made things a lot easier along the way.  Even knowing what the bottom line is, over the years I've made most every dumb mistake possible.  LOL )

Although I have read (and recited) other versions and translations of the Bodhisattva Vows (Some of the Tibetan versions are quite poetic and beautiful), this is the passage I read that day years ago: 

"I don't have an ultimate goal in life. I believe in the vow of the Bodhisattva. And that says that sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all. The deluding passions are inexhaustible, I vow to extinguish them all. The way of the dharma is impossible to expound, I vow to expound it. It is impossible to attain the way of the Buddha, I vow to attain it. And that keeps you busy. "
-- Stephan Gaskin, Hey Beatnik!

Excuse me.  My chest is heaving and tears are streaming down my face -- again.  I gotta go get some kleenex.  I'll be back.
(READ MORE)

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Body of Wisdom

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

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, 
who is in you, whom you have received from God?
― 1 Corinthians 6:19, The Bible,  New International Version

When I observed my first Zen teacher practice kinhin, the walking meditation of his tradition, I was dumbfounded.  I hadn't seen anything like it before. 

There was a grace in his bearing, a Presence in his slow mindful steps that was awe-inspiring.  

It was obvious to me that Reverend Gyomay Kubose, in his 70's at the time, was connected to his body -- and to the smooth wooden floors of the Buddhist Temple of Chicago -- in an entirely different way than I'd seen before. 

Embodied Practice

The first of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of Body, is a concept that stretches back to the earliest texts of Buddhism.  The Anapanasati and Maha Satipathana Suttas spell out the details of meditative techniques which have been widely taught for about 2,500 years.  In these teachings, the development of a fuller awareness of our bodies is seen as a means of cultivating a calmer and clearer sense of the entire realm of our own experience.  

Beginning with focusing our attention on the process of breathing, attention can be directed in a number of ways to more fully experience our bodies.  As Mindfulness Practice deepens and we become more fully present to what we are experiencing on deeper and subtler levels, REALITY asserts itself.

At a certain point, the Real Deal becomes self-evident.

Getting From There to Here


Conditioned as we are, most of us are "in our heads" most of the time.  Although we are always breathing, and our bodies and our sensory apparatus are operating to generate a whole realm of experiences, most of this occurs without our full presence of mind.  Generally, conditioned as we are, the focus of our attention is primarily on the thoughts running through our head.

Fueled by emotional energies, subconscious beliefs, and conditioned filters that we are largely unaware of, these thoughts dominate our awareness in a way that sweeps us along the stream of our own conditioned ego patterns most the time.  Mindfulness Practice, both on and off the meditation cushion,  offers us a means to  expand our range of awareness to include a universe of experience that we generally aren't aware of.  Without Practice we are liable to "sleepwalk,"only half-awake,  throughout our lives. 

Reverend Kubose, most definitely, was not sleepwalking that day.  He was awake to the present moment, to the majesty of Life Itself. 
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Saturday, April 27, 2019

When It Rains...

"The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face to face...
When we want to complain about the rain, we could feel it's wetness instead."
-- Pema Chodron

“The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain. ” 
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It's been one of those weeks.  

Although I'm relatively busy for a retired old coot, it's not like I have to punch in for forty hours a week and then hustle to take care of everything else in the midst of this hyped-up version of human  society 

These days I often have the time and space to wander aimlessly a bit, maybe even take a nap in the afternoon a few days a week.  

Not so this week.  

Time and time again, when I thought I could finally get some down time, something else came up.  I even found myself crawling under a car to take a look for the first time in years.  (I have lived without a personal vehicle for the past six years or so.)

When it rains, it pours.

Rainy Days and Mondays... 

Not content with metaphor, Mother Nature again got serious with her April Showers this week.  Although we were graced with the splendor of one sunny day, it showered on and off the rest of the week.  Mother Nature poured her heart out to ensure that next week will bring abundant May flowers. 

There was a time that "rainy days and Mondays would always get me down."  As a child, I had felt trapped inside.  As an adult, my mood would descend into melancholy and depression in the grasp of a rainy spell.  A brief tour of Washington State during the rainy season years ago made it clear to me that I would never chose to live in a place that would seasonally deliver fog, gloom, and rain for long stretches of time.

That was then.  It's different now. 

These days I actually don't mind rain.  In fact, if the truth be told, I usually love it.  Connecting with Mother Nature as she does what she does is always a chance to get real.

Whether it's a soft foggy drizzle or a thunder-booming rip-snorting whizz banger -- or anything in-between -- once I'm just present for the actual experience, there is something immensely alive and vibrant about the rain.  Dancing beyond our ability to control it, Mother Nature just is.  She will just do what she will do -- no matter how we think or feel about it.  Why not relax and dig it!? 

At This Very Moment

I feel a lot of gratitude for Mindfulness Practice at this very moment.  

As I sit here with fingers dancing across the keyboard, I see the sun playing hide and seek with storm clouds through the window. Through the open window I hear the wind singing in the trees, a collection of birds twittering.   Occasionally, a car hisses and splashes along the wet pavement of High Street.

Pausing, letting go for a moment of "thinking mind," I'm aware of my breath and the sensations of my body as I sit here at the computer.  I feel the wind dancing across my skin through that same open window.  A chorus of sounds ebb and flow.  Placing my awareness on my bodily sensations,  these sensations also ebb and flow.  Relaxing and opening to this dance of energy, my breathing slows and deepens of its own accord.

Life is simply being Life.  
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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Kicking the Habit

"Compassion and resilience are not, as we might imagine, rarefied human qualities available only to the saintly.  Nor are they adventitious experiences that arise in us only in extraordinary circumstances.   In fact these essential and universally prized human qualities can be solidly cultivated by anyone willing to take the time to do it."
― Norman Fischer, 
Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong

“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

I think one of the most exciting discoveries to emerge from medical science is neuroplasticity.  

Even in cases where there has been fairly severe physical damage to the brain, research now indicates that new neural pathways can be created. It appears that with proper stimulation, undamaged neurons actually sprout new nerve endings.  Certain functions can even be transferred from a severely damaged hemisphere of the brain to the other!

How cool is that!?

Although most schools of psychology agree that our basic personality is formed very early in our lives through the interplay of genetics and conditioning,  neuroplasticity now indicates that we can alter the elements of that personality in fundamental ways -- at a cellular level.  Recent research confirms that there are positive organic changes to the brain produced by meditation.

What this means is that contrary to the old adage, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Most of us don't think that the way we view and react to our world is a conditioned sequence of synapses firing. (In layman's terms: a habit)  Yet, it certainly seems to explain the way many of us seem to go stumbling along entertaining deep yearnings to be a certain type of person -- and failing to meet our own standards again and again.  We want to be kind, caring, compassionate, constructive and productive people.   And we end up -- all too often -- being jerks!

Now Western Science affirm what the sages, seers, and saints having been saying all along: We can get it together.  With Practice, we can kick the habit of being who we have been in deep and fundamental ways. 

In my own experience,  the Practice has been a means to kick start, and maintain, some dramatic changes in the way I am in the world.  With Practice I have brought an awareness to what had previously operated subconsciously, and, by doing so,  I've been able to "rewire" my responses.  

To wit: I had a violent temper.  Raised in a family where this type of behavior was the norm, I could readily fly into a rage and lash out verbally-- or even physically.
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Saturday, April 13, 2019

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 our lives. 

Like spring unfolding across the palette of April and May, our Practice deepens, and the world slowly greens and blooms.  What was tan, stark, and frigid, slowly brightens, softens and warms.  Green shoots appear.  Buds opens.

At a certain point we notice.  Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. 
It's different now than it was before.

At other times, Zap! Insight and Healing emerge like a bolt of lightning!

Sometimes, this bursts forth with a torrential downpour of tears. Sometimes not. Yet, in a heartbeat there is a Grand Gestalt.  In a flash, in an instant, there is Crystalline Clarity.  We really get It! Or perhaps -- more accurately-- It gets us.  

Everything has changed, but nothing has changed.  Yet, it's different now than it was before.

The Genuine Heart of Sadness

Awhile ago, I had the good fortunate to stop by Himalayan Views, a nearby spiritual gift shop/bookstore, to hear a woman describe one of those moments.  She was sitting in the back reading area of the store, and as is often the case, I made the effort to say smile and hello.  (A childhood rebel, I never agreed with "don't talk to strangers.")  Soon, I  found myself chatting with a her about the book she was reading, and comparing notes on our lives and spiritual practice.  

Her eyes were clear and kind.  Her voice was gentle, yet powerful and strong, as she shared her story.  

She was in her mid-thirties at the time of her Awakening.   Suffering from what had been diagnosed as "clinical depression," medicated since adolescence, she had come across a book of Pema Chodron's teachings.  When she read of what Pema's teacher, Chogyam Trungpa had called "the genuine heart of sadness," her life was transformed. 

Zap!

As the woman read that passage that day, Reality asserted itself.  At that very moment, She knew
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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Always Maintain a Joyful MInd!?

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

"Always maintain a joyful mind."
--  The 21st Lojong Slogan


I used to hate winter.

Yet, thanks to Practice, I actually didn't mind the lingering winter weather this year here in Western Massachusetts.  The reoccurring bouts of snow and wintry mixes were just fine with me.   Some were even quite beautiful.  

They sure didn't deter the neighborhood cardinals either.  They've been singing Spring's praises weeks for weeks.    

Yet, that being said, today was different.  Although Spring had whispered in our ear on and off for weeks, today she stepped up to the microphone and proclaimed in no uncertain terms, "I'M HERE!"

And everybody knew it.

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

Although I am well aware that 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 doesn't matter.  Even if She turns on a dime to blow another Nor'easter in our face, I'll just blow her a kiss.  The sun will rise the next day, there will be diamonds glittering in the melting snow,  and the Cardinals will keep singing.  We're home free.  It's a done deal.

Spring has arrived!

Time Flies...

Six years ago this spring, I was asked by one of the irregular regulars of Monday Morning Mindfulness to jump into a study of the Lojong Trainings of Tibetan Buddhism.  Although I had been struck by the heart centered teachings of Pema Chodron and had adopted her Tonglen Practice for a number of years, I hadn't really picked up on her tradition's "slogan practice." 

In fact, with decades of devotion to the Zen path, I had been a decidedly uppity and rejected the idea that studying and using a series of slogans could be useful.  I huffed to myself, the Real Deal is beyond mere"words and letters" -- and kept moving.

Yet, this time something resonated.  I paused and took a breath or two.

After all, I had been asked to teach meditation by the director of Community Yoga and Wellness Center a couple of years before.  I said I'd have to teach it for free (some of the other teachers there weren't too happy with that), and I'd barter for the space as the Coordinator of the Caretaking Crew. (a fancy title for being the head, and often only, janitor. LOL).  She agreed.

So I did.

Then a year later, a MMM CircleMate asked me to offer a Mindfulness Circle at the Recovery Learning Community.  

So, I did.  

Now, a Mindfulness CircleMate was asking me to apply myself to studying, practicing, and sharing the Lojong Trainings.  Interestingly, I had picked Norman Fischer's Trainings in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong off of my son's bookshelf in his guest bedroom two weeks before that, and I had loved it! I couldn't resist that type of synchronicity. So, I was asked take on and share a Lojong Practice.

So I did.

A Layman Looks at Lojong

The Lojong Slogans are a series of aphorisms that are memorized, studied, and used in training the mind to expand beyond it's usual conditioned patterns.  (Lojong means Mind Training in Tibetan.)  These 59 slogans operate as mental reminders to frame our experience in particular ways -- both on and off the meditation cushion.  The stated goal is to cultivate wisdom and compassion.   

Being a Spiritual Practice Geek at heart, I've now studied the commentaries of Chogyam Trungpa, Pema Chodron, Traleg Kyabgon, B. Alan Wallace, as well as that of Zen Teacher Norman Fischer.  It's been part of my daily practice for six years.  

And, of course, the way I go about it looks a bit different than it was approached in medieval Tibet.  Currently, I use a random number generator on my phone to select a daily slogan, then click another icon to read the commentary by Acharya Judy Lief that Tricycle has made available online .  Often I will re-read another commentary or two over a cup of coffee before setting the meditation timers on my iPhone and taking my seat in front of my hOMe altar for an hour.

It's been an amazing ride. 

At times, the synchronicity of slogan and life-situation seem mind-boggling.  At other times, I'm left with scratching my head about why I'm staying with this particular practice.  Yet, in all honesty, I've found Lojong to be extremely helpful in examining my own conditioning and cultivating an open heart and a clear head.  The Practice continues to deepen.

Some of the Lojong slogans seem quite familiar: Don't be jealous, don't malign others, etc.   We probably have heard them from our parents, Sunday school teachers, from our kind and upstanding friends.  

Others, like "regard all dharmas as a dream" or "rest in the nature of alaya," call for an understanding of the terminology and teachings of Mahayana Buddhism or of some of the unique notions of Tibetan Buddhism.  I've found, though, that reading the commentaries by contemporary teachers helps bring them into focus.  

Then, there are some like slogan 21 (which I cast this morning):  

"Always Maintain A Joyful Mind!"

I think a common first reaction to that slogan is "WTF?  Are you kidding me!?"
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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Once Upon a Time

“The Buddha’s principal message that day was
that holding on to anything blocks wisdom.
Any conclusion that we draw must be let go." 
---Pema Chodron, 

"Don't know.  Straight ahead."
Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn, 1927-2004
Founder, Providence Zen Center

The irony is exquisite.  

I'm sitting here at the laptop poised to sprinkle some thoughts across the screen in an effort to capture the essence of the thought that thoughts can't really capture the Essence. 

To be honest, after choosing the two quotes for this post, my next thought was, "Ah, I'll just leave it at that, choose a graphic, and hit "send." But, that seemed a bit too cutesy.   It smacked of what Roshi Daido Loori used to call the "stink of Zen."

I am, after all, making an attempt to live what Roshi Kosho Uchiyama characterized as "a life of vow."  As well as the Bodhisattva Vow and a number of other personal commitments that frame my life, I've committed to publishing a weekly post here in cyberspace -- although for quite some time I've been going back through a couple of hundred previously written posts and polishing them up.  

When I pause to think about it, it seems to me that a set of commitments is all that I really have to bring to the plate.  The rest is in the hands of the Cosmic Pitcher.   All I can really do is commit to showing up, step up to the plate, and then take my best swing if it appears to be in the strike zone -- or let it go by if it ain't.  (Egads, I'm thinking in baseball metaphors. It must be Spring!)

And here's the Pitch.....
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Saturday, March 23, 2019

A Love Affair

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. 
You're able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open.
 ― Pema Chödrön, 
Practicing Peace in Times of War

We now see that the only way that we could love ourselves is by loving others, 
and the only way that we could truly love others is to love ourselves. 
The difference between self-love and love of others is very small, 
once we really understand.”
― Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion: 
Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong
 

As I've mentioned before, here and elsewhere, I think the Hippies actually had it right.  It IS all about Peace, Love, and Freedom.

Although most of us were too young and crazy to pull it off at the time, many of us had been to the mountain top to be touched by the One Love during that era's Collective KenshoWe saw the Real Deal.  

But seeing that-- and even believing that -- isn't enough.

The task of freeing ourselves to BE a peaceful and loving human being became the Mission -- and we quickly learned that it is no mean feat.  It takes deep commitment, effort, discipline, courage and patience.

It takes Practice.

In the Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist worlds the term "Love" isn't generally used to refer to the Ultimate State of Being. They approach the Ineffable with different concepts and understandings. I think that is actually helpful to us Westerners.  We are pretty sloppy with the word "love". 

For us, the word "love" is quite ambiguous.  In English, what we call "love" can be a warm glow that emerges from the ethereal domain of unconditional, unselfish agape, or it can be the fiery emotion that erupts from the nether realms of green eyed monsters and wrathful, jealous gods.  It's pretty clear that "I love you so much that I'll kill anyone who looks at you, and then you," isn't exactly what Jesus and Buddha had in mind when they taught about Love, right?  So, it seems that a bit more precision would be helpful.
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Saturday, March 16, 2019

When You Wish Upon a Star

"Fate is kind.
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing."
-- from "When You Wish Upon A Star" 
Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, 1940

The important point is to realize that you are never off duty.”
-- Chogyam Trungpa

Sometimes, it seems like a previous lifetime.  

Fifteen years ago, I sat on the front porch of an A-frame perched on a ridge at Zen Mountain Monastery gazing at a star-filled Catskill Mountain sky.  At that point, I was certain that I was going to leave. 

I had absolutely no idea what my next move would be, though.

For decades, I had thought, "once the kids are grown, I can finally DO IT!" I would leave the chaos of contemporary life and head for the hills.  There I'd find the Teacher and a sangha -- and really get spiritual. 

Now, after only six months of residency, I knew I was done.

So much for that idea.  Now what? 

Clueless...

Although I had, again, experienced a number of deep "openings" in the cauldron of Zen Training as envisioned by Roshi John Daido Loori, I discovered that the rigid, hard-driving, and unabashedly hierarchical nature of the Roshi's "Eight Gates of Zen Training" didn't ring true for me.  A peace activist, I placed a high value on egalitarianism and the shared power experienced in consensus democracy.  I knew that a monastic life wasn't going to be that.   Yet, I believed that I was ready to get with the program.

I wasn't. 

Though I respected many of the folks involved, and saw that the monastic life appeared to work for some, I now knew I wasn't going to get off that easy.  The Truth for me was beyond that container.  I was going to have to get out there on the streets and work it out for myself -- again.

As I sat there, absolutely clueless, an image of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull came to mind. Then, like that intrepid avian seeker of perfection, I thought, "Just hang onto the wind and trust!"  The very next instant, a shooting star flashed across the night sky directly in front of my eyes to then disappear into the tapestry of countless stars and fathomless blackness reaching overhead.

Zap! 

I wish it was always that easy.  
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Sunday, March 10, 2019

One Love, One Heart

“In Chinese, the word for heart and mind is the same -- Hsin.
 For when the heart is open and the mind is clear 
they are of one substance, of one essence.” 
-- Stephen Levine

"Love is not what we become but who we already are."
-- Stephen Levine

I slept in this morning for the first time in quite awhile.  

Although I did awaken at around 5:30, as usual, to participate in my early morning recycling project, I immediately returned to bed.  There, I followed my breathing into "dozing/dreaming meditation." A long, rather vivid, dream quickly emerged.  It was moderately unsettling.  It rang with the  sadness of personal "failure."

When I awoke the clock read 7:45.  Picking up my phone to cast today's Lojong slogan, I quickly discovered that spring had, indeed, sprung ahead.  It was "really" 8:45!  

"Yikes!" I thought.  "I've got to deal with the blog today."

Having dragged myself out of bed so late, with the echoes of memories of numerous "personal failures" ringing through my mind, I just kept moving.  After all, it was late.  The hiss of the traffic on High Street concurred.  Keep moving!  I set out to pack up the laptop and head down to Greenfield Coffee.  There, I'd quaff some added energy and get to it.

To Sit or Not to Sit

For decades now, settling into a one hour morning meditation has come quite naturally most every day.  Usually, the momentum of a Life of Practice just carries me along like an autumn leaf floating on the surface of a dancing brook under a clear blue sky.  Life flows on.  I flow on.  It's nightime,  I head to bed.  It's morning, I awake. Then I get up and pee. Then, I Sit.    

That bedrock ritual became a bit rocky this past week, though.  

I actually missed three days in a row, then only sat for 20 minutes the next day.  I even considered that, perhaps, I had become too "attached" to my morning meditation.  After all, since my name is on the schedule, I arrive to meditate with other folks several times a week, and often head up to the Town Commons at noon to meditate as well.  So. what's the Big Deal about my personal morning meditation?

To be honest, I don't know.

What I do know is that I was up and running this morning.  I actually had my hand on the door handle before pausing to take a deep breath.  Rather than float along this morning, I had to stand in the way of my own momentum.  A real decision had to be made.  
 
After a few more conscious breaths, I turned around, took off my coat, and headed back to the altar.  As I've done thousands of times before, I bowed, set the timer, and Sat.
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Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Few Thoughts About Thought

"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


A Friend's Window, Rowe, MA
It snowed again this week.  Twice.  There are mountains of snow at the edges of parking lots all over town.  And the National Weather Service is predicting another 4"- 8" tonight.   

Some of my friends and relations have been complaining about the latest forecast for a couple of days.  They seem to be taking it quite personally.

And so it goes.  

The thinking mind, conditioned as it is, spins on to judge, to compare, to exaggerate, to speculate, creating all sorts of storylines about a possible future event.  It can and will do that as a matter of habit.  All too often, it's much ado about nothing.  All the fretting and complaining is just another snow job.  Like a good con man, these thoughts create an alternative reality -- and steal from you the richness of the present moment.

Here and Now

When I stop typing, take a full breath, and gaze through the window at the sunlight strewing diamonds across the snow, when I open to the melody of the neighborhood cardinal's morning song and the sound of traffic emerging, cresting, and disappearing like an ocean surf along High Street, everything shifts.  The world immediately expands.  Freed from the fetters of thought, each moment becomes vast and wondrous.

It happens every time I pause and stop typing.  (You could, perhaps, pause here for a moment, take a deep breath or two, and gaze out the window or around the room right now before clicking  READ MORE.)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Nothing Special. No Big Deal. (Part Two)

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”  
-- Rumi

There's a first time for everything.  

I suppose there is a last time for everything as well.  Each unique moment arises and passes away within the flow of eternity, so quickly that we can't actually grasp it.

With any luck at all, though, we can notice it, And, it seems to me, being Present, wihout judgment or commentary, is where the Real Magic exists.

Of course, this is easier said than done -- especially when I'm sitting at the computer intent on scribing a blog post.   

Usually I complete a piece and let it go.  Last week, I came to a point where I realized there was much more to say about the notion that there is really Nothing Special, that each moment of experience is No Big Deal.  I judged the commentary as incomplete.  Sigh.

Which brings me to the Present.  Sort of...

Looking back to that post, I saw that I wasn't satisfied with having proclaimed that in my Heart of Hearts I believed that everyone and everything should be loved and appreciated --and then immediately went on to say that this was No Big Deal.  Seemingly, I'd proclaimed that Unconditional Love was Nothing Special.  Another way of saying that is "God is No Big Deal!" That sounded a bit blasphemous, no?

And yet, as I Sit here this morning with the sun playing hide and seek with the clouds in a crisp blue sky,
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