"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

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Moment's Peace

"The quieter you become the more you can hear."
-- Ram Dass

"Be still and know that I am God."
-- Psalm 46:10

I remember my dad yelling, angrily, demanding that we kids shut up so he could get some "peace and quiet!"  

Sometimes his demand was even more desperate. 
"Just give me a moment's peace!" he'd plead.  

At those times, the threatening tone of his voice and likelihood of imminent violence usually did shut us up--at least for a few moments.   

Kids will be kids. Sigh.

I ache now with the memory of his anguish and my own fear.  I wish I knew then what I know now.  I'd given him that moment's peace gladly -- out of compassion, not fear.

Gone Fishing...

Dad loved to fish.  

I remember the day I looked out the front window of our apartment and saw him silhouetted against the sun sparkles of the small lake we lived on.  He sat there in his beloved rowboat a couple of hundred feet offshore, fishing pole in hand.  Dad could sit like that, motionless, surrounded by the stillness of that lake, just peering at the red and white bobber for quite awhile.  He seemed at peace.  He'd return to shore afterwards, seemingly in a good mood, calmer, quieter, more content.  

I noticed.  Forty three years after his death, it is one of my strongest visual memories of him.

Yet, those moments were, unfortunately not all that common.  My dad worked hard at the factory all day, and then, a single parent, he would prepare dinner before we kids would take over to do the dishes.  Beyond that, he kept himself busy with other activites as well.  (He was an avid ham radio operator and a boy scout council commissioner.)

Unfortunately, he suffered from atherosclerosis and cardiac disease.  He had hit the trifecta.  Longevity wasn't his genetic strong suit.  His mother, Vera, had died at age  42.  His father, Harold,  had died of heart disease at age 57.  Dad was also a longtime smoker.  And, as we saw above, stress management wasn't his forte.  He lived "with gusto" -- and was uptight and angry frequently.  (Although years of Practice have allowed me to chill out more readily these days, I, myself smoked for nearly forty years -- and had two stents installed in my heart eight years ago.  (Oak trees and acorns come to mind...)

After a heart attack, strokes, and uncontrollable high blood pressure, our family doctor had advised dad to retire and "just go fishing."  At age 59, he did just that. He bought himself a camper and a trailer, and for much of final year and a half of his life, he traveled and fished from coast to coast. 
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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Reality Asserts Itself

Gazing at tonight's Super Blood Wolf Moon sail into a sky that promises sub-zero wind chills before morning, I recalled a post written after a similar night five years ago.  Have a look?
One Love,
Lance  

 
"Delight in itself is the approach of sanity. Delight is to open our eyes to the reality of the situation rather than siding with this or that point of view."
— Chögyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom

"Please understand, you have inherent in your very Mind a huge potential, an incalculable brilliance, an ability to see the reality of this moment clearly."
-- Harada Roshi, opening talk,
Rohatsu Sesshin, Sogenji Monastery, 2011


My Little Corner of the World
An old coot, I rarely sleep through the night these days.

Generally, at least once a night, I have to roll out of bed and walk a few steps into the adjoining room. There, I participate in one aspect of this Grand Recyling Project known in some circles as Samsara.  

Then, depending on a multitude of factors ranging from things like the phases of the moon, to what happens to be on my mind that night, I usually plop right back into bed and meditate back to sleep, often catching a few dream bubbles along the way.

Sometimes, something else happens.

Last night, as I crawled into bed, I heard the winds howling outside the window.  I then felt a bit of coolness on my skin as a draft found its way under the blanket that hangs over the window alongside my bed for nights like these.  

Curious, I pulled a corner of the blanket up to take a peek. 

I was awestruck.


Outside the windows, the wind howled eerily as the stark silhouettes of winter's barren trees danced wildly in the moonlight.  Not to be outdone, their shadows played across the blue-white snow of the yard beyond the gardens.  Under the influence of a brilliant moon that was only a sliver past full, the entire world outside the window was luminous.  It seemed to glow from within.

Thoughts, being incapable of grasping the majesty of the moment, became irrelevant.  They just went on their merry way unattended -- leaving wonder and sheer delight in their wake.  

I was all eyes and ears.  Mindful Awareness did it's thing.

Transfixed, I don't know how long I was Present for that particular miracle.   It seems that Time had called "time out," and was huddling with the Timeless.  At some point though, the buzzer sounded, and samsara resumed play.  Tired, I let the blanket fall back across the window and rolled over.  

Grinning ear to ear, I stretched out, relaxed, and returned to sleep. 

Upon Awakening

As beautiful as the scene outside my window was last night, I also knew its stark reality.  

According to the National Weather Service, the raw temperature at 4 a.m at a small airport near here was -13°F.  The windchill was -22°.  Given different circumstances, that scene I gazed at outside the window wouldn't have been delightful.  It would been deadly.  Unprotected, I could have died out there -- and the trees and wind and moon would've just danced on. 

In the grand scope of things, that's the deal:  Life itself is always a deadly proposition.  It's a terminal condition.  Nobody gets outta here alive.
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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Playing for the hOMe Team

“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.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh


I awoke this morning stiff and sore, a bit out of sorts.  The holiday season with all it's busyness and travel, compounded by the stress of some serious health concerns among family and friends, was long, difficult, and demanding.

Amidst the scurry of the past few weeks, dealing with my own body has been no picnic either. With a bevy of eyelid inflammations and infections and appointments, and most every joint in my body making its painful presence known, it's been a long haul.

Slowly moving toward the bathroom, I noticed my whole world was colored in shades of doom and gloom.  Images of my inevitable, if not imminent, demise floated through my mind as I limped along.  I am almost 73 years old after all.  I've got two stents in my heart forestalling the day when this ole body gives up the ghost.

To be honest, there were times in my life that coming out of the starting blocks in that frame of  mind and body on a frigid winter day could have led to a serious bout of doom and gloom.  A dark mood and dark thoughts would have wrapped themselves around one another and held onto one another tightly -- sometimes for hours, sometimes for days or weeks at time.  In fact, there were times in my life that I spiraled down into abject despair and total burn-out.

That was then.  This is now.

This morning, like most mornings these days, I peed, brushed my teeth, then wobbled over to the altar in my bedroom, bowed to the four directions, then to the zafu, and then turned around to bow to all sentient beings.  Then I Sat.  

Within moments, it was different.

There in my little corner of the world, floating on the Breath of Practice, with my body comfortable and upright, I sat and watched as ripples of thought, feelings and bodily sensations emerged and dissipated along the surface of  a clear, calm deep pool of bright spaciousness.  Just Sitting Still, no longer grasping or pushing away, I breathed, relaxed, softened, and opened.  There, in the Gracious Spaciousness of Loving Awareness, I just sat.  And sat.  

At times I became the pool.  At times, I became both the pool and the ripples.  At times I became neither.

At other times, the ripples would draw my attention.  Without hesitation, my heart and mind would open to the reality that a lot of us old coots are feeling these same aches and pains and sadness, that the universal human condition includes sickness, aging and death.  I sat, softened, and opened.  At this stage of the journey, this was no big deal.

As I have learned to do in Tonglen Practice, I simply allowed the pain to emerge, and breathed its energy into my heart with the aspiration that myself and others be free of suffering and the roots of suffering.  In the expansiveness of each in-breath, with my heart open, the Gracious Spaciousness embraced the pain and allowed it to dissipate and dissolve.  My heart's aspiration that we all be at peace rode on each out-breath as it was released into the boundless expanse of the One Love in which we exist. 

As Time danced with the Timeless, I sat as the sounds of traffic ebbed and flowed outside the window.  The hour flew by.

When the final bell sounded on my iPhone (this is the 21st century after all), I silently recited the Bodhisattva Vows three times as I have done for decades, bowed, then did a brief series of yogic stretches.   When I arose, I felt just fine.  Energized, I bundled up and headed out for a brief walk in the crisp morning air, before heating up the coffee pot, and sitting down to watch words appear like magic along the screen of this old Mac laptop.  

And here's the pitch....

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Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Long Haul

  “Be still.  Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.
When there is silence one finds the anchor of the universe within oneself”
― Lao Tzu

“Space and silence are two aspects of the same thing. The same no-thing. They are externalization of inner space and inner silence, which is stillness: 
the infinitely creative womb of all existence.”
― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment 


With the 12th Day of Christmas upon us, the final family gatherings and bestowing of presents happens this weekend.  It's been a busy, and sometimes unsettling, holiday season.

In the midst of the scurry of the past couple of weeks, with hours spent in cars, buses, and subways, others in doctor's offices and hospitals, I was especially aware of how precious each morning's meditation was to me.  Flowing through days and evenings full of travel and visitations and meals and excited flurries of paper-ripping, my cushion has been an oasis.

Touching Stillness, even for a few brief moments, is like sipping clear, crisp spring water on a steamy summer day.  Paradoxically, it's also like feeling the warm glow of a fireplace, snuggling at home on a snowy evening peering through the window at the moon.  In Stillness, the Presence emerges.  In a silent whisper, it sings of the Ineffable, that space where the fundamentally mysterious and completely ordinary meet to form the fabric of Life itself.  

Although I use a variety of meditation techniques, I've found that the foundation of Practice is
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