"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, 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.)
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Past Horror Shows

In the past, what would have emerged at that moment as I stood there on a cloudy late spring morning would have been the opening scene of a horror show that would have played across the movie screen of my mind for the next 45 minutes -- at least.  Lost in my own conditioning, a whole sequence of physical, emotional and mental reactions would have erupted to make the remaining time at the bus stop, the ride to town, and the half mile walk to the doctor's office a virtual tour through the depths of hell.  

Fear, anger, self-hatred ("how could I be that STUPID!") would have had their moments on stage.  Deep anguish and self-pity would have then joined them in a circle dance of negativity. 
I would have been totally stressed out, with images of demonic receptionists spouting flames and casting worst-case scenarios raging through my mind's eye.   It would not have been a pretty picture.

None of that happened that morning.

The moment I realized what the deal was, two or three fleeting mind-moments of "uh-oh" and "what now?" emerged.  Immediately the worst case scenario appeared as "re-scheduling the appointment" which was followed by the thought "no big deal".  On the Standard Scale of Emotional Intensity nothing registered more than a 1.5 out of 10.  At no time did any of it really dominate my awareness.  It was no more important than the feeling of my feet on the earth as I stood there, or the majesty of the storm clouds brewing overhead.  It was just part of the Big Show. 

I then took a full, deep breath of cool morning air -- and grinned.  Curious as to how it was all going to play out, I stood there surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of a gorgeous late spring day, feeling a deep grateful to be alive. 

I blame the Practice for that.   

The Gateless Gate of Ease and Joy

In the Zen tradition they speak of the Dharma Gate of Ease and Joy.  At this stage of the journey I seem to have somehow bumbled and staggered my through to the other side -- at least much of the time.  Now, held in the embrace of the One Love, even the gnarlier aspects of life are usually quite readily acceptable.  The nitty-gritty and the grand have both become opportunities to Practice compassion.  They have become the warp and woof of the Ongoing Miracle of Life.

I write this not as a means of boasting, but as encouragement.  

If a poor welfare kid from Chicago can survive childhood poverty, emotional and sexual abuse, generations of mental illness, physical abandonment, foster homes, and the generic neuroses endemic in our contemporary ego-driven capitalist society to heal,  I sincerely believe anybody can. 

It just take Practice. 

Amazing Grace

On the Way hOMe
It's been a journey of boundless grace as much as guts and gumption.  I am infinitely grateful to have come of age at a time when the Teachings of the East were in wide circulation here in the United States, a time when Christianity was on the streets embodied by the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Berrigan Brothers,  a time when the herbs and magic medicines of various Shamanic traditions, augmented by contemporary chemical concoctions, were commonly shared among friends.  

Now at age 73 I find myself hanging out at the Gateless Gate propping it open as best I can, ready to welcome anybody who wanders by.  

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it, right?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

No two people will react in the same way to the same scenario going on in their life. Not even identical twins!
Most people have suffered or are suffering discomforts in one degree or another, always! I'm sorry you seem to have not put that baggage down, but seem to pick through it, allow it around to clutter your mind, pass it by your lips as energy going out calling for more of the same to come back, now and again as you carry it along through new experiences and new beginnings and endings.
Anyone can slow the dizziness of carousel they are on by simply choosing to focus on something that helps them feel better. It's one thing to speak about living in the moment, but personal practice means 'letting go' in even just talking about the past if it's crippling your thoughts in the present. I find it a weak example for progress. Life is a journey, an adventure, a learning as you go trip, for everyone. As everyone sees, feels, and understands the journey differently.
We all want to be loved, we all want to know that it's the only thing there is that unites us as we rise ABOVE our very own muddy experiences that have gotten us where we are today.
I am feeling a pity party for one going on here, as an example of how to practice being at peace with ones self. Let it go, you have done great things during your time here, focus on the positive, know you have survived the negative by having turned it to positive. Try to stop speaking of your hard times, maybe you are holding yourself back from even greater things by insisting on carrying this baggage. Negativity rears it's face in the most twisted ways to get our attention away from progress that could be made.
Sometimes reality is the moments wake up call in a close encounter. Next time you find your thoughts dragging you into that baggage of past, even if it's just to pat yourself on the back for having done a good job of getting out of it, think this, as I have found it alarming wake up......if I were to die in the next moment, what were my last thoughts? Negative or positive? constructive or destructive? We only have this moment. With What energy type do you want to leave here? Staying positive is not easy, that's why it is said the path is narrow, but all of it is about being 'fully' present. When we are that, we realize we have everything we need for the moment!

Such strong examples of pain going out, ending with 'just takes practice' to over come is ..... a lopsided pick me up!

Monday Morning MIndfulness said...

Obviously what has worked for others as an encouragement doesn't work for you. At no time did I feel dragged down by referring to past challenging experiences. I didn't feel crippled or negative as I related my experiences. My heart was open, my body relaxed, my mind clear as a bell. I was actually feeling quite "positive" as I sat there the laptop in the midst of a sunny day. I had "everything I needed" in those moments.

I'm sorry that such pieces aren't helpful to you, that they elicit a negative reaction on your part Perhaps that is tied to our own interdependent past.

IMHO, ultimately it isn't a matter of "letting go." It's a matter of letting it be. It seems to me that there is a subtle but real difference. In those moments reality transcends all of our notions of positive and negative.
One Love,
Lance