"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, 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