"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 27, 2019

Me and My Shadow

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back...
They’re like messengers that show us,
with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck."
 --  Pema Chödrön

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, 
but by making the darkness conscious...
Knowing your own darkness is the best method
for dealing with the darknesses of other people."”
-- C.G. Jung

Many folks experiencing a lot of stress in their lives are drawn to meditation.  It's only natural to want to chill out and, to be sure, Mindfulness Practice can provide many moments of deep calm and clarity.

Yet -- and this is generally not proclaimed in the slick internet ads  -- it is also true that a regular mediation practice can bring to the surface a lot of feelings that we have assiduously managed to repress, deny or avoid as we scurry ahead in our lives.

Conditioned to operate in a fast-paced materialistic society, one that keeps us focused outwardly for fulfillment, we just keep moving.  Once we slow down and sit still for awhile to focus inwardly, our world changes.  Although we can experience greater calm,  it is also not uncommon to encounter darker, more distressing emotions at times.

Contrary to what we might think, this is a Good Thing.  It's a sign that the Practice is working!

In the process of a deepening Practice, we no longer skim across the surface.  We actually begin to get in touch with the aspects of our conditioning that have subconsciously operated to create the way we see and react to the events of our lives.  (How often have you winced and thought "damn.  Why did I say/do that!?)  

The good news is that, with Practice, we are able to make conscious what had been subconscious.  Over time, we are able to observe and navigate the more troublesome aspects of ourselves with increasing clarity and ease. 

Truth in Advertising

Adrift in momentary delusions of grandeur, I sometimes joke about beginning a high profile advertising campaign for Monday Morning Mindfulness with full page bold print ads, billboards and television commercials proclaiming something like:
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Saturday, July 20, 2019

As It Is

“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

"Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, 
spiritual bliss, or tranquility, nor is it attempting to be a better person. 
It is simply the creation of a space in which 
we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games,
our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes. "
― Chögyam Trungpa  

I guess I've always been a bookworm.  

Although I also loved riding my bicycle, wandering through fields, and playing baseball as a kid, I read -- a lot.  

One summer in Chicago, as often as I could, I would climb up on the flat roof of a garage in the alley behind the three-flat we lived in at the time, to pour through book after book.  As I remember it, Huckleberry Finn was my favorite.  In the midst of a rather troubling and chaotic childhood, Mark Twain invited me to join Huck, and journey down the river on my rooftop raft through a different -- and seemingly more alluring -- world.

Nowadays, I don't read much fiction, but there is still usually a stack of books close at hand.  Most of them are related to meditation and spirituality.   At this point, pouring through books isn't jumping on a raft to escape the realities of my life.  This ongoing journey through the Teachings is a means to stay in touch with those realities.  

The book at the top of the stack these days is Chögyam Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.  This is my fourth or fifth time through it in the past 40 years. Once again, I find myself marveling at the depth of insight presented -- and the new layers of understanding that seem to emerge with each reading.  (I imagine another decade of almost daily meditation Practice and a number of meditation intensives between this reading and the last may have helped. LOL)  

I found myself grinning from ear to ear.  Again and again. 
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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...
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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.)
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