"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."
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The Musings of a Long-time Student of Meditation
Friday, April 3, 2020
When Things Fall Apart: Take Two
“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of
healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the
problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come
together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall
apart again. It’s just like that.
The healing comes from letting there
be room for all of this to happen:
room for grief, for relief, for
misery, for joy.”
“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 Hanh
Whew. Here we are. Things have definitely fallen apart.
Like in many parts of the country, all but essential businesses are closed and we are advised to stay at hOMe.
At times, this all feels like I'm a bit player in some sort of apocalyptic Hollywood movie. The COVID19 tsunami has not yet crested, yet it has swept away "business as usual" for most of us. With just the initial storm surge, the patterns and routines of our lives have been scattered like flotsam and jetsam along the shoreline that had defined our lives.
In it's wake, with the heights of the tidal wave still racing toward us here in Western Massachusetts, folks I know are carrying on quite admirably. Yet most have been pretty stressed out at times, peering at a world that is obviously beyond individual control. Surfing along waves of grief, confusion and fear, many of us have spent time hustling to cope with the ever-shifting logistics of day-to-day life, while trying, too, to prepare for an unknown future.
At age 74, with two stents in my heart, and the lungs of a dude who smoked for about 40 years before I finally broke free, I've got a statistical target on my back. The not too distant future may include serious illness or death -- sooner rather than later.
I can live -- or die -- with that. At peace.
Why? I began facing the "grave issue of life and death" decades ago. Most of the schools of Buddhism don't avoid the issue of death. It is contemplated, studied, meditated on, chanted. If we want to see reality, we got to get real. Whether we like it or not, life is a terminal condition. At the end of the road, for each of us there is a cosmic stop sign. We die.
Sure. One one level, this really sucks. But there is a high side to it was well. I'm grateful to the Practice that affirms to me, again and again, another simple truth. If we truly open our heart to the reality of our situation, reality asserts itself. We see for ourselves how very precious life is. We feel it in our hearts. We feel it in our bones. We also come to know directly that life is always a moment-to moment experience. It has always been a shaky proposition, with no guarantees. No matter how carefully we
try to control things to feel secure, there is always a whole lot out there that is beyond our control. No amount of money, or status, or power can change that. Sometimes, things come together. Sometimes things fall apart.
As I sit here at the keyboard in dawn's early light, I just noticed that the neighborhood songbirds are awake. Pausing to sit still, feel my body, and breathe for a moment or two, the entire world opens up in song and in vast stillness. The very ordinary and the sacred hold hands and dance with joy.
Sitting here, feeling a boundless warmth in my heart, I am aware that there is a dimension to my own experience that brings me in touch with the Sacred. Though it is experienced and conceptualized in many, many ways, though it is given many names, in our Heart of Hearts, the ever-present reality of the One Love is always present. In its vast and mysterious embrace, it is clear to me that we are, each of us, connected to one another, and to all of existence. We are, each of us, focal points of life force, weaving strands in an infinite web of energy, emerging from and returning to that which is beyond form. We are Life being Life. Love being Love. (READ MORE)
There is no telling what the next couple of months will be bring. The pandemic will crest. Then it will subside. Things will be different on the other side. Then they will change again. And again. Moment to moment. Impermanence is the way of all conditioned phenomena.
Hopefully, at some point soon, more of us will come to realize that we are not only all in this together, we are this together. Maybe what Buddhist teacher, deep ecologist, and life-long activist Joanna Macy calls "The Great Turning" is at hand, and we'll finally get our act together. We, as a species, will finally join hands to create a world where love saves the day. It would be wonderful to replace enmity with human kindness, trade unbridled competition for cooperation, move as one human family to share the bounty of this rich planet with all beings.
Yet, it may get worse. The incredible power of wealth and privilege may use their vast tools of public indoctrination to induce many of us to return to "business as usual. " At a time when the eco-system is being pillaged by unbridled industrial capitalism, we may still blow it. I pray daily that we humanoids will rise up to turn this ship around.
Who knows what will emerge?
In reality, life is always like this. It always has been. Although these times have brought uncertainty into stark focus, our habitual attempt to create a fixed, solid, secure existence in the flux of life, has always been like trying to get a firm footing on quicksand. Once this is seen clearly, the path to freedom opens. That's what all the all the avatars, saints and sages have been proclaiming throughout the ages.
As always, the future is a sea of infinite possibilities, unfathomable. All we ever truly have is what we are this moment, and what we choose to do. For me, the Bodhisattva Vow propels me to love and serve as best I can, knowing full well that I am perfect in my imperfection, a limited being dancing within Limitless Being.
I will live and, sooner or later, I will die. I may be a pandemic statistic or just another old coot passing on. Who knows?
In the meantime, all ll I can do is continue to Practice as this tidal wave approaches. All I can do is ride the waves of hope and fear, joy and sorrow, as they appear -- and try to have some serious fun.
To be honest, I good with that. I'll ante up, do what I can to protect myself and others, and bet on living through this one. I'll play my hand as best I can. Yet, if the cards don't come my way, I can cash it in without a grumble. I'm grateful to the Practice, and for the dumb luck to have stumbled into the Teachings when I did. It's been an amazing ride. It still is.