"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:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

All is Calm, All is Bright

“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”
― Pema Chödrön
 
Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior 
can make a proper cup of tea.”
― Chögyam Trungpa



A daybreak stroll has become a regular part of my mindfulness practice again this week as Christmas emerged then disappeared in the rear view mirror.
 
Taking the time to leave the comfort of a warm house in late December to experience the world outside as it awakens to the day has helped mend and energize this 75 year old body -- and sooth my soul.  Being Present for the Silence, and opening to the sights and sounds of the emerging light and activity that each day brings, continues to inspire me.
 
Of course, the temperatures have been pretty gentle for this time of the year.  Although I've had to brave a few mornings that cast rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow in my path, I haven't had to encounter the frigid sub-zero temperatures or fierce northwest winds Mother Nature can deal out in the midst of a New England winter -- yet.
 
Yikes. With this thought, I immediately notice myself face-to face with the specter of the Global Climate Crisis.  It's seems pretty clear to me at this moment. We, as a species, lost in the throes of greed, fear and delusion, are racing toward an environmental armageddon.  Sitting here, I notice more thoughts tumble into view.  Then I let them dissolve and bring my attention to the feelings flowing through my awareness.  Moments of fear, frustration, helplessness, horror, each emerge.  Then they melt into a deep sadness as I continue to breath deeply, soften, and open my heart. 

Continuing to breath into my heart, I know that others feel this deep sadness too.  It's not merely my own isolated personal sadness.  It is the Sadness, part of the human condition.  Opening, softening, inhaling deeply and slowly, I breath the fullness of this feeling into my heart as I recite two of the traditional Brahmavihara phrases:  "May all beings be safe. May all beings be free from suffering and the roots of suffering."

As the in breath continues, I notice a sense of spaciousness re-emerge as first my belly, then my rib cage expand.  Then, my tender, warm, achy-breaky heart is comforted in the embrace of a calm, clear, expansive open awareness that seems to extend throughout and beyond space and time as the in-breath continues. 
 
As in-breath becomes out-breath, the words "May all beings be at peace" float on that breath as it dissolves outward into the Essential Oneness.  At times,  in my mind's eye glows with a translucent visualization of the clear and brilliant eyes of countless beings resting in full awareness of their Buddha nature.  The visualization radiates outward from my heart on the wings of the out breath.

As above, so below.
Breathing in.  Breathing out.  Taking and sending, I continue to practice this morning's form of Tonglen Practice.  (For my take on Tonglen Practice see Taking It to Heart)
 
At this moment, my heart glows as deep joy dances with soft melancholy.  I've come to rest in the vast expansiveness of the One Love which resides deeply within each of us -- and infinitely beyond us all.  As above. So below. The world glistens and comes alive as the miracle that it is.
 
All is calm.  All is bright.
 
Now, once again, I connect with my intention to be clear enough and kind enough to help bring about the changes needed to create a sustainable, cooperative, and peaceful world.  As I've done for decades, I recite the Bodhisattva Vows.  Now, I'm ready to face the day.  
 
How about you?

(For more on Tonglen Practice, see "How to Practice Tonglen by Pema Chodron", Lion's Roar, December 20, 2021)

Originally posted December 2015.  Revised today as part of my morning Practice.

 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Mission Impossible

"Taking the bodhisattva vow implies that instead of holding our own individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, we become open to the world that we are living in. It means we are willing to take on greater responsibility, immense responsibility. 
In fact it means taking a big chance."
-- Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

“When you love, you have to act. If you say that you have a lot of love but you don’t do anything then that is not love that is merely lip service."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh
 
In the past month or so, I've been surfing across a deep yearning for more downtime.
  At first glance that may seem surprising. After all, I do Sit Still Doing Nothing  -- a lot.


If it only were that easy.

Out to Save the World

One thing that drew me to Zen and Mahayana Buddhism in the first place was the ideal of the Bodhisattva.  A public servant in the deepest sense, the Bodhisattva even forestalls entering Nirvana, in order to address the suffering of the world.  This idea resonated deeply with the inspiration I felt as a young teen as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, proclaiming their intention to even love their enemies, challenged this country to live up to its professed ideals.  A few years later, the emergence of SDS and Anti-War movement and the anti-materialistic, psychedelic spirituality of the youthful "counter-culture" set a trajectory for my life that continues to this day.  

Each morning I recite the Bodhisattva Vow as I finish morning meditation.   I first came across a Hippy Zen version of these four statements of commitment in Hey Beatnik: This is the Farm Book in 1974.  I was transfixed.  I got goosebumps.  In that moment, I knew that there wasn't anything better to do with my life.  (Here is a link to an on-line .pdf version of this classic work.)

By then, like many of us who were navigating our way through the confluence of Eastern Spirituality and the Psychedelic Revolution, I had experienced a number of "Awakenings."  The Most Profound One had nothing to do with anything in my bloodstream except the byproducts of meditation, breakfast, and lunch.  For a few precious moments, I had a glimpse of Our Perfect Oneness.  What had been theoretical and abstract, a belief, became real and tangible to me. 

I only wish I had had a spiritual mentor at the time-- or even been more inclined to listen to my friends at that point. It may have made things a lot easier along the way.  Even knowing what the bottom line is, over the years I've made most every dumb mistake possible.  LOL

Although I have read (and recited) other versions and translations of the Bodhisattva Vows over the years --some of the Tibetan versions are quite poetic and beautiful -- this is the passage I read that day years ago: 

"I don't have an ultimate goal in life. I believe in the vow of the Bodhisattva. And that says that sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all. The deluding passions are inexhaustible, I vow to extinguish them all. The way of the dharma is impossible to expound, I vow to expound it. It is impossible to attain the way of the Buddha, I vow to attain it. And that keeps you busy. "

-- Stephan Gaskin, Hey Beatnik!

Excuse me.  My chest is heaving and tears are streaming down my face -- again.  I gotta go get some kleenex.  I'll be back.
(READ MORE)

Monday, November 29, 2021

Argh!

We can suppress anger and aggression or act it out,
either way making things worse for ourselves and others.
Or we can practice patience: wait,
experience the anger and investigate its nature.
---Pema Chodron


“Just because anger or hate is present does not
mean that the capacity to love and accept
is not there; love is always with you.”
---Thich Nhat Hanh


The Universe is exquisite.  

Once you hitch your wagon to Practice and roll out, you are going to get the lessons along the way that are needed to take you deeper --whether you like it or not!  
 
This might be especially true if you have the unbridled chutzpah to publicly ramble on about your experiences. 

More than once here in this blog, I've spent time presenting the notion that simply "cutting loose of the storyline," is an immediate fix to disturbing emotions.  When we have enough presence of mind to refocus our attention from the realm of discursive thought to explore what is going on in our breath, body, and heart, sometimes hell dissolves and heaven is revealed in the blink of an eye.  (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Once Upon a Time...)   

The operative word here is -- sometimes.

As the years roll by and the Practice deepens, I have experienced such an instantaneous transformation quite often.  Yet, during the last past week, Life interjected a pretty dramatic bevy of upset apple carts and broohahas into the Grand Mix.  It seems a bit of Karmic Comeuppance was necessary.  Hopefully, getting my tail burned with my own anger will burnish my humility and compassion a bit.  It's certainly been enough to remind me that it can take a lot of work and a whole lot longer than a "blink of an eye" to learn something from a situation -- and regain a sense of wonder about it all.  

The lesson?  

Being a calm and kind, clear and compassionate, human being is NOT that easy.  It is a daunting discipline.  It takes commitment, courage, patience, skill, time and effort.  It takes Practice.

Then and Now

As a child and a young man I had what folks might call an extremely bad temper.  Having grown up in the midst of a lot of anger and physical violence, I would react to things in my world with bursts of violent emotions -- and even violent behavior.  Throughout childhood, I could fly into a rage and smash things and strike out with the worst of them.  My kid brother and I fought like cats and dogs. Our last furniture breaking brawl took place when I was in college.  

It would still take years to quell those patterns.

Perhaps, the deepest gratitude that I have to the Practice is that I am no longer likely to get extremely angry.  Annoyance and irritation usually is about as bad as it gets.  I'm grateful that it usually doesn't spill out of my mouth without immediate recognition and re-calibration.

Yet, life being life, usually doesn't mean never.  This weekend, I hit a deep pool of anger for the first time in quite awhile.  I was angry.  Really angry.  Thankfully, after launching a few unkind words, I withdrew.  ( I wish I had withdrawn before I launched those misguided missles, but, obviously there were deeper lessons to be learned.)
(READ MORE)

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Empty Handed

 "Emptiness wrongly grasped is like 
picking up a poisonous snake by the wrong end." 
― Nagarjuna
 
 “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”
 ― Pema Chödrön

Mahakala: Wrathful Protector of Tibetan Buddhism
Years ago, when I was in residence at Insight Meditation Society, my Dharmabum Buddhy Jimi (not Hendrix) grabbed me by the shoulders, and with eyes as big as saucers,  asked me "Have you had a direct experience of the GREAT VOID?"

"Damn!" I thought.  The stark horror in his voice didn't incline me to want to do any such thing.

Unlike Jimi, at that point I had not spend much time with the Teachers and Teachings of the Tibetan tradition where the term Great Void was commonly bandied about.  Although I'd read a couple of translations of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, my wanderings through the gringo Buddhist world of the 70's and 80's had primarily been focused on Zen.

Like Jimi, I was then drawn to Insight Meditation Society.  Most of the teachers at this retreat center in Barre, MA drew their inspiration and practice from Theravada Buddhist teachers.  In that tradition, Nirvana seemed to be the goal.  It seemed like a much more palatable destination.

Little did I know.
(READ MORE)

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Tonglen Practice: Taking It to Heart

 “You take it all in. You let the pain of the world touch your heart and you turn it into compassion.” It is said that in difficult times, it is only bodhichitta that heals.”
 -- The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa
quoted by Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: 
Heart Advice for Difficult Times

"So, when we are willing, intentionally, with this kind of attitude, this vision, to breathe in the suffering, we are able to transform it easily and naturally; it doesn't take a major effort on our part, other than allow it."
-- Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion: 
Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong

A grin comes to my face as I remember her voice on the telephone.

"That's backwards isn't it? You meant breathe in the good and send out the bad, right?" she said, not unkindly.   Being gracious, she was making a space for me to realize that my aging brain cells had gone dyslexic.

I had been chatting with an old friend for first time in quite awhile,  talking about my continued wonder at the Lojong Teachings in general, and Tonglen Practice in particular.  

After a moment's pause, to relax and reconnect with  an Open Mind -- and to make sure that I really hadn't verbally zigged when I had intended to zag -- I continued.

"No, I actually did mean that I breathe into my heart the difficult and challenging darker emotions that have emerged with the aspiration that myself and others be free from such suffering and the roots of such suffering. Then I breathe out a sense of relief and healing energy. " 

She paused for awhile (perhaps to relax and reconnect with a basic openness of mind herself ), and simply replied, "Oh?" She didn't sound convinced.

Hers was not an uncommon response.  Raised in a highly individualistic and materialistic society, the basic premise of this ancient Tibetan Buddhist system of mind training, that opening our hearts to the entire gamut of human emotions, rather than grasping at the "good" and pushing away the "bad,"is actually the path of Awakening to our True Nature, seems a bit crazy.  It most certainly is. 

Crazy like a fox.

The Lojong Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, which consist of 59 training aphorisms are supported by two meditation practices: Basic Sitting Practice (Shamatha-Vippasyana) and Tonglen.  Each has a role in cultivating our Connection to the essentially miraculous nature of life.  Each contributes to our deepening ability to be Present -- moment to moment -- to the Sacred Perfection in which we are immersed .

To wit:

As I sit here and pay attention, I become aware of a clear, bright, vast, and open sense of spaciousness.  Pausing, aware of my body and breath, eyes and ears wide open, lowering my center of attention into my heart, I can rest in its embrace.  

Proceeding, still Connected to this invisible, formless, seemingly limitless expanse of awareness, the dance of my fingers along the surface of this keyboard is flinging words across the screen of an old Mac laptop.  I see that milliseconds before the fingers move, thoughts emerge instantaneously, seemingly from nowhere in particular.  Although, these thoughts are most certainly prompted by my intention to write this blog post, they appear to be emerging by themselves, quite mysteriously.  

Although Western science doesn't really know what to make of these "brain secretions," labeling them some sort of  "epiphenoma,"  this moment feels much grander than that.  I have come to trust that feeling.  There is a Presence, a boundless sense of wonder and joy that emerges from the luminous silence that embraces me, the letters emerging on the screen, the clicking contact of my fingers on the keyboard, the wind outside the window, the soft humming of the computer. 

But, I digress -- sort of.

In a Flash
(READ MORE) 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Love. Love. Love.

 

"The moment we give rise to the desire for all beings to be happy and at peace, the energy of love arises in our minds, and all our feelings, 
perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness is permeated by love:
in fact, they become love."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Teachings on Love

"All you need is love."
-- The Beatles

We have it on good authority.  
 
Jesus and Buddha, as well as many of the other gurus, seers, sages, and saints of the world's religions seem to agree with the Hippies -- and the Beatles.  In the final analysis: All you need is Love.  

That seems simple enough.

So, what's the problem? Why are so many folks suffering?  Why does the world appear to be going to hell in the proverbial hand basket? 

First of all, what many folks call love, the subject of myth, music, and Hollywood Movies -- isn't Love.  Instead, what is pursued in the name of love is actually a form of desire, biological and energetic attraction, and attachment.  This "love" has a lot more to do with fulfilling one's own ego needs for sex, security, status, and self-esteem than the love that flows from the spiritual dimension.  True Love, instead, is the quality of consciousness that emerges from what the Buddhist Teacher, Pema Chodron, calls an Awakened Heart.  

True Love is not limited to the profound passionate graspings of deep attachment to the "other." It is much grander than that. (It's pretty clear that "I love you so much that I'll kill anyone who looks at you, then you, then myself." is not exactly what J.C., Buddha and the others had in mind when they spoke of love, right?)  

True Love emerges, and is essentially inseparable from the One Love that exists beyond the illusion of isolation and separation that we've been conditioned to experience.  Flowing from and returning to our Essential Oneness, True Love is experienced as the open heart's capacity for kindness, compassion, joy, and clarity.  It is a Presence experienced directly when you are truly Present in the moment with an open heart and a clear mind.  True Love is the our ultimate connectivity. 

Unlike the common contemporary understanding that views love as something that someone just "falls into," in the Buddhist tradition, human love is seen as a quality of heart, a mode of consciousness that can be consciously cultivated.  Although, we may stumble into glimpses of Oneness through an intimate connection to "the other" in a romantic relationship -- especially in its initial honeymoon phase -- True Love is vaster than that.  It emerges from a fundamental choice to open our hearts and clear our minds, to embrace Life itself.  It involves the willingness to let go of who we think we are, lay aside our agendas, and get it touch with our experience of the present moment as it is.

Although we may get glimpses of this again and again, the process of actually becoming a loving person generally doesn't just happen.  It is a Practice.  Erich Fromm characterized it as an art in his classic work, The Art of Loving.  Like any discipline, the cultivation of True Love takes commitment, time, effort -- and patience. 
READ MORE

Sunday, October 31, 2021

For Now

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is 
 to be continually thrown out of the nest. 
To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, 
to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. 
― Pema Chödrön

“For things to reveal themselves to us, 
we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

 
After raining heavily all night, the sun broke out moments ago.  Streaming through the window, it played across the floor as I entered my bedroom.  The windblown dance of light and shadow, woven of sun, tree, and partially open blinds brought a smile to my face.

Then, as quickly as it had emerged, the sun disappeared into the thick sea of gray clouds.  

That brought a smile to my face as well.  

I walked over to raise the blinds, expecting to see the glistening, now pink-brown, late autumn leaves of the crab apple tree outside the window waving in the wind.  Startled, I found I was face to face with the stark gray brown of mostly empty branches.  It was now Fall!  Only a few leaves, scattered among the wet branches, remained.  "Oh yeah," I thought. "It rained hard all night.  Duh."  

I smiled again.

I guess I'm pretty easy these days -- at least much of the time.  I blame it on the Practice.

Once the fundamental Impermanence of what Uchiyama Roshi called "the scenery of our lives" is directly seen -- and accepted -- we have the opportunity to embrace Life itself as it emerges each moment with an increasing degree of ease, grace and kindness.  Within the ever-flowing energies that we encounter, we see that there is always nothing more, and nothing less, than Life as it is this very moment.

Although the thoughts and emotions that emerge from the causes and conditions of our personal and collective histories can make it appear otherwise, what is right there in front of us is a constant Invitation to the Dance.  We can either explore the process of opening our hearts and minds (and our eyes and ears and arms, etc.) to embrace the Absolute Miracle of Being that exists within and beyond each moment-- or not.  It's just that simple.

Of course, simple doesn't necessarily mean easy.  

It takes Practice.
(READ MORE)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Visible to the Naked Eye

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern. -- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle. " ― Thich Nhat Hanh


The world is shrouded in fog this morning. Although there is still a whisper of deep red in the burning bush and a muted yellow orange in the maple across High Street from my perch here at the Weldon Hotel, the sky has disappeared.

There was a time when a grey, gloomy morning like this could send my spirits spiraling downward.  Confined to the tunnel vision of my own thoughts and feelings.  I could get really depressedI would become oblivious to the Ongoing Miracle. 

Today, that didn't happen. I blame the Practice for this turn of events. 

Although I would be dashed between the rocks and hard places of my own unattended childhood trauma and dysfunctional conditioning many times over the years, I was fortunate.  The Collective Kensho of the late 60's and my own Peek Experience of Infinite Perfection in 1972 gave me a strong enough jolt of the Real Deal to get serious about meditation and a spiritual practice in my life.  Although there were some fleeting dry spells, I've mediated regularly for a long, long time.

Now, at age 75,  it seems I've found a way to Not-Do Depression.  Although I am no stranger to sadness, the Practice has transformed my relationship to this emotional energy.  The inner belief structures and narratives that operated to lock depression in place just can't seem get a toe-hold anymore.  Instead, the story lines arise and disappear within the Gracious Spaciousness of Awareness that is readily accessible much of the time.  Of course, I put my butt on the zafu for at least an hour most days and try to take an entire day of mindful practice at least once a month. I also hit a deep re-set button with one or two three day fasting silent retreats each year.

The Theory and the Practice

So, here's the Deal.
 
Left without the continual mental chatter and conditioned reactions that create the "narrow chinks" of our habitual way of experiencing life, sadness and the other elements of depression, like all phenomena, are seen for what they are -- impermanent.  They are usually quite fluid and fleeting. They come and go of their own accord.   With Practice, I have learned to see through what in the past had seemed to be fixed states of depression.  What remained was a certain pattern of energy floating in the gracious spaciousness of Open Awareness. 
(READ MORE)

Saturday, October 16, 2021

A Bit Touched

 "When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”
― Pema Chödrön

 “Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.”
― Chögyam Trungpa



In some people's eyes, I'm definitely "a bit touched in the head."

These days, I spend much of my time meditating, studying spiritual texts, and comparing notes with with as many folks as I can about matters of spirit, heart, and mind. 

I even let slip in some settings that I've directly experienced the Presence of God!  This, of course, can get me in trouble -- even (or maybe especially) in some of  the Buddhist circles I travel in where Emptiness or Shunyata are bandied about.  
 
Yet, like Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley and the many others who subscribe to the Perennial Philosophy, I've come to see that there is a mystical experience of Reality that underlies all the world's religions.   The direct experience of Oneness is the Real Deal.  The rest is just window dressing.  (Apparently, if this Non-dual Experience is  available to a bozo like me, it's available to anyone.  LOL)

Over the years I've learned to be a a bit more discrete about yakking about these experiences, though.

I try not to mention these moments of Being There -- or, more correctly, just Being -- where it is likely to lead to an embarrassed silence, furtive glances toward the nearest exit -- or, possibly, somebody dialing 911!  And, although I say that lightly, in all seriousness this has been an unfortunate reality for some folks in a society that doesn't understand such things.  I was usually able to travel under the radar.  I was lucky.  Even when I was homeless on the streets, I was able to stay out of jail or the psych ward. 
 
Live and Learn

Looking back, I guess I've always been a bit touched.  
 
As a child, at times I sensed clearly there was a profound beauty and magic in the world, a mysterious dimension to our being that touched our hearts more than our heads.  It was surprising and confusing to me that most folks didn't seem to notice.  In elementary school, I could see clearly that the selfishness and cruelty I saw in the schoolyard created a living hell for all concerned.  Kindness and compassion created its opposite.  I couldn't understand why everyone just didn't choose kindness and compassion.  It seemed pretty obvious to me that all we had to do was get our act together.  This was the Promised Land.  We could choose to create heaven on earth.

Needless to say, this is not the prevailing worldview.  I was often dismissed as a dreamer or an idealist, sometimes with obvious scorn by those who considered themselves to be"realists." Long before I had heard of the Bodhisattva Vows, I was stumbling ahead trying to be kind, to be helpful, to serve all sentient beings.  It just seemed to make sense to be me.  

Then, like many of the folks who came of age in the cultural revolution of the 60's and 70's, those childhood perceptions were reinforced again and again -- with and without the assistance of various ingested substances.  It was just like Jesus, Buddha -- and the Beatles -- proclaimed.  All we need is Love.  That was the bottom line of the Real Deal. 

Yet, in the day to day reality of my life, I discovered that actually being a loving person wasn't all that easy.  Blinded by the subconscious scars of a traumatic childhood and a deeply wounded ego, immersed in the energies of a neurotic society, I continued to roller-coaster through relationships and jobs.  I made a lot of mistakes.  Much of the time I could be a real jerk, failing miserably to help others, or even free myself from the suffering caused my the habitual mind states of a clueless, materialistic, society.
 
Even after experiencing the One Love directly, I still didn't have much of a clue about the sheath of armoring around my heart that operated to distance me from others -- and, perhaps more crucially, from myself.  Even with a couple of decades of a regular meditation practice, including a significant time doing intensive meditation retreats with major teachers, layers and layers of subconscious patterns still dictated much of my life.  I could quickly disconnect from my aspiration to be a kind and loving person and get swept away in confusion.  I could get to the mountaintop again and again, but I couldn't sustain the clear vision needed to navigate my own life skillfully.
 
Then, about 15 years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Pema Chodron's Start Where You Are.   I opened the book to epigraph: "This book is about awakening the heart."  
 
Zap!  
 
Although, I had experienced a number of profound "heart openings" over the years, somewhere along the way I had thought that enlightenment was all about a state of Mind.  Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind had been one of my gateways to the Practice and I'd sat shikantaza for a couple of decades.  Now, Ani Pema's presentation of the Lojong Trainings and Tonglen meditation, changed everything.  I realized that I had now had the tools to begin working with the realities of my life in a more skillful manner.  I saw the possibility that with commitment, time, effort, patience -- and grace -- I could really serve.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

A Good Cry

“Crying is one of the highest devotional songs. One who knows crying, knows spiritual practice. If you can cry with a pure heart, nothing else compares to such a prayer.  Crying includes all the principles of Yoga.”


“In the Lakota/Sioux tradition, a person who is grieving is considered 
most Wakan, most holy."
Tara Brach,  


Emmett Kelly 1898 - 1979

 
Some time ago, I came across the above quote by Swami Kripalvanandji while preparing for a yoga class that I was going to teach that day.  I immediately emailed it to a dear friend who was having a rough time.

She called me later to tell me it helped -- a lot.  After reading it, she immediately headed out to her garden to have a good cry.  She said it was exactly what she needed. 

Big Boys (Girls) Don't Cry
 
Growing up in contemporary society, most of us have learned to avoid crying like the plague.  Widely seen as a sign of unacceptable weakness and frailty, we are conditioned to keep a stiff upper lip, to steel ourselves against this natural expression of heartfelt feeling.  Although this conditioning is considered to be a "male," thing, most of the women I know often fight back their tears as well. 
 
(Strain's of the Four Seasons singing "Big Girls Don't Cry-yay-yay"just ran through my inner iPod)

Hmmmm.  Maybe I shouldn't plunge ahead here.  Although I'm an amateur and would never charge for yakking about Mindfulness Practice, I might get sued by the Commercial Mindfulness Cartel.  The pro's tend to skip right ahead to Buddha's Third Noble Truth: the Cessation of Suffering?  You don't see any glitzy promotional commercials proclaiming -- Mindfulness Practice: Guaranteed to Make You Cry!  It might be bad for business.

And yet...

Sunday, October 3, 2021

It's Only Words

The secret of Buddhism is to remove all ideas, all concepts,
in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate, to reveal itself.”
― Thich Nhat Hạnh
 
"The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
"

―  Tao Te Ching

In the world of Zen, words and concepts are not generally held in high regard. 

It's not surprising that there are old tales of some students even getting smacked by crotchety old Zen masters for their "loose lips." 

Words can be pretty damn tricky.

A case in point:  The realm of words creates a situation where the word "swearing" could either describe what emerges when a person angrily launches into a foul-mouthed condemnation of something -- or it's opposite! Swearing is also what happens when a person wholeheartedly takes a sacred oath.

So what does the word "swear" actually mean?  (For that matter what does "mean," mean? I mused that Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call: What's Love Got To Do with It?)

Over the years, it's become clearer and clearer to me that any particular word, or even a whole string of those slippery devils can, at best, only hint at the Truth.  Most often,  they just lead to a more complicated web of endless definition. 

I've found that, like Life itself, meaning is inseparable from context.  It emerges from an essential connection to a whole matrix of experiences which, in turn, are ultimately inseparable from the Whole Universe.   

This makes real communication extremely interesting.  It involves myriad factors beyond the actual exchange of words.  In fact, if you are really paying attention during a conversation, what is not said may be more meaningful than what is said.   The devil isn't merely in the details.  The devil is the details -- when those slippery devils operate to take us further and further away from the Truth.  

Although I am a spiritual geek and love to read and yak about spirituality and philosophy, I have found that Truth is ultimately a matter of Heart.  It emerges in Silence and Stillness more readily than amidst the noise, thoughts and activity that we are so often immersed in.

Yet, staying connected to our hearts is not easy.  It takes Practice.  And Practice takes courage, effort -- and Commitment.

Commitment!?

Oh no, not that!
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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Love Love Love

"The moment we give rise to the desire for all beings to be happy and at peace, the energy of love arises in our minds, and all our feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness is permeated by love: in fact, they become love."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Teachings on Love

"All you need is love."
-- The Beatles


We have it on good authority. 


Buddha and Jesus, as well as many other sages and saints throughout the ages, seem to agree with the Hippies -- and the Beatles.  In the final analysis: All you need is Love.  

That seems simple enough.

So, what's the problem? Why are so many folks suffering and why does the world appear to be going to hell in the proverbial hand basket? 

First of all, what many folks have learned to believe is love, the terrain of much music and Hollywood Movies -- isn't love.  What is presented as love is a very human blend of desire, biological attraction, and attachment.  It's pretty clear that "I love you so much that I'll kill anyone who looks at you, then you, then myself." is not exactly what JC, Buddha and others had in mind, right?

The form of "love" that our culture promotes has a lot more to do with fulfilling one's own individual ego needs for sex, security, status, and self-esteem than the quality of consciousness that emerges from what American Buddhist Teacher Pema Chodron calls an Awakened Heart.  True Love is not the profound passionate grasping of deep attachment. True Love is much grander than that.  

True Love emerges, and is essentially inseparable from, Pure Being.  It is identical to the One Love that exists beyond the illusion of disconnection that characterizes the realm of relative reality.  Flowing from and returning to our Essential Oneness, True Love emerges as the compassion, joy, ease, and clarity that exists in our heart of hearts. 

Unlike the common contemporary understanding that views love as something we just fall into (and, so often, out of),  in the Buddhist tradition, love is seen as a mode of consciousness.  Our connection to that love can be consciously cultivated.  Although we may stumble into glimpses of Oneness through an intimate connection to "the other" in a romantic relationship -- especially in its initial honeymoon phase -- ultimately, True Love emerges from a fundamental choice to embrace Life itself, to let go of who we think we are and open our hearts and minds to the actual experience of the present moment.  

Although this can happen with the very next breath, the process of actually becoming a loving person generally doesn't just happen.  It is a Practice.  Erich Fromm characterized it as an art in his classic work, The Art of Loving.  Like any discipline, True Love takes commitment, a set of skills, effort -- and patience. 
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Saturday, September 18, 2021

'Tis the Season

  "Commitment is at the very heart of freeing ourselves 
of old habits and old fears."
― Pema Chodron

 “I think what everyone should be doing, before it's too late, is committing themselves to what they really want to do with their lives.”
― Thich Nhat Hạnh

Here it comes, ready or not.

The sultry days of August and early September have given way to the first polar jet streams of the season.  In the past week or so, the thermometer has dropped into the upper 40's a couple of times overnight.

Whispering through the trees in patches of red, orange, and yellow, the first hints of autumn have appeared here in Western Massachusetts.  

Here it comes, ready or not.   

To Every Thing There is a Season

As they often do as autumn announces its presence, my thoughts have turned to those times in my life that I have committed to Intensive Practice in the fall.  In Buddhism, like many of the world's religions (Ramadan in Islam.  The High Holy Days in Judaism.  Lent in Christianity,  etc.), there are extended periods of time each year that people move beyond "business as usual" to make a special commitment to their spiritual practice.    

In Buddhism, the tradition of the Rain's Retreat (Vassa or Ango) goes back to the time of the Buddha.  Traditionally beginning the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month (June/July), it lasted about three months, the period of time that the monsoon season in India made travel difficult.  During that time the monks, who generally were homeless wanderers, would gather in one place to hear the Buddha's teachings and engage in intensive meditation practice.  

To this day, this period of meditative retreat is widespread in Theravadan Buddhism.  It is observed in various forms in Tibetan Buddhism and Zen as well.  Here in the US, where hot summer weather is more problematic than monsoons, the rain's retreat seems to have evolved into periods of intensive practice that occur in the Fall and/or the Spring. 

At Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, the Rain's Retreat has become The Three Month Course, a meditation intensive that begins in September each year.  In 1991, I joined that retreat for the entire month of October.  
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Saturday, September 11, 2021

Take a Hike, Buddhy!

"Some people say that only walking on burning coals or walking on spikes or on water are miracles, but I find that simply walking on the earth is a miracle. "
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, "A Guide to Walking Meditation

"I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, 
works at about three miles an hour. 
If this is so, then modern life is moving faster 
than the speed of thought or thoughtfulness.”
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking 

This morning's meditation was buzzy.  
  
It was one of those days when even a few moments of a clear, calm and open awareness were greatly appreciated.  Most of the time I was immersed in the the high volume prattle of discursive monkey-mind. 
 
It seemed like I had chosen mantra practice rather than mindfulness practice.  Unfortunately, the mantra wasn't something exalted like the Tibetan Buddhist "Om Mani Padme Hum" or Zen's "Gate, Gate, Paragate" Today's mantra was the simple mental note "thinking thinking. " I had learned this long ago as "what to do" when I became aware during meditation that I was thinking rather than focusing my attention on my breath and allowing my heart's awareness to expand into the boundless realm of One Love.
 
Today "thinking, thinking" was repeated over and over.  

And over.  

And over again.

And Then

Fortunately, after the bells sounded, I had places to go and things to do around town.  Since they were all within walking distance, I could get some needed cardiovascular exercise as well.  It was a no-brainer.  I left the car keys on the counter and headed out on foot. 

I'm so grateful that I made this choice.  
 
I came to my senses as soon as I walked out the door.  The morning air was cool and crisp on my face.  The neighborhood birds were singing their praises to a clear blue sky.  Just opening to the sights and sounds and smells of the world altered the nature of my reality immediately.  I took a deep breath and felt my body moving down the stairs to the sidewalk.

Mindful of body and breath, awash in the sensations of sight and sound and smell, I was again made aware of the Ongoing Miracle of life as it isI felt a great gratitude for the practice of walking meditation in my life. 
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Saturday, September 4, 2021

A Love Affair

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. 
You're able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open.
 ― Pema Chödrön, 
Practicing Peace in Times of War

We now see that the only way that we could love ourselves is by loving others, 
and the only way that we could truly love others is to love ourselves. 
The difference between self-love and love of others is very small, 
once we really understand.”
― Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion: 
Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong
 


As I've mentioned before, here and elsewhere, I think the Hippies actually had it right.  It IS all about Peace, Love, and Freedom.


In the Collective Kensho of that era, many of us were catapulted to the mountain top.  Whether it was the energy of psychedelics, the myriad Asian teachers who came to the West to see what was happening, the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, Woodstock,  or just the Season, the Spirit was in the air.  Many of us were directly touched by the One Love that permeates and transcends the universe.   
 
We glimpsed the Real Deal. 

Yet, I soon learned that seeing it -- and even believing in it -- isn't enough.  The task of freeing the mind and opening the heart to actually BE a peaceful and loving human is no mean feat.  It takes deep commitment, effort, discipline, courage, skill --  and patience.

It takes Practice.

In the Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist worlds the term "Love" isn't generally used to refer to the Ultimate State of Being. They approach the Ineffable with different concepts and understandings. I think that is actually helpful to us Westerners.  We are incredibly sloppy with the word love.  It has a wide range of meanings.

In English, love could be the word that attempts to describe the spiritual glow that emerges from the ethereal domain of unconditional, unselfish agape on the one hand.  Or,  just as readily, the word could be used to indicate the self-absorbed fiery emotion that erupts from the nether realms of green eyed monsters and wrathful, jealous gods.  
 
So, what's the deal? It's pretty clear that "I love you so much that I'll kill anyone who looks at you, and then you," isn't exactly what Jesus and Buddha had in mind when they taught about Love.  Right?
(READ MORE)

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Promises, Promises

Each of you is perfect the way you are ... and you can use a little improvement.”
Suzuki Rosh

“Daily sitting is our bread and butter, the basic stuff of dharma. 
Without it we tend to be confused.”
Charlotte Joko Beck



There were quite a few of us that were first drawn to Zen
back in the 60's because of its seemingly irreverent and iconoclastic tenor and tone.  

To a bunch of us erstwhile hippies, peaceniks, and radicals, stories of rambunctious monks kicking over water jugs, unabashedly proclaiming that Buddha was a "shit stick, or writing poems lauding drunkeness, Zen seemed "far out."  These were the prototypical rebels, our kind of people.

Little did we know.

Once I actually connected with a teacher and a sangha, a different reality emerged.  I found that the foundation of Zen Buddhism, like that of other spiritual traditions throughout the world, rests squarely on a set of vows and precepts.  Rather than becoming a member of another tribe of free form hippies, I found out that engaging in formal Zen training with a teacher meant making a commitment to a set of clearly stated intentions: Taking Refuge in the Triple Gems, the Four Bodhisattva Vows, the Three Pure Precepts, and the 10 Essential Precepts was expected.  It was part of the deal.

WTF?  

Jeez.  Growing up I only had to worry about the ten commandments! Now? Do the math. This is twice as many!  So much for being hip and cool, for "doing your own thing!"

Or so it seemed. 
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Saturday, August 21, 2021

Me and My Shadow

"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
 
“…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



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 otherwise 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 are programmed to just keep moving.  So, 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.   Full page bold print ads, billboards, and television commercials would proclaim something like:
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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Judge Not

“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 think there is any greater freedom than being Present, engaging life as it is without the distortion caused by Judgment Mind.  

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 maintained by the thoughts, opinions, and various mind states that emerge from this conditioning.  Even in its mild form of liking/disliking, Judgment Mind can generate thoughts and feelings that serve to separate us from the peaceful, calm, and caring Presence we have access to in every moment.  
 
If we are overly self absorbed, distracted, stressed, moving too fast, it's easy to get lost in our conditioned reactions to Life.  Adrift in Judgment Mind, we loose Presence.  We create an alternative reality and forget that the world is really not as it appears to us at that moment.  This deeply ingrained process of evaluating what we experience as bad, wrong, condemnable, is part of our social conditioning.  It appears as discontent, complaints, blame, and self-blame.  If we aren't paying attention, it can and will dominate our lives, moment to moment.
 
Seeing For Yourself
 
One of the fruits of meditation is that we can see how that process works directly.  We can see for ourselves that Judgment Mind isn't only the thoughts going through our heads at the moment.  It's deeper than that.  It is embedded in the emotions we are experiencing.  It's embodied in the tightnesses and discomforts of our body.  It directly effects the quality of our consciousness, our state of mind.  
 
It is actually quite fun to see for yourself how that plays out on the meditation cushion.  
 
If you're paying attention, the emergence of Judgment Mind is obvious.  You'll know that you've have lost touch with the relaxed, warm, bright, open, spaciousness of a open heart and clear mind.  Instead of a profound sense of Connection, you'll collapse into the ego's self-protective reaction patterns.  The emotional energies of those patterns can be fiery hot or icy cold, yet there is a tightening, discontent, and a sense of disconnection.
 
This contraction can happen in a heartbeat.  We can be Present, aware of the sacred expanse of the moment.  Then, Zap!  The gracious spaciousness of an open heart and mind collapses and our attention is consumed by the ranting and raving and blaming of judgmental thoughts as they cascade across the surface of discordant feelings.  
 
As Practice develops, we get more adept at noticing exactly when the shift occurs.  Then,  sometimes, we can dispel Judgment Mind readily.  Taking a breath, bringing kindness and openness to our hearts and minds brings us into the moment more fully -- and Judgment Mind dissipates.  
 
In any one moment, this can literally be the difference between heaven and hell. 
 
Of course, sometimes we may get swept away for awhile.  Then a gentle patience with yourself is helpful.  In my case, the process often ends with me noticing that I'm being judgmental about being judgmental!  That moment of recognition often brings on a grin or a chuckle these days. The poignancy of the Divine Sitcom apparent, the energy of humor emerges -- and my heart opens.  I'm immediately Present again.  There I can feel the Presence of the One Love. 

In one of those meditation experiences awhile back, I saw how the thoughts "I don't like myself.  I'm bad." provided a wonderful opportunity to examine the experience carefully.  Having learned how to let go of the particular narratives generated by Judgment Mind, the experience became a kaleidoscope of sensations, feelings, and energies.   Moments of anger, fear, confusion, humiliation and pain emerged.  Yet, within the space of several breaths, they dissipated.  Without the support of the same old narratives, these energies had nothing to cling to.

Instead, what emerged was a relaxed, open, clear, warm, expansive quality of consciousness, -- and a sense of wonder.  A boundless sense peace and a warm-hearted appreciation permeated my breath and body. 

I can live with that.  Hopefully, I can die with that as well.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Tonglen Practice: Taking it to Heart

 “You take it all in. You let the pain of the world touch your heart and you turn it into compassion.  It is said that in difficult times, 
it is only bodhichitta that heals.”
 -- The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa
quoted by Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: 
Heart Advice for Difficult Times

"So, when we are willing, intentionally, with this kind of attitude, this vision, to breathe in the suffering, we are able to transform it easily and naturally; it doesn't take a major effort on our part, other than allow it."
-- Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion: 
Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong

I was chatting on the phone with an old friend, rambling on about my continued wonder at the Lojong Teachings in general, and Tonglen Practice in particular, when she stopped me in my tracks.

 "That's backwards isn't it? You meant breathe in the good and send out the bad, right?" she said, not unkindly.  I think she was politely trying to point out that my aging brain cells had gone dyslexic.

After a moment's pause, taking a breath to relax -- and to make sure that I hadn't verbally zigged when I had intended to zag -- I continued.

"No.  I actually do mean that I breathe into my heart the difficult and challenging darker emotions that have emerged.  This could be my own sadness, fear, frustration, or the perceived suffering of others.  In fact, when I pause to consider that there are countless others who have felt or are feeling what I'm feeling at the moment, my heart naturally expands with that in-breath and the energy is transformed.  Then I am able to breathe out a sense of relief, a healing energy of light and love with the aspiration that myself and others be healed, be at peace.  I visualize that as an energy radiating from my heart.

She paused for awhile -- perhaps to relax and reconnect with a basic openness of mind herself in light of my rant.  Then she simply replied, "Oh?" She didn't sound convinced.

Hers was not an uncommon response.  Raised in a highly materialistic capitalist society, the basic premise of this ancient Tibetan Buddhist system of mind training seems "counter-intuitive." Rather than grasping at the "good" and pushing away the "bad,"we do the exact opposite.  Opening our hearts to the entire gamut of human emotions is seen as a path of Awakening.  Crazy?  It most certainly is. 

Crazy like a fox.

The Lojong Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, which consist of 59 training aphorisms are supported by two meditation practices: Basic Sitting Meditation (Shamatha-Vippasyana) and Tonglen.  Although I had practice Basic Sitting Meditaton in several traditions over the course of thirty six years, I had never been exposed to Tonglen.  

It has changed my life.  

For the past 15 years, Tonglen has continued to expand my ability to better engage the world with an open heart and an open mind.  To be sure,  I still struggle at times with the blindness of my Aries, male ego and the various wounds of my conditioned personality.  And, at times, I am deeply saddened and confounded by the energies of greed, hatred, and ignorance that are all too prevalent in the world today.  Yet, my life has changed for the better.  I no longer plunge into the long periods of depression and anxiety that plagued my younger years.  Instead,  I now am fairly content and at ease most the time.  I also experience many moments of deep wonder, appreciation, and gratitude for the sacred miracle that sings silently within and beyond us.  I'm now convinced that the One Love is always present. 

Bringing It hOMe Here and Now

As I sit here now and pay attention, pausing to become aware of the sensations of my breath and feel my body, I also become aware of a clear, bright, vast, and open sense of spaciousness.  Sitting here, I can rest in its embrace.  Proceeding, still connected to this invisible, formless, seemingly limitless expanse of awareness, the dance of my fingers along the surface of this keyboard continues to fling words across the screen of this old Mac laptop.  

Becoming aware of my body and my breath,  I see that milliseconds before the fingers move, thoughts emerge instantaneously, seemingly from nowhere in particular.  Although, these thoughts are most certainly prompted by my intention to write this blog post, and connected to my own experiences over time, they are also connected to the long lineage of human beings that crafted the English language -- and to everything else.   They appear to be emerging by themselves, quite mysteriously.  

Although Western science claims that our thoughts are merely "epiphenomena," brain secretions of some sort, at this moment this process feels much grander than that.  There is a Presence, a boundless sense of wonder and joy that emerges from the luminous silence that embraces me as the letters emerge on the screen.  The sensations of my body, my breath,  the clicking contact of my fingers on the keyboard, the soft humming of the computer, the traffic outside the window are woven into a tapestry of experience that is reminiscent of dabbling with psychedelics back in the day.  (Oops. TMI? LOL)

But, I digress -- sort of.
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Saturday, June 26, 2021

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, clarity, ease, 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.  Rather than listen to connect deeply with the experience of another, we listen to reply.  Rather than listen with undivided attention, we are often 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 our thoughts about what someone is saying.

As a matter of habit, we automatically analyze, compare, judge, often immediately relating it to an associated personal experience.  On automatic pilot, we seek to 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)