"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about getting out of your head enough to engage each moment wholeheartedly. When we are Present in an open, kind, clear, and helpful way, the vast, mysterious, magical reality of life itself becomes self-evident .

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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.  There is a deep yearning 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:

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Once Again -- Lighten UP!


Stephen at Monday Night Class, San Francisco circa 1969
In my humble opinion, Spiritual Practice isn't about the bright lights and fancy magical stuff.  Yet, sometimes the Universe really does lay One on you.  You experience an event that defies any rational explanation.

This happened nine years ago on a steamy July morning as I struggled to write a fitting memorial to Hippie Spiritual Teacher Stephen Gaskin. I major force in my life as a young man, Stephen had recently made the Grand Transition at that point. I was sitting there with my old MacBook at a picnic table at Atlas Farm, when...
Ooops. I almost let the cat out of the bag.

With another deep bow to Stephen Gaskin -- 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.  With my own conditioning, prone to caffeinated perfectionism, and well aware of all that needs to be done to help change this world, I need hear that every day.

Lighten Up!   
Originally Posted July 12, 2014

A couple of night's ago, unable to get back to sleep after a nocturnal "nature call."I had tried to write a memorial to Hippie Spiritual Teacher Stephen Gaskin, whose Life -- and recent Death -- touched me deeply.   I got nowhere.  I gave it up and read a bit of a Tenzing Norbu Mystery before finally stretching out to meditate into sleep once again.

Still on the mend from the events of the past month, I've been mostly laying low, staying away from the computer and cell phone as much as possible, allowing myself to Heal.   A couple of false starts had showed me quite clearly how energy depleting my addiction to these devices can be. 

This morning, I was quaffing my first cup of coffee in a couple of days (another addiction under modification) watching bubbles of confusion and angst float through my awareness.  I wasn't quite sure what to do this week about my commitment to the MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call.  

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 such a profound impact on my life.

Then, (probably with a furrowed brow), I decided to reach for my cell phone to check my email, perhaps just fall back and, perhaps, just select an old post to republish this time.

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"


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  almost six months before.  That it dinged at that very moment??   

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.  

Then, I began reading the post.

It got even more mind blowing!

Friday, July 14, 2023

High Times and the Timeless

With A Bow to 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) and his wife, 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 week, an month, a year, a decade.  At this stage of the journey, it's easier, at times, to directly sense the mysterious nature of the Timeless glowing in the boundless expanse of each moment.  I blame that on jumping heart  first into Bodhisattva Practice years ago.  

I first came across the Bodhisattva Vow as it was expressed by Stephen Gaskin in Hey Beatnik!  I was hooked. At that moment the vow took me. 

So, did Stephen Gaskin and the Farm.

Although I only had three conversations with him in my life, Stephen was a major influence my life.  I'm not surprised that he came to mind for the first time in a long, long time during a conversation with an old friend recently.  It was time.  Gaskin passed away ninth years ago on July 1. 

In some traditions, the anniversary of a guru's passing is a high holy day.  Although I don't usually put a lot of weight on the "spooky" stuff.  Gaskin's "Mahasamadhi" brought about his mysterious "appearance" in my life eight years ago during the first week of July.

For some inexplicable reason, Google re-delivered an email  I'd sent six months before, announcing the week's blog post.  (As usual, I'd sent that email to myself and a .bcc to a list of others at the time.)  As I sat at the laptop, struggling to write a commemorative post on the first anniversary of Gaskin's death, the iPhone dinged.  When I opened the phone, I was amazed to find a quote from Stephen staring me in the face!  (I'd only quoted Gaskin twice before in the epigram of a Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call post in hundreds of posts to that point.)  Google had never re-delivered an old email I sent before -- or since.  Wierd!?  Synchronicity? Coincidence? 

All I know is that I found myself grinning from ear to ear. 

Stephen Gaskin and the Farm

Stephen Gaskin 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. A Marine Corp veteran of the Korean War, he was teaching in the English department at San Francisco State College when the hippies of Haight-Ashbury mushroomed into a worldwide counter-cultural phenomenon.  He became known in some circles as The Acid Guru.

What Gaskin started as an experimental evening discussion class with six students in 1968 grew into Monday Night Class which drew as many as 1500 people to meditate together in silence, then listen to a extemporaneous talk on psychedelic spirituality before engaging in questions, answers and informal discussions. Within three years, Gaskin and those who considered him to be their spiritual teacher had established an intentional community called the Farm in rural Tennessee.  At it's peak it had about 1600 residents.

This, of course, gathered a lot of public attention.   It sure caught mine.  I devoured the books the Farm's publishing company distributed.  I visited it three times during its first 5 years, staying a month at a time twice. (When push came to shove though, I couldn't make the choice to live 700 miles away from my ex's and children.)

High Times -- With or Without Drugs

If the truth be told, I was a lightweight when it came to psychedelics.  Introduced to marijuana in the Spring of 1968, I went on to experience a number of trips on mushrooms, and on what was presented at the time as  "synthetic mescaline." (who knows what it was...)   Yet, as I began to explore Yoga and Meditation, I soon sensed that the drugs weren't the only means to accessing transcendental forms of consciousness.  Intrigued, I read extensively about spirituality, religion, and mysticism.  I met regularly with a small group of friends involved in the peer counseling and human potential movement.  At one point, we even began to form a small intentional community.    

Although I continued to pass a joint around once in awhile during those years, I actually avoided LSD out of concern that I wasn't "ready"-- until I took a few trips in 1979.

It didn't matter!!  

The Collective Consciousness was so energized as the 60's became the 70's, that I had a number of compelling out-of-body experiences, saw aura's, and experienced moments of synchronicity and telepathy that were absolutely mind-boggling -- even without drugs in my system at the timeThen, in the spring of 1972, I had an experience of Perfect Oneness that fulfilled my deepest aspirations for Spiritual Connection and dispelled a fear of death.  I knew, as did St John of Liverpool, we all shine on!

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Judge Not and ...

“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”
― J. Krishnamurti
“People talk about entering nirvana, but we are already there.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

I don't think there is any greater freedom than being Present in the moment to life as it is.  
In the expansive vision of an open heart and clear mind, the barriers and boundaries that appear to separate us from ourselves, from one another, and from Sacred Oneness become increasingly permeable, translucent, transparent.   
Being Present, we feel the Presence of something vast and boundless. 
I believe most of us, if not all, have experienced such moments -- at least as children.  Unfortunately, accessing these moments and making them a regular part of our life is easier said than done.

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 created and 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 get lost in the alternative reality we have created -- 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, diatribe, enmity, 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.