"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

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

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Suffering Is Not Enough

"Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby. To suffer is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life. 
They are within us and all around us, everywhere, any time."

---Thich Nhat Hanh, "Suffering is Not Enough"
I awoke this morning well aware that the weather service is predicting 90+° temperatures for today--and for several days running.  When I first saw the prediction a couple of days ago, I found myself cringing a bit with images of being very uncomfortable running through my mind and body.  I noticed that again this morning when I surfed to the National Weather Service local weather page.  I would even say that there was a sense of "dread" that emerged.

Then I turned to the immediate sensations I was experiencing beyond those thoughts and emotions.

Right now, a cool gentle breeze is blowing through the window.  I can feel the coolness along the skin of my arms and legs as I sit here.  I can hear the twitterings and songs of birds out the window to my right and out the front window to my left.  The gentle whirring of the laptop and it's warmth against my lap feel comforting as I sit here with my back propped up against the pillows.  I am quite comfortable at the moment.  Life actually feels quite wonderful.

Since my fingers are still on the keyboard and I chose to sit here and write, I guess I have to again turn my thoughts to this afternoon.  (I did think of just stopping after "Life actually feels quite wonderful" and hitting send but that seemed like cheating--although that would have had a certain Zen panache to it.)

What honestly emerges for me as I bring this afternooon's weather prediction to mind again is actually a great curiosity! I actually have no idea what it is going to really feel like.

I can rely on a cluster of memories to imagine it a certain way, but if I examine those memories carefully there isn't much substance there.  Looking at it carefully, it seems that the thoughts about it, the imaginings, are what operate to lock this afternoon's weather into place as something that will be uncomfortable, dreadful.

If I cut loose of those thoughts, all that remains are my fingers on the keyboard, my breath, the coolness of the breeze against my skin,  the sensations of my body against the bed, the sound of the birds twittering outside the window--and a feeling of wonder and curiosity floating in the great spaciousness of Life as it is.

How cool is that?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where Two or Three Are Gathered......

MMM will meet on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27.  

I'm grateful that others, including my partner Betsy, plan to make it that day to sit quietly in peace for awhile before the traditional Memorial Day celebrations emerge later in the day with parades, marching bands, military honor guards and 21 gun salutes. 

It seems appropriate to spend a bit of time with Tonglen practice again.

Memorial Day is a deeply poignant occasion for me.  As a child living in the aftermath of WWII, I raised on movies that glorified the military in a society that periodically celebrated those who served and generally revered the "ultimate sacrifice" of those who were killed. I guess things haven't changed all that much. Violence and warfare are still a part of our world.

As well as the sorrow I feel for the innocent victims of this senseless reality, my heart still sometimes burns like a hot coal as I bring to mind images of the courage and valor and sacrifice displayed by the countless men and women who, to this very day, place themselves in harms way in the belief that warfare is somehow necessary. 

Although I can easily get into my head here to make an impassioned case for the non-violence taught by Jesus and Buddha,  I'll leave that to my alter ego, Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.* to do at some point.  I want to stay closer to the Heart of the matter.

I guess that is precisely why Tonglen practice is has been so helpful at this stage of the journey.  It seems to help me open my heart to embrace the Reality of Life--not only as I would choose it to be--but as it is.  I want to keep my heart open to those soldiers, too.

It's pretty clear that there is boundless beauty and joy to be experienced as we open more fully to the Sacredness of Life.  It is also clear that an incredible amount of grief can emerge as our heart opens to the immensity of the Human Condition.  Although most of us are trained to shy away from feeling that, as our meditation practice develops we can move gently toward opening to what Chogyam Trungpa calls "the genuine heart of sadness" more readily.  We begin to see that what breaks our heart also is that which heals our hearts. 

It may not seem that just sitting down for a few moments to focus our awareness on the process of breathing in and breathing out has much to do with all this, but it does. 

At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it--or not! 

See you Monday!
One Love,

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Your Courtesy Wake Up Call!

Dear MMM Folks,

I'm sitting here with the embers of yet another perfect sunset glowing on the horizon, the evening vespers of songbirds, frogs and crickets wafting through the window on a delightful, scented breeze.   It's pretty easy to feel Perfection at a time like this.  

Yesterday,  my morning practice took place perched on the concrete shoulder of a lightpost on 3rd Avenue right around the corner from Bloomingdale's in NYC with a 10,000 volt stream of traffic and people and sirens and car alarms streaming through my awareness, the occasional rumble of the R train vibrating beneath me.  Feeling the Perfection of that was, perhaps, a bit more challenging at times.

On Monday I had mentioned that even a commitment to sit for 3 minutes on any one day can and will have a dramatic effect on the cultivation of a regular meditation practice.  The commitment itself transcends the length of time involved.  I'll stand by that.  Three minutes was my commitment yesterday morning.

I woke up at my Buddhy Howard's place in Astoria after a long day on Tuesday which included the drive from Greenfield to Queens with Rebecca and Annette, a shuttle ride with them from their hotel into Manhattan, a walk across Central Park South, a ride uptown on the subway from Columbus Circle to rendezvous for dinner--and then drinks--and then dessert--with my youngest daughter, Coriander, (and Howard) at various establishments on the Upper West Side.  Then, well past my bedtime, there was another subway ride downtown to Times Square to then wend our way through the catacombs to catch yet another subway back to Astoria with Howard to then send Becca and Annette back to their hotel in Long Island City in a cab.  I then crawled way to sleep on the sofa couch.

For some reason, I slept in. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

AH!--Once Again.

Dear MMM Folks,

Sitting, gazing out the window at gray skies and wet earth here in Barre, I'm feeling quite grateful for the rains.  I'm also in touch with that "Appreciative Heart" that Jane mentioned last week in MMM.  

The bee balm alongside Betsy's kitchen door had shown signs of distress, with leaves beginning to curl, as I arrived here in Barre on Tuesday.  (My  Beloved Buddhy had sounded weak and still sick on the telephone on Tuesday morning and I abbreviated my "Greenfield Workweek" and the Noon Sit with #OMG! to beat feet to the bus.) 

Now, a couple of days later,  adorned in raindrops, the bee balm stands firm and crisp and Betsy is seemingly full of piss and vinegar once again.  A hint of sunshine just played through the clouds, as I wrote this.

Sitting here at the laptop, I'm profoundly aware that the AH I feel at the moment doesn't just emerge from the crispness of the bee balms and Betsy's smile this morning. That "AH" isn't dependent on just experiencing the "high side" of the ongoing dance of life. A splendid morning?! This, too, will change.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Saved by the Bell!

Dear MMM Folks,
Well--finally--here is the link to the Meditation Timer that we used on Monday:   
I still haven't been able to burglarize the back office to free up my zafu and bell --even after sacrificing a number of paper clips and plastic cards and a couple of hours of my time on the altar of trying to prove how handy I am--and, of course, to save money.  So, my steady companions for quite awhile have been cellmates in a lock down--and I've had some interesting moments watching, once again, how deeply engrained patterns can become--and the resultant disquiet that emerges when "things change." (Which, of course, they always do.)

In the two settings where I'm meditating with others often these days, I usually function in the role of Timekeeper--or "Jikido" as they called it at Zen Mountain Monastery.  That was my final service role at the monastery before I launched off after six months, convinced that my path led elsewhere--although I had no clue where that might be.

As I explained Monday, my assignment as the Evening Jikido at ZMM involved trying not to trip over my robes as I tapped or banged or clacked or rang a collection of noisemakers in an attempt to make the appropriate number of appropriate sounds at the appropriate times to signal the various transitions of the evening service. These days it's much simpler.  I strike the bell to start the period.  I strike the bell at the agreed upon time to end the period.  Piece of cake, right?

You would think that having the on-line meditation bell replace me last Monday would have made life even easier.  Set the laptop, settle into Sitting...breathe....relax...hunker down and just meditate! 

It all started off fine.  Free at last! 
And then..........