"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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Be Still and Know

“Be still.  Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity.
When there is silence one finds the anchor of the universe within oneself”
― Lao Tzu

“Space and silence are two aspects of the same thing. The same no-thing. They are externalization of inner space and inner silence, which is stillness: the infinitely creative womb of all existence.”
― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment 

In the midst of the scurry of the holiday season; often adrift in a sea of activity and noise (I'd forgotten that many folks leave their televisions on, running in the background), I was especially aware of how precious each morning's meditation was to me this past week.  Flowing through days and evenings chock full of visitations and meals and excited flurries of paper-ripping, my cushion seemed like an oasis.

Touching Stillness, even for a few brief moments, is like sipping clear, crisp spring water on a steamy summer day.  Paradoxically, it's also like feeling the warm glow of a fireplace, snuggling at home on a snowy evening peering through the window at the moon.  In Stillness, the Presence emerges.  In a silent whisper, it sings of the Ineffable, that space where the fundamentally mysterious and completely ordinary meet to form the fabric of Life itself.  

Although I use a variety of meditation techniques, I've found that the foundation of Practice is

to simply Sit Still for a period of time and allow one's attention to rest on the experience of breathing, aware of the ongoing sensations of body/mind, to simply sit with what Zen teacher Norman Fischer calls "the basic feeling of being alive."  As we gently and persistently return to our breath/body/mind again and again as our attention wanders off into thoughts and images and memories and daydreams, a more relaxed and concentrated quality of consciousness emerges. In time -- or perhaps in this very moment --one's heart and mind open to the One Love, the Ongoing Miracle, the Sacred Reality of Life Itself.   Resting in that Stillness, we sense that everything exists in the embrace of an infinite and gracious spaciousness.   We find that our ability to love and be loved deepens as Mindfulness of the One Love imbues our lives more and more -- even in the midst of activity.  

Of course, as one devotes time and effort to meditation, there are liable to be some "bumps in the road" along the way.   Long repressed feelings and memories may sometimes emerge.  Habitual patterns of thought can run, seemingly ad infinitum.  Restlessness, and bodily discomforts can occur.  At these times, you can simply return to your breath/body, or you may choose to focus directly on these specific experiences.  Letting go of the storylines, we open to the actual bodily sensations and draw them into the heart with each inhalation, then relax and release them with the out breath.  This ancient Tibetan Buddhist practice, Tonglen, can be especially helpful when particular thoughts/feelings occur repeatedly or with particular intensity.*  

Yet, as we devote more time and effort and heart to the Practice, as Mindfulness broadens and deepens, I've found that things really do smooth out.  Sitting Still gets easier -- and more interesting.  A simple and mysterious Knowing, without words or beliefs, emerges.  As in childhood, the simple wordless wonder of Just Being Alive becomes self-evident --both on and off the meditation cushion.

It just takes Practice.

(*In it's more advanced forms, Tonglen can be useful as your primary practice at certain times along the way--although it may be wise to seek out someone who has some experience with it, or a trusted friend, for support.)


Marian Kelner said...

I'm wondering if there is anything that can be considered ordinary. Seemingly familiar on some level, perhaps, but extraordinary, miraculous nonetheless.


Michelle said...

I'm accepting for myself that there is no ordinary or miraculous - just one big "is". In all it's complexity. This acceptance is propelling me into sorrow, but also into "wow!" Go figure. :)