"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

Friday, December 26, 2014

All Is Calm. All is Bright.

(The combination of a respiratory bug, holiday activity with family and friends, and an intriguing return of some primordial feelings to work with consumed much of my time this past week.  So, as I have done a few times in the past, I turned back the clock to review and revise the post that I wrote exactly a year ago.  I found it to be quite helpful.  I hope you do as well.  
One Love, Lance)
“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

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Christmas Missive: For Unto Us A Child Is Born

(Only five days 'til Christmas? Time continues to confound me.  Apart from the objectivity seemingly expressed by such things as clocks and calendars (which are far less accurate than we imagine them to be), Time is fundamentally fluid and mysterious.  How could it be otherwise?  Since Eternity exists in each fleeting instant of time, there's lots of elbow room for our subjective experience to bang around in, right?

A case in point:

My Grand-Daughter Keaton Izzy entered this incarnation on Monday, December 16, 2013 and has now had her first birthday.  It seems like her Incarnation into this dimension was only yesterday -- AND that she has been here forever. 

I wrote a piece last year a couple of days after her birth, deeply touched by the Sacred Miracle of her Newborn Presence. I can honestly say, a year later, that peering into her eyes still confirms for me the existence of Perfection in the midst of the apparent chaos of it all.  Coming in the midst of the Holiday Season (her "due date" had been Christmas Day itself), her birth -- like that of each and every being -- is nothing less than a Holy Miracle.  

As I wrote last year, my heart pretty open to the Big Picture, I also took a look at the painful downside of the holiday season.  I hope my attempt to Understand the One Love, in all it's aspects, was, and is, helpful.   Here it is.   One Love, Lance.)
(Originally Published, December 19, 2014. Revised.)

"Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. "
--- Thich Nhat Hahn

"Every child born is a living Buddha.  Some of them only get to be a living Buddha for a moment, because nobody believes it."
 ---Stephan Gaskin in Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

Keaton Izzy
Originally scheduled for a Christmas Day debut, Granddaughter Keaton arrived in the wee hours of Monday morning, in plenty of  time to avoid head to head competition with Baby Jesus.  Sporting all ten fingers and toes, sparkling with Buddhanature, her birth, like all births, is another obvious Affirmation of the Miraculous.  As she peered from Betsy's face to mine following the sound of our voices later that day, I could feel her Presence as pure, unadulterated Life Force.  Touched by the Great Mystery once again,  Heart wide open, I felt a deep joy -- and a deep sadness. Sometimes Love hurts.

Even as a child, the Christmas season always brought with it a certain sadness.  Something seemed more than slightly askew.   The messages of "peace on earth" and "goodwill to all", the prevailing storyline proclaiming this to be a special time of mirth and merriment,  didn't resonate with what I was experiencing.  I imagined it was just the chaos and uncertainty of my own childhood that left me feeling somehow "out of the loop".  As the years have rolled by though,  I have thought that less and less as I look around me at the generalized stress and melancholia that seems to emerge during the holidays.  Perhaps, at no time of the year is the disparity between what is and the way it's 'spozed to be so obvious.  Many of us feel that disparity profoundly.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Be You Too Full

"OmThat is Full, This also is Full
From that Fullness comes this Fullness, 
Taking Fullness from Fullness,  
Fullness Remains 
Om Peace, Peace, Peace."
Purnamidah, Purnamidam
Opening Verse/Prayer of Isha Upanishad 

     "“Here is, in truth,
the whole secret of Yoga, the science of the soul.
The active turnings, the strident vibrations,
of selfishness, lust and hate 
are to be stilled by meditation,
by letting heart and mind dwell in spiritual life,
by lifting up the heart to the strong, silent life above,
which rests in the stillness of eternal love, and needs no harsh vibration to convince it of true being.”
―Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras 

Although a cold that had been lurking in the shadows for about ten days finally jumped me, stealing my voice and leaving a bad cough in its place, Life continues to be full -- and,
achy body notwithstanding -- quite wonderful. 

Interestingly, as a major Christian holiday approaches, I've found myself reconnecting with some of the Hindu teachings and practices that, along with certain medicinal herbs and compounds, were originally a part of my Spiritual Quest decades ago.  By the time Ram Dass's book Be Here Now captured my attention, I had already begun practicing Hatha Yoga -- entirely from the photographs in books by Richard Hittleman and Swami Sivananda.  (There were no yoga studios to be found in my neck of the woods back in 1969. ) 

Similarly, my introduction to meditation practice began with Richard Hittleman's Guide to Yoga Meditation back then For whatever reason (Grace, Karma, Dumb Luck?), something quite interesting happened in one of my early experiences with candle meditation.  Sitting there in my living room years ago, I experienced a qualitatively different mode of consciousness.  Meditation evoked a Presence of Mind that was palpably vaster and felt more "meaningful".  

I was hooked.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sacred Space

 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.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh

“Delight in itself is the approach of sanity. Delight is to open our eyes 
to the reality of the situation rather than siding with this or that point of view.”
― Chögyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation

When I was growing up, being called a "space cadet" was not necessarily a good thing.   Unless you were in the astronaut training program at NASA or something like that, being called a space cadet generally meant that you had a hard time staying in touch with "reality".   A space cadet tended to drift off somewhere, not paying much attention to the elements of the "real world".  Things like being at the right place at the right time doing the right thing weren't exactly a space cadet's forte.

Yet, it could very well be that many space cadets had a leg up on the rest of us.

Being conditioned in the modern world, our legs were usually fully engaged spinning the wheel of the invisible, but very real, mind cage of the contemporary rat race that most people call "the real world."  The space cadet seemed not to take all that so seriously.  He or she would frequently step off the mainstream merry go round to see what else was happening, peering into an "inner realm" that seemed much more interesting.

Nowadays, I choose do something like that for about 13 hours a week.  I call it a formal meditation practice.

I would gladly accept the title of space cadet at this stage of the journey, because in a very real way that is exactly the Practice is.  In examining the nature of my own experience, I've seen directly that there is a whole lot more to reality than meets the eye -- or at least the two eyes we generally have been trained to use in the conventional way.  ( I won't get into a discussion of third eyes and supernatural vision and Visions here, but...)

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Attitude of Gratitude

Since childhood, holidays have been difficult for me.  I always intuited that something Spiritual was hovering over my shoulder, hiding in the shadows cast by the dazzling lights and ritual merriment.  The disparity between "the way it's 'spozed to be" and "the way it is" was striking. 

Yesterday, Thanksgiving brought my identical twin brother Lefty to the computer to share his thoughts on this traditional American holiday. He did, in a post entitled "Thanks -- and No Thanks." He couldn't face the image traditionally presented about Thanksgiving without pointing to the reality of our history.  (You can find his thoughts at Rambling On with Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.*).  

Today, I could go on a rant about Black Friday as well.  But, I won't --for there is still something beautiful and real always dancing in the stillness of Mindfulness.   Although sometimes you have to peer into the shadows to see it, it always brings forth the Attitude of Gratitude.  I wrote about Gratitude's saving grace last Thanksgiving,  and I'd like to share it with you again today.  -- One Love, Lance

Originally published November 29, 2013
"A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received
and am still receiving.”  
-- Albert Einstein

 "Be grateful to everyone."
-- The 13th slogan of the Lojong Trainings

I'm sometimes amazed -- and often amused -- as I observe my heart/mind floating down the stream of consciousness sitting here at the keyboard in the attempt to write something helpful for the MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call.  Today, I sat for a few moments facing the relatively blank New Post screen, then wandered around a bit on the web tracing the word "gratitude" along various strands of thought, trying all the while not to get too far afield.

Now I'm sitting here with my chest heaving, tears rolling down my cheeks,with images of Bing Crosby as freakin' Father O'Malley playing across the screen at Memory Lane Theater.   
WTF? How in the world did I end up here?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Good Grief!

"Nothing is more natural than grief, no emotion more common to our daily experience.  
It's an innate response to loss in a world where everything is impermanent."
-- Stephen Levine, Unattended Sorrow

"The problem, therefore, lies not with our pain for the world, but in our repression of it."
-- Joanna Macy, Coming Back to Life

With the events of the past month, the emergence of grief in my life. seems to be a reoccurring theme.  I awoke in tears from a lucid dream a few minutes ago.  As I transitioned from dreaming to the waking state, I felt my heart open through grief into the boundless spaciousness of the One Love. I came fully awake feeling energized, grateful --  and at peace.

I'm no expert practitioner, but it seems that my renewed focus on Dream Yoga is working.  It's nice to be able to sleep on the job.

Although the recent dreams I've had of levitation and flying have been a lot more "fun", I'm deeply grateful to have had this dream emerge from the cradle of an afternoon nap. (At age 68, I've found Napping Practice to be quite wonderful.)  The dream gave me an opportunity to further process the losses that have incurred in my life, and to move through personal grief to connect more deeply with the genuine heart of sadness that is part of our shared human condition. I've found that tears are often the key that unlocks the Gateless Gate to the One Love. A good cry can be the portal to boundless beauty, joy and gratitude.  As Jesus proclaimed long ago, "Blessed be those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

In the Dream State, I did -- and I was. Alhamdulillah.

Grief is rarely that easy, but thankfully, it's become easier over the years. I've had lots of help.  I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to attend retreats with two contemporary American Buddhist masters of a "good cry":  Joanna Macy and Stephen Levine.  Although the focus of their work is different (Macy empowers Ecological Activists.  Levine works with Death and Dying.), each of these gifted Teachers gets to the Heart of the Matter with incredible grace, insight and skill. Through meditation, guided mediation, talks, and interpersonal exercises, they each skillfully guide retreat participants toward an experience of Open Heartedness.  True spiritual elders (Macy is 85. Levine, 77), they bring the essence of the Teachings out of the Sutra books, to place the limitless energy of love, compassion and forgiveness squarely in the reality of one's own personal experience. It is high and holy magic.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Peek A Boo!

"Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, No Death, No Fear 

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us “the universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. 
 ― Albert Einstein

Thich Nhat Hanh
I guess it's fitting enough.  It is autumn, after all,  and the world outside continues to blaze its way through its seasonal Grand Transition.  As I raise my eyes to the window, the brilliant reality of Life/Death is played out again and again as leaf after leaf departs from it's particular tree of life and cascades to rest with its brothers and sisters as a multicolored carpet on the ground outside the window.

I learned yesterday that Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh  suffered a severe brain hemorrhage on November 11 as he was convalescing in a hospital in Bordeaux, France.  The announcement from Plum Village said that Thay still seemed aware of his surroundings and could move his hands and feet, and that even at the age of 88, a full recovery still seemed possible.  They requested that people throughout the world join with them to send the energy of healing and love to Thay in their meditations.

 I've done so.  I hope you will, as well.

Like millions of others, my life and practice have been touched deeply by Thich Nhat Hanh.  I was fortunate enough to experience his Presence personally as I attended a five day retreat, 

Friday, November 7, 2014

The (Heart) Beat Goes On -- and On!

Amidst the muted bronze and increasingly tawny beige cascading along the ridge overlooking 108 House, Life/Death continues to unfold within the world of appearance and manifestation. Immersed in the activities and communications of seemingly major transitions, I didn't make time for the blog post this week.  Mourning is an exacting practice.

As I've done a couple of times before, I turned the clock back a year and took a look at a blog post from November 2013.  It turns out that this week is an anniversary of sorts.  Prompted by a discussion in the Midweek Mindfulness Circle, I had just launched into an examination of the Lojong Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.  The Heart of Practice for me for this past year, the 59 slogans and meditative techniques of Lojong have graced my life.  Grateful to the Teachers whose written commentaries have brought them into vivid (though sometimes varied) focus and to the Practice itself, I offer this brief introduction once again.    One Love, Lance  

"While we are sitting in meditation, we are simply exploring humanity
and all of creation in the form of ourselves."
---Pema Chödrön, Awakening Loving-Kindness

"Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation."
---The 16th Mind Training Slogan of Atisha

I've had my nose buried in books a lot this past week.  No longer on the road with Daddy and Papa duties predominating, my time had opened up again and, of course, I seemed to fill it right back up.

Although, admittedly, some of that time involved taking long morning walks amidst fall splendor and making the time to take additional periods of Just Sitting Still Doing Nothing, the discussion in Wednesday's Midweek Mindfulness Circle did propel me to dive into a stack of books to re-familiarize myself with Lojong Practice, based on the Mind Training Slogans of Atisha.

Although these slogans emerged and were passed on as secret teachings in Tibet by the emigre Indian teacher, Atisha, they were codified and then opened to a wider audience in the 12th century by Tibetan teacher Geshe Chekawa.  Now, in the 21st century melting pot of American Buddhism, I not only get to read a  number of commentaries of teachers from the Tibetan tradition (Chögyam Trungpa, Pema Chödrön and B. Alan Wallace), I get to read the commentaries of an American disciple of Japanese Zen, Sensei Norman Fisher.*  It's like peering at the facets of a diamond while slowly spinning it around.

How cool is that?

Friday, October 31, 2014

The End Game

"Healing is bringing mercy and Awareness into that which we have held in judgment and fear."
-- Stephen Levine, Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying

"At a fundamental level we can acknowledge hardening; at that point we can train in learning to soften. It might be that sometimes we can acknowledge but we can’t do anything else, and at other times we can both acknowledge and soften. "
-- Pema Chödrön, "Signs of Spiritual Progress", Lion's Roar

When Chico climbed the fence to face his death a couple of weeks ago, it seems that he was in the vanguard.*  Since then two folks in our circle of human friends have been touched by the death of loved ones and we have learned that a family member now faces an inoperable, life-threatening condition.  

Sometimes, life is like that.  

In fact, when you take the long view, life is always like that.  As Suzuki Roshi once said, " Life is like stepping onto a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink."  The moment we are born, we're headed on a trajectory that ends in death.  Although what happens at the end point is a Grand Mystery, one thing is pretty obvious:  Life itself is a terminal condition.   

Yet, in mainstream society today, it seems that most of us assiduously avoid bringing that aspect of the journey into the our awareness.  Until our boat (or that of a loved one) is about to sink,  we don't seem to want to rock that boat -- and face that sinking feeling that may emerge.  Yet, at a fundamental level, it seems to me that until we do, we will not be able to engage our lives fully and directly with an open heart and clear mind.  

Buddhism makes no bones about it.  In the Theravadan tradition, Asian teachers still cite the Satipatthana Sutta of the Pali Canon and send monks off to meditate on corpses at the charnel grounds.  That may be a bit hard core for Western practitioners who, unlike their Asian counterparts, are generally shielded from the reality of death and dying.  Yet, even the Mahayana traditions that practice here in the West call for some focus on death.  A recognition of the inescapability of death is one of the Four Reminders in the preliminary contemplations seen as necessary to begin the Lojong Trainings of Tibetan Buddhism, and is one of the Five Remembrances chanted regularly in Zen services.  

So what is the deal here?  Why is an awareness of our inevitable demise so important?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Now?

"Life will give you whatever experience is helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.
How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience
you are having at the moment."
― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

“…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 teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”
― Pema Chödrön

After raining heavily all night, the sun broke out as I came upstairs a few minutes ago.  Streaming through the south facing windows of my room here at 108 House, it played across the floor as I entered.  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 again 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 maple tree outside the window waving in the wind.  Startled, I was face to face with the stark gray brown of empty branches.  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

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 with an increasing degree of grace and kindness.  Within the ever-flowing energies that we encounter, there is always nothing more, and nothing less, than Life as it exists in the Present 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 possibility of opening our hearts and minds (and our eyes and ears and arms, etc.) to appreciate the Absolute Miracle of the Mystery that we are part of -- or not.  It's just that simple.

Of course, simple doesn't necessarily mean easy.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

And The Seasons Go Round and Round...

“I have seen many die, surrounded by loved ones, and their last words were ‘I love you.’ 
There were some who could no longer speak yet with their eyes and soft smile left behind that same healing message. I have been in rooms where those who were dying 
made it feel like sacred ground. ”
― Stephen Levine,
A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
― Jesus of Nazareth

"Enlightenment for a wave is the moment the wave realizes it is water.  
At that moment all fear of death disappears."
― Thich Nhat Hanh

I could see it in his eyes.  Something had shifted.  Chico was different. 

After accepting the constraints of the backyard fence for years, our beloved bundle of canine energy had learned how to climb the fence and escape.  For the past couple of days, whenever he and his sidekick Pedra were released into the backyard, Chico would immediately run to the corner of the yard and inelegantly, but effectively,  hoist his chihuahua/terrier frame over the man-made barrier to run freely through the fields and forests surrounding the house.  Although with his newfound wildness he had uncharacteristically ignored my calls and commands to "come",  I had always been able to coax him back -- eventually.

Unfortunately, Betsy and I hadn't fully appreciated what his new found wildness meant.  The other night, we let Chico and Pedra out to do their business in the evening and Chico didn't return.  Although we didn't realize it until the next morning, our newly reincarnated creature of the wild had shed the fetters of his domestication.  A Free Being, his senses fully alive in the crisp air of the night, our precious Chico was off to meet his Destiny

To Every Thing There is a Season

Betsy spied his lifeless body a couple hundred yards away from the cottage the next morning and asked me to retrieve it.   With a heavy heart I walked down the hill.  It appeared Chico had encountered another creature of the wild during the night.  Within the wildness, it was simply a matter of Life --  and Death.

As I returned with his body, Betsy had already begun digging his grave amidst the flowers in the garden behind the house.  I sobbed as I completed the task of burying his body.  For us humanoids, Life and Death is not such a simple matter -- especially in our society, where we are conditioned to assiduously avoid facing the inevitability our demise.   

The stark truth is that none of us are going to get out of here alive.  Death is an unavoidable tragedy.  The greater tragedy is that the opportunity to truly open our hearts to ourselves, one another and to the miracle of life itself through an deep and honest exploration of death and dying is generally not taken.  

It doesn't have to be this way.

Conscious Living.  Conscious Dying

I had the good fortune to attend "Conscious Living. Conscious Dying", a retreat offered by Steven and Ondrea Levine years ago.  With incredible grace and skill,  these two masters of openheartedness created a meditative and caring community over the course of five days among the nearly 300 people gathered at Mt. Madonna Center in Northern California.  Although about a third of the participants were, like myself, caregivers exploring tools useful in hospice work, this was not just a stock "professional" workshop on the theory of confronting the issues surrounding death and dying.  Two thirds of the participants were already face to face with the reality of the final frontier.  They were either terminally ill themselves or with loved ones who were. 

This wasn't just theory.  This was Practice. 

Through periods of silent meditation, guided meditations and exercises, talks and conversation, each person there had the opportunity to explore the armoring around their heart, the frozen grief and fear we each accumulate through the years of our lives in a society that generally doesn't support the honest and skillful exploration of our emotions and our ideas about either life or death.   For me, the experience of progressively accessing that armoring to feel it fully and release it in the Shared Heartspace that was created through a sequence of guided Grief and Forgiveness Meditations was profoundly healing.  It didn't seem that I was alone in that. during the closing exercise on the fifth day, it felt like I was dancing to Pachebel's Canon with a room full of open-hearted angels .  

Being There Together

Perhaps the most deeply inspiring moments came for me during the final moments of a guided two person meditation that the Levine's had adapted from a Tibetan Practice used by monks gathered at the bedside of a dying person.  My partner was a man named Eddie who had entered the final stages of his encounter with AIDS.  

Under Stephen's instruction, each of us in turn took the position of laying down on our back and focusing our attention on our breath as the other person sat meditatively to carefully observe the rising and falling of our chests/bellies.   The seated person was instructed to synchronize his breathing with the that of the person laying down and then entone the syllable "AHHHHHHH" during each shared outbreath.  In the 40 minutes that ensued (20 minutes each), each of us became aware of the deep, deep calm and clarity of a vast and spacious mind. 

That, in itself, would have been enough, right?  It gets better.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Give It A Rest, Buddhy!

"Be still and know that I am God!"
-- Psalm 46:10

"We seem to have lost the ability to just be quiet, 
to simply be present in the stillness that is the foundation of our lives. Yet if we never get in touch with that stillness, we never fully experience our lives."  
-- Roshi John Daido Loori, Finding the Still Point

As someone who is halfway through my 69th year of life on planet earth, I grin when I find myself sometimes talking about "the good old days."  I used to roll my eyes whenever Dad tuned into that particular channel to proclaim that "progress' had distinct problems.  As Bob Dylan once sang, " Ah, but I was so much older then.  I'm younger than that now."

As I glance at the cellphone sitting alongside the keyboard and notice that I'm currently sitting here with 6 tabs of information on this browser awaiting my beck and call (quotes, pictures, wikepedia, dictionary, email, blogger), I am quite aware that there is something deeply unsettling about the nature of "life as we know it" on planet earth today -- at least here in 21st century America.  Having compared notes with other geezers, it seems there is a consensus: The rat race has only gotten worse.

Although, I can't speak about how it may feel in other parts of the world today, I do remember having a conversation with an immigrant from Vietnam years ago, a co-worker in a spiffy New Age natural foods restaurant, bakery, retail store complex in Madison, WI.  As we sat in the alley out back (with one eye out for the manager), he lamented that the entire pace of life in the U.S. was unhealthy, uncivilized and inhumane.  Communist or not, he was planning on trying to return to his homeland.  And that was thirty years ago, when I still had time to sigh and stretch after work, reach for the TV Guide, look through the listings, then get out of the chair to stroll across the room to change the channel. 

Now, in today's world, it seems that most of are on remote control,  wired for action in most every waking moment --or thinking about it.  Even "at rest", our thumbs twitch, and we are on the move with a dizzying kaleidoscope of images and sounds and thoughts zipping through our awareness continuously.   Awash in constant stimulation, scurry, and noise, time seems to have collapsed -- leaving no time at all.  

And -- surprise, surprise -- most of us are left feeling breathless; increasingly stressed out, restless and anxious.    

Give it a Rest, Buddhy!

In all the major religious traditions that I've studied over the years, there is a deep recognition that Stillness and Rest are not only important -- they are crucial.  As mystics throughout the ages have proclaimed, at the core of Reality, there is Quiescence, a Profound Stillness.  It is an essential part of Our Being.  Although we can get swept up in the activity and constant sensory bombardment of today's world, I think it's important to remember that even the OmniProductive God of the Old Testament, working hard enough to create the entire Universe in only six days, then took a day off  --and proclaimed it Holy!

Of course, as God Almighty, Yahweh could probably kick back and settle right into the Stillness.   For most of us, 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Down in the Valley

"The valley spirit never dies.
It is the unknown first mother,
whose gate is the root
from which grew heaven and earth.

It is dimly seen, yet always present.
Draw from it all you wish;
it will never run dry."
-- Tao Te Ching (tr. Waley, 1934)

"When conditions are sufficient things manifest. When conditions are no longer sufficient things withdraw. They wait until the moment is right for them to manifest again."
-- Thich Nhat Hahn, No Death, No Fear

Yesterday's drizzle turned into a more substantial rain last night here in the Pioneer Valley.  I came awake at about 4:30 AM, then rolled over to face the open window.  I listened as the rain's song wove itself in and out of dreams for a couple of hours.  It was simply luxurious. 

By the time I emerged to shower and Sit, the rain was again a whisper of a drizzle.  A few moments later,  as I took the trek across the field in pursuit of a cup of coffee at Atlas Farm Store,  that whisper faded into a few shrouds of mist wandering south along the ridge.  Then I watched as one,  then another faded from view, disappearing into the arms of the gentle breeze sweeping along the ridge.

Now you see it.  Now you don't. 

That brought to mind the time that Betsy and I sat on the shore of a pond north of here a few years back and watched in amazement as white puffs of clouds emerged from the womb of a clear blue sky.  One by one, flowing from north to south, each took form to stream across the sky for a few moments before again disappearing from view.

Mother Nature couldn't  have painted a clearer picture of the Real Deal.  

As Practice develops,  it becomes more and more apparent that we are of the nature of clouds emerging and disappearing in the vast sky of existence.  Watching closely, we see this is happening each and every moment in the stream of sensations, feelings, and thoughts that play through our awareness.  They emerge and disappear.   As we take the time and make the effort, we are able to move through the pain and fear that may surface to gain some semblance of calm, some semblance of of spaciousness, and some semblance of clarity in which to observe the reality of our own experience.  We come to sense directly the ephemeral nature of all phenomenon, of our existence itself.

That, I suppose, doesn't necessarily sound like good news.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Don't Just Do Something --  Sit There.
Then Do Something! 
Notes on The People's Climate March 

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
―Martin Luther King Jr.

Betsy and I had set the alarm for 3:45 AM -- and only hit the snooze alarm once.  It was Time.

After coffee, a bit of breakfast, and a bit of last minute packing, we were in the car, driving an hour to Greenfield to join 52 other folks on a charter bus for the long drive to New York City.  Clusters of folks wielding placards, backpacks and coffee cups were already in the Big Y parking lot as we arrived, somewhere on Mr. Sandman's side of 6 AM.  

A few moments later, a whoop went up as a bus appeared, gleaming in the eerie lights of the parking lot.  Then a bit of confusion emerged as another coach arrived.   Then another.  Then another.  It seems that there were two buses full of People's Climate Marchers making a pit stop en route from Brattleboro, VT and another bus that would also depart from Greenfield now in the parking lot.  I was also aware that a couple of my 108 Housemates were traveling on yet another bus, one of several, leaving from UMass-Amherst a few miles to the south.   As the heroic bus captains sorted it out and we climbed aboard, I thought, "This is going to be big!"

I had no idea.  Big was an understatement. 

Although the first reports of the mainstream media attempted to downplay the numbers with headlines like "Thousands gather.......", by evening it was obvious.  Even the stridently right wing Fox News conceded that upwards of 310, 000 people had gathered on the streets of New York City, other accounts had it upwards of 400, 000.  With another estimated 200, 000 participating in events in other locations throughout the world,  the Peoples Climate March was the largest environmental demonstration in history. 

For me, the most striking moments of an long, long day filled with striking moments began at 12:58 PM when, as planned, the multicolored river of humanity that stretched for miles through the streets of Manhattan went totally silent.  Amazingly, nobody had to say "hush".  The sounds of silence itself swept over us -- in an instant.  What had in one moment been a exuberant throng of drumming and chanting and singing and whooping climate marchers was now a Silent Presence.   In the distance a solitary siren wailed momentarily, a fitting reminder of the situation which we are facing on this planet.   Then, it too disappeared, embraced by the Stillness. 

In those moments the One Love was obvious.  In that Silent Presence, the Heart of our concern for this planet and all its miraculous beings beat as One.

Then, at 1 PM, hundreds of thousands of human voices and church bells and drums and musical instruments erupted with a resounding roar.  With the speed and power of a bolt of lightning, sweeping uptown like a tsunami of sound and energy, that roar cascaded up Central Park West lifting the throng of us gathered at 86th Street into the One Voice that had emerged.

Though wordless, the message was clear:  It is time.  Our Planet must be Healed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Cup of Coffee at the Pearly Gates

 "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
― Saint John (Lennon)

“Life is the dancer and you are the dance.”
― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

Greenfield Coffee from the Town Commons
I arrived at Greenfield Coffee in plenty of time.  Even though I would have to interrupt my session at the laptop for a walk to the chiropractor's office and back (because my aching back was making it hard to walk), I would have hours to sit with this week's blog post before the noon #OMG! (#Occupy Meditation Group!) Peace Vigil across the street on the town commons. 

That was the plan.  I already had chosen the topic and had a title for a piece on Tonglen Practice.   It would be a piece of cake.

When I asked the women next to me to move over a little so I could plug in my ancient dinosaur of a Mac at the outlet at her feet,  little did I know that I'd soon be engaged in an animated conversation with Liza Knapp, the new Pastor of the Belchertown United Church of Christ -- and that time would stand still. (although the digital display on my iPhone later indicated otherwise)

It's like that sometimes.

I feel blessed to be living in a time and space where Mindfulness Practice is becoming readily accepted within broad sectors of the Christian Community. Although the fundamentalism of certain sects within each of the world's religions still is dreadfully destructive, the man-made walls separating the practices and insights of the world's spiritual traditions are dissolving among countless people of faith and goodwill.  Pastor Liza and I  excitedly compared notes on our experiences with Spirit and Service.  Although the focus of my personal spirituality has been within the traditions of Buddhism for the past few decades, it was obvious to me that she and I  were cohorts, two kindred spirits fully engaged in the ongoing miracle, the unfolding mysticism of the current age that emerges in the wonder of the Eternal Now.

At one point, when I mentioned that I was going to offer "Be Still and Know: An Interfaith Day of Mindfulness" at the Community Church of North Orange and Tully next month Pastor Liza did a double take.  It turns out she had a profound experience in guiding a woman into the Stillness of meditation with a sequence taken from Psalms 46:10: Be still and know that I am God.   (The woman was a roommate of a hospitalized parishioner she was visiting and had asked for a few moments of her time.)

I, myself,  had learned that particular way of initiating a period of meditation from the venerable Reverend Armand Prouixl who, walking alongside Trappist monk Thomas Keating in the 1970's, was one of the pioneers of the Centering Prayer Movement. A Catholic priest at the time, the Regional Director of the LaSalette Missionary Order, Armand continued the exploration of Contemplative Prayer and Spirituality as he left the priesthood and took on Householder status to raise a family.   He then returned to Christian ministry, ultimately becoming the Pastor of the Second Congregational Church of Greenfield before his retirement in 2012.

Beginning with "Be Still and Know that I am God",  the phrase is repeated, call and response style, with words removed in sequence:
"Be Still and Know that I am God"
"Be Still and Know that I am"
"Be Still and Know"
"Be Still"

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Don't Just Do Something. Sit there!*

“When you begin to see that your enemy is suffering, that is the beginning of insight.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Nonviolence which is a quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

In a few hours I'll be hopping on a bus.  It will head through downtown Greenfield,  then climb up and over the ridge west of town before descending along the Mohawk Trail to snake along the Deerfield River into what the locals call West County.  To the north and south lie the hill towns perched in the foothills of the Berkeshire Mountains.  By the time all is said and done, I'll be driving up a dirt road tomorrow morning with my old dharmabum buddhy Peter to Valley Zendo above Charlemont, Massachusetts to join Reverend Eishen Ikeda for part of the September Sesshin.  

It's been too long.

As I envision sinking into 12 hours of meditation tomorrow and rising to start at 5:10 AM on Saturday amidst the silent splendor of late summer, I am also aware that on this date 13 years ago, along with millions of others, I stood transfixed in front of the television as the second jet descended to slam into the World Trade Center in New York City. 

Sometimes it's best to just sit.

The Valley Zendo was created in the mid 1970's through the efforts of three monks from Antaiji Monastery in Japan and several American lay practicioners.  Students of Roshi Kosho Uchiyama, Antaiji's founder and abbot, they brought a clean and simple form of Soto Zen with them.  As well as a daily practice, students in this lineage conduct a 5 day intensive retreat ten months out of the year.  Uchiyama believed in a sesshin "without toys".  Unlike intensive retreats offered in other Zen lineages now practicing in the United States, there is no formal oryoki (a highly ritualized formal meal), dokusan (a private interview with a Zen teacher complete with bows and bells), and, until recently, no chanting during sesshin.  (Evidently Reverend Ikeda, like his dharma brother Shohaku Okumura of the Sanshin Zen Community in Bloomington, IN, have now begun one simple chanting practice each morning in deference to the larger Soto Zen community.) The day consists of sequences of 50 minutes of sitting meditation, then 10 minutes of walking meditation beginning at 5:10 AM and ending at 9 PM.  The only "interruptions" are the three simple meals eaten in silence and a brief period afterwards to clean up.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ya Think?

“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.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Buddha Mind, Buddha Body: Walking Toward Enlightenment 

Mere philosophy will not satisfy us. We cannot reach the goal by mere words alone.
Without practice, nothing can be achieved.
Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

After a couple of weeks in which I encountered some degree of sadness and angst regularly -- on and off the zafu -- the weather shifted dramatically and I have experienced many moments of bliss and wonder amidst the late summer heat and humidity here in Western Massachusetts.  

Obviously the external weather wasn't the primary cause of the shift.  I much prefer cool and crisp.  

Yet, there it was, again and again: a sense of Boundless Amazement permeated my experience.  As I opened to the Gracious Spaciousness of Mindfulness and allowed my thoughts to wander off into stillness, it was obvious to me that you don't have to die to go the Heaven.  This is the Pure Land.  It dances and sings to us, vividly, in the silent contentment of our hearts. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Listening With Our Hearts

(It was not a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, and I wasn't able to craft a new post this week.  So as I've done in the past, I turned back the clock and looked at the blog post from a year ago.  I found it to be quite helpful at this point.  I hope you do, too!  --One Love, Lance)

“The intimacy that arises in listening and speaking truth is only possible 
if we can open to the vulnerability of our own hearts. ”
--- Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others 
and relieve others of their suffering....."
---from the Fourth Precept of Thich Nhat Hanh's Tien Tiep Order

A friend, who had attended  MMM Beginner's Mind and Beyond when a break in her schedule gave her the opportunity, was struck by the openness displayed by folks in the MMM Circle that day.  "Folks were so honest" she said with her eyes glowing a bit "--painfully honest!" I smiled and thought, "Whoo hoo!" --and felt a deep gratitude for what emerges on Monday mornings these days. 

The opportunity to converse openly and honestly about what is nearest to our hearts and soul is a rare and precious thing today. In the hustle bustle of our prototypically materialistic society comparing notes on the Spiritual dimension of our lives doesn't happen all that much.  In fact, when I was a kid we were told not to ever talk about religion--or politics. 

Obviously, I didn't follow the rules.  I majored in political science in college--and have been an avid student of Spirituality for a long, long time.  The wisdom teachings that arise in the mystical traditions of all the world's religions and how they play out in the reality of our day to day lives is profoundly interesting to me.  I can't think of anything I'd rather yak about.

Of course, communication, in it's true sense, is much more than conversation.  Communication happens on many levels.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Child's Play

"I tell all of you with certainty, unless you change and become like little children, 
you will never get into the kingdom of heaven."
--Jesus, Matthew 18:3, ISV

“The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind.”
― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain and crisp, cool air floating through the windows alongside my bed.  Un-detered, the crickets and katydids of late summer sang their parts in the pre-dawn symphony as I rolled over and set the alarm to 6:30 a.m to give myself a couple of more hours of sleep.  Moments later, I rolled over again and turned the alarm off.  Although I had thought otherwise, I was ready -- or so I'd thought. I got up and sat down to the laptop to stare at a blank screen -- and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

After awhile, I got up again, set the timer, walked over to the altar in the corner of my bedroom,  lit a stick of incense and Sat down in front of a different blank screen.

Now, an hour later, I'm ready. I think:

There is a well known story from the Meiji era (1868-1912) about a prominent university professor who visited master Nan-in to inquire about Zen.  As the professor prattled on, demonstrating his vast knowledge of Buddhist philosophy and doctrine, the master began pouring his guest a cup of tea.  He then continued pouring as the cup overflowed onto the table and floor.  No longer able to restrain himself, the professor shouted, "Stop. The cup is overfull! No more will go in!".  Nan-in replied, "You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you'll have to empty your cup." 

Although I first read that story in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones back in 1970,  I now realize I had only glimpsed the rim of that empty cup.  Even as a 24 year old, fresh out of college and engaged in my first year of teaching school, I certainly "got" that there is a difference between the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom.  By then, I'd run into factory workers during my seven years of summer employment that appeared to have a better handle on what the Real Deal was than most of my college professors. I also sensed from the story that arrogance probably wasn't going to cut it with a Zen master, a fact that I've had verified a number of times over the years.

Little did I know, though, that this teaching, like the coffee down at Dolly's Diner, was being served in a bottomless cup.  

This week, the Wednesday Mindfulness Circle explored the 6th slogan of the Lojong Teachings: "In post-meditation, be a child of illusion."   One of the most haunting of the 59 aphorisms that make up this Tibetan Buddhist system of mind training, it is also, perhaps, one of the most radical.  It seemingly flies in the face of conventional wisdom.  Rather than exhorting us to "grow up and get real", we are encouraged, instead, to recapture the open and spacious sense of wonder that characterizes the mind of the child as we arise from our meditation cushion to move through the day to day activity of our lives. 

As Mindfulness Practice develops and we become more acutely aware of the fluidity and transparent nature of our own thoughts and emotions, the ephemeral nature of "mindstuff"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wherever Two or Three of Us

"To begin a sangha, find one friend who would like to join you for sitting meditation or walking meditation or tea meditation or sharing."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Everyone has the seed of Buddhanature within them."
--Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditating with other people is different than meditating alone.  Everyone I've talked with, in Monday Morning Mindfulness and elsewhere, seems to agree.  It feels different to sit in silence with others. 

To anyone who has glimpsed the Essential Oneness (and I maintain most of us have, at least as children), it only makes sense.  After all, at a fundamental level, we are not merely isolated individuals. As Alan Watts wrote years ago, we are not,"skin encapsulated egos".  In fact, we intersect.  Not only are we "in this together" -- we ARE this together.  I find that being conversational about this Reality can be quite inspirational! 

The Mindfulness Circles I participate in each week have continued to confirm a belief that I've held for quite awhile now:  Anyone who makes an effort to explore Life and Practice consciously, and has the opportunity to compare notes on this effort with others similarly committed, will come to understand themselves and others at a deeper level.  As this happens, a sense of community will develop --and Practice will deepen.

Although the basis of one's Practice is highly individual (like Smokey says, "only YOU can prevent forest fires"), the support that a community of like minded spiritual practitioners can offer can be extremely helpful, if not crucial.  In fact,  traditionally the Buddhist Sangha it is seen to be as important as the Buddha and the Teachings, one of the Triple Gems of the Refuge Vows.  Similarly, a community of believers apears to be fundamental to the practice of the other major spiritual traditions of the world as well.  

As I sit here with wisps of memories of what has occurred during the Circles these the past few  (READ MORE)

Friday, August 8, 2014

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 buzzyIt was one of those days when even a few moments of clear and calm awareness, unconstrained by the prattle of discursive monkey-mind, was greatly appreciated.  For the most part though, it seemed like I was doing a mantra practice more than Mindfulness Practice.   Unfortunately, the chosen mantra wasn't something exalted like the Tibetan Buddhist Om Mani Padme Hum.  It was the mental note, "thinking thinking," repeated over and over.  

And over.  

And over again.

Fortunately, this is one of the mornings that my choice to give up a personal vehicle was worth its weight in both green and gold.  The walk from 108 House toward the bus allowed me to connect quite directly with the Ongoing Miracle.  Although it was abbreviated by the offer of a ride by one of my neighbors, I felt a great gratitude once again for the practice of walking meditation.  Mindful of body and breath, mindful of the sensations of sight and sound and smell, I was again made aware that the Pure Land and the Kingdom of Heaven are to be experienced in this very life.

Walking meditation is widespread among the various traditions of Buddhism.  I see reflections

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trouble in Mind

"Trouble in mind, babe, I'm blue,
but I won't be blue always
Yes, the sun gonna shine,
in my back door someday
-- Big Bill Broonzy, "Trouble in Mind"

“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."
-- Pema Chödrön, Practicing Peace in Times of War

I regularly Sit for an hour each morning these days.  I have no idea at this point whether this is a sign of advanced practice, personal inadequacy, or addiction.  It could be said that this daily ritual is a result of my personal commitment to Practice. It doesn't feel like that anymore.  It's just what happens when I roll out of bed most mornings.

Over the years I've learned that labeling a particular meditation session "good" or "bad" is missing the point.  Although I certainly notice my own tendency to prefer the pleasant sensations of a particularly bright, calm and spacious quality of consciousness over the claustrophic feeling tone of doom and gloom melodrama or the buzzy feeling of endless discursive prattle, it is precisely there that Practice begins.  I suppose its the primary lesson of Buddhism 101: A whole lot of needless suffering seems to emerge from the conditioned habit of mindlessly grasping onto the pleasant and reflexively rejecting the unpleasant.  Bringing that process into the light of Mindfulness opens a new world of possibility. 

As we bring Mindfulness to the present moment oftentimes we see quite clearly that the "trouble in mind" is quite ephemeral.  It is just held in place by the current storyline.  Seeing that clearly, the sun returns, sometimes instantaneously.  

Yet there are also deeply troubled waters in life.  Mindfulness Practice then becomes the bridge to a deeper understanding.  Gently and courageously opening our hearts and minds to the horrors and sadness of life, exploring and embracing the human condition as we experience it with diligence and care brings forth a deep transformation.  And, wonder of wonders,  it increasingly allows us to open to deeper levels of joy and peace and amazement as well. 

When we are no longer deeply invested in grabbing for one thing and pushing away another, a new sense of ease and appreciation emerges.  When we aren't attempting to dam the river of life to suit our own, generally unexamined,  preconceptions (often damning the river in the process), the flow gets to be even more deeply interesting and worthwhile.  At times, the river dances and sparkles, reflecting the brilliant sun. At times it glowers. consuming storm clouds as it broils downstream.  It is still the river.  As we approach our True Nature, we see that we, too, are the river -- and Love becomes increasingly possible. 

It just takes Practice.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Me and My Shadow

“…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

"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

Although Mindfulness Practice will  provide many moments of deep calm and clarity -- sometimes relatively quickly -- oftentimes it will also surface a lot of feelings that we have managed to assiduously repress, deny or avoid as we scurried ahead in a materialistic society that kept us focused outwardly for fulfillment.  As we spend time in meditation, it is not uncommon to encounter moments of fear, deep sadness, anger, restlessness -- and boredom.  Contrary to what we might think, this is actually a sign that the Practice is working.  The good news is that, with Practice, we are able to navigate the more gnarly aspects of the human condition with increasing ease. 

Adrift in delusions of grandeur, I sometimes joke about beginning a high profile advertising campaign for Monday Morning Mindfulness with full page bold print ads, billboards and television commercials proclaiming something like:

Want Sadness, Fear, Disappointment, Boredom and More?
Practice Mindfulness!

Besides possibly getting sued by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others, I don't think I'd get much action.   As Pema Chödrön points out, the actual process of meditation seems "counter-intuitive".  At a certain point, we decide to sit still and face what we have always fled from.  Who needs that?

Most of us do.

In fact, with Practice, we come to see that it is precisely our willingness and ability to carefully examine the nature of our own subconscious with a modicum of gentleness and ease that unlocks the Gateless Gate of Ease and Joy.  When we finally face our fear and wander down into the basement with all its ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night, then learn how to 

Friday, July 18, 2014


"I vow to understand living beings and their suffering, 
to cultivate compassion and loving kindness,
and to practice joy and equanimity."
Thich Nhat Hanh, from "Refuge Poem"

"Give me an F.....
Give me a U.............."
Country Joe McDonald, Introduction to "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag"

I swear.  Sometimes a lot.  It can be embarrassing. 

Although I often do refrain from allowing those "four letter words" to roll out of my mouth, the closer I get to a spontaneous expression of awe and joy and gratitude for the Absolute Wonder of Life, the more likely am I to launch forth an "F bomb" -- usually in its forms as an adjective or adverb. 
(Like "Far F*****g Out!")

I guess, more than anything, this tendency to be somewhat foul-mouthed shows my true colors.  I am the prototypical product of the 1960's.  I was a high school freshman in 1960 and I graduated from college in 1969.  Words that burned my ears at age 13 rolled out of my mouth freely when I was 23.  Although I began practicing yoga and meditation during that final year of the decade, it didn't seem to effect the language that had become part of my normal vocabulary during my years in college.

To a whole bunch of us back then, the actual bombs of the warfare seemed profane and obscene.  Launching F bombs?  Not so much.  In fact, "colorful" language, like colorful clothing, long hair,  and psychotropic drugs, was an integral part of a youth culture intent on breaking the monochrome norms of a mainstream society that appeared to be based on the false gods of materialism, competition, consumerism, environmental degradation and warfare.  We chose, instead,  to pursue a life based on the values of freedom, peace and love.  For many of us, "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven" wasn't just something that we were supposed to chant in church on Sunday.  We believed we were supposed to be living that way every day as best we could!  And we were intent on having some serious fun along the way.  As one of my guiding lights, the late Stephen Gaskin, put it at the time: "We're out to raise hell -- in the Bodhisattvic sense."  

So how does swearing specifically fit into this picture?