"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, March 27, 2014

Keeping It Real

"Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear...
All that I can, in true humility, present to you is that Truth is not to be found by anybody who has not got an abundant sense of humility."
-- Mahatma Gandhi

“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, 
but simply to realize where you already are.”
―John Kabat-Zinn,  Wherever You Go, There You Are

Although the entire course of our friendship emerges from a couple of handfuls of conversations at an upstairs table at the Coop, I consider Gary to be one of my most valuable cohorts.  A few times during our first conversations, Gary had challenged me to clarify what had slipped out of my mouth -- often as a quip or facetious comment. (It seems I often default to my youthful personality as a Chicago street kid, a wannabe wise guy, the perennial, if not proficient, class clown)  

I've learned.  In Gary's presence, I always have to be ready to pay attention.  Lord knows, he does.  Whether we were talking Coop Policies (he sits on the Board), world events, or spirituality, I have to stay Present, ready to engage in a shared exploration about the truth of the matter at hand. I can't be sloppy. I have to be careful with my words, precise about what I think I know -- and don't know.  I imagine sitting with Gandhi would be something like that.

Yesterday, Gary thanked me for the fundraising effort I'd made a couple of weeks ago on behalf of two friends, codgers like myself, who were facing eviction as a result of ill health and their extended unemployment benefits being cut by the US Congress in December.

When Gary first brought up the topic, my first reaction was a subtle feeling of fear in my solar plexus.  Last week, with my heart in my throat, I had blogged about their plight in Rambling On with Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.* and bombarded each and every one on my email contact list, google+ circles and communities, and on Facebook more than once. Even though I had feared that some folks may roll their eyes or maybe even feel violated by this blatant appeal -- I had done it anyway. Trying to help out felt that important to me.

When I told Gary about that fear, that I was set to apologize for bothering him.  he said "No, It's okay man. Thanks for keeping it real." 

In today's world there is a widely held view that there is no such thing as Truth

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When You Wish Upon A Star

"Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing."
--from "When You Wish Upon A Star" 
Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, 1940

"“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people 
who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”
― Pema Chödrön

Over a decade ago, I sat on the front porch of an A frame on the ridge at Zen Mountain Monastery gazing at a star-filled Catskill Mountain sky.  I was certain that I was going to leave the monastery after six months in residence.  

I had absolutely no idea what my next move would be.  Over the years, I had often thought, "once the kids are grown, I can finally DO IT!  I'd get to the monastery or ashram and find The Teacher -- then just cruise!"  So much for that idea.

Now what?

Although I had again experienced a number of deep "openings" in the cauldron of Zen Training as envisioned by Roshi John "Daido" Loori, I knew that the rigid, hard-driving, and quintessentially hierarchical nature of the Roshi's "Eight Gates of Zen" didn't ring true for me.  I had great respect for many of the folks involved, and saw that the monastic life appeared to work for some, but I now knew I wasn't going to get off that easy.  I was going to have to get out there and figure it out for myself -- again.

As I sat there, absolutely clueless, a quote from the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull emerged and, like that intrepid seagull seeker,  I thought, "I just have to hang onto the wind and trust."  The very next instant a shooting star flashed across the night sky directly in front of my eyes -- instantly disappearing into the tapestry of countless stars and fathomless blackness reaching overhead.


I wish it was always that easy.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

One Love, One Heart

“In Chinese, the word for heart and mind is the same -- Hsin. For when the heart is open and the mind is clear they are of one substance, of one essence.” 
-- Stephen Levine

"Love is not what we become but who we already are."
-- Stephen Levine

This is one of those times.  The computer screen sat here and stared blankly at me for quite awhile. Neither of us seemed to have a clue as to what today's "MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call" might be.

I slept in this morning for the first time in quite awhile.  Although I did awaken at around 5:30 as usual, I read for a bit, then turned over and did  "dozing meditation" in and out of dreams and sleep until 9:45.  I guess the 17 hour drive back from Chicago and a couple of full days of catching up with everything except sleep finally caught up with me. 

Having dragged myself out of bed so late, I noticed feelings and thoughts emerge that tended towards making a decision to skip this morning's Sit.  I heard warm chatter and laughter down in the kitchen, and the image of heading downstairs to join Michael and Miriam, quaff some coffee and eat breakfast was quite appealing.   Then, in this scenario, I'd sit right down with the laptop to begin the blog post.  I was late, after all.  There were many things on the to do list.  There were lots of reasons to keep moving.

I Sat instead.

These days settling into that one hour morning meditation comes quite naturally most the time.  Sometimes, of course, a "decision" has to be made.  I need to whomp up a bit of discipline.  But, usually the momentum of Practice usually just carries me along like an autumn leaf floating on the surface of a dancing brook.  I just get up, go pee, then Sit.  The real "decision" was apparently made a long time ago when I realized that, for me, Practice and Life were the same thing.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Moment's Thought

"One can appreciate and celebrate each moment -- there is nothing more sacred.
There is nothing more vast and absolute.  In fact, there is nothing more."
-- Pema Chödron, 
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. 
Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

I had thought that we folks in Western Massachusetts really had a lot of snow on the ground.  Now, after a 17 hour drive westward, it seems like a dusting.  The Chicago area really has a lot of snow on the ground!

Of course if I was in the mountains of Colorado,  even this could be seen as "no big deal".  And so it goes.  The thinking mind, tending to compare, tending to exaggerate, tending to speculate, can create all sorts of storylines about the winter snow cover.  It can and will do that about anything and everything.  All too often, it's just another snow job.

When I just gaze at the sun and shadows playing across the snowfield outside the window, when I open to the sounds of the birds twittering, the wind softly moaning, and the traffic humming in the distance here at my son's house north of Chicago, when I let go of the storyline and just feel myself sitting here breathing, the world immediately expands.  Rather than being constrained by the fetters of thought, It becomes vast and wondrous.

It happens every time I pause and stop typing.  (You could, perhaps, pause here for a moment or two and open up to those other channels of your own experience right now before clicking READ MORE)