"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, June 27, 2014

Mama Said There'll Be Days Like This

"Mama said there'll be days like this
There'll be days like this mama said."
-- The Shirelles

"Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. 
One inspires us, the other softens us. 
They go together.”
―  Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

Meditation and mindfulness practices been a central focus of my spiritual life since 1969.   Over the years, I've explored a number of sitting practices from a variety of traditions.  
In 1970,  exploring the path of Yoga that emerges within Hinduism, I experienced my first clear meditative shift of consciousness gazing at a candle as suggested by Richard Hittleman in A Guide to Yoga Meditation. 

Although I was soon drawn to Zen and an exploration of Buddhism that led to a daily sitting practice that continues to this day, my own musical sensibilities propelled me along the Bhakti Hindu path of kirtan as well.  Over the years, I've chanted, sung, (and danced) with the Hare Krishna's, with Neem Koroli Baba's folks and a number of kirtan walahs, including my local favorite Libby Volckening.  In special moments, a sense of the One Love  becomes an embodied experience.
Although various forms of fundamentalism in some religious traditions consign music to the realm of dark forces, sacred music is quite universal. Whether participating in Kirtan or singing with those inspired by their indigenous spirituality at outdoor gatherings, or participating in the American Sufi's Universal Dances of Peace, or supporting my own consciousness with a musical soundscape from the vast collection of traditional spiritual and new age music available on the internet and delivered to my earbuds, sacred music continues to be an important Presence in my life.

Message from the Great Mother
This week, the One Love brought forth an unexpected -- and deeply healing -- musical incantation.  As life would have it, this opportunity didn't emerge not from the Sacred Sounds of an eastern spiritual or indigenous American tradition.  It didn't flow forth from one of the many gifted "new age" artists.  
The healing artists were one of the first 1960's "girl groups" to top the Billboard Top 100.  Softly singing in my "mind's ear" this heavenly chorus of young women from New Jersey immediately transformed my state of mind.  I had been pretty funked out at that moment.   Then, instantaneously, a grin emerged on my mug, the quality of my consciousness became brighter and lighter.  All it took was the Shirelle's simple refrain:

"Mama said there'll be days like this
There'll be days like this mama said."

Duh,  Of course.  Lighten up! It's just Life as it is.  The stormclouds dissipated, and sunshine and silver linings danced with the rainbows in my tears.
READ MORE The  past week has been a real doozie.  Hurting my lower back 24 hours ahead of what turned out to be a long travel day (four flight delays!) on Friday, I finally arrived back hOMe to Western Massachusetts from Oklahoma.  I was ready to proclaim "Honey, I'm home" to my life here.  Stiff and sore, perhaps, but HOME! 

The next day Betsy glanced casually at the back of my left thigh and exclaimed in alarm, "What's THAT!?"

THAT turned out to be a large red splotch with a darker angry looking center.  Not seeing a tick, not feeling any discomfort beyond a bit of itchiness, we proceeded to drive to town to address what was really bothering me: a stiff an sore lower back prone to emitting sharp pains if I moved "incorrectly". Or coughed. Or laughed.  Often, my friendly chiropractor can straighten me out in a single visit.  Not so much this time.  
My back still hurt.

By Sunday, the now reddish purple splotch had grown dramatically! Bigger and nastier looking, it proclaimed -- along with an insistent Betsy -- "get thee to the ER!"  Since then, I've been back to the ER twice and to my primary care physician once. A first antibiotic didn't appear to be working.   I was prescribed a second.  I've seen the chiropractor twice more. 
 My back still hurts.
The angry blotch didn't  appear to be very impressed by the collection of  prescription drugs.  Another doc scratched his head, and  said it's probably a spider bite, not a bacterial thing.  Theorizing that it may have been a black widow bite sustained on the same day I hurt my back cleaning out my brother's boat for sale, I was prescribed sulfa drugs.  Unfortunately, they sent me into an allergic reaction that included altered mind states and hallucinations.  I stopped taking them.
And my back still hurt...
"Mama said there'll be days like this!"

Be That As It May

Yet, as I sit here now with birds twittering across the meadow and through the woods out the window,  this moment seems quite wonderful. Although my energy still is pretty zapped and there's still been some pain and discomfort, for the most part, I'm in good spirits.  I'm laying back as much as I can, moving slowly when necessary.  During every trip to town to Sit, inhabit medical facilities or procure supplies, I've run into friends and CircleMates who've  lit me up like a candle with their bright eyes and kindness.

I feel quite Blessed.

I'm so Grateful to the Teachings and the Practice, for seeing clearly again that there is a quality of consciousness that is available to us that embraces both "gloriousness and wretchedness" with equanimity and loving kindness.  Carefully opening our hearts and minds to the entire gamut of our experience, without clinging to the joys or pushing away the discomforts actually is possible.  Relaxing and opening your heart, you can be okay with not okay.

I'm  Grateful to the Shirelles as well, for reminding me at the perfect moment that "there'll be days like this."  
In the relative world, there'll be days like that, as well.   In addition -- following a certain Zen philosophical tradition -- I can also add:  There'll be days that are both this and that.  Days that are neither this nor that. 

Anyway you say it --or don't say it --it's Life as it is. Heartwarming.  Heartbreaking.  Mindboggling.  Mindblowing. Opening our heart, clearing our mind, we can increasingly become Present for it all.

At this stage of the journey, I'm pleased to report that this is not Theory.  It's Practice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Spider bite discomfort does last a very long time with pain deep to the muscle tissues as it runs to the connecting joint. Low back? This I've experienced myself. Bit in the back of the calf, thought my knee joint was going to need surgery it was so locked in place with pain. Glad to hear you are one with it, if that be it!!
Becoming more awake to the power of consciousness is addictive once feeling the results and joy it brings. Personally, I'm in love with it. Results are so amazing! And...as you say, it's the practice that keeps one tuned in. Everyday is a new experience. I don't think you can store up consciousness can you? Seems to just come along sooner than later when it's practiced regularly. Narrow is the path! Thanks for the continuing reminder that it is indeed something that needs to be 'practiced' and does not just happen without nurturing. I like to think of it as 'my spirit' taking the lead over mind and body. That in itself is encouragement to press on to find the joy while my dance card fills up and time grows shorter for this human experience.
Bottom line, consciousness is AMAZING!