"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, 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"

I had experienced this practice as one of the participants in a series of evenings that Armand presented last year on the Life and Spirituality of Mahatma Gandhi. As the final "Beeeeeeeeeee" dissolved into silence, the Stillness that came forth buzzed with energy.  Even the memory that just emerged and dissolved catapulted me into a profound sense of Presence.  

I love it when that happens.

So -- to make a short story longer -- I finally pulled myself away from the conversation with Pastor Liza to spend a few moments with the blog before leaving for the chiropractor.  Returning about 45 minutes later, I still figured that I would expand on the chosen title, "Suck It Up, Budd(h)y!" and the single paragraph I had managed to write before I left for the appointment.  I had a couple of hours before the Noon Sit.

Still a piece of cake.

When I walked back into the coffeehouse, I saw my old Zen Peacemaker dharmabuddhy Ari Plisken, the Director of the Stone Soup Cafe, a local community soup kitchen, sitting with Corey Sanderson, the current Pastor of the Second Congregational Church sharing a cup of coffee.  Although seriously tempted to join them for awhile, I mustered up the discipline to walk on after an exchange of greetings and a couple of quick quips.  I was on a mission after all.

It seems I was a bit too smug about this particular exertion of will power.  

Armand Prouixl
At the table in the far corner sat Armand Prouixl.  I hadn't seen him in months.  An octogenarian, Armand has more energy than my teenage grand daughter.  I couldn't resist.  The best laid plans often pale in comparison to the Life that we are graced with in this most amazing Universe

I sat down and time stood still once again as I enjoyed another cup of coffee at the Pearly Gates. 


(For you locals: I will be presenting "Be Still and Know: An Interfaith Day of Mindfulness" on Saturday, October 11, 9 AM-5 PM at the Community Church of North Orange and Tully.  Offered for free, you are invited to attend either a half day or the full session.  Stay tuned for more information.)

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