"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, 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?