"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
to simply Sit Still and allow one's attention to rest on the experience of breathing, widening the focus to include a greater awareness of the ongoing sensations and energies of body/mind.  Known as shikantaza in Soto Zen , we allow ourselves to simply sit with what Zen teacher Norman Fischer calls "the basic feeling of being alive."  As we gently and persistently return to our breath/body again and again as the focus of our attention wanders off into thoughts and images and memories and daydreams, a more relaxed and concentrated quality of consciousness emerges.  In time -- or perhaps in this very moment -- one's heart and mind open to the One Love, the Ongoing Miracle, the Sacred Reality of Life Itself.   Resting in that Stillness, we sense that everything exists in the embrace of an Infinite and Gracious Spaciousness.   We find that our ability to love and be loved deepens as Mindfulness of the One Love imbues our lives more and more -- even in the midst of activity.  

Of course, as one devotes time and effort to meditation, there are liable to be some "bumps in the road" along the way.  Long repressed feelings and memories will sometimes emerge.  Habitual patterns of thought can run -- seemingly ad infinitum.  At these times, you can gently return your attention to your breath/body, or you may choose to focus directly on those thoughts and feelings.  Then, letting go of the storylines, releasing the narratives attached to those experiences, you can open to and explore the actual bodily sensations underneath.  At that point you have the opportunity to make conscious realms of experience that may have been repressed or suppressed for eons.  What was subconscious becomes conscious at this point. Being conscious it has less power to dominate, to create the way you perceive and react to events.

You can then choose to draw those energies into the heart with each inhalation,  and release them with the out breath.  The aim in this to "get rid of the feelings" but to allow them to diffuse into the increasing spaciousness of an open heart and mind.  Unlike western therapies that seek to find an intellectual explanation of those feelings (oh, that comes from the time i was three years old, etc....), the object is just to experience the pre-conceptual energies -- and the space around them.  There, the Heart/Mind heals itself.

Once the Practice has developed to the point where that Gracious Spaciousness is more readily available, the ancient Tibetan Buddhist practice, Tonglen, can be especially helpful when particular thoughts/feelings occur repeatedly or with particular intensity.  As this Practice develops you actually expand the locus of these "troubling" feelings to include those of others.  At a certain point, the universality of these feelings becomes self-evident.  Rather than identifying with "my" pain, it becomes "the Pain" of our shared humanity.   At that point, you can become an agent of healing, transmuting the troubling feelings drawn into the heart on the in-breath into your heartfelt aspirations for all to be released from such suffering on the outbreath. *

As we devote more time and effort and heart to the Practice, as Mindfulness broadens and deepens, I've found that things really do smooth out.  Sitting Still gets easier -- and more interesting.  Over time, a simple and mysterious Knowing, without words or beliefs, emerges.  As in childhood, the simple wordless wonder of Just Being Alive becomes self-evident --both on and off the meditation cushion.

It just takes Practice.

(* Tonglen can be useful as your primary practice at certain times along the way--although it may be wise to seek out someone who has some experience with it, or a trusted friend, for support.  One of the principal meditative techniques of the Lojong Trainings of Tibetan Buddhism, there is a lot of instruction and commentary on Tonglen, guided meditations, etc. available on the web.  I posted a brief annotated bibliography at http://alaymanlooksatlojong.blogspot.com/p/another-disclaimer-although-decidedly.html)

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