"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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's Only Words

The secret of Buddhism is to remove all ideas, all concepts,
in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate, to reveal itself.”
― Thich Nhat Hạnh,
  Buddha Mind, Buddha Body:
Walking Toward Enlightenment

"Be Still and know that I am God!"
―  Psalm 46:11

In the world of Zen, words are not generally held in high regard. 

It's not surprising that some students even got smacked by crotchety old Zen masters for their "loose lips."   Words can be pretty damn tricky.  

A case in point:  The realm of words creates a thought world where the word "swearing" could either describe what emerges when a person angrily launches into a foul-mouthed condemnation of something -- or a what happens when a person wholeheartedly takes a sacred oath.

It seems to me that any particular word, or even a whole string of those slippery devils, at best, can only hint at the Truth.  If you are paying attention, what is not said may be more meaningful than what is said.  Like Life itself:  It's all a matter of context.  The devil isn't in the details.  The devil is the details -- devoid of a Connection to the Heart of the Matter.

For me, staying Connected to That takes Practice.  

And Practice takes Commitment.

Oh no, not that!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Stormy Weather Blues

"Engaged Buddhism is just Buddhism. When bombs begin to fall on people,
you cannot stay in the meditation hall all of the time. 
Meditation is about the awareness of what is going on 
--not only in your body and in your feelings, but all around you."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Many of us think that compassion drains us, but I promise you
it is something that truly enlivens us."
--Roshi Joan Halifax, Abbot of the Upaya Zen Center

Although there is no doubt that the cultivation of Mindfulness has generally brought a deeper and more consistent ease and clarity to my life, the past couple of weeks have brought forth a bevy of vivid and disturbing dreams.  On two successive days, the intensity of the emotions that emerged didn't vanish as I awoke to face the day.

Although I did notice a shadow of resistance to the notion of intentionally sitting down to be with the undefined, but obvious anger one morning,  and again (what are you CRAZY?) to sit with the deep, deep sadness the next, the momentum of Practice prevailed.  Within moments, as is my habit, I had bowed to the zafu and begun Morning Practice.  I am extremely grateful that both days I was able to embrace the torrent of feelings and thoughts for an hour within the gentle arms of Simply Sitting Still and Tonglen Practice.  Both days, I rose from the zafu energized, calm, clear, and ready to engage Life.

So, what's the deal?

In the past few weeks, I've begun to reConnect directly with the movement to address racism and the continuing oppression of people of color in the United States.  I am extremely grateful to the young activists of Black Lives Matter and the others who helped kick my butt into gear.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Whenever Two or Three of You...

Originally Published July 5, 2013.  Revised.

"To begin a sangha find one friend who would like to join you for sitting practice or walking practice or tea meditation or sharing."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Everyone has the seed of Buddhnature within themselves."
 -- Thich Nhat Hanh 

"For where there are two or three of you gathered in my name, I am there amidst you."
-- Jesus of Nazareth 

These past few weeks of Monday Morning Mindfulness have certainly reaffirmed a belief that I've held for quite awhile now: 

Anyone who makes a commitment to explore their own experience consciously through meditation, and then has the opportunity to compare notes on Practice with others similarly engaged, will come to understand themselves, one another, and the nature of Reality at a deeper level.  

As we sit and share Practice, the Truth of our Shared Presence becomes palpable.

As the small group of us who have been meeting for Monday Morning Mindfulness "Beginner's Mind--and Beyond" have continued our exploration of Mindfulness Practice and our relationship to the question, "Why Bother?",  it's only gotten better and better.  

Friday, August 7, 2015

Standing at the Gateless Gate*

Originally Posted as The Gateless Gate*, July 17, 2013 

"You knock at the door of reality,
Shake off your thought wings,
Loosen your shoulders,
And open.

"And you shall know the Truth,
and the Truth shall make you free."
---Jesus of Nazareth

Last Monday's MMM Circle again provided some food for thought--and the impetus to move beyond thought--as a we compared notes on Mindfulness Practice.  At several points, as the group grappled with the various issues that had come up during the week as we worked to put the Practice into practice, the limits of discursive thought and "reasoning" became more than obvious.

I loved it.

At one point Michelle, in her own inimitable style, jumped with both feet into the apparent contradiction between the dictum to always "be here now" and the need to take care of life's necessary activities such as planning, paying the bills, etc.  She then moved on to the apparent contradiction between the notion that "we are One" and our individual uniqueness, adding, "I mean we're all one, but we're not.  We're the same, but we're different, ya know?"

I think Zen monks of old would have had a ball.  Trying to dock one's boat in a paradox can be a hoot.

As it was, the Circle spiraled onward and we turned to the more apparently "practical" concerns of Practice, comparing notes, exchanging tips, etc.  Yet, as best I can sense it, the questions that Michelle had raised echoed themes presented in some of the fundamental koans of Zen.

It didn't surprise me, really.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

ARGH!! (Revisited)

Originally Posted July 26, 2013. Revised

We can suppress anger and aggression or act it out,
either way making things worse for ourselves and others.
Or we can practice patience: wait,
experience the anger and investigate its nature.
---Pema Chodron

“Just because anger or hate is present does not
mean that the capacity to love and accept
is not there; love is always with you.”
---Thich Nhat Hanh

The Universe is exquisite.  Once you hitch your wagon to Practice and roll out, you are going to get the lessons along the way that are needed to take you deeper --whether you like it or not!  (That might be especially true if you have the chutzpah to publicly ramble on about your experiences. )

Last week, I spent time here presenting the notion that simply "cutting loose of the storyline", the process of refocusing our awareness from discursive thought to other aspects of our experience (preferably what we are feeling in our heart), can sometimes take us from hell to heaven in the blink of an eye.  (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Once Upon a Time...)  

Although I certainly have experienced something approximating that quite often, it's obvious I needed another round of lessons, another strong dose of humility and compassion.  During the last 24 hours or so, Life has interjected a pretty dramatic bout of upset apple carts and broohaha into the Grand Mix.  It's been enough to remind me that it certainly can take a bit longer than a "blink of an eye" to regain a sense of wonder about it all.  It may even take what may seem like a hell of a long time.

As a child and a young man I had what folks might call an extremely bad temper.  Having grown up in the midst of a lot of anger, I would react to things in my world with bursts of violent emotions -- and even physical violence.  I could roar and smash things and strike out with the worst of them.  Perhaps, the deepest gratitude that I have to the Practice is that I no longer am likely to inflict harm on others due to angry outbursts.  (Although I can still be pretty clumsy and stupid at times.  Sigh.)

Yesterday, I hit a deep pool of anger for the first time in quite awhile.  Mixed with fear and pain,