"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

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sometimes the Snooze Button is Best

 “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. 
You need to accept yourself.”
― Thich Nhat Hạnh

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect 
to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

After making multiple attempts over the course of the past few hours to come up with something to say for this week's MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call, I realized that I needed to hit the snooze button, roll over, and give it a rest --  again and again.

Finally, I knew it was time to just reset the dang alarm and make a new plan.
It's been a long week, full of activity and challenge for myself and for a number of my friends.  As well as spending time on a number of urgent volunteer efforts, I've spent a lot of time sitting with my own "stuff" and that of others.  

Now, I'm spent.  

So, at this point on Saturday evening, I thought that, perhaps, it would be helpful (to me at least) to do as I've done a number of times over the past couple of years.  I Ching style, I just randomly picked a previous post. 

Are you kidding me?! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Rest is Easy

"So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it 
God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. 
-- Genesis 2:3

“Everyday we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: 
a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child - our own two eyes. 
All is a miracle.”
― Thích Nhat Hanh

Fall arrived on Sunday. 

It was three days ahead of schedule – if you’re paying attention to the conceptual structures and devices we humanoids create in our attempt to divide the seamless flow of reality into discrete and identifiable chunks of somethingness. 

Sunday, I wasn’t so inclined.

It was one of those days when any sort of box or label seemed dreadfully inadequate. Even words like Awesome and Astonishing and Sacred and Miraculous seemed way too tame. They paled in comparison to the Reality that gleamed outside the window.  There, a brilliant sun and crystalline blue sky soared over trees that danced and swayed wildly to the free-form music of a crisp northwest breeze.

As I sat for the first period of meditation at my bedroom altar, that same breeze whispered through the open window, “come out here.” When the bell rang (I time my sessions with an excellent laptop program), I donned long pants and a sweatshirt for the first time in ages, rolled up a makeshift zabuton, a blanket, and my zafu, and headed down to spend most of this week’s Day of Mindfulness outside. 

There, it once again became obvious: You don't have to die to go to Heaven!

Resting in Peace

If you've been following these meandering missives on mindfulness, you'll know that one of my Practice commitments for Fall Ango this year is to spend one day a week in Silence.  (See "'Tis the Season"and "Promises Promises"). Unplugged from the Matrix and it's various devices (even the printed word), from daybreak until the time I crawl away to sleep, the entire day is dedicated to the cultivation of Mindfulness.

I didn't invent this idea, of course.  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Promises Promises

Each of you is perfect the way you are ... and you can use a little improvement.”
Suzuki Rosh

“Daily sitting is our bread and butter, the basic stuff of dharma. 
Without it we tend to be confused.”
Charlotte Joko Beck

A Carmelite Monk and his Vows
There were quite a few of us back in the day that were first drawn to Zen because of its seemingly irreverent and iconoclastic tenor and tone.  To a bunch of us erstwhile hippies, peaceniks, and radicals, those ancient monks kicking over water jugs, writing poems lauding drunkeness, proclaiming Buddha was a "shit stick", etc., seemed like our kind of guys. 

Little did we know.

Once I actually connected with a teacher and a sangha, a different reality emerged.  I found that the foundation of Zen Buddhism, like that of other spiritual traditions throughout the world, rests squarely on a set of vows and precepts.  Rather than becoming a member of another tribe of free form hippies, I found out that engaging in formal Zen training with a teacher meant making a commitment to a set of clearly stated intentions: Taking Refuge in the Triple Gems, the Four Bodhisattva Vows, the Three Pure Precepts, and the 10 Essential Precepts was expected.  It was part of the deal.


Jeez.  In the Judeo-Christian world, we only had to worry about the ten commandments! Now? Do the math. This is twice as many.  So much for being hip and cool, for "doing your own thing!"

Or so it seemed. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

'Tis the Season

"Commitment is at the very heart of freeing ourselves 
of old habits and old fears."
― Pema Chodron

 “I think what everyone should be doing, before it's too late, is committing themselves to what they really want to do with their lives.”
― Thich Nhat Hạnh

Buddhist Nuns at Amaravati Monastery
As the sultry days of August melt into early September, my thoughts have turned to those times in my life that I have engaged in Intensive Practice in the Fall.   

In Buddhism, like many of the world's religions (Ramadan in Islam. The High Holy Days in Judaism.  Lent in Christianity,  etc.), there are extended periods of time each year that people move beyond "business as usual" to make a special commitment to their Spiritual Practice.    

In Buddhism, the tradition of the Rain's Retreat (Vassa or Ango) goes back to the time of the Buddha.  Traditionally beginning the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month (June/July), it lasted about three months, the period of time that  the monsoon season in India made travel difficult.  During that time the monks, who generally were homeless wanderers, would gather in one place to hear the Buddha's teachings and engage in intensive meditation practice.  

To this day, this period of intensive practice is widespread in Theravadan Buddhism, and is observed in various forms in Tibetan Buddhism and some traditions of Zen as well.  Here in the US, where hot summer weather is more problematic than monsoons, it often seems to have evolved into periods of intensive practice that occur in the Fall and/or the Spring. 

At Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, the Rain's Retreat has become the 3 Month Course, a meditation intensive that begins in September each year.  One year, I joined that retreat for the entire month of October.