"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, November 7, 2015

Try A Little Tenderness

 "When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”
― Pema Chödrön

 “Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.”
― Chögyam Trungpa

I suppose in some people's eyes, I'm definitely "a bit touched."  

These days, I spend much of my time meditating, studying spiritual texts, and yakking about matters of spirit, heart, and mind.  I even let slip, in some circles, that I've felt the Presence of what some folks call God, others may call Buddhanature or Allah.  (I try not to mention it where it is likely to lead to an embarrassed silence, the shuffling of feet, furtive glances toward the nearest exit, etc. ) 

Having dedicated my life to "all sentient beings" before I even knew that what I was doing was known as the Bodhisattva Vow, I've stumbled ahead for a long while now in a sometimes crazed, but generally sincere, effort to get my act together well enough to at least not cause too much harm -- and, perhaps, even help out a fellow traveler once in awhile.

For the past decade now, one of the most useful tools in my own roadside service toolkit has been Tonglen Practice as taught by American Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. Although, like many of us 'back in the day", I had experienced a rapturous opening of my heart chakra at various points and was firmly convinced of the existence of Transcendent Love, I found that actually being a loving person wasn't all that easy.  Blinded by the subconscious patterns of an ego conditioned in a patently neurotic society, much the time I could be a real jerk.  I didn't have much of a clue about the sheath of armoring around my heart that distanced me from others -- and myself. 

Although I had put in a lot of time on the meditation cushion and was not a stranger to various "exalted states", I hadn't truly appreciated how the natural inclination to seek security and the natural tendency to defend myself from anything unpleasant had operated since childhood to "harden my heart".  (Hell, I always thought I was a real softy!)
In with the "Bad".  Out with the "Good".

Tonglen Practice, like the Lojong Teachings from which it arises, turns what is seen by our highly individualistic and competitive society as "common sense" on its head.  Rather than continuously attempting to strength and fortify our egos in a misguided attempt to achieve lasting happiness, we are encouraged to cultivate kindness and compassion toward others instead.  More than anything, I found that this involves getting in touch with the soft, vulnerable, "achy-breaky', tenderness that exists in our Heart of Hearts.  To do this, in Tonglen Practice we are instructed to allow ourselves to turn towards and simply breath into our hearts the more "disturbing" emotional energies of the human condition. Then, we breath out a sense of release, relief, and healing towards ourselves and others.

It's simple, but not necessarily easy. 

Maybe that's why I find myself rambling about Tonglen for the second week in a row! (See Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: Taking It to Heart)   I'm laying it on again because, I need to keep reminding myself that the thrust of our conditioning leads us to turn away from fear and sadness, from anger and jealousy, from feelings of humiliation or shame. etc.  "Taking on" these energies, our own or that of others, seems counter-intuitive.  

Yet, here's the deal: in reality, we don't take them on!  

As we gently and persistently work with tonglen, we come to see for ourselves that Our Heart of Hearts and the boundless and limitless expanse of the One Love are inseparable.  Breathing in, we Connect to the Ongoing Miracle.  Breathing out, we Connect to the Ongoing Miracle.  In the Embrace of the One Love, energy is energy. As our heartfelt aspirations expand beyond our own concerns to the benefit of all, healing happens.

It just takes Practice.

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