"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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

All Is Calm, All Is Bright

With deep gratitude to the Teachers and Teachings that brought Tonglen Practice into my life.

Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior 
can make a proper cup of tea.”
― Chögyam Trungpa

 “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

Outside the window, an early morning lemon white sun glistened across snow tinged in blue as I took my seat for morning meditation today.  The overnight temperature had dropped to 5 degrees overnight, so the official beginning of winter at 11:19 p.m. here in Western Massachusetts seems appropriate enough.  

Yet, I had noticed that they are predicting sunshine and a temperature of 45° the day after tomorrow!

Immediately thoughts arise and I notice myself face to face with the spectre of Global Warming.  My heart aches as a deep sadness emerges.  

Allowing these thoughts to dissolve, knowing that others feel this sadness also, I breath the fullness of this feeling into my heart as I recite two of the traditional Brahmavihara phrases:  "May all beings be safe. May all beings be free of suffering and the roots of suffering".  

As the in-breath continues, I notice a sense of spaciousness re-emerge as first my belly, then my rib cage expands.  My tender, warm, achy breaky heart is comforted in the embrace of a calm, clear, expansive open awareness that seemingly extends throughout and beyond space and time as the in-breath continues.  

As in-breath becomes out-breath, the words "May all beings be at peace" float on that breath as it dissolves into the Essential Oneness, radiating outward on the wings of a translucent visualization of the clear and brilliant eyes of countless beings gleaming in full awareness of their Buddhanature. 

I continue breathing and Practicing for awhile, and my heart glows as a deep joy mingles with a soft melancholy.  The world continues to glisten outside the window.  

All is calm, all is bright.

The words of this traditional Christmas carol ring through my consciousness, whispering of the vast expansiveness of the One Love which resides deep within us -- and infinitely beyond us.  

As we turn toward the celebrations of this holiday season, may we all rest in the embrace of this One Love.  

Sitting here now, I renew my vow to be clear enough and kind enough to help bring about the changes needed to create a sustainable, cooperative, peaceful world.

(For more on Tonglen Practice, see The Practice of Tonglen by Pema Chodron)

Friday, December 18, 2015

For Unto Us a Child is Born

 "Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. "
--- Thich Nhat Hahn

"Every child born is a living Buddha.  Some of them only get to be a living Buddha for a moment, because nobody believes it."
 ---Stephan Gaskin in Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

First Posted, December 18, 2013

Keaton Izzy
Originally scheduled for a Christmas Day debut, Granddaughter Keaton Izzy arrived in the wee hours of Monday morning, in plenty of  time to avoid head to head competition with Baby Jesus.

Sporting all ten fingers and toes, sparkling with Buddhanature, her birth, like all births, is another obvious Affirmation of the Miraculous.  As she peered from Betsy's face to mine following the sound of our voices later that day, I could feel her Presence as pure, unadulterated Life Force.  Touched by the Great Mystery once again,  I felt a deep joy -- and a deep sadness.

Even as a child, the Christmas season always brought with it a certain sadness.  Something seemed more than slightly askew.   The messages of "peace on earth" and "goodwill to all", the prevailing storyline proclaiming this to be a special time of mirth and merriment,  didn't resonate with what I was experiencing.  I imagined it was just the chaos and uncertainty of my own childhood that left me feeling somehow "out of the loop".  As the years have rolled by,  I have thought that less and less.  It's pretty clear that a  lot of folks have a difficult time during the holiday season.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Be Still and Know

As the holiday season accelerates, I looked back at a few Posts of Christmas Past to get some perspective and, hopefully, alleviate any tendency to incarnate as Ebenezer Scrooge this year.  This one, written the day after Christmas a couple of years ago, was a helpful reminder of what the Real Deal is.  I hope you find it helpful as well. 
One Love, Lance
Originally Posted, December 26, 2013   

“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 for a period of time allowing one's attention to rest on the actual experience of breathing.   Aware of the ongoing sensations of body/mind, to simply sit with what Zen teacher Norman Fischer calls "the basic feeling of being alive" brings us to the present moment.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Empty Handed

 "Emptiness wrongly grasped is like picking up a poisonous snake by the wrong end." 
― Nagarjuna

 “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”
 ― Pema Chödrön

Mahakala: Wrathful Protector of Tibetan Buddhism
Years ago, when I was in residence at Insight Meditation Society, my Dharmabum Buddhy Jimmy grabbed me by the shoulders, and with eyes as big as saucers,  asked me "have you had a direct experience of the VOID?!"

"Damn!". I thought.  The stark horror in his voice didn't incline me to want to do any such thing.

Unlike Jimmy, at that point I had not spend much time with the Teachers and Teachings of the Tibetan tradition where the term the Void (or Great Void) seemed to be more commonly bandied about.  Although I'd read a couple of translations of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, my wanderings through the Yankee Dharma world of the 70's and 80's had primarily been focused on Zen -- and the Hippie Zen of Stephen Gaskin.

Like Jimmy, though, I had then been drawn to practice with the folks at IMS, who drew their inspiration and practice from teachers in the Theravadan tradition where Nirvana was, perhaps, seemingly a more palatable ultimate destination for practitioners.

Little did I know.

As I've come to see, there really is no destination!

Empty Promises

The term shunyata, most commonly translated as "emptiness" or "voidness" seems to freak a lot of folks out.  At age 69, having continued to peer into this particular diamond from every direction imaginable, it's become quite clear to me that the teachings regarding shunyata, expressed through the teachings of Pema Chodron and others -- and another 25 years of taking time to sit still doing nothing on the zafu most every day -- have been gently and inexorably transforming my heart's desire to truly serve from aspiration to moments of realization, from theory into an ongoing Practice.

In a recent on-line course, Pema Chodron used the term "positive groundlessness" to try to capture in words what the actual heart of shunyata may be.  At the time she said she wasn't convinced she'd continue to use that term, she was just "trying it out."  (That, in itself, is a great teaching.)  The term actually works for me just fine these days.  I often find a sense of wonder and great joy as I relax, more and more, into the exquistite free fall of Life as it is.

Life as it is?