"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, July 31, 2016

Heart Communication

“The intimacy that arises in listening and speaking truth is only possible 
if we can open to the vulnerability of our own hearts. ”
--- Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others 
and relieve others of their suffering....."
--- Thich Nhat Hanh
from the Fourth Precept of  the Tien Tiep Order

A friend who attended  the MMM Circle for the first time this week was struck by the openness displayed in the Circle that morning.

"Folks were so honest" she said with her eyes glowing,  "-- painfully honest!" 

I smiled and thought, "Whoo hoo!" 

At that moment, I feel a deep gratitude for what emerges in the Mindfulness Circles each week.  

The opportunity to converse openly and honestly about what is nearest to our hearts and soul is a rare and precious thing today.  In the hustle bustle of our prototypically materialistic society, comparing notes on the Spiritual dimension of our lives doesn't happen all that much.  In fact, when I was a kid we were told not to ever talk about religion--or politics. 

Obviously, I didn't follow the rules.  I majored in political science in college--and have been an avid student of Spirituality for a long, long time.  The wisdom teachings that arise in the mystical traditions of all the world's religions and how they play out in the reality of our day to day lives in this world is profoundly interesting to me.  I can't think of anything I'd rather yak about.

Of course, communication, in it's true sense, is much more than conversation.  Communication happens on many levels.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I Swear

"I vow to understand living beings and their suffering, 
to cultivate compassion and loving kindness,
and to practice joy and equanimity."
Thich Nhat Hanh, from "Refuge Poem"

"Give me an F.....
Give me a U.............."
Country Joe McDonald, Introduction to "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag"

I swear.  Sometimes a lot.  It can be embarrassing. 

Although I usually refrain from allowing those "four letter words" to roll out of my mouth when I'm upset, the closer I get to a spontaneous expression of awe and joy and gratitude for the Absolute Wonder of Life, the more likely am I to launch forth an "F bomb" -- usually in its forms as an adjective or adverb. 
(For example: How F***ing cool is that?)

I guess, more than anything, this tendency to be somewhat foul-mouthed shows my true colors.  I am the prototypical product of the 1960's.  I was a high school freshman in 1960 and I graduated from college in 1969.  Words that burned my ears at age 13 rolled out of my mouth freely when I was 23.  Although I began practicing yoga and meditation during that final year of the decade, it didn't seem to effect the language that had become part of my normal vocabulary during my years in college.

To a whole bunch of us back then, napalm seemed profane and obscene.  Launching F bombs?  Not so much.  

In fact, "colorful" language, like colorful clothing, long hair,  and psychotropic drugs, was an integral part of the youth culture.  We were intent on breaking the monochrome norms of a mainstream society that appeared to be worshipping the false gods of materialism, competition, consumerism, environmental degradation and warfare.  So called "polite society" was praising Jesus in one breath and supporting the extermination of people halfway around the planet with the other.  


We chose, instead,  to pursue a life based on the values of freedom, peace and love.  For many of us, "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven" wasn't just something that folks were supposed to recite in church on Sunday.  We believed we were supposed to be living that way every day as best we could!   

And, as opposed to those folks who we saw as the purveyors of hypocritical peity,  we were intent on having some serious fun along the way.  A bit of "foul mouth" sometimes spiced things up.  As one of my guiding lights, the late Stephen Gaskin, put it at the time: "We're out to raise hell -- in the Bodhisattvic sense."  

So, how does swearing fit into this picture?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Take a Hike, Buddhy

"Some people say that only walking on burning coals or walking on spikes or on water are miracles, but I find that simply walking on the earth is a miracle. 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, "A Guide to Walking Meditation

"I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, 
works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster 
than the speed of thought or thoughtfulness.”
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking 

This morning's meditation was buzzy.  

 It was one of those days when even a moment or two of clear and calm awareness, unconstrained by the prattle of discursive monkey-mind, was greatly appreciated.  

For the most part though, it seemed like I was doing a mantra practice more than Mindfulness Practice.   Unfortunately, the chosen mantra wasn't something exalted like the Tibetan Buddhist Om Mani Padme Hum.  It was the mental note, "thinking, thinking," repeated over and over.  

And over.  

And over again.

Saved by the Bell

The hour lasted a long time.  I felt a bit like a dazed prizefighter hanging onto the ropes waiting for the bell.  It finally did ring.   (I had my doubts...)   I put my hands in gassho, recited my vows, stood up -- and shook it off.  After all, I've learned over the years that there really is no such thing as a "bad" meditation.  It's all time on task, slowly and carefully cultivating the ability to see and feel our experience fully -- and accept it for what it is: Nothing more, nothing less than Life itself.

As it turned out, this was one of the mornings that my choice to give up a personal vehicle was worth its weight in gold.  My journey into Greenfield for the daily #OMG! Noon Meditation Vigil* often involves a stroll of .3 mile down a country road to catch a bus into town.  Today, that walk was an absolute blessing.  It allowed me to connect quite directly with the Ongoing Miracle.  

Mindful of body and breath, mindful of the sensations of sight and sound and smell, I finally got out of my head and came to my senses.  It again became obvious that the Pure Land of Amitabha and the Kingdom of Heaven aren't merely something to look forward to when we die.  They are to be experienced in this very life.

The Joy of Walking

Walking meditation is widespread among the various traditions of Buddhism.  I see reflections

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Trouble in Mind

"Trouble in mind, babe, I'm blue,
but I won't be blue always
Yes, the sun gonna shine,
in my back door someday
-- Big Bill Broonzy, "Trouble in Mind"

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent,
dynamic nature of your own being and of reality,
you increase your capacity to love and care about other people
and your capacity to not be afraid."
-- Pema Chödrön, Practicing Peace in Times of War

I regularly Sit for an hour each morning.  I have no idea at this point whether this is a sign of an advanced practice, personal inadequacy, or addiction.  It's become a habit.  I just do it.

Over the years I've learned that labeling a particular meditation session "good" or "bad" is missing the point.  Although I certainly notice my own tendency to prefer the pleasant sensations of a particularly bright, calm and spacious quality of consciousness over the claustrophobic feeling tones of a doom and gloom melodrama or the buzzy feeling of endless discursive prattle, it is precisely there that Practice really begins.  Can i just sit with the experience, taste it fully,  and gently open further to accept whatever is happening?

I suppose this is a primary lesson of Mindfulness 101: A whole lot of needless suffering seems to emerge from our conditioned habit of mindlessly grasping onto the pleasant and reflexively rejecting the unpleasant.  Bringing that entire process into the light of Mindfulness, opening to the fluidity of our own actual experience and the underlying energies involved, a new world of possibility emerges.

As we bring Mindfulness to the present moment sometimes we see quite clearly that the "trouble in mind" is just that.  It is "mindstuff", quite ephemeral.  Oftentimes, it is just held in place by the narrative dominating our thinking.  As we let go of what Pema Chödrön* calls "the story line", the underlying feelings can be experienced as the changing, shifting energies that they are. Sometimes, just noticing that I'm thinking has changed things immediately.  I've seen the blues dissolve and the sun return to my back door in an instant.  

Yet, more frequently,  there are more deeply troubled waters involved.  Mindfulness Practice then becomes a bridge