"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 14, 2016

Child's Play

“The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind.”
― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind 

"I tell all of you with certainty, unless you change and become like little children, 
you will never get into the kingdom of heaven."
--Jesus, Matthew 18:3, ISV

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain and crisp, cool air floating through the windows alongside my bed.  Un-detered, the crickets and katydids of late summer sang their parts in the pre-dawn symphony as I rolled over and set the alarm to 6:30 a.m to give myself a couple of more hours of sleep.  Moments later, I rolled over again and turned the alarm off.  Although I had thought otherwise, I was ready -- or so I'd thought. I got up and sat down to the laptop to stare at a blank screen -- and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

After awhile, I got up again, set the timer, walked over to the altar in the corner of my bedroom,  lit a stick of incense and Sat down in front of a different blank screen.  I meditated.

Now, an hour later, I'm ready -- I think.

A Tea Party: Zen Style

There is a well known story from the Meiji era (1868-1912) about a prominent university professor who visited master Nan-in to inquire about Zen.  As the professor prattled on, demonstrating his vast knowledge of Buddhist philosophy and doctrine, the master began pouring his guest a cup of tea.  He then continued pouring as the cup overflowed onto the table and floor.  No longer able to restrain himself, the professor shouted, "Stop. The cup is overfull! No more will go in!".  Nan-in replied, "You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you'll have to empty your cup." 

Although I first read that story in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones back in 1970,  I now realize I had only glimpsed the rim of that empty cup.  Even as a 24 year old, fresh out of college and engaged in my first year of teaching school, I certainly "got" that there is a difference between the accumulation of knowledge and actual wisdom.  By then, I'd run into factory workers during my seven years of summer employment that appeared to have a better handle on the Real Deal  than my college professors. I also sensed from the story that arrogance probably wasn't going to cut it with a Zen master.  (I've personally had the opportunity to have that verified a number of times over the years.  Sigh.)

Little did I know, though, that this teaching, like the coffee down at Dolly's Diner, was being served in a bottomless cup.  
Be Like Little Children

This week, I had the opportunity to again explore the 6th slogan of the Lojong Teachings: "In post-meditation, be a child of illusion."   (I also had hours of playtime with Betsy's five year old twin grandchildren).  One of the most haunting of the 59 aphorisms that make up this Tibetan Buddhist system of mind training, it is also, perhaps, one of the most radical.  It seemingly flies in the face of conventional "wisdom".  Rather than exhorting us to "grow up and get real", we are encouraged, instead, to recapture the open and spacious sense of wonder that characterizes the mind of the child as we arise from our meditation cushion to move through the day to day activity of our lives.  Imagine!

As Mindfulness Practice develops and we become more acutely aware of the fluidity and transparent nature of our own thoughts and emotions, the ephemeral nature of "mind stuff"
becomes more obvious.  With Practice, our perspective widens and deepens, and in that gracious spaciousness of deepened Awareness, something shifts. 

At a certain point, we see for ourselves that "reality" is not all that solid, and that the boundary between imagination and perception is not as hard and fast as we were led to believe. In fact, much of what we experience is actually an inverted form of "make believe".  What we believe tends to make it so.  Conditioned as our minds are by conventional society, what we "know" is not only limited by the organic limitations of our sensory apparatus, it is largely a function of the stories that we have accumulated, consciously and unconsciously, throughout the course of our lives.

With Practice, we come to see that these stories are no more substantial than fairy tales, maybe even less so.  At a certain point, we come to know for ourselves that what we see and react to are usually our own interpretations of reality -- not Reality itself.  We come to know that who we are and what we see "out there" are so much more than we had thought.  As we touch the Ineffable directly, a deep sense of wonder --and humility --opens.  We begin to "not know" more comfortably and approach our moment to moment experience with deep curiosity.

At that point, we realize that the most adult thing we can do, perhaps, is to be childish -- at least some of the time.  Although there is a conventional world to work with (there are bills to pay and garbage to take out, after all), the good news is that we have access to the same consciousness we had as children.  We can be Present, right here, right now with a sense of wonder and delight. 

With our hearts and minds open and clear, we can then be be more imaginative with the fabric of our Life. Realizing that we are all co-creating the reality we share, we can choose to weave a much more interesting tapestry, one that resonates with the One Love at the Heart of Being. On and off the zafu, we can each take time to "imagine all the people living lives of peace" -- and do our own small part to bring it about. 

How cool is that?

It just takes Practice.
(* The visualization practices of Tibetan Buddhism and other spiritual traditions, like prayer, are are actually mechanisms that harness the power of imagination to prime the pump of reality in the desired direction, one that resonates with Primordial Wisdom. ) 

Originally Posted August, 2014. Revised 


Unknown said...

Awesome stuff Lance, much thanks, love and gratitude brother!
Brandon Brown

Conveyance Doctor said...

Thanks for the reminder, Lance! Example of the reverse of your article: Yesterday I received an e-mail with one word in the subject field, "CALL." The entire e-mail message was, "I'll call you at 2:30 today." The e-mail was from my boss. Can you imagine what I imagined until that call came? My thoughts, underlying stories, emotions created worry. I accepted that worry to have value. Not "Childish" in any sense of the word. I forgot...today you reminded me. Thanks.