"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, December 23, 2017

The Grave Matter of Life and Death

Let me respectfully remind you:
Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken.
 Awaken!  Take heed!  
Do not squander your life
-- The Zen Evening Gatha

Daniel Atilio "Danny" Cruz
July 30, 1992 - December 13, 2017

I think it is clear.  Danny Cruz, who blessed us with his committed Presence in the Wednesday Mindfulness Circle, did not squander his life. 

Although the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy that ultimately ended his precious life at age 25 may have limited the freedom of his body, Danny was the quintessential Free Spirit.  His creativity, energy, revolutionary zeal, and passion for life appeared to be limitless.  

Through his copious artwork, through his unbridled musical expression with the Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth, and, perhaps even more importantly,  through his many encounters with members of his beloved community, Danny's upbeat exuberance and good will were boundless.  

It touched all those knew him.  

Chogyam Trungpa once described the Crazy Wisdom that is revered in that school of Tibetan Buddhism as "an innocent state of mind that has the quality of early morning—fresh, sparkling, and completely awake. " 

The ten thousand volt sparkle I often saw in Danny's eyes comes to mind.

The fresh, unfiltered honesty and the immensity of Danny's goodwill towards others were extraordinary.  Although many of us experienced shock at the suddenness of his death, and grieve the loss of his Presence on this plane of existence, the Generosity of Spirit that Danny exuded freely transcends his death.  

It still touches us.  

Although I, admittedly, rolled my eyes when Danny described himself as a Zen Master in our first encounter in the Wednesday Mindfulness Circle, over these past years I came to appreciate the unique nature of his Mastery.   It manifested in his ability to stay positive in the midst of circumstances that would have crushed the spirits of many.  It manifested in his unwavering aspiration -- and unparalleled ability -- to Connect with those around him.  It manifested in his ability to rise, again and again, to the defense of anyone or anything that had been criticized in his Presence.  

Like any Zen Teacher worth his salt, Danny ceaselessly challenged the concepts and attachments that serve to separate us from ourselves, from one another, and from the Miracle of the Present Moment.  I learned a lot with Danny in the Circle.

Jai Guru Dev Danny Jai 

Healing Into Life and Death

There is no doubt about it:  Losing a loved one is extremely painful.   Yet, taking the time and making the space to mourn can be a deep and richly empowering Practice.  As one of my teacher's once said "honest grief is a noble thing."  I'm grateful that it has allowed me to maintain the Connection with Danny beyond his physical death.
The process of opening the heart fully to the death of a loved one can be a Holy Experience, connecting us to the One Love that embraces both Life and Death.  It is there we are Healed.  This is, I believe, exactly what Yogi Jesus was getting at when he proclaimed "Blessed be those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."  

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Attitude of Gratitude

Since childhood, holidays have been difficult for me.  I always intuited that something Spiritual was hovering nearby, beckoning.  Yet it remained hidden in the shadows cast by the dazzling lights and the hollowness of the widespread, often drunken, merriment.  A child senses these things.  The disparity between "the way it's 'spozed to be" and "the way it is" was striking.

I suppose that it was no surprise that the approach of Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago brought my identical twin brother Lefty to the computer to share his thoughts on the traditional American holiday, in a post entitled "Thanks -- but No Thanks." It seems he couldn't face the traditional Thanksgiving mythology without pointing to the stark reality of our collective history.  He then headed out to Plymouth to participate in the 48th National Day of Mourning, sponsored by the United American Indians of New England.  (You can find his thoughts before he headed out there at Rambling On with Brother Lefty Smith, S.O.B.*).

I suppose I could expand on his offering to go on a rant about the lack of spiritual values present amidst the commercial insanity of Black Friday as well.

But I won't.  

Although gazing fearlessly at the darkness in our world (and in ourselves) is crucial, sometimes it is wise to change the channel.  Rather than incessantly spin our wheels in the mud of our own mayhem and misery, it can be quite helpful at times to consciously turn our gaze toward those things that light up our livesAs Thich Nhat Hanh once said, "suffering is not enough." 

At this moment, I am grateful to acknowledge this as True.  No matter what the darkness brings, there are ALWAYS good things to acknowledge.  I wrote about the Saving Grace of Gratitude during the Holiday Season back in 2013. I've reworked it a bit here, and would like to share it with you again today.
One Love,

Originally published November 29, 2013 (Revised)  
"A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself 
in order to give in the measure as I have received
and am still receiving.”  
-- Albert Einstein

 "Be grateful to everyone."
-- The 13th slogan of the Lojong Trainings

I'm sometimes amazed -- and quite often amused -- as I observe my heart/mind merrily floating down the stream of consciousness.   

Today, I stared for quite awhile at the blank New Post screen here on this old Mac laptop.   Trying to connect with a theme for this week's musings, I just sat -- and waited.

Not unlike the Soto Zen practice of Shikantaza,  I held my torso upright, aware of my body, my breath, and an open field of spacious awareness.  Poised here with a precise, but relaxed attention, hands on the home row of the laptop instead of the formal zazen mudra, I waited -- profoundly curious about what might emerge.  

Breathing in.  Breathing out...

Blank screen.

Breathing in.  Breathing out... 

Blank screen.

Then, in time, the word "gratitude" appeared in my mind's ear and I was off and running -- or surfing, rather.  Wandering around the worldwide web for awhile, I traced the word "gratitude" along various strands of thought, trying all the while not to loose the original thread. 

And Then...!


I'm now sitting here with my chest heaving, tears rolling down my cheeks.  As the tears continue to flow, images of the crooner/actor Bing Crosby in his role as freakin' Father O'Malley play across the screen at My Mind's Memory Lane Theater.  (I'm sure this dates me as the septuagenarian I am. LOL)

How in the world did I end up here?  

Breathing in.  Breathing out...