"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, March 31, 2018

Nothing Special. No Big Deal: Part Two

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”  
-- Rumi

There's a first time for everything.  

Looking closely, I suppose there is a last time for everything as well.  Each unique moment arises and passes away within the flow of eternity quite distinctly, so quickly that we can't actually grasp it at all no matter how hard we try.  

With any luck at all, we can notice it, though.  And, it seems to me, this is where the Real Magic exists.

This is the first time since I took on the task of scribing a weekly blog piece that I actually set myself up to continue writing about a "theme"the next week.  Usually I finish a piece and let it go.  Then when the next Blog Practice morning rolls around, I pull out the laptop and start fresh.  Sometimes I might have a theme in mind, or I've latched onto a title or a quote as a starting point before I begin.  Often, I just sit facing a blank screen -- and wait.

This week it's different.  

I came to a point last week where I realized there was much more to say about the notion that there is really Nothing Special, that each moment of experience is No Big Deal.  There was no way that I could keep the post at a reasonable length.  (Some of my friends have already complained that they are too darn long)  At that point, I scrolled up to the title window and typed a colon and P-a-r-t  O-n-e.  When I hit publish, I knew my goose was cooked. 

What the hell I was thinking?

Looking back to that post, I saw that I wasn't satisfied with having proclaimed that in my Heart of Hearts I believed that everyone and everything should be loved and appreciated --and then immediately went on to say that this was No Big Deal. It seemed that had come awfully close to proclaiming that the manifestation of Unconditional Love was Nothing Special.  Another way of saying that could be that God is No Big Deal.  That sounds a bit blasphemous, huh. 

And yet, as I Sit here this morning with the sun playing hide and seek with the clouds in a crisp blue sky,

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Nothing Special, No Big Deal: Part One

"If nothing is special, everything can be."
-- Charlotte "Joko" Beck

"Though my heart burns like a glowing hot coal, my eyes are as cold as dead ashes"
-- Zen teacher Soyen Saku

March is still being march as time marches on towards April showers.   Gazing into the the National Weather Service's 10 Day Crystal Ball we've got it all: below freezing overnights, snow showers, rain, cloudy days, sunny days, and if the prediction holds (which it probably won't), I'm peering at a sunny day at the end of the tunnel promising 58°! 

Sitting here, I can readily imagine myself generating all sorts of soliloquies about the weather again.  With the world through the window now a pastel landscape of organic brown tones and pale blue skies, my mind could take center stage to create any number of rants about the specter of global climate change.  There certainly appears to be ample scientific evidence to indicate we're stewing in our own petrochemical juices, and it is an important issue to contemplate. 

On the other hand, having suffered through some sort of respiratory bug several times this season, I could narrow my horizons and spin off fantasies of personal climate change and dreams of moving my tail to a gentler and significantly warmer clime.  The delightful monkeys of monkey mind have spent a number hours in that jungle, playing with the thoughts and the imagery of such a move.

Yet, when I just return to this present moment with all my senses engaged, feeling the sensations  of my breath and body as I sit here, watching the tapestry of soft color outside the window, listening to the deep, deep silence occasionally augmented by a car hissing by or the twitter of a bird outside the window, it is quite easy to let go of those particular story lines. Just Sitting Still and letting the thoughts drift away, there is no problem.  Life is quite beautiful, right here and now.  This moment is sweetly sufficient as it is.

The weather?  No big deal.  It simply is. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Just a Few Thoughts

"One can appreciate and celebrate each moment -- there is nothing more sacred.
There is nothing more vast and absolute.  In fact, there is nothing more."
-- Pema Chödron, 
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. 
Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

March Snow 2014
March is definitely being March here in western Massachusetts.  Lions and lambs continue to chase one another in circles as we are teased with mild days, then pummeled with various wintry mixes.  

Tonight, the hilltowns to the west of us will plunge toward zero degrees again, as the National Weather Service predicts a steamy 12° for us.  This is a week or so after I spent an afternoon in shirtsleeves.


And then there's always the March SNOW(s)!  Although the last two Nor'easters managed to spare the Pioneer Valley, Mother Nature will continue to do as she does.  If history repeats itself, we could still get some real snow before She rolls up her sleeves and gets serious about her Spring chores.  There's a lot of greening to be done.

Then again, maybe we won't get anymore snow before then.  Then again, maybe...

"Thinking, thinking." Ah.

I was thinking up a storm.  Tending to to speculate, fantasize, judge, compare, exaggerate, "thinking mind" can create all sorts of story lines about the weather -- or anything else imaginable.  All too often, it's just another snow job.  Much ado about nothing.  Yet most of us do it, most of the time.

Time to sit back and take a deep breath.

When I pause to gaze at the sun and shadows playing across the tawny world outside the window, there is an immediate shift.  When I open to the sounds of the birds twittering, the wind whispering through leafless trees, and the surf-like sounds of the traffic humming along High Street -- when I let go of the story lines, come to my senses, and feel myself sitting here breathing, the world immediately expands.  Not constrained by the fetters of thought, Life becomes vast and wondrous.

 This happens every time I pause and stop typing.  

(You could, perhaps, pause here for a moment or two and open up to those other channels of your own experience right now before moving on to click  (READ MORE)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

How Sweet It Is

"Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment.
It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation."
 --  Rabindranath Tagore

"What you seek is seeking you!"
-- Rumi

When I woke up that morning over 50 years ago, I had no idea that the trajectory of my life through time and space would be very much determined that afternoon.

It was the summer of 1965.  I had just finished my freshman year in college and was back home in a small town north of Chicago, working in a factory again for the summer.  As I had done for several summers, I  gave myself a $5/week "entertainment" budget and saved the rest to fund my education.  I spent three of that week's dollars in a matter of moments at a table of used books at the Lion's Club White Elephant sale in the small park near the center of town.

For years now, I've realized that two of the books that I bought that day had a profound influence on me. The first, The Wisdom of Buddha, published by a Buddhist organization in Japan was my first introduction to Buddhism.  When I flipped it open and scanned a few pages, I thought, "Wow.  That's interesting.  This sounds like what Jesus was teaching in the Bible!" This began the exploration of Buddhist teachings and practices that was to inspire and sustain me over the years.

The second book was another small tome, The Wisdom of Gandhi.  Deeply touched by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, I had read that Dr. King had been deeply touched by Gandhi.  That was good enough for me.  Poking my nose into that book immediately brought forth another 20% of that week's allocated "mad money," and set the tenor and tone of my life's political activism.

It was only today, after a powerful experience yesterday evening, that I remembered that there was a third book I bought that afternoon. 

Connecting the Dots

I had climbed in front of the computer to begin work on this week's post with the thought that a number of recent posts have focused on the importance of contemplating the inevitability of death (Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:"Reality Asserts Itself",
Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call: The End Game).  Although this contemplation is, I think, quite fundamental in sustaining a commitment to Practice, there is the flip side: the cultivation of a deep awareness of the utter Preciousness of Life. 

In fact, if you use the Four Reminders of the Lojong Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism as a frame of reference, those posts had put the proverbial cart before the horse.  An awareness of the reality that life ends is actually the Second Reminder of Point One of the seven training points that encompass this series of 59 training slogans.  (For more, see A Layman Looks at Lojong.)

The First Reminder, as translated by Chogyam Trungpa is: "Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life."  This contemplation, when taken to Heart, can change everything. Those moments in which we personally experience the Preciousness of Life are worth the price of admission, which in this case is free, but may require some time and effort.  (Contemplation doesn't mean thinking about something for a minute and then having your mind scurry on to an unrelated focal point.)

Sitting there at the computer, allowing my mind to flow gently down the stream of this contemplation, relaxing to soak in the Preciousness of Life, a title for this post emerged: How Sweet It Is!

I had no idea where that would lead.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

One Love, One Heart

“In Chinese, the word for heart and mind is the same -- Hsin.
 For when the heart is open and the mind is clear 
they are of one substance, of one essence.” 
-- Stephen Levine

"Love is not what we become but who we already are."
-- Stephen Levine

This has been one of those times.  The computer screen sat here and stared blankly at me for quite awhile. Neither of us seemed to have a clue as to what today's "MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call" might be.

I slept in this morning for the first time in quite awhile.  Although I did awaken at around 5:30 as usual, I read for a bit, then turned over and did  "dozing meditation" in and out of dreams and sleep until 9:45!  I guess being sick for a while, then hustling through days of catching up with everything except sleep finally caught up with me. 

Having dragged myself out of bed so late, I noticed feelings and thoughts emerge that tended towards making a decision to skip this morning's Sit.  It was late. The sunlight and the hiss of traffic on High Street outside the window beckoned me to pack up the laptop and right head down to Greenfield Coffee.   In this scenario, I'd quaff some coffee and sit right down with the laptop to begin this week's blog post.  I was late, after all.  There were many things on the to do list.  There were lots of reasons to keep moving.

I Sat instead.

These days settling into that one hour morning meditation comes quite naturally most the time.  Sometimes, like today, a real "decision" has to be made.  I need to whomp up a bit of discipline.  I didn't feel like Sitting.  I had to stand in the way of my own momentum.  I actually had my hand on the door handle before pausing and taking a deep  breath.  I then turned around, and headed back to the altar. 

Usually, though,  the momentum of a Life of Practice usually just carries me along like an autumn leaf floating on the surface of a dancing brook under a clear blue sky.  Life flows on.  It's nightime, then it's morning.  I awake. I get up, go pee, I Sit.  The real "decision" was made a long time ago.