"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, January 20, 2019

Reality Asserts Itself

Gazing at tonight's Super Blood Wolf Moon sail into a sky that promises sub-zero wind chills before morning, I recalled a post written after a similar night five years ago.  Have a look?
One Love,

"Delight in itself is the approach of sanity. Delight is to open our eyes to the reality of the situation rather than siding with this or that point of view."
— Chögyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom

"Please understand, you have inherent in your very Mind a huge potential, an incalculable brilliance, an ability to see the reality of this moment clearly."
-- Harada Roshi, opening talk,
Rohatsu Sesshin, Sogenji Monastery, 2011

My Little Corner of the World
An old coot, I rarely sleep through the night these days.

Generally, at least once a night, I have to roll out of bed and walk a few steps into the adjoining room. There, I participate in one aspect of this Grand Recyling Project known in some circles as Samsara.  

Then, depending on a multitude of factors ranging from things like the phases of the moon, to what happens to be on my mind that night, I usually plop right back into bed and meditate back to sleep, often catching a few dream bubbles along the way.

Sometimes, something else happens.

Last night, as I crawled into bed, I heard the winds howling outside the window.  I then felt a bit of coolness on my skin as a draft found its way under the blanket that hangs over the window alongside my bed for nights like these.  

Curious, I pulled a corner of the blanket up to take a peek. 

I was awestruck.

Outside the windows, the wind howled eerily as the stark silhouettes of winter's barren trees danced wildly in the moonlight.  Not to be outdone, their shadows played across the blue-white snow of the yard beyond the gardens.  Under the influence of a brilliant moon that was only a sliver past full, the entire world outside the window was luminous.  It seemed to glow from within.

Thoughts, being incapable of grasping the majesty of the moment, became irrelevant.  They just went on their merry way unattended -- leaving wonder and sheer delight in their wake.  

I was all eyes and ears.  Mindful Awareness did it's thing.

Transfixed, I don't know how long I was Present for that particular miracle.   It seems that Time had called "time out," and was huddling with the Timeless.  At some point though, the buzzer sounded, and samsara resumed play.  Tired, I let the blanket fall back across the window and rolled over.  

Grinning ear to ear, I stretched out, relaxed, and returned to sleep. 

Upon Awakening

As beautiful as the scene outside my window was last night, I also knew its stark reality.  

According to the National Weather Service, the raw temperature at 4 a.m at a small airport near here was -13°F.  The windchill was -22°.  Given different circumstances, that scene I gazed at outside the window wouldn't have been delightful.  It would been deadly.  Unprotected, I could have died out there -- and the trees and wind and moon would've just danced on. 

In the grand scope of things, that's the deal:  Life itself is always a deadly proposition.  It's a terminal condition.  Nobody gets outta here alive.
The Facts of the Matter

We are each born.  We each die.  

Most of us have grown up in a society that tries to assiduously avoid those facts.  As a result, an incredible amount of psychic energy is bottled up in repressed fear and grief, or dissipated in vicarious "entertainment" and adrenaline rush "recreation". 

It's unfortunate.  

The denial of death creates an incredible lack of perspective -- and focus.  If we are willing, instead, to fast-forward ahead to see that the screen inevitably reads THE END, we can then decide whether we are playing the current scene in a way that makes any sense at all.   IMHO, a lot of mindless activity, pettiness, and unnecessary foofaraw would dissolve immediately if the Big Picture were brought into view.  

In the Buddhist tradition, the inevitability of Death is seen as a fundamental truth that, once faced, enlarges and deepens our motivation and capacity to realize our True Nature.  Reminders are widespread among the chants and teachings of the various schools.

When I was in residence at Zen Mountain Monastery years ago, the Eno (chant leader) would recite the Evening Gatha at the end of each day's final meditation service.  With dark eyes flashing, she ardently delivered the traditional exhortation:

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.

Reality asserts itself.  

The Zendo at Zen Mountain Monastery
Although the passionate "striving" to Awaken that was evoked in the stirring words of the Evening Gatha years ago has been transformed through another fifteen years of Practice into a heartfelt aspiration that is cradled in much gentler arms, the bottom line is clear:
I Practice because it's a matter of Life and Death.  

Rather than freak me out, this realization enables me to connect often with a larger perspective, and it elicits a commitment and discipline that flows from something so deep in my heart that it is beyond me.  A Boundless Truth beyond words seems to buoy me.  I call it the One Love these days.  

Others, like Uchiyama Roshi, simply call it Life.  

In its embrace, I'm blessed with Great Delight and Clarity at times -- and plenty of opportunity to explore my own ignorance, angst, and confusion at other times.   More and more, although different, those moments are experienced as the warp and woof of the same Grand Tapestry.  At this stage of journey, I realize that all I can do is weave together the various strands with as much diligence and kindness as I can muster each moment.  

It's all Practice. 

I can live -- and die -- with that. 

Originally Posted, January 2015. Revised.


KD said...

Beautifully written. Thank you. I’m once again inspired by your writing.
Yes . To be awake long enough to enjoy the inherent ecstasy in the fabric of life. It awaits our discovery. Will we be awake or still sleeping? Is that the deepest root of our fear? Waking up by shedding the non important distractions proves a worthy path for those willng to let stillness be the sword. Illusion is eager to speak. Let it go on by and allow the faint whisper of “one love” to be the sound that calls to us. The raw and simple beauty of life both visual and felt is impermanent. We can not make it linger, it is already always there. Shall we be awake enough to enjoy awe and wonder? Shall we be still enough, long enough to know? In our one microscopic view of the world we are given a privilege to see outwardly. We are invited to go inwardly in sorrow, in loss and in prayer. Do we know what we are looking at? Will we be awake enough to capture the visual luminosity of everything once and again? and again?
Is the luminosity fleeting or are we changing? Duality of thought shortens our vision as it does our breathing. It is persistent. Our eyes make for small windows that are capable of peering into the infinite.Outward and inward. Privilege.
Expanded consciousness allows prescious and fleeting “seeing” with its dazzle and promise of more liberation and more beauty. Wisdom grows from out of the silences in stillness. Life is found in all the spaces between thoughts.The space between moments of impermanence. Change. Ebb and flow. Life. Death.
Our work is to unlearn the fear of not being able to “keep” a falling star, to understand we cannot put it in our pocket for a rainy day. Meanwhile we become aware that we are Stardust....& we are connected and we are impermanent and fear wasn’t skillful at helping us know what to do or not to do.

Sam said...

To have the knowledge rooted deep within that we are eternal is a strong take on reality that all, at some point struggle to accept or wrap around fully and completely. Not like holding money in hand, jewels, property and other impermanence of this time spent here in flesh and blood. We are geared to see, feel, taste, and touch to believe.
Nice lines I heard lately. "we are all from the same electricity lighting up different bulbs." and...."to be human and to be hurt are the same thing."
Our power is in our emotions and thoughts. I have to lean on the fact though, that we get out alive. We choose how awake or alive by how well we connect with our emotions and thoughts while in this state of flesh and blood. Death is not reality it's a learned word of society to cause confusion and pain in thoughts and emotions. This I believe to be truth. To each their own thoughts and emotions to help them find their own way back to the oneness from which they came, hopefully more in-tuned from having spent time here exercising the study o love.