"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 30, 2019

Once Upon a Time

“The Buddha’s principal message that day was
that holding on to anything blocks wisdom.
Any conclusion that we draw must be let go." 
---Pema Chodron

"Don't know.  Straight ahead."
Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn, 1927-2004
Founder, Providence Zen Center

The irony is exquisite.  

I'm sitting here at the laptop poised to sprinkle some thoughts across the screen in an effort to capture the essence of the thought that thoughts can't really capture the Essence. 

To be honest, after choosing the two quotes for this post, my next thought was, "Ah, I'll just leave it at that, choose a graphic, and hit "send." But, that seemed a bit too cutesy.   It smacked of what Roshi Daido Loori used to call the "stink of Zen."

I am, after all, making an attempt to live what Roshi Kosho Uchiyama characterized as "a life of vow."  As well as the Bodhisattva Vow and a number of other personal commitments that frame my life, I've committed to publishing a weekly post here in cyberspace -- although for quite some time I've been going back through a couple of hundred previously written posts and polishing them up.  

When I pause to think about it, it seems to me that a set of commitments is all that I really have to bring to the plate.  The rest is in the hands of the Cosmic Pitcher.   All I can really do is commit to showing up, step up to the plate, and then take my best swing if it appears to be in the strike zone -- or let it go by if it ain't.  (Egads, I'm thinking in baseball metaphors. It must be Spring!)

And here's the Pitch.....

Saturday, March 23, 2019

A Love Affair

“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. 
You're able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open.
 ― Pema Chödrön, 
Practicing Peace in Times of War

We now see that the only way that we could love ourselves is by loving others, 
and the only way that we could truly love others is to love ourselves. 
The difference between self-love and love of others is very small, 
once we really understand.”
― Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion: 
Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong

As I've mentioned before, here and elsewhere, I think the Hippies actually had it right.  It IS all about Peace, Love, and Freedom.

Although most of us were too young and crazy to pull it off at the time, many of us had been to the mountain top to be touched by the One Love during that era's Collective KenshoWe saw the Real Deal.  

But seeing that-- and even believing that -- isn't enough.

The task of freeing ourselves to BE a peaceful and loving human being became the Mission -- and we quickly learned that it is no mean feat.  It takes deep commitment, effort, discipline, courage and patience.

It takes Practice.

In the Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist worlds the term "Love" isn't generally used to refer to the Ultimate State of Being. They approach the Ineffable with different concepts and understandings. I think that is actually helpful to us Westerners.  We are pretty sloppy with the word "love". 

For us, the word "love" is quite ambiguous.  In English, what we call "love" can be a warm glow that emerges from the ethereal domain of unconditional, unselfish agape, or it can be the fiery emotion that erupts from the nether realms of green eyed monsters and wrathful, jealous gods.  It's pretty clear that "I love you so much that I'll kill anyone who looks at you, and then you," isn't exactly what Jesus and Buddha had in mind when they taught about Love, right?  
So, it seems that a bit more precision would be helpful, no?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

When You Wish Upon a Star

"Fate is kind.
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing."
-- from "When You Wish Upon A Star" 
Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, 1940

The important point is to realize that you are never off duty.”
-- Chogyam Trungpa

Sometimes, it seems like a previous lifetime.  

Fifteen years ago, I sat on the front porch of an A-frame perched on a ridge at Zen Mountain Monastery gazing at a star-filled Catskill Mountain sky.  At that point, I was certain that I was going to leave. 

I had absolutely no idea what my next move would be, though.

For decades, I had thought, "once the kids are grown, I can finally DO IT!" I would leave the chaos of contemporary life and head for the hills.  There I'd find the Teacher and a sangha -- and really get spiritual. 

Now, after only six months of residency, I knew I was done.

So much for that idea.  Now what? 


Although I had, again, experienced a number of deep "openings" in the cauldron of Zen Training as envisioned by Roshi John Daido Loori, I discovered that the rigid, hard-driving, and unabashedly hierarchical nature of the Roshi's "Eight Gates of Zen Training" didn't ring true for me.  A peace activist, I placed a high value on egalitarianism and the shared power experienced in consensus democracy.  I knew that a monastic life wasn't going to be that.   Yet, I believed that I was ready to get with the program.

I wasn't. 

Though I respected many of the folks involved, and saw that the monastic life appeared to work for some, I now knew I wasn't going to get off that easy.  The Truth for me was beyond that container.  I was going to have to get out there on the streets and work it out for myself -- again.

As I sat there, absolutely clueless, an image of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull came to mind. Then, like that intrepid avian seeker of perfection, I thought, "Just hang onto the wind and trust!"  The very next instant, a shooting star flashed across the night sky directly in front of my eyes to then disappear into the tapestry of countless stars and fathomless blackness reaching overhead.


I wish it was always that easy.  

Sunday, March 10, 2019

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

I slept in this morning for the first time in quite awhile.  

Although I did awaken at around 5:30, as usual, to participate in my early morning recycling project, I immediately returned to bed.  There, I followed my breathing into "dozing/dreaming meditation." A long, rather vivid, dream quickly emerged.  It was moderately unsettling.  It rang with the  sadness of personal "failure."

When I awoke the clock read 7:45.  Picking up my phone to cast today's Lojong slogan, I quickly discovered that spring had, indeed, sprung ahead.  It was "really" 8:45!  

"Yikes!" I thought.  "I've got to deal with the blog today."

Having dragged myself out of bed so late, with the echoes of memories of numerous "personal failures" ringing through my mind, I just kept moving.  After all, it was late.  The hiss of the traffic on High Street concurred.  Keep moving!  I set out to pack up the laptop and head down to Greenfield Coffee.  There, I'd quaff some added energy and get to it.

To Sit or Not to Sit

For decades now, settling into a one hour morning meditation has come quite naturally most every day.  Usually, the momentum of a Life of Practice just carries me along like an autumn leaf floating on the surface of a dancing brook under a clear blue sky.  Life flows on.  I flow on.  It's nightime,  I head to bed.  It's morning, I awake. Then I get up and pee. Then, I Sit.    

That bedrock ritual became a bit rocky this past week, though.  

I actually missed three days in a row, then only sat for 20 minutes the next day.  I even considered that, perhaps, I had become too "attached" to my morning meditation.  After all, since my name is on the schedule, I arrive to meditate with other folks several times a week, and often head up to the Town Commons at noon to meditate as well.  So. what's the Big Deal about my personal morning meditation?

To be honest, I don't know.

What I do know is that I was up and running this morning.  I actually had my hand on the door handle before pausing to take a deep breath.  Rather than float along this morning, I had to stand in the way of my own momentum.  A real decision had to be made.  
After a few more conscious breaths, I turned around, took off my coat, and headed back to the altar.  As I've done thousands of times before, I bowed, set the timer, and Sat.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Few Thoughts About Thought

"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

A Friend's Window, Rowe, MA
It snowed again this week.  Twice.  There are mountains of snow at the edges of parking lots all over town.  And the National Weather Service is predicting another 4"- 8" tonight.   

Some of my friends and relations have been complaining about the latest forecast for a couple of days.  They seem to be taking it quite personally.

And so it goes.  

The thinking mind, conditioned as it is, spins on to judge, to compare, to exaggerate, to speculate, creating all sorts of storylines about a possible future event.  It can and will do that as a matter of habit.  All too often, it's much ado about nothing.  All the fretting and complaining is just another snow job.  Like a good con man, these thoughts create an alternative reality -- and steal from you the richness of the present moment.

Here and Now

When I stop typing, take a full breath, and gaze through the window at the sunlight strewing diamonds across the snow, when I open to the melody of the neighborhood cardinal's morning song and the sound of traffic emerging, cresting, and disappearing like an ocean surf along High Street, everything shifts.  The world immediately expands.  Freed from the fetters of thought, each moment becomes vast and wondrous.

It happens every time I pause and stop typing.  (You could, perhaps, pause here for a moment, take a deep breath or two, and gaze out the window or around the room right now before clicking  READ MORE.)