IMHO, Spiritual Practice isn't about bright lights and all that fancy magical "woo woo" stuff. Nothing should insult our basic intelligence. Yet, sometimes the Universe really does lay one on you.
|Stephen at Monday Night Class, San Francisco circa 1969|
It happened almost exactly five year ago
one morning as I struggled to write a fitting memorial to Hippie
Spiritual Teacher Stephen Gaskin who had recently made the Grand
With another deep bow to Stephen -- and to a Most Amazing Universe -- I want to share, once again, the post from that day. Beyond the Mysterious Magic Manifested, it's encouragement to "lighten up" bears repeating.
Originally Posted July 12, 2014
morning, I was quaffing my first cup of coffee in a couple of days
watching bubbles of confusion and
angst float through my awareness. I still was
struggling with an attempt to put into words my thoughts and feelings
about the passing of Stephen, a man whose Presence and Teachings had a profound impact on my life.
(probably with a furrowed brow), I decided to reach for my cell phone
to check my email -- and perhaps just fall back and select an old post to
At that very moment the phone "dinged"with an incoming email. Peering down I read the notification:
"Monday Morning Mindfulness
Lighten Up! Posted 18 January 2014"
have no idea what strange permutation of the Google space time cyber
continuum could have possibly generated and delivered to me the email
version of a post I'd written six months before -- especially at
that very moment! It had never happened before. (and hasn't since)
How could I not
I broke into a bemused grin as I clicked it open. Just
receiving this unsolicited and inexplicably"cosmic" MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call would
have been enough to make my decision (just read, introduce and re-post this one for sure) -- and make my day.
I began reading the post.
It got even more mind blowing!
I often do, I had begun the post with two quotes. The first was from
my current Dharma mainstay, Pema Chodron. The second quote was from from Stephen
Gaskin! (who I've rarely quoted here.)
as I may, I have no rational explanation for any of this. All I can do
is grin, offer a deep gassho to Stephen, and to the Primordial Comedian of the Cosmic
Mystery Medicine Show -- and renew my commitment to lighten up! Here's that post!
Originally posted January 18, 2014
"The key to feeling at home with
your body, mind and emotions, to feeling
worthy to live on this planet, comes from being able to lighten up.
When your aspiration is to lighten up, you begin to have a sense of
humor. Things just keep popping your serious state of mind."
---Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living
"Get your mind unbound and free; and then from the loosest, highest, best place you have, with the
fastest and most humorous mind you can get together, you can reach out and make a try at understanding Spirit."
---Stephen Gaskin, This Season's People
too often, it seems like those of us who are sincere spiritual seekers
can get a bit too stodgy. It's not surprising, I suppose.
Although some of us may have experienced lives of relative comfort and success, to then realize that there was still
something lacking, I think many of us were drawn to the Practice
because we'd had a hard go of it. We'd led lives that included
serious trauma and/or significant emotional distress.
So, when we
stumbled across Buddha's First Noble Truth, it rang true. We knew
suffering to be real in our lives. Reading on, we learned that this Sage had also proclaimed that there was a reason for suffering. -- and, even more importantly -- a freakin' way out!!?
Seriously? Damn. Sign me up!
if we were drawn to other spiritual traditions as we entered the
Practice, I think there was often a similar dynamic. Whether we were
seeking nirvana or heaven, sat chit ananda or atonement, we were
looking for Light at the end of the tunnel, some form of release from
this "veil of tears". Then, whatever our path, at a certain point we
knew that if we "wanted out" we had to get serious about it.
Very, very, serious.
Unfortunately, some of us then got deadly serious
about it. I, for one, know that at one point my friends used to hate
to see me coming. I could quickly squeeze the life out of any party. I was so serious! I
didn't realize that the Practice could involve having some serious
fun. I didn't realize that in order to really see the Light, it is
helpful, maybe even crucial, to Lighten Up.
some forms of humor can be mindless and cruel, I think humor,
at its best, is High Magic. It's a Holy Balm, a Healing Art. If some
future Worldwide Buddhist Conference was considering the addition of a
ninth element to
the Eightfold Path, Right Humor would get my vote. Although I don't
think that the College of Cardinals would go for it at this point, I'd
also recommend that any candidate for Pope should
be able to master
appropriate "one liners" -- preferably off the cuff. I'm hoping that at
some point an archeologist will unearth ancient scrolls containing the
Jokes of Jesus to educate future Popes -- and, of course, strengthen my
But I digress...