"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 28, 2019

The Heart of the Matter

"My religion is very simple.  My religion is kindness."
--Dalai Lama

"What we expect is to be truthful; to be kind; to try to share; to try to love one another. Some folks don’t recognize that as a discipline: They say, "Oh, that old stuff…." And it may not sound too difficult, unless you’ve ever tried it. But if you ever try it, 
you’ll know it’s an exacting discipline."
--Stephan Gaskin, This Season's People

The only time I saw a somewhat severe Burmese Buddhist meditation master break into a belly laugh was when he raised his hand to his head and pointed out that Westerners believe that their mind is in their heads.  The entire crew of monks sitting behind him on stage also dissolved into laughter.

After a few moments, regaining his composure, he then raised his hand to his heart and continued.  Although I don't remember the exact words his interpreter used, the point was obvious.   The Truth of Who We Are resides in our Heart.  

That certainly resonated with my own understanding.  Jesus, Buddha -- and the Beatles -- had it right.  It's all a matter of Heart.   Love is all you need.  It's just that simple.  But it ain't easy.  Staying connected with our Heart, being truly kind and compassionate is, like one of my favorite teachers, Stephan Gaskin, pointed out years ago, an exacting discipline.

Getting It Together 

In 1976, I learned from my first Zen teacher that heart, mind, and spirit are actually the same word in Japanese. Derived from a Chinese character, the word shin makes no distinction between these three realms of existence.  Our bodies, our minds, and our spirit are a seamless whole.  They are seen as inseparable.  


Conditioned as we are in society on materialistic overdrive, it sure doesn't feel that way for most of us much of the time, right? That's what led me to meditation. Following a deep yearning in my heart of hearts, I was intent on "getting it together"to live a life of Integrity.  
This process began, and continues on, with the commitment to spend time carefully observing how heart/mind/spirit actually operates within my own experience, to discover the ways that my conditioning operates to separate me from my own heart, from others, and from the exquisite intricate Web of Life.  

With Practice, both on and off the zafu, I began to get a handle on how to slowly and gently become the person that, in my heart of hearts,  I yearned to be.  

Then, at a certain point in meditation at Zen Mountain Monastery years ago, I realized that I actually AM the person I wish to be--and always have been!  At that moment, in a torrent of tears, I knew that with all my flaws, with my abundant neuroses and conditioned patterns,  that I was absolutely perfect as is--and so is everybody else!  

Nothing had really changed.  But, everything had really changed.

What an absolute Hoot! 

It Just Takes Practice 

Of course, as Zen Master Suzuki-roshi once said:  Each of you is perfect the way you are ... and you can use a little improvement.”  In fact, the major question that propelled Eihei Dogen, the founder of the Soto School of Zen, to leave Japan and seek a teacher in China seems to have been, basically,
"If we are all already perfect, why bother practicing meditation?"  I've seen that question asked in any number of ways over the years.  

Though it does certainly seem to defy logic, the answer, for me at least, is pretty clear: Both on and off the cushion, Practice doesn't make perfect.  Practice is perfect.  And, like Life itself, it flows ceaselessly.  Practice is a verb, not a noun.  Sitting Still and really paying attention is part of it.  So is everything else in my life.   

Moment to moment, Practice continuously flows from and returns to the Heart's yearning-- and it's fulfillment.  These are not two separate things.

A Matter of Heart

It seems to me that the heart of the matter is that it is all a matter of the Heart. In the gentle caring of an open heart, we can actually see what each moment brings to us more clearly.  We may actually be able to be kind, to help out when needed.  As the Dalai Lama points out, it's as simple as that.  But, once again, simple doesn't mean easy. It takes Practice.

I'm grateful to the Teachers and Teachings that I've stumbled across over these past decades for pointing that out--and for the Teachers and Teachings that continue to grace my life each day.    

But, please, don't take my word for any of this.  See for yourself.  Practice.

I think I'll go Sit now.

How 'bout you?

Originally Posted, September 2013. Revised.


Robair6969 said...

Amazing, I wish to feel that way in my heart.

Robair6969 said...

I need to find peace. I feel reading this helps. Thank you