"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, April 18, 2020

Shelter from the Storm


In the past few weeks, I've experienced some stormy seas. 

Although "life as usual" for me is rather unusual as I continue to explore the practice of what Uchiyama Roshi termed a "Life of Vow and Repentance," this has been a particularly unsettled and, at times unsettling, passage through time and space.  

With the world still immersed in the COVID19 Pandemic, leaving hOMe Sweet hOMe to shelter in place with my partner Migdalia at her place in Springfield, hasn't been easy for either of us.  Just the logistics of daily life have, at times, been daunting.  Reaching beyond that, trying to stay in touch with family, and to be of service to my CircleMates and peers in the recovery community have created many long days and, at times, relatively sleepless nights.   

For quite sometime now, I had taken refuge in my own solitary morning meditations in my own space most days a week.  I'd also spend ample time outside walking around town to shop, serve, and hang out, ample time outside in Mother Nature's embrace.  I also derived the benefit of meditating and sharing life and practice several times a week with my CircleMates in the Mindfulness Circles.  Time with Migdalia, mostly on the weekends, was generally playful and relaxed.  Within all the storminess of life as it is (both inner and outer,) I had been blessed to co-create a set of healthy and fulfilling routines that provided sufficient "shelter from the storm," to keep me from being driven too far off course.

Much of that was washed away in the past month.  Even the Mindfulness Circles, now experienced remotely in front of a computer, and expanded to five days a week, haven't been immune from storminess.   

Yet, as I sit here now, April showers, masquerading as wet snowflakes, dance under looming gray clouds outside the window.  Pausing to feel my heart, to breath in the sights and sounds of this moment, the reality of storminess--rather than my thoughts about it-- just emerged unfettered.  In the midst of what would be termed "nasty" weather, a sense of wonder and peace emerge.  It is actually quite beautiful out there!  I just felt the tightness in my shoulders release and a grin emerge on my face. 

Life as it is...

The moment I turned my gaze to what was happening outside the world of my own thoughts and feelings to realize the actual storminess that is exists in this moment outside the window, a shift of consciousness occurred -- spontaneously!  As soon as my awareness was released from the story lines about shelters and storms, and good and bad, and gain and loss, the expansiveness and fullness of Life as it is returned. 

Although the aspiration to "accept life as it is" (the essence of the Samaya Vow in Tibetan Buddhism) does support our ever-deepening ability to choose our relationship to the present moment, I didn't choose to change the channel.   I merely raised my eyes to look outside.

I love it when that happens. 

Of course, it's not always that easy.  There will still be shelters and storms and wet and dry and good and bad and gain and loss woven into the fabric of our lives.  There are hard times and there are easy times; times to cruise, times to roll up our sleeves.  The relative plane of existence is absolutely there.  It is not separate from the Essential Oneness.

Life is just like that.

Yet, as the Practice matures, we come to see for ourselves that it is precisely our attempts to control the world to meet our own models of how it should be, and our own resistances to what is actually occurring, that ultimately separate us from one another, and from the ever present Oneness of Life.  

The flow of the Universe is incessant and any attempt to create a lasting shelter from the storm is doomed to disappointment. Yet, when we turn to face Life directly, the shelter emerges from within the storm itself.  It rests securely in the embrace of the present moment. 

Sometimes, when we relax and just let it hold us, the One Love becomes palpable.

It is sheer grace.

Friday, April 3, 2020

When Things Fall Apart: Take Two

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. 
The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: 
room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
Pema Chödrön

“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

Whew.  Here we are.  Things have definitely fallen apart.  

Like in many parts of the country, all but essential businesses are closed and we are advised to stay at hOMe.

At times, this all feels like I'm a bit player in some sort of apocalyptic Hollywood movie.  The COVID19 tsunami has not yet crested, yet it has swept away "business as usual" for most of us.  With just the initial storm surge, the patterns and routines of our lives have been scattered like flotsam and jetsam along the shoreline that had defined our lives.  

In it's wake, with the heights of the tidal wave still racing toward us here in Western Massachusetts, folks I know are carrying on quite admirably.  Yet most have been pretty stressed out at times, peering at a world that is obviously beyond individual control.  Surfing along waves of grief, confusion and fear, many of us have spent time hustling to cope with the ever-shifting logistics of day-to-day life, while trying, too, to prepare for an unknown future.

At age 74, with two stents in my heart, and the lungs of a dude who smoked for about 40 years before I finally broke free, I've got a statistical target on my back.  The not too distant future may include serious illness or death -- sooner rather than later.   

I can live -- or die -- with that.  At peace.


I began facing the "grave issue of life and death" decades ago.  Most of the schools of Buddhism don't avoid the issue of death.  It is contemplated, studied, meditated on, chanted.  If we want to see reality, we got to get real.  Whether we like it or not,  life is a terminal condition.  At the end of the road, for each of us there is a cosmic stop sign.  We die.   

Sure.  One one level, this really sucks.  But there is a high side to it was well.  I'm grateful to the Practice that affirms to me, again and again, another simple truth.  If we truly open our heart to the reality of our situation, reality asserts itself.  We see for ourselves how very precious life is.  We feel it in our hearts.  We feel it in our bones.

We also come to know directly that life is always a moment-to moment experience.  It has always been a shaky proposition, with no guarantees.  No matter how carefully we try to control things to feel secure, there is always a whole lot out there that is beyond our control.  No amount of money, or status, or power can change that.  Sometimes, things come together.  Sometimes things fall apart.

And yet...

As I sit here at the keyboard in dawn's early light, I just noticed that the neighborhood songbirds are awake.  Pausing to sit still, feel my body, and breathe for a moment or two, the entire world opens up in song and in vast stillness.  The very ordinary and the sacred hold hands and dance with joy.

Sitting here, feeling a boundless warmth in my heart, I am aware that there is a dimension to my own experience that brings me in touch with the Sacred.  Though it is experienced and conceptualized in many, many ways, though it is given many names, in our Heart of Hearts, the ever-present reality of the One Love is always present.  In its vast and mysterious embrace, it is clear to me that we are, each of us, connected to one another, and to all of existence.  We are, each of us, focal points of life force, weaving strands in an infinite web of energy, emerging from and returning to that which is beyond form.  We are Life being Life.  Love being Love.