"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

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Just Listen

"Listening is a very deep practice.You have to empty yourself. 
You have to leave space in order to listen...
In deep listening we listen with the sole purpose of 
helping the other person feel heard and accepted." 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Healing comes from our innate capacity for deep listening.  
This deep listening or seeing is not through our eyes or ears, 
but through our heart and soul."
-- Jack Kornfeld 

There is, perhaps, no more important form of meditative discipline than what Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh calls deep listening.  It connects us to ourselves, to one another -- and to our true nature.

Our time on the cushion in formal meditation is essential.  Yet, it is what happens next that really matters. It is there, in the midst of our day-to-day lives, that our kindness, compassion, and wisdom are actualized -- or not.  

Beans in our Ears

Most of us have learned the prevailing form of listening in our society.  Much of the time we don't really listen.  We listen, not to connect deeply with the experience of another, but to reply.  Although our ears and eyes and finer sensibilities are operational as we listen, most of our attention is absorbed into the commentary running through our heads.   

As a matter of habit, we automatically analyze, compare, judge, relate it to an associated personal experience, advise, counsel, or otherwise react without a deep awareness of what is really going on -- either inside ourselves or the other person.  As a result, whole realms of emotional and intuitive energies remain beneath the level of our awareness.  Rather than connect, we often end up bouncing off one another.

It doesn't have to be this way.

We can actually learn an entirely different way of listening to another person -- and to ourselves!  We can go deeper.  We can empathize.    

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Wherever Two or Three of You Are Gathered

"To begin a sangha, find one friend who would like to join you for sitting meditation or walking meditation or tea meditation or sharing."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Everyone has the seed of Buddhanature within them."
--Thich Nhat Hanh

I've felt it distinctly.  I've heard it from lots of folks in the Mindfulness Circles over the years, too.

Meditating with other people is different than meditating alone. 

It only makes sense. 

After all, at a fundamental level, we are not inherently isolated individuals, separated from one another (and the rest of the universe) by some impenetrable barrier.  As Alan Watts wrote years ago, we are not merely,"skin encapsulated egos."  

As best I can sense it, we are, each of us, a focal point of energy in a interconnected web of energy that is inseparable from what some folks refer to as God.  Although I may not feel the truth of that in each and every moment, I've experienced this enough to know it to be the Real Deal. We are not just in this together.  We ARE this together.

So, sitting together in meditation will actually feel different.  Especially when we then take time to compare notes on our lives and meditation practice.  As we learn to open our hearts and minds to one another, to listen to one another mindfully, without judgment, we can actually feel our connection more readily.

Although the existence of a spiritual dimension to reality has been proclaimed by mystics and spiritual teachers throughout the ages, we live in a society where materialism has dominated the cultural landscape for centuries.  The entire thrust of our conditioning has operated to disconnect us from that spiritual dimension.  This has happened for generations.  Yet, with commitment, time, energy -- and grace -- we can return to our True Nature as spiritual beings.  

With Practice, we can get real.  We can access our heart's boundless wisdom.  In our heart of hearts, we can experience the healing power of Connection -- to ourselves, to one another, and to the infinite One Love that we emerge from and return to each moment. 

The Mindfulness Heart Circle

In 2012, I was asked to teach a meditation class at a local yoga studio.  I replied that I would gladly facilitate a weekly group meditation practice -- and do it for free.  Retired, living on a small fixed income, I would barter as the studio caretaker for use of the space as I had done in order to take classes there.

Having begun the exploration of yoga and meditation as a college senior in 1969, having practiced with a number of major (and not so major) teachers over the years, I felt quite deeply that the hierarchical nature of traditional institutional Buddhism was not unlike that of the other major world's religions.  The patriarchal structure that institutionalized power over rather than power among members of a community, was deeply problematic.  It was clear to me that authoritarian structures serve to disempower human beings, and lead to subtle, and not so subtle, abuse of the human spirit.  I'd seen that with my own eyes, felt it in my own body.  

I'd also seen that the commercialization of spiritual practice in our society, like all aspects of life in a capitalist society, operates to prevent access to people of limited economic resources.   The so-called New Age Spirituality that blossomed during my lifetime was nothing new.  A whole lot of money was changing hands.  The deep healing that is available through a committed meditation practice and alternative forms of healing flowed primarily through an economically privileged, mostly white, sector of our society.  American Buddhism had become the Upper Middle Way.  

As a person who had grown up in poverty, who had spent time in foster care as a kid and  experienced homelessness as an adult, I wasn't comfortable with putting a price tag on human liberation.  The healing I'd receive through Practice was priceless.  I didn't want to capitalize on it.