"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, October 31, 2020

Visible to the Naked Eye

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern. -- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle. " ― Thich Nhat Hanh

The world is shrouded in fog this morning. Although there is still a whisper of deep red in the burning bush and a muted yellow orange in the maple across High Street from my perch here at the Weldon Hotel, the sky has disappeared.

There was a time when a grey, gloomy morning like this could send my spirits spiraling downward.  Confined to the tunnel vision of my own thoughts and feelings, I would become oblivious to the Ongoing Miracle.  I'd get really depressed

Today, that didn't happen. I blame the Practice for this turn of events. 

Although I would be dashed between the rocks and hard places of my own unattended childhood trauma and dysfunctional conditioning many times over the years, I was fortunate.  The Collective Kensho of the late 60's and my own Peek Experience of Infinite Perfection in 1972 gave me a strong enough jolt of the Real Deal to get serious about a spiritual practice.  Although there were some fleeting dry spells, I've mediated regularly for a long time.

Now, at age 74,  it seems I've found a way to Not-Do Depression so much.  Although I am no stranger to sadness, the Practice has transformed my relationship to this emotional energy.  The inner belief structures and narratives that operated to lock depression in place just can't seem get a toe-hold anymore.  Instead, the story lines arise and disappear within the Gracious Spaciousness of Awareness that is readily accessible much of the time.  Of course, I put my butt on the zafu for at least an hour most days, and try to take an entire day of mindful practice at least once a month. I also hit a deep re-set button with a three day fasting silent retreat each year.

The Theory and the Practice

So, here's the Deal.
Left without the continual mental chatter and conditioned reactions that create the "narrow chinks" of our habitual perception, sadness and the other elements of depression, like all phenomena, are impermanent.  They come and go of their own accord.   With Practice, I learned to see through what seems to be the fixed states of depression to the other side.  What remained was energy floating in the gracious spaciousness of Awareness.
The Practice
During our explorations on the zafu, we may, at times, access deep tears as ancient wounds and grief are released.  This is a good thing.  It's the body's natural way to release the energy.  In fact, my own depressed states were often the result of grief, anger, and fear frozen in place.  Having the ice melt into tears released a lot of energy that I could channel into taking care of what needed to be done in my life.
As Practice has deepened, there are still some times that tears emerge as a healing energy.  Yet, these days, it doesn't usually go there.  Life being Life, the emotional energy of sadness may appear in moments of melancholy or brief bouts of bittersweet.  Yet, if this isn't resisted, if it is embraced with an open heart or mind, it usually doesn't develop a lot of momentum.  If the habitual story lines that emerge are released, and we let go of our efforts to "figure it out," the depressive patterns don't develop a mind of their own.  They won't hit the down button. 

Yet, at least in my case, this didn't happen overnight.  It took the development of a serious Practice.  It involved sitting still an a regular basis to face and embrace the accumulated baggage of my own conditioning, to open my heart and mind to Life as it is, with all it's inevitable ups and downs.  That took courage, effort, a gentle persistence -- and developing a deep kindness towards myself and others.  Contrary to prevailing opinion, all this can be cultivated

It just takes Practice.

It is certainly true that as the Practice unfolds, there can be moments of outright wonder and gratitude and bliss.  You may be blessed to experience all the big bang moments of human consciousness imaginable.  Yet, this isn't the Heart of the Matter.  In fact, an attachment to going for the gold and trying to get all the goodies in the spiritual dimension can hang you up, maybe even more than other forms of greed and grasping.  The Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa called this Spiritual Materialism and emphasized this point a lot.  I suspect he saw clearly how deeply his Western students had been conditioned by our super- charged capitalist "me first" upbringing.  
And Then...

Over time, the Practice becomes quite ordinary.  It's no big deal.  It's simply something you do.  You "assume the position" -- again and again.  Then, you carry it into your life off the meditation cushion.  Ultimately it is about relaxing, releasing our own self-centered agenda, and opening our hearts to the present moment wherever we are.  Being Present, we feel the Presence of the One Love.

Then, at a certain point, it becomes obvious.  

This is IT.  There just isn't anyplace to go other than where you are.  There is nothing more extraordinary than the ordinary.  In the embrace of an open heart and a clear mind, Infinity is visible to the naked eye. 

Looking up from the keyboard, taking a breath and relaxing my shoulders just now, I gazed out the window.  

It's as clear as a bell out there now.

I love it when that happens.  


T James said...

"..... always remember, that no matter where you go - there you are..." (Buckaroo Banzai) Excellent read - thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Don Karp said...

Not everyone experiences depression as you did. There might be other reasons for sitting, like for the experience that: "Infinity is visible to the naked eye," for example.

Anonymous said...

A wise woman who sponsored me in 2004 used to always tell me that tears were the ice melting from my heart. It propelled me into a more accepting state, years before I developed a regular practice. Here we are 16 years later and the ice is STILL MELTING. I guess I had frozen it solid. Now, secondary to the situation in our world, I find that welcoming the depression and pain into my practice isn’t easy, but I suffer much less than when I ran from it. The pain loses a great deal of the power it formerly had when I say, “Welcome depression, welcome fear”, and, in meditation examine it to see what it actually is......a construct of my own mind. Training the mind is an ongoing process, but it’s better than letting depression and fear grow more powerful as I am busy avoiding it.

Lance Smith said...

Hey T James!
Thanks for your kind words -- and for your allusion to Buckaroo Banzai. I hadn't heard of the movie and just looked it up. Sounds like a hoot. It's on my list for Netflix and popcorn this weekend. LOL

Hi Don,
I don't know if anybody experiences depression "exactly" as I did -- although I think that there are some common themes in our conditioning and in the human condition itself. With a pretty traumatic childhood, a possible genetic predisposition to what is generally referred to as mental illness, and the usual dysfunction created by a culture steeped in a whole lot of unhealthy "isms" including capitalism, sexism, racism, etc., the had a handful of demons that grapple with that presented as some deep, dark, periods. I also had other "non-ordinary" states of mind, including a clear perception of the Infinite, sometimes but not always, fueled by psychedelics.

In looking back at the blog piece, I do see a need to make a better transition to the second piece. Heck, next time I may even just break it into two separate pieces. LOL

Hope you are well there, Brother.

Hi Anonymous,
Well said, Friend. (Have you read Rumi's The Guest House?) and YES,the melting goes on and on and on. I hope that the Practice will enable me to melt right into death at some point with an open heart and clear conscience.

Thanks so much for chiming in!
One Love,

Lance Smith said...

Oops. typo
"I had a handful of demons that grapple with that presented as some deep, dark, periods."