"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 26, 2020

All Is Calm. All is Bright.

“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”
― Pema Chödrön
Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior 
can make a proper cup of tea.”
― Chögyam Trungpa

Outside the window, a brilliant white sun danced in a somewhat milky blue sky as I took my seat for this morning's meditation.  With a temperature in the upper 20's, it seemed like winter again.

Yesterday, Christmas Day, it sure didn't.
Here in Western Massachusetts, the temperatures had risen into the 60's by dawn.  Gale force winds and torrential rains swept through New England much of the day, leaving downed trees and power outages in their wake.  It seemed more like March than December.

With this thought, I immediately notice myself face-to face with the specter of the Global Climate Crisis.  It seems clear at this moment.  As a species we are racing toward an environmental armageddon.   Sitting here, I notice more thoughts tumble into view, then let them dissolve as I bring my attention to the feelings flowing through my awareness.  Fear, frustration, helplessness, horror, and more emerge.  Then they all melt into then a deep sadness as I soften, and open my heart.

Continuing to breath into my heart, I know that others feel this deep sadness too.  Opening, softening, inhaling deeply and slowly, I breath the fullness of this feeling into my heart as I recite two of the traditional Brahmavihara phrases:  "May all beings be safe. May all beings be free from suffering and the roots of suffering."

As the in breath continues, I notice a sense of spaciousness re-emerge as first my belly, then my rib cage expand.  My tender, warm, achy-breaky heart is comforted in the embrace of a calm, clear, expansive open awareness that seems to extend throughout and beyond space and time as the in-breath continues. 

As in-breath becomes out-breath, the words "May all beings be at peace" float on that breath as it dissolves outward into the Essential Oneness.  In my mind's eye glows a translucent visualization of the clear and brilliant eyes of countless beings resting in full awareness of their Buddha nature.  The visualization radiates outward from my heart on the wings of the out breath.

I continued Practicing this for awhile.  Breathing in.  Breathing out.
Sitting here now, my heart glows as deep joy dances with soft melancholy.  I've come to rest in the vast expansiveness of the One Love which resides deeply within each of us -- and infinitely beyond us all.  The world continues to glisten outside the window. 
All is calm.  All is bright.
Now, once again, I renew my vow to be clear enough and kind enough to help bring about the changes needed to create a sustainable, cooperative, and peaceful world.  Now, once again, I'm ready to face the day.  
How about you?

(For more on Tonglen Practice, see The Practice of Tonglen by Pema Chodron)

Originally posted December 2015.  Revised today as part of my morning Practice.


Saturday, December 19, 2020

For Unto Us a Child Is Born

Seven years ago ago, Keaton Izzy entered this incarnation.  As miraculous today as she was then, she is a on-going reminder of the Preciousness of Life.  As Christmas 2020 approaches -- and with four more grandchildren joining her for this Amazing Ride -- I thought that I would again share the post I wrote three days after her birth.
One Love,

"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

"Every child born is a living Buddha.  Some of them only get to be a living Buddha for a moment, because nobody believes it."
 ---Stephan Gaskin in Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

Originally scheduled for a Christmas Day debut, granddaughter Keaton arrived in the wee hours of Monday morning, in plenty of  time to avoid head to head competition with Baby Jesus.  

Sporting all ten fingers and toes, sparkling with Buddhanature, her birth, like all births, is another obvious affirmation of the miraculous.  As she peered from Nana Betsy's face to mine following the sound of our voices later that day, I could feel her Presence. It was pure, unadulterated Life Force.  

Touched by the Great Mystery once again,  I felt a deep joy -- and a deep sadness.

Even as a child, the Christmas season always brought with it a certain sadness.  Something seemed more than slightly askew.  The messages of "peace on earth" and "goodwill to all" didn't resonate with what I was experiencing.  The prevailing narrative proclaiming this to be a special time to celebrate the God of Love didn't ring true.  Fermented spirits seemed more prevalent than the spiritual.  The mirth and merriment felt hollow. 

At the time, I imagined it was just the chaos and uncertainty of my own childhood that left me feeling somehow "out of the loop." As the years have rolled by, I have thought that less and less.   It's not just me.  As scientific materialism and its begotten son, capitalism, steamrolled their way through the past several centuries, they threw the Christ child out with the bathwater. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Working It

"There is no enlightenment outside of daily life."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh
"When you see ordinary situations with extraordinary insight, 
it is like discovering a jewel in rubbish."  
-- Chogyam Trungpa

Gold Is Not All That Glitters

Years ago, I was quite struck by a suggestion in Ram Dass's classic, Be Here Now.  It changed my life.
In the third section of the book, entitled "Cookbook for a Sacred Life," he pointed out that a yogi could take a regular mundane activity and turn it into karma yoga, a form of active meditation.  He suggested that choosing something that we disliked could be an especially valuable practice.
At that point, I chose washing the dishes, took a deep breath -- and immediately headed out to the kitchen to face the unsightly stack that had emerged over the course of the past few days.  (I really hated washing dishes. LOL)

The experience was transformative.  

Letting go of all the mental chatter and emotional grey clouds and focusing on the actual experience of the moment, dishwashing not only became tolerable, it became the keys to the kingdom.  Getting out of my head, becoming aware of my breath and my body, I came to my senses.  The warmth of the water on my skin was delicious.  The tactile sensations of plates becoming clean and shiny, smooth to the touch, was not only enjoyable, it was deeply satisfying.  
In my field of vision, the sunshine streaming through the window was sprinkling diamonds in the water pouring out of the faucet.  There were emeralds, rubies, and sapphires gleaming in the soap bubbles.  The curtains danced in the soft breeze blowing in the window over the sink. 
In the field of sound, I noticed that beyond the sound of water flowing into the sink and the occasional clink of a dish or spoon, a cardinal was singing outside the window. 

What's not to like?

I suppose you could say that there's lots not to like about such things -- but only if you buy into society's prevailing attitude toward manual labor!  Unfortunately, many of us made that purchase long ago.  We had no idea what the price was going to be, that there was hell to pay.  Hours and hours of were going to be spent either hating what we were doing or sleepwalking through it.

In the eyes of our society such work is unskilled, the realm of dishwashers, janitors, and housekeepers.  Considered lowly, even demeaning -- or experienced as heinous tasks that had been forced upon us by our parents -- the necessary activities of day-to-day life are often avoided, then raced through haphazardly while our minds race elsewhere.  Although many of us actually feel better if our living space is clean and organized, housekeeping itself often becomes an often-avoided, semi-conscious, harried, hustle through the hell realms.

Yet, it's never too late to clean up our act.  It just takes Practice.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Attitude of Gratitude

"A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.”
  -- Albert Einstein

 "Be grateful to everyone."
-- The 13th slogan of the Lojong Trainings

I've been sometimes amazed -- and often amused -- as I've sat in front of a blank New Post page here at the computer and observed my mind floating down the stream of consciousness.

That particular day, with Thanksgiving looming on the horizon, my mind was just as blank as the screen for a few moments.  I then gathered my attention on my breath and body for awhile.  

Then, connecting the dots to Thanksgiving, I watched myself decide to wander around the web tracing the word "gratitude" along various strands of thought. 

And then -- Zap!

My heart burst open.  I found myself sitting with my chest heaving and copious, hot tears rolling down my cheeks.  Black and white movie images of Bing Crosby, clad in the black and white garb of Father O'Malley, played across the screen of my mind's Memory Lane Theater.   Each image brought on more tears.
"WTF? How in the world did I end up here?" I thought.