"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 17, 2021

Getting Real

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
-- Albert Einstein
"Compassion and resilience are not, as we might imagine, rarefied human qualities available only to the saintly... In fact, these essential and universally prized human qualities can be solidly cultivated 
by anyone taking the time to do it." 
-- Norman Zoketzu Fischer,
Trainings in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong

Good Grief
"Yikes.  I did it again." I thought.  

Moments before, I had proclaimed with utter certainty that my take on the facts at hand was absolutely the truth of the matter.  Then, quite quickly, Reality asserted itself.  My certitude that my friend was "wrong," and that I was "right," disintegrated in the clear light of a sunny day.  


Thankfully, she was gracious and didn't skewer me for, once again, not immediately noticing the tightness in my chest -- and shutting up to pay better attention to the emergence of ego's hard headed clinging to its limited point of view.  

The tightness in my voice was the first clue.  My eyes soon verified that I had to give it up.  My take was clearly mistaken.

Whew.  Once again, the Universe had pointed out that who I am at any one moment, how I'm seeing things and being, is likely to be just a bad habit.  Thankfully, these days I can bow to that reality with a grin.  

I blame the Practice for that.

The Real Deal

Over the years, it has become more and more obvious to me how much of our lives are dictated by habit.  Although it may not feel like it, who we are is not a fixed, free standing, independently existing, reality.  Our current "point of view" emerges from a cauldron of causes and conditions, many of them beyond our ken -- or our control.  Encountering our lives through what Albert Einstein called an "optical illusion" of consciousness, we learn to experience ourselves as fundamentally separate from everything -- and everybody -- else. 

Lost in our thoughts and conditioned feelings, driven by a set of deeply ingrained, often subconscious, beliefs about ourselves and the world, we rarely are Present to the deeper dimension of life that exists in each and every moment.  The noise in our heads resonates with the noise in the world.  It dominates our attention.  Oblivious to the subtle energies dancing within the infinite space and silence of each and every moment, we suffer.   

All this is nothing more --and nothing less than -- a bad habit. 

Awash in a culture where capitalism, scientific materialism, and religious dogma have been woven into most every nook and cranny of human life for generations, we have spent years feeding this habit. It then creates our day to day life as the struggle it appears to be.  Most of the time this operates quite subconsciously.  And all the while, in our "heart of hearts," there is the still and silent space of clear, open awareness.  From there, emerges a way of being that is truly clear, calm, kind, compassionate and wise.  This is our True Nature.
But, here's the rub.
Getting Real
For most of us, freeing ourselves of the conditioning of a lifetime to glimpse the Real Deal doesn't just happen spontaneously.  We have to turn away from the myriad distractions of daily living and turn toward the silent longing in our hearts that we've learned to run away from.  As countless sages, seers, and saints have done throughout the ages, we have to sit still and listen.

More than anything, a spiritual practice, the process of meditation in particular, is an effort to move beyond the illusion of separation.  
To do this, we must make what was subconscious, conscious.  With Practice, the conditioned patterns that lead us to experience our lives as individuals, solitary beings who are fundamentally separated from the rest of the Universe, can be seen for what they are.  With commitment, time, effort, gentle persistence and patience, you are increasingly free to experience your life differently.  
In fact, you may even have a direct perception of Ultimate Reality.   
Yet, once you've shinnied up the flagpole, you see that you are not only "your brother's keeper," you are your brother -- and your sister, and the sparrow falling, and the entire planet aching.  You realize you're one with all that is, has been, and can possibly ever be within the limitless expanse of the One Love. 
So what then?
When I saw clearly the exquisite grandeur -- and problematic nature -- of the human condition, it blew my mind.
Yet, I later came to realize that this was only the beginning, not the destination.  A blown mind wasn't enough.  I had to be willing to let my heart break -- again and again.
Now, decades later, I'm still not done.  On the grand stage of life, I've found that getting my act together is a lifelong adventure.  It still takes commitment, time, effort, gentle persistence, and patience to be part of the solution. 
That's the heart of the Bodhisattva Vows which have been central to my life before I even had heard of them.  For decades now, at the end of my morning sit, I recite these four commitments three times-- and take the leap. 
It's a tough job, but with a world that appears to be heading to hell in a hand basket, somebody's got to do it, right?
It just takes Practice.
What are you up to?

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