"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

Sunday, May 9, 2021

A Solid Grasp of Reality

 “In reality there are no separate events. Life moves along like water,
it's all connected to the source of the river is connected to the mouth and the ocean.”
-- Alan Watts, The Essential Alan Watts

"It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance 
to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation."
All I could do was grin that morning.  
Eight of us had gathered for Monday Morning Mindfulness at Community Yoga and Wellness Center that day seven years ago to meditate and then explore the second slogan of the Lojong Trainings: "Regard all dharmas (i.e. everything) as dreams." 
I had been facilitating this weekly sitting group each Monday for two years by then.  At that point, the Heart Council Practice had not evolved to become a central focus for the band of irregular regulars who showed up each week. 

MMM could get pretty wild and crazy.
Although I made the effort to give each person in the Mindfulness Circle the chance to check in on their life and practice each week after we shared periods of sitting and walking meditation, an energetic discussion would often emerge.  I had to keep an eye on the clock, and "facilitate" some interesting transitions to keep us "on track." It reminded me a bit of my stint as a high school social studies teacher back in the 1970's leading somewhat "guided' discussions.  
Being the human beings we are, sometimes the discussions in the Circle could get quite heated and contentious.  Occasionally, I'd get "hooked," loose track of my role --  add fuel to the fire.  One morning, seeing that things were out of control, the one of the Irregular Regulars had belly flopped from her zafu and stretched out prone on the polished wooden floor of the studio to ring my bell.  I loved it.
The Promise of Paradox
Thankfully, the morning that the eight of us began our dive into"Regard all dharmas as dreams" didn't require any such belly flop.  A few months prior to that, I had been encouraged by one of the more regular of the Irregular Regulars to lead a plunge into the 59 Lojong slogans.  Knowing that I was an inveterate bookworm/spiritual geek, she had my number.  I dutifully spent months reading all the commentaries I could get my hands on, and had incorporated the slogans and Tonglen meditation into my daily life and practice.

I had just opened the discussion by briefly sharing my take on Lojong slogan two. Although a couple of folks in the Circle, perhaps quite aware of the limitations, maybe even the inadvisability, of placing so much of our emotional energy and collective attention on words and discursive thought didn't participate, the rest of us jumped right in.  
Having studied and practiced Zen which has a long tradition of probing questions and dharma "combat," I marveled at what emerged.  Although all assembled, myself included, were essentially beginners in the study of these particular Teachings, I imagine the energetic, sincere, often profound, sometimes amusing, discussion that emerged could have been a conversation among senior monks somewhere.  
What materialized that day was no more, no less than a deep conversation about the true nature of reality and our individual ability to actually experience the truth of our existence. Although none of us were a Buddhist scholar and some of us may not even have considered ourselves Buddhists with a capital B,  assertions about Emptiness, Impermanence, Non-Self, Co-dependent Origination, Interdependence and Oneness, were offered and explored,  dissected and re-assembled.  

In about forty minutes we covered a lot of ground exploring the "groundlessness" of existence.

I loved it.  

At several points the fundamentals of Zen were touched on as phrases were turned, then turned on their heads without altering the meaning at all!  Even when there was apparent "disagreement", the energy stayed crisp and clear. and cordial. There was an underlying fabric of good will, good humor, and good heart all the while. The priceless ability of paradox to point to the Truth better than any declarative assertion became pretty obvious.  It was an absolute hoot -- relatively speaking. 

It made my heart glow.

Getting Real

Gaining a "solid grasp of reality" is often considered to be one of the important aspects of growing up in contemporary society.  The message is pretty pervasive.  We are encouraged to get real, to be "realistic" as we establish ourselves in the world.  John Lennon's imaginings notwithstanding, being called a "dreamer" usually isn't a cause for pride. *

Yet, central to skillful means of Mahayana Buddhism is the notion that Life itself is "like a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream." With Practice we come to see for ourselves what The Teachings indicate.  Examined closely we see clearly that there is a profoundly insubstantial and transitory character to all experience -- and that our attempts to resist that, to grasp onto anything to create a sense of security are actually the primary cause of our personal suffering.  

A solid grasp of reality?  

Instead: Observed clearly we see that Life is not so solid, it emerges as a vivid flow of energy within the embrace of a boundless spaciousness.  That being the case, we see for ourselves that grasping at anything doesn't really work

What then?

As Practice develops and our ability to see and accept this matures,  an awareness of something else also emerges.  
Merrily rowing our boats gently down the stream sensing that "life is but a dream," we increasingly relax into the ungraspable fullness of each moment.  As Practice deepens, we just may notice that the vast blue sky stretching overhead resonates with something so deep inside us that it is beyond us.  

There are many names for this Mysterious Reality.  I call it One Love

As Practice deepens, we see this One Love reflected in the stream of our lives moment to moment.
At that point, we may feel free enough to relax, lighten up, to grab the oars when we need to, lay them down when we need to.  Then, we can really live the dream.

How cool is that? 

(* "Imagine" is actually one of my favorite songs. )


Maure said...

Plus, the current reality sucks BIG time. Late capitalism degrades people, the environment and everything else that matters. WHY would one even want to GO there ???

Danisa said...

I often view reality as a dream or it could be that I have issues dissociating.. I often get swallowed up in the vastness and spaciousness of "it all". It can be very overwhelming. It's nice to know this isnt something only I experience. I hope that one day I can come to terms with "reality" and whatever that may mean.. Good read and I for one would like to try and have a discussion on the topic one day. Thanks for sharing Lance!

Lance Smith said...

Hi Maure,
In light of your comment on the disastrous effects of late capitalism on the people and the planet, it's interesting to note that I almost included a picture of the meditation circle at #Occupy Wall Street! in this post. I certainly agree with your analysis of the current state of samsara, the world of causes and conditions the present us with the phenomena that appear through our senses. All this falls into the category of "relative truth." It is useful to perceive and analyze this accurately. (I still think that Karl Marx had a great grasp of what was going on in the world around him. He pretty much nails it regarding the material plane.)

And then, there is the realm of the Absolute, the One Love. Opening our hearts and minds to engage Life completely brings that into our lives individually and collectively.

Hope you and yours are well, Maure. Stay in Touch.
One Love,

Lance Smith said...

Hey Danica,
Thanks for chiming in here. I certainly think that many of us who have a personal experience of the Infinite Vastness at the heart of reality, and the dreamlike nature of life as it is experienced through our senses and conditioned sensibilities can struggle with how to incorporate this into our day to day lives. Unfortunately, the folks who rely on the medical model of mental health oftentimes haven't got much of a clue about the psychological insights provided through a couple thousand years of Buddhism or the mystical traditions of the world's religions.

IMHO, what is termed "dissociation" can actually be a deeper connection to what really is going on. Grief not fully explored can become "depression." Experiencing "visions and voices" can be deep connections with our subconscious and the collective consciousness, etc., etc.

That makes it pretty damn difficult to navigate one's way into clarity and engage your life wholeheartedly to actualize your True Nature. I'd love to yak about this more with you, soon. (I'll be pretty tied up for awhile as Migdalia's primary personal care attendant after today's shoulder surgery, but plan to be more available next week for the Circles and chats.)

Be well and Stay in Touch.
One Love,