"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, October 31, 2021

For Now

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is 
 to be continually thrown out of the nest. 
To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, 
to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. 
― Pema Chödrön

“For things to reveal themselves to us, 
we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

After raining heavily all night, the sun broke out moments ago.  Streaming through the window, it played across the floor as I entered my bedroom.  The windblown dance of light and shadow, woven of sun, tree, and partially open blinds brought a smile to my face.

Then, as quickly as it had emerged, the sun disappeared into the thick sea of gray clouds.  

That brought a smile to my face as well.  

I walked over to raise the blinds, expecting to see the glistening, now pink-brown, late autumn leaves of the crab apple tree outside the window waving in the wind.  Startled, I found I was face to face with the stark gray brown of mostly empty branches.  It was now Fall!  Only a few leaves, scattered among the wet branches, remained.  "Oh yeah," I thought. "It rained hard all night.  Duh."  

I smiled again.

I guess I'm pretty easy these days -- at least much of the time.  I blame it on the Practice.

Once the fundamental Impermanence of what Uchiyama Roshi called "the scenery of our lives" is directly seen -- and accepted -- we have the opportunity to embrace Life itself as it emerges each moment with an increasing degree of ease, grace and kindness.  Within the ever-flowing energies that we encounter, we see that there is always nothing more, and nothing less, than Life as it is this very moment.

Although the thoughts and emotions that emerge from the causes and conditions of our personal and collective histories can make it appear otherwise, what is right there in front of us is a constant Invitation to the Dance.  We can either explore the process of opening our hearts and minds (and our eyes and ears and arms, etc.) to embrace the Absolute Miracle of Being that exists within and beyond each moment-- or not.  It's just that simple.

Of course, simple doesn't necessarily mean easy.  

It takes Practice.

The Way hOMe
At the heart of Practice is a fundamental choice emerging from what Zen Buddhists call "the Way Seeking Mind."  A deep part of our nature calls us to get in touch with the Real Deal.  It may arise in the midst of some sort of crisis or loss.  It may arise as an ache, a yearning when we face the silence of being alone without distractions.  Each of us will experience our True Nature calling us forth differently.  
And some of us will respond.  Some of us will set out, in one way or another, to figure it out, to explore the means of connecting with our own Wholeness.  Whether we take on a formal teacher or not, we choose to relate to our lives as a process of discovery.  We become students.

As it is, we've often invested much time and effort in what our hyper-materialistic society characterizes as "growing up."  We've taken a lot of pride in what we "know."  We've clung to our opinions about things with a vengeance.  Now, we realize we have to do some serious shape shifting. Rather than flee from a certain quiet discomfort lurking in the recesses of our awareness, we open to it.

Then, at a certain point, it dawns on us.  We see quite clearly that it is best to approach things with the basic openness and curiosity we experienced as children.  In fact, Yogi Jesus is reported to have said this is a requirement for entering the Kingdom of Heaven.   "Lest ye be as little children..."

Although the frame of reference and terminology are different, many Buddhist teachers seem to agree.  As Suzuki Roshi presented it, Zen mind is the mind of a beginner.  Beneath and beyond our conditioned patterns, we each have the inherent capacity to open to each moment with a deep care and curiosity.  We can come to experience the ease and joy and wonder that emerges from not knowing.

Although a commitment to a formal meditation practice is an excellent foundation for honing our ability to perceive the reality of our own experience in deeper and fuller ways,  it's what happens between those periods of meditation that really matters.  The Practice develops and matures as we commit to bringing that same precise, yet open and relaxed, attention to the events of our day to day lives. 

As we open to meet each moment as a teacher and a teaching, as we develop the willingness and ability to let go of our own preconceived notions and the many knots that our graspings and aversions produce, things get easier --  even in the midst of what we might call the "bad times." 

With Practice, it becomes easier to discern and release the emotional reactivity of our conditioning and let go of the narratives that we've created to "know" (i.e. control) what's going on.  As practice deepens, it becomes easier and easier to approach each moment with a childlike curiosity and without an agenda.  

This changes everything.

Through the gracious spaciousness of not knowing, you don't have to work so hard.  As you perceive the fleeting and mysterious effervescence of each moment, you realize more deeply that it's not all up to the "you" that you think you are.  Seeing clearly that each moment is vast, infinite space inseparable from an endless web of causes and conditions, you can relax.  And, if you keep your heart and mind open, what the Tibetan Buddhists call "Primordial Wisdom" emerges.   Compassion and understanding naturally arise.  At that point, you may even be able to help out -- or not.

It just takes Practice.


T James said...

After years of practice i primarily operate in the present moment with focused awareness on what i'm doing and the environment around me - however - when it's time to shut down for sleep - my mind runs rampant with a phantasmagoria of what ifs, could haves, should haves - so i have to put on some meditation music in order to get to sleep.

Lance Smith said...

Hey T James,
Ah, It seems a lot of us have encountered a similar relationship to sleep. I'm glad that the meditation music helps! I've actually experienced a lot of troubled times with sleep over the years and continue to explore the various mental states involved with sleep. I found Andrew Holecek's work with Lucid Dreaming and Tibetan Dream Yoga to be quite helpful in navigating my way through. (Google him up if interested. He's got a website, interviews, you tube talks, etc.)

At age 75, with an old coot's prostrate/bladder, I rarely sleep more than 4 or 5 hours at a time without engaging in my personal recycling project. LOL So, I have a lot of opportunities to Practice. I generally go back the basic breath counting technique I learned long agao to bring my awareness out of my head and into my body more these days. If that doesn't work, I get up and read or write for awhile, then Sit formally for awhile before going horizontal again. The next period of sleep often yields a pretty vivid, if not lucid, dream cycle.