"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

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

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

A daybreak stroll has become a regular part of my mindfulness practice again this week as Christmas emerged then disappeared in the rear view mirror.
Taking the time to leave the comfort of a warm house in late December to experience the world outside as it awakens to the day has helped mend and energize this 75 year old body -- and sooth my soul.  Being Present for the Silence, and opening to the sights and sounds of the emerging light and activity that each day brings, continues to inspire me.
Of course, the temperatures have been pretty gentle for this time of the year.  Although I've had to brave a few mornings that cast rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow in my path, I haven't had to encounter the frigid sub-zero temperatures or fierce northwest winds Mother Nature can deal out in the midst of a New England winter -- yet.
Yikes. With this thought, I immediately notice myself face-to face with the specter of the Global Climate Crisis.  It's seems pretty clear to me at this moment. We, as a species, lost in the throes of greed, fear and delusion, are racing toward an environmental armageddon.  Sitting here, I notice more thoughts tumble into view.  Then I let them dissolve and bring my attention to the feelings flowing through my awareness.  Moments of fear, frustration, helplessness, horror, each emerge.  Then they melt into a deep sadness as I continue to breath deeply, soften, and open my heart. 

Continuing to breath into my heart, I know that others feel this deep sadness too.  It's not merely my own isolated personal sadness.  It is the Sadness, part of the human condition.  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.  Then, 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.  At times,  in my mind's eye glows with 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.

As above, so below.
Breathing in.  Breathing out.  Taking and sending, I continue to practice this morning's form of Tonglen Practice.  (For my take on Tonglen Practice see Taking It to Heart)
At this moment, 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.  As above. So below. The world glistens and comes alive as the miracle that it is.
All is calm.  All is bright.
Now, once again, I connect with my intention to be clear enough and kind enough to help bring about the changes needed to create a sustainable, cooperative, and peaceful world.  As I've done for decades, I recite the Bodhisattva Vows.  Now, I'm ready to face the day.  
How about you?

(For more on Tonglen Practice, see "How to Practice Tonglen by Pema Chodron", Lion's Roar, December 20, 2021)

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


Saturday, December 11, 2021

Mission Impossible

"Taking the bodhisattva vow implies that instead of holding our own individual territory and defending it tooth and nail, we become open to the world that we are living in. It means we are willing to take on greater responsibility, immense responsibility. 
In fact it means taking a big chance."
-- Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

“When you love, you have to act. If you say that you have a lot of love but you don’t do anything then that is not love that is merely lip service."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh
In the past month or so, I've been surfing across a deep yearning for more downtime.
  At first glance that may seem surprising. After all, I do Sit Still Doing Nothing  -- a lot.

If it only were that easy.

Out to Save the World

One thing that drew me to Zen and Mahayana Buddhism in the first place was the ideal of the Bodhisattva.  A public servant in the deepest sense, the Bodhisattva even forestalls entering Nirvana, in order to address the suffering of the world.  This idea resonated deeply with the inspiration I felt as a young teen as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, proclaiming their intention to even love their enemies, challenged this country to live up to its professed ideals.  A few years later, the emergence of SDS and Anti-War movement and the anti-materialistic, psychedelic spirituality of the youthful "counter-culture" set a trajectory for my life that continues to this day.  

Each morning I recite the Bodhisattva Vow as I finish morning meditation.   I first came across a Hippy Zen version of these four statements of commitment in Hey Beatnik: This is the Farm Book in 1974.  I was transfixed.  I got goosebumps.  In that moment, I knew that there wasn't anything better to do with my life.  (Here is a link to an on-line .pdf version of this classic work.)

By then, like many of us who were navigating our way through the confluence of Eastern Spirituality and the Psychedelic Revolution, I had experienced a number of "Awakenings."  The Most Profound One had nothing to do with anything in my bloodstream except the byproducts of meditation, breakfast, and lunch.  For a few precious moments, I had a glimpse of Our Perfect Oneness.  What had been theoretical and abstract, a belief, became real and tangible to me. 

I only wish I had had a spiritual mentor at the time-- or even been more inclined to listen to my friends at that point. It may have made things a lot easier along the way.  Even knowing what the bottom line is, over the years I've made most every dumb mistake possible.  LOL

Although I have read (and recited) other versions and translations of the Bodhisattva Vows over the years --some of the Tibetan versions are quite poetic and beautiful -- this is the passage I read that day years ago: 

"I don't have an ultimate goal in life. I believe in the vow of the Bodhisattva. And that says that sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all. The deluding passions are inexhaustible, I vow to extinguish them all. The way of the dharma is impossible to expound, I vow to expound it. It is impossible to attain the way of the Buddha, I vow to attain it. And that keeps you busy. "

-- Stephan Gaskin, Hey Beatnik!

Excuse me.  My chest is heaving and tears are streaming down my face -- again.  I gotta go get some kleenex.  I'll be back.