"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, November 12, 2022

The Way hOMe

“The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind.”
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
“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 blinds, it played across the floor as I entered the bedroom.  A windblown dance of light and shadow, it brought a smile to my face.

Then, as quickly as it had emerged, the sun disappeared behind 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, pink-brown, late autumn leaves of the crab apple tree dancing in the breeze outside the window.  Instead, momentarily startled, I stood face to face with a stark display of gray clouds and wet, empty branches. 
"Oh yeah," I thought. "It rained hard all night.  Duh."  Although the weather had been unseasonably warm, the change had happened.  It was now Fall

I smiled again.

I guess I'm pretty easy these days -- at least most of the time.  A bit less attached to always having it my own way, I'm usually, more or less, at peace, content.  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 -- the opportunity opens.  We can experience our lives differently. Within the ever-flowing energies that we encounter, we can see that there is always nothing more, and nothing less, than life as it is this very moment. Opening to the moment, wholeheartedly, we open to Love.

Although the thoughts and emotions that emerge in our lives can make it appear otherwise, what is right there in front of us is a constant invitation.  We can either open our hearts and minds to embrace the miracle that exists within and beyond each and every 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 what Zen Buddhists call "the way seeking mind."  In the Western terms, it is part of our psyche, the portal to our soul.  This part of us may erupt as a loud cry in the midst of a crisis or loss.  Or it may emerge as a whisper, an ache, a yearning that appears when we free ourselves from the myriad distractions that surround us and just sit alone in the silence.  It may burst our hearts as we marvel at the grandeur of sunset or sing to us softly in the dancing embers of a campfire.  Or, perhaps, it comes to our awareness as we explore the disquiet we feel underneath the nagging thoughts and questions we have about the meaning and purpose of our lives.
Whatever form it takes, there, in our heart of hearts, our True Nature beckons.
If we are fortunate enough, or desperate enough, at a certain point we respond.  Admitting to ourselves that we actually don't know who the hell we are or what is really going on, we embrace our confusion as a good friend.  We choose to approach our lives with a basic openness and a childlike curiosity. (Yogi Jesus is reported to have identified this is as a requirement for entering the Kingdom of Heaven: "Lest ye be as little children...") We begin to experience our lives as a process of discovery. Whether we take on a formal teacher or not we become full-time students.

As Suzuki Roshi presented it in Zen Mind. Beginners Mind, we each have the inherent capacity to let go of our preconceptions and open ourselves to a fresh and unique appearance of each moment.  After having spent years investing in "growing up," knowing things, defending our opinions with a vengeance, we can learn to explore not knowingThere, beyond what we think we know, in each and every moment, Reality asserts itself.

Along the way, I've found that a commitment to a formal meditation practice helps.  Taking the time and making the space daily to connect with the vast realm of experience beyond the emotional reactivity and habitual thought processes that have always dominated my attention, has been invaluable.  Just Sitting Still, I've learned to cultivate a more precise, yet relaxed and open, quality of awareness.  In the moments that I am truly present, I experience a Presence that soothes and satisfies my soul.
Yet, at this stage of the journey, it's what happens between those periods of meditation that really matters to me.   Over time, it's become easier to notice and release the emotional reactivity that emerged in early childhood.  It's become easier to see and let go of the structures of thought that I've used to "know" (i.e. control) what's going on.  It's been easier to let go of being "right," easier to approach each moment with curiosity.  Though the patterns that emerge from a traumatic childhood may rear their head often, these days they usually don't get much traction.
Seeing that everything changes, changes everything.  
Seeing directly the fleeting effervescence of each moment as it emerges and recedes into a vast and mysterious open space, sensing in my heart that we each are inseparable from the endless web of causes and conditions and energy that constitutes the Universe, certainly changes things.  Realizing that it isn't all about me, I can lighten up.  I don't have to work so hard.  Through the gracious spaciousness of not knowing, I can relax and trust my heart. 
Coming hOMe to that heart space, ease and joy prevail.  Without effort, kindness and compassion and clarity naturally emerge.  More and more, I can just be who I am.  
I can live -- and die -- with that.  How about you?
It just takes Practice.



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