"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about calming your mind and opening your heart enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Once Upon a Time

“The Buddha’s principal message that day was
that holding on to anything blocks wisdom.
Any conclusion that we draw must be let go." 
---Pema Chodron

"We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release 
our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

There is no doubt about it.  I'm a Geek.  I often have my nose in a book of spiritual teachings of some sort.  There are usually stacks of books on my nightstand, my kitchen table -- and elsewhere.  Some of them are new.  Some of them are old friends.

I had occasion to hang out with one of these old friends the other day.  

IMHO, The Wisdom of No Escape: and the Path of Loving Kindness is a must read.  Between its covers, Pema Chodron tells it like it is.
 
In this book, this venerable American teacher of Tibetan Buddhism presents us with a useful and practical way to carefully, gently, and persistently alter the way we experience our lives.  Rather than scurry ahead in the tunnel vision of our own conditioning, we are invited to open up, come to our senses, and walk ahead into the vast and mysterious beauty of Life as it is.

How cool is that? 
 
No Such Thing as a True Story

Even if I can't convince you to read the entire book, go to the library and take a peek at
Chapter 8.   Entitled "No Such Thing As a True Story," there Pema Chodron describes the way that we co-create our own world, moment to moment, largely as a result of the "story lines" that frame our experience. 

Those thoughts arise, unbidden, quite mysteriously from a cauldron that contains our individual and collective conditioning.  Over the course of our lives,  we each have developed a set of  habitual narratives.  (Many of them were developed in the first years of our lives as we learned to develop concepts.) These narratives are fundamental in creating our lives as we experience them.  Often, they dominate our attention.  Others whisper to us below the level of our conscious awareness.  All the while, they are operating to shape the world as it appears to us.

With Mindfulness Practice, we can come to see this operate directly.  Then, we can learn to expand our focus.   Rather than remain "lost in our thoughts," we can shift our awareness from our heads to the boundless space of our own hearts.  There, the thoughts are seen as just thoughts, not as the Truth.   We see clearly that these thoughts are insubstantial, transitory, impermanent.  Paying close attention, opening to the space from which they emerge, we find ourselves dancing with the wondrous array of energies at play in the vast spaciousness of each moment.  Instead of allowing the thoughts to continuously play the re-runs of our own individual movie day after day, we are free to experience life directly, to become who we truly are.
 
 In Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, Pema Chodron describes a form of Practice that is useful in the midst of our day to day life.  She sees it as a three-fold process: 
Let go of the storyline.
   Feel what is in your heart.  
Open to the next moment with no agenda.
  She counsels us to do it "again and again and again."  Taken to heart, this can change everything.

It just takes Practice.

(READ MORE)
I think therefore I am.  Not.
 
Of course, for most of us, the "habit" of focusing most of our awareness on the content of our thoughts is deeply ingrained.  Descartes's presumptuous proposition is embedded in our cultural DNA.  Here in the West, the rational mind is seen as our fundamental connection to the truth of the matter.  A whole realm of human experience is avoided, repressed, or denied.
 
So, it's not hard to understand how we have come to pride ourselves in knowing who we are, what is going on, and what we are doing.  As Pema Chodron sees it, we've learned to stay in our head to avoid "the fundamental ambiguity of being human."  In the process, we've learned to "harden our hearts," to shield ourselves from the inevitable feelings of pain and fear and confusion that are part of the human condition. 

For most of us, our "thoughts about the matter," our likes and dislikes, beliefs and opinions,  become the primary foundation of our identity.  The "I" that we experience is, in large part, the sum total of the conclusions we have drawn about the nature of reality and how we fit into it.  Even if that "I" was substantially created in our childhood, and is generally stressed and unhappy, we cling to it.  It is familiar terrain.  It can be scary as hell to throw it all up for grabs and realize we don't know really know who we are or what is actually going on. 

Yet that is precisely the Gateway to the Real Deal. 

Mindfulness Practice, both in formal meditation and off the cushion, gives us a chance to get out of our head to notice what we are actually experiencing in the moment.  It offers us the opportunity to come to our senses, to experience other modes of knowing.

Over time, with commitment, effort, and gentle persistence, we begin to open to Life in a fuller, kinder, clearer, and more complete way.  In time, we come to see clearly that we are way more than we thought we were.  

In fact, at times, we can decide to just close the book, (or turn off the devices), take a full deep breath, feel our hearts, and look around us.  Beyond the prattle of our discursive thinking, the sights and sounds of feelings of our own experience have a depth and luminosity that is magical.  There, we can know directly that what separates us is only relatively real.  Within and beyond that, in the embrace of the One Love that exists in our heart of hearts, we are the entire Universe! 

At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it -- or not.

3 comments:

jontz said...

Beautiful, Brother ❣️. THANK you Soo much 🥰🙏

Anonymous said...

Yes!

Dharma Bum69 said...

Very inciteful Lance and absolutely correct. I've arrived at similar conclusions. Namaste