"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, December 25, 2022

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

Mother Nature must have had one eye on the calendar.  The Solstice appeared this week on Wednesday.
Then, with a blast of frigid arctic air that produced gale force winds and a great deal of each and every form of precipitation along its front edge, She cast Winter -- in no uncertain terms -- across the nation.  Overnight temperatures last night plunged into the single digits as far south as Birmingham, Alabama.
Here in Western Massachusetts the temperature dropped from a springlike 58° yesterday to 5° this morning.  
Being the weather geek, I just took a quick look at the extended forecast, and noticed that the National Weather Service has temperatures returning into the 50's by the end of the week here!  Immediately, thoughts arise, unbidden but compelling.  
Glaciers are receding, permafrost is melting, seas are rising, severe weather is increasing.  It's clear to many that we are in the midst of a Global Climate Crisis.  Yet, astonishingly,  the power elites that control the political and economic institutions of the world, fixated on their own personal profit and power, haven't responded to turn things around.  In fact, still engaged in fossil fueled wars, they only seem to have doubled down on the destruction of our grandchildren's future. 
My heart aches as a deep sadness emerges.  I've been here before.  
It's time for Tonglen Practice. 

These days, I don't try to avoid this feeling.  I've come to know that these feelings are not mine alone.  They are part of the lived experience of human beings throughout time.  In fact, they are transpersonal.  They are being felt by others at this very moment.  I commit to open my heart to the emotional energy playing through my awareness, to serve as a conduit for all these feelings, and to embrace them in loving acceptance.  I've seen that they are inseparable from the human condition. 
As I have learned to do, I focus my attention on these emotional energies as they dance through my body and allow the thoughts to drop into the background of my experience.  Moments of sadness, horror, anger, and yearning emerge as I take a few long, slow, deep breaths visualizing that I'm  drawing and releasing each breath from center of my chest.
Then, to align my "thinking mind" with my intention to engage the healing possible through Tonglen Practice, I bring to mind one of the Brahmavihara phrases that I learned,  as I return to the slow expansion of the next inhalation, "May all beings be free of 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.  My tender, warm, achy-breaky heart is comforted in the embrace of a calm, clear, expansive, open awareness 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 radiates outward from my heart on the wings a visualization of the clear and brilliant eyes of countless beings gleaming in full awareness of their Buddha nature. 

I continue breathing and Practicing for awhile, and my heart glows as a deep, calm, joy mingles with a soft melancholy.  A pale lemon- orange dawn emerges outside the window. 

All is calm, all is bright.

Although the Silent Night has passed and the sun has returned, the words of the Christmas carol ring through my consciousness, and becomes the title to this offering.  In the lingering silence of dawn, I hear the whispering of the vast and expansive One Love which resides deep within us -- and infinitely beyond us.  It's light glows in my heart.

As we turn toward his holiday season, honoring the many traditional celebrations that have emerged at this time of longest and shortest days, may we all rest in the embrace of  One Love.   May we know Peace. 

(For more on Tonglen Practice, see Your Courtesy Wake Up Call: "Tonglen Practice: Taking It to Heart"

Originally posted December 2015. Revised.


Saturday, December 17, 2022

For Unto Us a Child is Born

Nine years ago yesterday, Keaton Izzy was born.  It seems like her Incarnation into this dimension was only yesterday -- AND that she has been here forever.  As miraculous today as she was then, she is a on-going reminder of the sacred nature of life on earth.  As Christmas 2023 approaches, I thought that I would again share the post I wrote the week of her birth. 
One Love,

December 19, 2013

"Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles.  Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh 

"Every child born is a living Buddha.  Some of them only get to be a living Buddha for a moment, because nobody believes it."
 -- Stephan Gaskin 
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

Originally scheduled for a Christmas Day debut, my grandaughter, Keaton Izzy, arrived in the wee hours of Monday morning -- in plenty of time to avoid a head to head competition with the celebration of the Jesus's birth.  

Sporting all ten fingers and toes, sparkling with Buddhanature, her birth -- like all births -- is another obvious affirmation of the Miraculous.  As she peered from one face to another, following the sound of our voices, I could feel her Presence as the incarnation of pure, unadulterated Life Force.  

Touched by the Great Mystery once again,  I felt a deep joy -- and a deep sadness. 

As a child, the Christmas season always brought with it a certain sadness.  Something seemed more than slightly askew.  The idea that the holidays were a special time of mirth and merriment didn't jive with the reality of my life.  Often separated from one -- or both -- of my parents, living in poverty, all those tidings of comfort and joy didn't land well for me.  As the years rolled by, I imagined it was just the chaos and uncertainty of my own childhood that left me feeling sad.  I thought I was just "out of the loop."  

As the years have rolled by,  I have thought that less and less.  Even when the conditions of my life had improved, what I saw in the world around me, the scurry and stress of Christmas shopping, the drunken revelers, the television news full of the violence and warfare, made "peace on earth" and "goodwill toward men"seem like ancient and empty promises. 

Yet, in my heart of hearts, something still whispers to me.   


Sunday, December 11, 2022

Visible to the Naked Eye

“If the doors of perception were cleansed 
every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. 
For man has closed himself up, 
till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.”
― William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell 

Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child 
 -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
I'm a Lifelong Life Geek.  
Since I was a kid, I've been quite interested in trying to figure out what is really going on -- and what I should do about it.  When I wasn't getting in trouble or being bored in school, I really did love to learn about everything.  I'd read whatever I could lay my hands on.  I was fascinated by trees and flowers and critters.  I did science, taking things apart to see how they worked.  In elementary school, I made a telescope from a busted camera I found in the alley and charted the position of Jupiter in my notebook each night for awhile. 
Yet, like many of us, my earliest perceptions of the spiritual dimension of life were not surported.  They were consistently ignored -- or squashed.  In a society that mostly doesn't believe in such things, few of our parents or teachers had a clue. 

That should come as no surprise.  
We've grown up in a dominant culture immersed for centuries in a white supremacist capitalism steeped in scientific materialism -- and saturated with a distorted and limited form of Christianity, one that believed that Heaven is a place that can be experienced only after death.  Even worse, the prevailing belief of most churches has been that entry to this place demanded obedience to a harsh and rigid set of rules and beliefs -- and was reserved for its members only. According to their view, the afterlife is, literally, eternal hell for the rest of us.  Over the years, they even executed those who held other beliefs.  As a kid, this version of a Loving God never made sense to me. (I think Jesus would probably still be turning over in his grave at such nonsense  -- if only he had stayed there.)

Lest Ye Be Like Children
At age 76, I'm still a Life Geek.  After over fifty years of focusing a lot of time and attention on the exploration of the spiritual dimension of life, I'm able to connect the dots more and more.  With a formal meditation Practice that included spending time in retreat with a number of teachers, and a pretty solid daily meditation Practice for about 30 years, I've scrubbed my doors of perception -- a lot.  It's been very helpful.  Things that used to drive me crazy, don't anymore.
At this stage of the journey, I get a pretty good taste of the miraculous nature of life most every day.  When I pay attention to it, there is an expansiveness and depth to my experience that brings it all together for me much of the time.  When I remember to come into the present moment with an open heart and a clear mind, I am aware of a dimension of being that permeates everything and unconditionally embraces all that is, ever has been  -- and could possibly ever be. There, Reality asserts itself -- and it glows.  Contrary to what some folks say, Heaven is right here in our midst. 
Although I didn't have a way to express it, I sensed this as a kid.  (You probably did, too.)

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Final Frontier

“Fundamentally there is just open space, the basic ground, what we really are. Our most fundamental state of mind, before the creation of ego, is such that there is basic openness, basic freedom, a spacious quality; and we have now and have always had this openness.
― Chögyam Trungpa
"When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment,
our understanding of what is going on deepens, 
and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

When I was growing up, being called a "space cadet" was not a good thing.  

Unless you were an astronaut-in-training at NASA (or, perhaps, a Trekkie), the term was a put-down.  Those who didn't appear to pay a lot of attention to the seemingly endless concerns and hassles of what most people called the real world, weren't cool. 

Although I didn't realize it at the time, it's now obvious that some of these space cadets were marching, perhaps even dancing, to the beat of a different drummer.  And, they were tuned into something real.

In doing so, they actually had a leg up on the rest of us.  We were fully engaged in spinning our hamster wheels in an invisible, but very compelling, mind cage. 
Lost in our thoughts and feelings about doing it right, being "cool," going for the gold and the gusto, being all we can be, etc., most of us were continually scrambling to get with the program in what society presented to us as the pursuit of happiness.  Yet, we didn't realized the deck was stacked against us.  We had internalized the values and norms of modern capitalist society long before we had the insight or the skills to realize that society's "conventional reality" was a bum deal.  It was merely a house of cards.  Although the scientific materialism that gave capitalism its tools can create technological magic, it can't explain who we are, what is really going on  -- or what we as human beings are to do about it.  It doesn't even belief that there is a spiritual dimension to our lives.  This  has led to the mess we are in on this planet.

The "space cadets" I knew in high school seemed not to take the game so seriously.  Less driven, less engaged in being "with it," they seemed to be able to let go, relax -- and journey elsewhere.  One of my friends quit the football team after the first freshman practice saying "that's freakin' crazy!" So, while I was running around bashing into other guys -- and getting bashed -- trying to be cool, he spent his autumn afternoons wandering alone through the woods.  Another friend had her nose in a book or would sit gazing outside the window with a Mona Lisa smile on her face much of the time.  I thought they both were a bit wierd.  Yet, both seemed a lot more content than me. 

Who knew?  

Aboard the Starship Enterprise

These days, I will gladly accept the title of space cadet.   

Fortunate to have come of age in an era where many folks managed to "turn on, tune in, and drop out," I found that "inner space" is the final frontier.  Introduced to marijuana and mushrooms, yoga and meditation, pouring through volumes of spiritual teachings, hanging out and comparing notes with kindred spirits, I came to see clearly that there is a dimension of experience where the boundary between "inner space" and "outer space" itself is transparent.  In those moments, Reality asserts itself.  What remains is the vast, spacious, mysterious immensity of simply Being.  

So, for decades now, most every morning,  I make the choice to step off the hamster wheel -- and space out.   I Just Sit Still with an open heart and a clear mind for an hour.  Using a variety of techniques I've learned over the years,  I open to the sensations of life breathing through me and the clear, bright, spacious awareness that permeates existence.  Allowing the thoughts and emotions to come and go as they please, I come to rest in the reality of each moment.