"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 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.)
Heaven and Hell
One Saturday morning when I was in second grade, I went into a rapturous state of wonder as I sat quietly in my bedroom watching dust motes dance through the brilliant shaft of sunlight that had eluded the lowered shades and played through my field of vision.  I was astonished, totally absorbed, moment to moment, in the delightful light show of mini-shooting stars and strobe lights appearing and disappearing from view.  Relaxed, fully present, I experienced a vast, spacious, Presence.  It was, as John Keat's noted,  one of those “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” experiences.  
Then, moments later, my mom came through the door, took one look at me, and yelled "Don't stare!" 
My heart contracted.  I thought I'd done something wrong again.  I descended from the grandeur and amazement of directly experiencing the sacred beauty of existence into the body and mind of an eight year old child experiencing fear and shame.  In a chaotic childhood full of abuse and abandonment, experiences like this continued to tie me up in knots.  They operated to create a layer of armor over my tender and gentle heart.  This hardened heart became part of the wounded ego structure that created my view of myself and the world. 

I didn't get back to another similar glimpse of Sacredness until I was a senior in college in the spring of 1969. 
That night, in my second experience with marijuana,  I actually saw my first tree since I was a kid during a solitary night time walk around campus -- after toking up on a joint.  I was spellbound.  The silent and boundless beauty of an ordinary tree glistening in the moon light was extraordinary.  I was awestruck by its Presence.  Then, everything was extraordinary.  For a few moments, Time stood still.  I was aware, that Life was infinitely expansive, imbued with a profound sense of miracle and mystery.  Sitting here with the memory, I can feel it.  (If this is a drug flashback, I'll take it. LOL)
A year later, I got another taste of Presence.  I'd begun doing hatha yoga for awhile and saw Guide to Yoga Meditation by Richard Hittleman in a local bookstore.  I bought it, brought it home, and poured through it pretty quickly.  Then, after my wife had gone to bed, I fired up a candle in the living room and sat down to gaze at it.  I don't know how long I was concentrating on the flame, but at a certain point as I sat there, something shifted.  The candle flame and my sensory consciousness flickered and danced as One.  I could feel what my eyes saw inside my body.  I could feel my awareness expand into boundless space.  (No, I wasn't stoned at the time.)  This experience convinced me that I should probably begin a serious meditation practice. 
I'm glad I did. 
These days, I Sit Still by myself for an hour most mornings.  Then I meditate a bit more with some kindred spirits on Zoom during the week.  I participate in a daylong retreat once a month at a local yoga studio, and usually do a three day personal fasting retreat at least once or twice a year.   Sometimes, I'm lucky enough to I sit for a day or two during sesshin with my old buddhies at Valley Zendo.
I don't think that this is a sign of an "advanced" practice.  I just really need it.  It takes time to untie those knots and melt the armor that shields my heart.  I've had to shake like a leaf at times and cry at times -- both on and off the meditation cushion.  (Tonglen Meditation, as presented by Pema Chodron has been incredibly helpful.  I blogged about it here.)  Yet, I'm grateful to say that I can now face each day with an open heart and clear mind much of the time.  When I'm really paying attention, Infinity is often visible to the naked eye. 
For sure, I still can collapse into old patterns and be a jerk once in awhile.  But, even then, these days I generally have enough presence of mind available to notice it pretty quickly.  Practicing the"tonglen on the spot"that I picked up in retreat with JoAnna Macy almost 15 years ago, I can usually return to my body and breath, lighten up,  and get to the heart of the matter pretty quickly. 
It just takes Practice. 


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Lance Smith said...

YGood to hear from you, Sis. You've been on my mind a lot recently. And Yay The Naprapath's I've known over the years have had better insights into the nature of health than most of the straight medicos.

And, for sure, Meditation has been my go-to way to Connect with what's going on inside of me -- and beyond me. There are a number of teachings and techniques that have served me well for quite awhile now. And, as always, I usually have my nose a few books of spiritual teachings most days. It keeps my "eyes on the prize." Rather than distract myself with too much with TV and movies, which are all over the place in terms of their energy and their presentation of what is real and good. The latest have been "Mind at Ease" by Traleg Kyabgong, a Tibetan teacher in the Kagyu traditon. He does a wonderful job of presenting the historical context, philosophical view, and meditation teachings of Mahamudra meditation. A number oh his specific instructions for what is known as "insight meditation" in the US, were great to use in this week's morning solo Sits. And the MMM ZOOM Circles were a great way to touch base and compare notes on Life and Practice with the small group of regulars and a few new folks this week.

OH! Thanks for the XMAS gifts! Got em in the mail the other day. I'll continue to hold you in my prayers and meditations. One Love L 🙏❤️

Anonymous said...

It was so nice to read about the seeds of wonder and curiosity and yoga/meditation practice. Thank you for the glimpse into your geekiness and connection to the Divine. Be well my friend and Happy Solistice.