"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, February 25, 2023

Keeping It Real

"Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove 
the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear...
All that I can, in true humility, present to you is that Truth is not to be found by anybody who has not got an abundant sense of humility."
-- Mahatma Gandhi

The truth is the truth, whether or not it is accepted by the majority.” 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Mahatma Gandhi 
Although I haven't seen him in awhile, and the entire course of our friendship emerges from a few dozen conversations, mostly at an upstairs table at Green Fields Market Co-op, I still consider Gary to have been one of my most valuable teachers.  
A few times during our first conversations, Gary had challenged me to clarify what had slipped out of my mouth -- often as a quip or facetious comment. (It seems I often default to my youthful personality as a Chicago street kid, a wannabe wise guy, the perennial, if not all that proficient, class clown).  
I learned.  
In Gary's presence,  I had to slow down and be more mindful of what propelled my words, what the words may mean, and how they may land.  I'd have to listen deeply to him, feel his energy, meet his eyes.  With an open sense of humility, he was sincerely trying to communicate, to listen carefully, to speak with care.  He did his part to make a true human connection, not just pass the time of day. 
What a blessing!
Whether we were talking Co-op Policies (he sat on the Board), world events, the in's and out's of daily life, or spirituality,  when I was sitting with Gary, I had the opportunity to engage in a sincere, shared exploration about the truth of the matter at hand.  In Gary's Presence, I had to be Present.  I imagine sitting with Gandhi would be something like that.

In one of our interactions, Gary thanked me for the fundraising effort I'd made a on behalf of two friends, codgers like myself, who were facing eviction as a result of ill health and their extended unemployment benefits being cut by the Republican-controlled US Congress.

When Gary first brought up the topic, my first reaction was a subtle feeling of fear in my solar plexus.  The week before, with my heart in my throat, I had bombarded each and every one on my email contact list, google+ circles and Facebook friends with that fundraising appeal not once, but twice. Even though I had feared that some folks may roll their eyes or maybe even get pissed at me for this blatant appeal -- I had done it anyway. Trying to help out a couple of folks in need felt that important to me.

When I told Gary about that fear, that I was set to apologize for bothering him, our eyes met and we Connected, heart to heart.   He smiled and said " It's okay man.  Thanks for keeping it real."
At that moment, there was communion in its true sense. 

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Good Vibrations

“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand 
like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.”
― Albert Einstein

"Attention is energy.  What you pay attention to you get more of."
-- Stephen Gaskin

As a kid I was extremely curious.  
I think we all were open and curious at first.  Then most of us were quickly conditioned to drop it and "get with the program." It seems that many parents and schoolteachers couldn't deal with our incessant questioning. Sometimes a simple "why?" seemed to agitate them.

I remember stumbling across a broken camera in the alley when I was about 9 years old.  I took it home and immediately took it apart.  
I then wondered why the heck the world was upside down when I looked through the lens. Why? I then extracted the other lenses from the viewfinder, and after fooling around for a while, I figured out that if I lined two lenses up,  I could make it right side up -- and bigger! I had discovered  the telescope.  
For the next week or so, I peered at and plotted the movement of the brightest star -- which I learned from my teacher was really the planet Jupiter --  across the sky outside my bedroom window.  Then, being a kid, my attention turned to other projects.

Later that same year, I discovered that a battery-powered car I'd received as a Christmas gift made static on the radio's speakers whenever its path took it close to the radio!  What's that about? 
Again curious, I took the car apart and learned that its electric motor created the noise in the speakers.  I'd discovered "radio waves." Before all was said and done, I had extricated the motor from the car, cobbled together a homemade keying device, and learned Morse code so that I could send messages through space using these invisible waves of energy.   

This early interest in invisible waves of energy continued.  In junior high school I became a ham radio operator -- and  I learned to play the guitar.  Sound waves, radio waves, light waves.  They all fascinated me.  From my science teacher, I learned that invisible waves operated at different frequencies.  I could hear that in sound waves.  I learned how to tune my guitar. I could turn the dial to different frequencies on the radio.  I could see that as light waves became the colors of a rainbow they danced through a prism.  How cool is that?
Then, I learned about resonance.
I found that if I sang a G, that my guitar would sing back at me from across the room.  I learned how to tune up my homemade radio transmitter to deliver maximum power at a particular frequency.  When I did, the power it took to light a 75 watt light bulb could send radio waves from my homemade wire antenna, cut to a specific length to radiate them most efficiently.  Those invisible waves would then bounce off the ionosphere and back to earth allowing me to communicate with hams thousands of miles away.   
How cool was that!?
Learning the principles involved and applying them was magical to me.  
I'm picking up good vibrations
By the time the Hippies were happening in Haight Ashbury a handful of years later, even at a distance, I was quite inclined to believe in "the vibes."   I didn't find it odd at all to believe that there was a dimension of experience that involved the transmission and reception of invisible energies.  Experimenting with marijuana, I accessed new realms of experience.  I found that I could feel good vibes and bad vibes in situations.  Other folks said they could, too.  Many had noticed that their dogs bark at certain people and not at others.

Being the geek I am, I began pouring through the books about mystical experience and spirituality.  It seemed clear that there were ancient systems designed to get in better touch with the spiritual dimension of being -- and live a better life as a result.  I began to explore yoga and meditations.

In the course of the next few years, with the support of a number of friends/kindred spirits (we actually formed a short-lived "commune" in the early 70's), I saw clearly that one didn't even have to do drugs to be in touch with that subtle dimension of consciousness.  If I paid attention, at times "the vibes" were (and are) as perceptible as the wind on my skin.  Then, I came to see that, just like in music and radio, there were certain principles at work.  Some attitudes and behaviors created peace and harmony -- on every level.  Others didn't.

Monday, February 13, 2023

What's Love Got To Do With It?

"Hatred never ceases by hatred. It is healed by love alone. 
This is the ancient and eternal law."
-- Buddha

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your strength and with all your mind. 
Love your neighbor as yourself.”
--  Jesus of Nazareth

With the candy-coated, commercialized carnival of Valentine's Day coming up,  I find myself again musing about True Love. 

I don't know how it plays out in other languages, but it seems to me that in English the word "love" is astonishingly imprecise.   

The very same word is used for both the ultimate self-sacrifice that Jesus spoke of when he proclaimed, "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life, "AND the most possessive and jealous form of desirous, grasping imaginable.  The very same word, love, casts a net that includes both the enlightened activity of the Bodhisattva Green Tara -- and the painful, jealous flailing of folks ensnared by the Green Eyed Monster!

Yet, we have it on "good authority" (see introductory quotes above) that the key to the Real Deal is Love.  So, what does the word "love" really mean? 


Yikes.  Here we go again: What does the word "mean" really mean?  

Its "meaning" runs the gamut from ultimate significance and purpose, to simply being nasty!  It reaches from the perfection of Aristotle's (and Buddha's) Golden Mean to the obnoxious underwater antics of the Blue Meanies.!?


It's Only Words...

Love? Meaning? 
These words certainly seem important.   Yet using these word to get at the Truth seems a bit problematic, no?  Conditioned as we are in a culture that stresses the importance of conceptual thought, much of our awareness is tied up in the stream of words that dominate our attention.  Yet it's obvious that words can be quite sloppy, their meanings even paradoxical.  Perhaps, words are not all that useful in our quest for fundamental clarity.

The Zen tradition points this out.  Repeatedly. 

During a teisho in sesshin years ago at the Rochester Zen Center, Bodhin Kjolhede Sensei asserted, "Every time I open my mouth,  I'm lying!"  He had obviously -- and very passionately -- opened his mouth.  I sat there bemused. 

Was Sensei telling the truth in that assertion -- or was he lying?

You tell me!?

Friday, February 3, 2023

The Facts of the Matter

Gazing at tonight's full Snow Moon as it sails into a sky that promises sub-zero wind chills before morning, I recalled a post written after a similar night eight years ago.  I have tweaked it a bit and am reposting it this week.  Have a look?

One Love,

"Delight in itself is the approach of sanity. Delight is to open our eyes to the reality of the situation rather than siding with this or that point of view."
— Chögyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom

"Please understand, you have inherent in your very Mind a huge potential, an incalculable brilliance, an ability to see the reality of this moment clearly."
-- Harada Roshi, opening talk,
Rohatsu Sesshin, Sogenji Monastery, 2011

My Little Corner of the World
An old coot, I rarely sleep through the night these days.

Generally, at least once a night, I have to roll out of bed and walk a few steps into the adjoining room. There, I participate in one aspect of this grand recyling project known in some circles as Samsara.  

Then, depending on a multitude of factors ranging from things like the phases of the moon, to what happens to be on my mind at the moment, I usually plop right back into bed and quickly meditate back to sleep.  With any luck at all, a bit of lucidity happens, and I catch a few dream bubbles along the way.  

Sometimes, something else happens.

Last night, as I crawled into bed, I heard the winds howling outside the window.  I then felt a bit of coolness on my skin as a draft found its way under the blanket that hangs over the window alongside my bed for nights like these.  

Curious, I pulled a corner of the blanket up to take a peek. 

I was awestruck.

Outside the windows, the wind howled eerily as the stark silhouettes of winter's barren trees danced wildly in the moonlight.  Not to be outdone, their shadows played across the blue-white snow of the yard beyond the stubble of the gardens.  Under the influence of a brilliant full moon, the entire world outside the window was luminous.  It seemed to glow from within.

Thoughts, being incapable of grasping the majesty of the moment, became irrelevant.  They just went on their merry way unattended -- leaving wordless wonder and sheer delight in their wake.  Mindful Awareness did it's thing.  I was all eyes and ears -- and Heart!  
Spellbound.  Enchanted.  I was aware of the boundless and mysterious One Love that exists within and beyond each moment. 
I don't know how long I was Present for that particular miracle.   It seems that Time had called "time out," and was huddling with the Timeless.   At some point though, the buzzer sounded.  The Grand Referee blew the whistle -- and samsara resumed play.  Tired, I let the blanket fall back across the window and rolled over.  

Grinning ear to ear, I stretched out, relaxed, and returned to sleep. 

Upon Awakening

Sitting here, recalling the experience,  another truth embedded in the stark reality of last night's weather comes into clear focus.

According to the National Weather Service, the raw temperature at 4 a.m at a small airport near here was -13°F.  The windchill was -22°.  Given different circumstances, that scene I gazed at outside the window wouldn't have been delightful.  It would have been deadly. I have experienced homeless in my life. I am well aware that unprotected, I could have died out there -- and the trees and wind and moon would've just danced on. 

Yet, in the grand scope of things, that's the real deal.  Even though I am sheltered and warm at the moment, Life itself is always a deadly proposition.  It's a terminal condition.  Nobody gets outta here alive.