"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

Wednesday, May 24, 2023


"All ego really is, is our opinions, which we take to be solid, real, and the absolute truth about how things are.  To have even a few seconds of doubt about the solidity and absolute truth of our own opinions, just to begin to see that we do have opinions, 
introduces us to the possibility of egolessness." 
-- Pema Chodron

“Do not seek the truth, only cease to cherish your opinions.”
-- Seng-ts’an, Third Zen Patriarch

I love when the Universe is kind enough to deal the cards to me in a way that makes a specific lesson inescapable.  This happened to me in spades on a brilliant May morning several years back.

Luckily, hearts were trump.
Following the lead of one the irregular regulars in our Monday Morning Mindfulness  Circle, I had been re-reading Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart, one chapter a day. 

In that morning's chapter, entitled "Opinions," Pema suggested that noticing and labeling our opinions as "opinion" --  just like noting our thoughts as "thinking"--  can be an extremely helpful practice.

Although, I had read that chapter several times before over the years, this time something clicked.  

It made what could have been a heated argument later in the day an interesting and constructive engagement.

Taking Note: Some Thoughts about "Thinking"
I had been meditating on and off for over twenty years before I was introduced to "noting practice" by a teacher in my first retreat at Insight Meditation Society  Before then, after being introduced to meditation through the lens of Yoga, I had gravitated toward Zen Buddhism.  I read extensively, practiced regularly at a local Zen center, dialogued with several Zen teachers, and attended Sesshin. 
To be honest,  that first introduction of the noting practice didn't take.  The instruction to make a mental note -- "thinking" --  whenever I noticed that thoughts were dominating my attention seemed clunky and intrusive.  I hadn't yet come across that in Zen teachings I had heard or read to that point.  I just shrugged it off.  After all wasn't Zazen just zazen?  Who needs such"techniques!?" 
I spent the remainder of the nine day retreat at Insight Meditation Society practicing Shikantaza, the Soto Zen practice of Just Sitting.  I took the formal posture, watched my breathing for awhile to settle into a more concentrated state, and then just sat still for hours and hours trying to stay in the present moment's experience beyond just being wrapped up in my thoughts-- for days and days.  
As had happened before in intensive retreat,  I was able to access a quality of consciousness that was extremely tranquil yet crystal clear and highly energized.  Being Present in the moment to moment experience of life, I felt a Presence.  Mission accomplished.  
Or so I thought.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Body of Wisdom

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. 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

“In Islam, and especially among the Sufi Orders, siyahat or 'errance' - the action or rhythm of walking - was used as a technique for dissolving the attachments of the world and allowing men to lose themselves in God.
-- Meister Eckhart

Reverend Gyomay Kubose (1905 - 2000)
When I observed my first Zen teacher dry mopping the wooden floor of the Zendo at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago years ago, I was awestruck.  
I hadn't seen anything like it before. 

There was a simple grace in his bearing, a Presence in his slow mindful steps that was astonishing. 

It was obvious to me that Reverend Gyomay Kubose, in his 70's at the time, was connected to his body, to the smooth wooden floors of the Buddhist Temple of Chicago -- and to Life itself -- in an entirely different way than I'd seen before.
Later that day, I was introduced to formal walking meditation practice on the opening evening of my first zen sesshin.  That weekend, I got a taste of a different way of being.

Embodied Practice
The first of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of Body is a practice that stretches back to the earliest texts of Buddhism. The Anapanasati and Maha Satipathana Suttas spell out the details of this and other meditative techniques. They’ve been taught and practiced for about 2,500 years. 
Beginning with focusing the attention on the process of breathing, Mindfulness of Body can be practiced in a number of ways to more fully experience the play of sensations dancing through our bodies.  
This can change everything.
As Mindfulness Practice deepens, we become more fully present.  We can connect with ourselves, with others -- and with Life itself -- on deeper and subtler levels.  
There, we may find that Reality asserts itself.
Getting From There to Here

Conditioned as we are, most of us are "in our heads" most of the time.  Although we are always breathing, and our bodies and our sensory apparatus are operating to generate a whole array of experiences, most of this occurs without our full presence of mind.  Generally, conditioned as we are in the modern capitalism of Western civilization, the focus of our attention is primarily on the thoughts running through our head.

Fueled by emotional energies, subconscious beliefs, and conditioned filters that we are largely unaware of, these thoughts dominate our awareness in a way that sweeps us along the stream of our own conditioned ego patterns most the time.  Mindfulness Practice, both on and off the meditation cushion, offers us a means to  expand our range of attention to include a universe of experience that we generally aren't aware of.  Without Practice we are liable to "sleepwalk,"only half-awake, through our lives. 

Reverend Kubose, most definitely, was not sleepwalking as he dry mopped the floor of the Zendo.  I could feel his Presence. He was awake to the present moment, connected with something very special, doing what needed to be done to prepare for Sesshin.  

Saturday, May 6, 2023

When It Rains

"The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face to face...When we want to complain about the rain, we could feel it's wetness instead."
-- Pema Chodron

“The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain. ” 
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When it rains, it pours...

As April waned, Mother Nature showed up to do her part to bring on May flowers here in Western Massachusetts. 

Thick gray clouds moved in.  The sun disappeared.  And, for days and days and days, the world became cloudy, chilly, and wet.  We got doused.  Drizzled upon. Misted. Drenched.  

The flowers loved it, and -- believe it or not -- so did I.

This wasn't always the case.  

There was a time that "rainy days and Monday's would always get me down."  Prone to bouts of depression, primarily propelled by the unexplored grief of a traumatic childhood, I'd invariably cloud up on gray days.  When storm clouds gathered, I'd rain on my own parade. 

Nowadays, I find gray days and stormy weather both comforting and energizing.  It is always a chance to get real.

Whether it's an overcast sky, a soft foggy drizzle, a thunder-booming rip-snorting whizz banger -- or anything in-between --  if I remember to just be present for the actual experience, there is something immensely alive and vibrant about such weather.  Dancing beyond our ability to control it, Mother Nature just is.  She will just do what she will do -- no matter how we think or feel about it.  

So, why not relax and dig it!? 

At this very moment

I feel a lot of gratitude for Mindfulness Practice.

As I sit here with fingers dancing across the keyboard, I see the sun finally emerging to play hide and seek with the storm clouds. Through the open window, I hear the wind singing in the trees, a collection of birds twittering, the pulsating surf of tires hissing along the rain-slickened asphalt of High Street.

Pausing, letting go for a moment of "thinking mind," I'm aware of my breath and the sensations of my body sitting here.  I feel the wind dancing across my skin through that same open window.  The sounds ebb and flow.  The sensations ebb and flow. 

Life is like that, too.