"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

Monday, February 19, 2024

One Love. One Heart

“In Chinese, the word for heart and mind is the same -- Hsin.
 For when the heart is open and the mind is clear 
they are of one substance, of one essence.” 

"Love is not what we become but who we already are."
-- Stephen Levine

I slept in this morning for the first time in quite awhile.  

Although I did awaken at around 4:30, to participate in my "wee hours" recycling project, I immediately returned to bed.  There, I followed my breathing into "dozing/dreaming meditation." 
A long, rather vivid, dream quickly emerged.  It was unsettling.  
With echoes of my many "personal failures" ringing through my mind, I awoke again.  I glanced at the clock.  It read 6:45! That's wicked late in my world.  

Feeling harried and hurried, I went into the bathroom to do a bit more recycling.  Then I picked up the iPhone and cast my Lojong Slogan for the day: Number 49. "Always meditate on the difficult emotions that emerge."

That sounded spot on.
I could feel a deep sadness welling in my chest  -- but, damn,  it was LATE!  The hiss of the morning traffic on High Street concurred.  It was rush hour.  I had a long list of things to do.  I felt propelled to just keep moving! 
Day In. Day Out.

For decades now, I've begun my day with an hour of meditation. The commitment to a daily practice made sense to me.  The momentum of this commitment has become a habit. It carries me along.  At times, I feel like an autumn leaf floating on the surface of a dancing brook heading toward the sea. 
This commitment seems natural to me. Through repetition, certain mind states and behaviors have become habits. At this point, the Practice is doing me as much as I'm doing it.  Life flows on.  I flow on.  
During the day, in the midst of the things to be done, I'm reminded to be mindful every twenty minutes with the peal of a meditation bell on my iPnone.  I also have an old three minute egg timer that catches my eye now and then.  I flip it over and Simply Sit Still.  Aware of my breath and body, the sights and sounds surrounding me at the moment, and the gracious spaciousness and stillness that appears to permeate each present moment, I hit the reset button.
Then, as the twilight fades into night, I often watch an hour or two of media. Then, an inveterate bookworm, I pick up a book.  These readings run the gamut from the scriptures and commentaries from the world's religions, to contemporary works in history, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and physics.  The book usually joins me in bed for a bit.
Then I meditate in shavasana for awhile, before turning on my side and meditating into sleep.  I wake up in the wee hours to pee, practice a dreamy, dozy, death meditation in shavasana and fall back into the arms of sleep.  At times, the Dream Yoga Practice produces an awe-inspiring lucid dream.  (The flying dreams are the most fun.) 
More often, more mundane concerns appear in my dreams.   When I awaken, within a dream or afterwards, I practice opening and embracing even the more frightening, frustrating, and painful assortment of energies that may emerge. 
Then, at about 5:30, I wake up. I brush my teeth.   I cast a Lojong Slogan for the day. Then, after a few moments of prayers, prostrations, and bows, I Simply Sit Still.

That bedrock morning ritual became a bit rocky this past week, though.  
To Sit or Not to Sit?

I actually missed a morning meditation one day last week for the first time in a long, long time.  Then the next day, I only sat for 20 minutes before setting up to host the Morning Mindfulness Meditation Circle on Zoom. There, thankfully, I did have the opportunity to Just Sit Still for another 20 minutes, and practice mindful movement for another 10 minutes before beginning the sharing session we call the Heart Council.  Then I was ready to launch into a busy day.
So. What's the big deal about establishing a daily meditation practice?

For sure, most of the meditation teachers I've practiced with recommended it.  It seem logical that our minds, like our bodies can be trained to experience a healthier relationship to life.  
I'd been an athlete in high school and college.  I'd seen the positive results of devoting time and effort to physical training.  Yet, beyond the medals and trophies I acquired, I also sensed that there was much more to life.  My heart led the way to explore the deeper meaning, purpose, and possibilities of our journey.
With the recent advances in neuroscience it is clear that our minds, even the biological component of the brain and nervous system can be changed to operate with greater concentration and clarity through mindfulness training. 
Most every morning, I don't think about it. I just do it.

Yet, this morning, that didn't happen. I woke up late and was off and running!  Having jumped into a number of new volunteer projects, I had things to do! I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down in front of the computer, ready to tackle the first thing on the list.  
Then, I came to my senses.  I looked at the sunlight playing through the bare branches of the trees outside the window.
I stopped.  
I sat up a bit straighter and took a long, slow, deep breath.   Sitting there, I relaxed and sensed that place in me that appears to make choices.   Rather than just "go with the flow"this morning, I had to stand in the way of my own momentum.  A real decision had to be made.  
After a few more conscious breaths,  it became clear to me.  First things, first.  The list will be there when I return.  I stood up and headed back to in the bedroom.  I faced the altar.  Although the preliminary ritual has transformed over the years, I set a timer for an hour.  Then, as I have done for a long time,  I Simply Sat Still.