Cup of Coffee

At three am
I got up
and had a cup of coffee:
dark chocolate
thick and rich
cane sugar, simply sweet
all of it hot to my lips.

The house creaked with the heating pipes
I spun my prayer wheel again
my mind is clearing along with my lungs

I feel alive in the silence.

I think of beautiful women sound asleep
alone, alone together, or together
working in hospitals
police, rescue workers, bakeries
moms with babies, daycare,exams to take, jobs to find
husbands, good and bad
in the shower
walking dogs,feeding cats
driving down dark foggy roads
in morning darkness

I am in wonder and appreciation
and grateful.

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As a warrior

We can think of ourselves as great warriors, in the tradition of the Samurai.
Not in the mindset of the killing, but the art of training thoroughly, of appreciating the art of combat, poetry, the tea ceremony.

We learn the art of being present in stillness in the midst of action.

In my early meditative training, I learned to place 25% of my attention on my breath. The rest of my attention was trained to be relaxed and light; my senses took in what was going on around me and then let go, touching in and letting go.

Training our minds

The country we live in is obsessed with how we look, our appearances.
We will go to any length to alter our appearance.

Very few people think about their minds.

Fewer still think about learning to train their minds.

Fewer still attempt it.

Most people wake up and have a list of things to do and work at doing them.

However, unless they work at training their minds, they are prone to following one distraction after another.

In shamatha meditation we work on stabilizing our minds. We simply train in placing on our breath.

Our breath goes out, our minds rides that breathe.

The out breath stops
There is a wonderful empty pause
Then in breath; the mind rides along
Then pause.

We do this discipline for ten minutes.
When the mind wanders
We gently bring it back.

Some people are afraid shamatha will turn them into zombies.

However the opposite is true.
Being able to control one mind enables one to focus for longer period of times, brings stability and clarity.

Are these things not what you would want for yourself?

Thoughts Come and Go

I can watch my own thoughts come and go, rise and fall; but I can also point at ‘big thoughts’, ‘big concepts’ that have captured me for most of my life or years, months of my time.

Coming to a new understanding of myself is usually a process of daily work, like learning how to use a new piece of equipment or training a puppy.

One day we wake up and say ‘Now I’ve got it!’, but it’s really the result of day by day practice.

A concept or way of seeing or being may have captured our minds and colored our life in a way we did not like.

Then because we have practiced day after day, one day we step outside of that bubble of thought. We are outside of it and can look at it like a small balloon. It has lost its power over us.

Let go of Appraisal

Let go of appraisal.

Far beyond what is necessary, we decide that someone or something is perfect or dumb, stupid or great.

We do need to make decisions in our life, all the time. However, if you look a little more closely, our needless opinions litter the landscape.

More and more, suspend your judgement wherever possible.
It goes against the grain of our current training, our current life, yet once you start, it releases tremendous amounts of energy that were formerly used to maintain these opinions, these thoughts.

Time Off

The reality for us human beings is that it is extremely hard for us to just be.

Try this as an experiment: when you feel you have done your day’s work or finished a task, watch what you do, see how you fidget.

We all fidget in our own unique way. We tighten our tie, check our voice mail , have a piece of gum, get a cup of coffee, call a friend, day dream about vacations, look at catalogs.

We could simply observe out fidgeting for starters.

In our minds we think, now I’m done (for the moment,day,week,month).

Watch what your mind grabs for next.

It is hard for us to condition ourselves to spaciousness, to being, even for five minutes. It usually feels terribly, terribly uncomfortable.

Why?

Sending and taking-Tonglen

The realm in which we live is known as the realm of passion.
Like sharks we never stop cruising, perpetually hungry.

Over one thousand years ago a Buddhist adept codified a set of practices that can give us respite from our endless hunger.

Contained within the list is Tonglen-sending and taking.
A great leveler, a great expander, a great healer-at complete odds with our normal way of life.

With our out-breath, can we send all all of the things that we prize to another being and then with our in-breath, take in all that we avoid and run from.

Our good health, our talent, our friendships, money, nice car
all goes out with the breath to another.

Riding the breath inward comes sickness, instability, poverty, loneliness
and confusion.

Back and forth we go
Sending and taking
Sending and taking

A beautiful cool dry breeze going out
A tarry, putrid, wet stench coming in,
filling us.

The more realistic, the better.

If we persist, it becomes no big deal.

We can expand to take it all in
Good and bad
We can become larger and more relaxed in our lives.

We can deepen this practice
Beginning with those we love
Then those we don’t care about
And working up to those we despise.

We can even start with parts of ourselves

We no longer choose to be a gated community
We can set up a ferry.