"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about calming your mind and opening your heart enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call! Musings on Life and Practice by a Long-time Student of Meditation.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The (Heart) Beat Goes On -- and On!

Amidst the muted bronze and increasingly tawny beige cascading along the ridge overlooking 108 House, Life/Death continues to unfold within the world of appearance and manifestation. Immersed in the activities and communications of seemingly major transitions, I didn't make time for the blog post this week.  Mourning is an exacting practice.

As I've done a couple of times before, I turned the clock back a year and took a look at a blog post from November 2013.  It turns out that this week is an anniversary of sorts.  Prompted by a discussion in the Midweek Mindfulness Circle, I had just launched into an examination of the Lojong Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.  The Heart of Practice for me for this past year, the 59 slogans and meditative techniques of Lojong have graced my life.  Grateful to the Teachers whose written commentaries have brought them into vivid (though sometimes varied) focus and to the Practice itself, I offer this brief introduction once again.    One Love, Lance  


"While we are sitting in meditation, we are simply exploring humanity
and all of creation in the form of ourselves."
---Pema Chödrön, Awakening Loving-Kindness

"Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation."
---The 16th Mind Training Slogan of Atisha

I've had my nose buried in books a lot this past week.  No longer on the road with Daddy and Papa duties predominating, my time had opened up again and, of course, I seemed to fill it right back up.


Although, admittedly, some of that time involved taking long morning walks amidst fall splendor and making the time to take additional periods of Just Sitting Still Doing Nothing, the discussion in Wednesday's Midweek Mindfulness Circle did propel me to dive into a stack of books to re-familiarize myself with Lojong Practice, based on the Mind Training Slogans of Atisha.

Although these slogans emerged and were passed on as secret teachings in Tibet by the emigre Indian teacher, Atisha, they were codified and then opened to a wider audience in the 12th century by Tibetan teacher Geshe Chekawa.  Now, in the 21st century melting pot of American Buddhism, I not only get to read a  number of commentaries of teachers from the Tibetan tradition (Chögyam Trungpa, Pema Chödrön and B. Alan Wallace), I get to read the commentaries of an American disciple of Japanese Zen, Sensei Norman Fisher.*  It's like peering at the facets of a diamond while slowly spinning it around.

How cool is that?
(READ MORE)
At one point years and years ago, after having been struck by Ram Dass's teachings in Be Here Now,  I scribed a couple of "reminders" with colorful magic markers on index cards and taped them at eye level at strategic points around the house.  The first was "BE HERE NOW".  The second was "BREATHE!"  Often, when my eyes caught the card, I remembered!  If only for a moment or two, I had the opportunity to interrupt the habitual storylines running through my head and recalibrate the focus and quality of my awareness.  After awhile, I had internalized the reminders.  It was quite helpful.

The Mind Training Slogans of Atisha are, to say the least, a bit more sophisticated approach.  The 59 slogans are organized into 7 Points with the purpose of guiding one's Practice--both on and off the cushion.  In familiarizing yourself with the slogans, in taking time to reflect on their meaning, the idea is that you'll be more likely to remember. The notion is that in formal meditation practice and during the helter skelter of one's daily life that one of the slogans may emerge in that moment to frame how to use that moment as an opportunity to practice.  Rather than react in our "normal" and generally neurotic habitual manner to the world inside and outside of us, we have a chance to interrupt that flow, to train ourselves in greater openness, kindness and compassion.


Then, in a delightful--and very Buddhist, manner--we find that the slogans are also systematically designed to self-destruct.  (Slogan 4: Self-liberate even the antidote!)  They aren't seen as truths in and of themselves.  They are merely mind rafts along the river of your own mind, a means of taking the Practice deeper.   

And then, as Pema Chödrön sees it, they don't even get you to the other shore.  As the Practice deepens, they just sink leaving you there with no ground to stand on!

All you have left, then, is an open mind and a caring heart.

(As it turned out, six months later I began offering a semi-monthly Circle devoted to the study of Lojong at the request of some of my Mindfulness Buddhies.  I started another blog at this time A Layman Looks at Lojong, but didn't have time to continue it.  It does, however, have an annotated bibliography of resources that might be helpful if you are interested.  Remember, though, the proof is in the pudding.  Your personal commitment to Meditation, itself,  forms the foundation of Lojong.  -- One Love,  Lance)



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