"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

Friday, November 1, 2013

The (Heart) Beat Goes On

"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, in the 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?

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.

(To be clear, I haven't studied the Lojong Practices with a qualified teacher and it's not been a major focal point of my own practice.  It does resonate, however, with my own understanding, a skillful means for some who may be drawn to it.  Who knows where the MMM Circle will roll?)

* As well as Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness by Chögyam Trungpa, Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön, and Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong by Norman Fisher, there was an excellent weekly presentation of the entire sequence of 59 Lojong slogans done by Acharya Judy Leif at Tricycle Magazine On-line


Anonymous said...

The teachings of Jesus Christ are not too often used in a comparison amongst the eastern 'counterparts'. I can't help but feel the 'discrimination' confusion, and fear at how hard it is to throw that name out when sharing knowledge on the heart, mind and spirit of all living beings. Yet words and parables from Eastern sages are studied and translated to exhaustion.
The storyline of teaching, in my experiences thus far, seems to be one in the same. A difference? the water is deeper in some areas along the stream. We need to be clear to see, calm, to hear, and open to create a file of learning as we gaze outward to find the beauty of each moment.

Lance Smith said...


I consider Jesus to be the One Love Incarnate. The Heart of His Teachings--stripped of the seeming misconceptions of his followers--is a pure expression of what the Buddhists may call the Dharma.

In the East, many Hindus conceive of him as an avatar, an incarnation of Vishnu the Savior/Redeemer. It's Christians that seem to get hung up on the notion their understanding of Jesus is the only way to see things.

Seemingly, it stems from the prevailing interpretation of "only begotten", the notion that there is no other way to God than to accept the Christian system of beliefs.

in light of the current state of Christiandom, I don't find it odd that many folks can't stomach Christianity. I often counsel folks not to throw the Baby Jesus out with the bathwater. but, I totally understand if folks need to seek the Truth outside the Christian tradition. We each have a path to walk within the One Love of Being.

The bottom line is our commitment to Love as far as I can tell. True Love, however, isn't easy. It is a rigorous and challenging discipline.

That's where meditation, and the Practice comes in as far as I tell.

Anonymous said...

The parables of Christ are deeper than any ocean on this pebble we all call home. They are different for each one of us, in any moment on moment as we travel through this timed out human experience. To study slogans written out by someone who's meanings would, at best, limited by definition is a hard pill to take.
Christians being hung up on the notion that Christ is the only way to see things, does indeed seem to explain away all other opinions set to paper by others. "I am the way, the truth and the life" hint hint seems to be. Others have foundations set by His example?
It will take everyone their lifetime to understand Christs teachings in His puzzle style parables, why? because they are different to each one of us, and it changes as we change all for our benefit. We are all sparks of God, all belonging to the One Source energy. Yet, we have different DNA, habitats, environmental pressures, born under different magnetic pulls as this planet spins, and yet....each one of those parables is full and complete guidance to all our needs. Others have broken them down and given their intuitive insight on their meaning and one must understand that those writing such opinions of meaning on the best way to live life, are also writing it from their energy charged being and it will always mean more to them than anyone else who reads it. It has to. Jesus however, spoke to all of us, His clues are meant for all to understand,for all times, in each a different way, and will charge your own personal energy field in what ever way it resonates to your soul in the moments on moments.
The parable of the rich man and the camel, and the needle can be so deep, you can almost see the rainbow shining through the eye of the needle, yet it can be general for those who still just skim the surface of it's meaning by what is Christianities opinion of it's meaning.
Seems to me sound and light are keys that open the door to understanding all life here including self. we must know ourselves before attempting to take on understanding God as an outside treasure. Inner God, soul, needs to be connected to charge the energy that make up who we are, individually. To study all avenues of self, to understand Jesus is monumental to feeling love, seeing love, and knowing we are all love.
When we begin to understand Jesus we will have to decide how and why we live. To understand the teaching of others, is to understand the teaching of Jesus, only through someone else's eyes. Knowing the eyes are the windows to our soul, looking out your own eyes is to connect with your own soul and to all that is.
Eastern teaching ,what I've studied, is subtle, beautiful, and all comes from Source. If you believe Jesus comes from source, studying from the Master makes life easier it would seem.
To seek to use, your own sixth sense can be the illumination of positively charged chakras bringing one toward pure light.
I start the day with the prayer from St. Francis, it's power takes me closer to Christ puzzling parables in any given breath.
True love,? just look, see, hear, smell, taste ,feel and imagine. we do those things all day and night, just sometimes we may need less instructions on how to do them. Let go and let? Appreciation alone is charging ones energy connecting God with self . It's as natural as a camel walking the desert trusting it's own instinct to how it must live it's life to survive.
For one to study up on their own birth, to read the lessons they have themselves come here to master, is also a good place to start. There are many teachers out there in all categories, picking and choosing what resonates with ones soul can only be done by self.