This week we will be exploring two more slogans from the transforming bad circumstances section. The two are Drive All Blames Into One and Be Grateful To Everyone. Keep in mind all 59 slogans are ultimately to help us train the mind. They are not designed to teach us how to end our suffering/difficulties or make our lives better. They are to allow us to cultivate kindness – the most powerful aspect of being human – and the longer you contemplate them you will see how ingenious they are at that cultivation.
Take drive all blames into one which means we stop looking outside ourselves around any harm, suffering, pain, challenge or difficulty in life. Instead we take personal responsibility for it all. There isn’t enough space in this post (and you would hate the length of the email) for me to fully unpack this but if you think about it, we are forever trapped in the harm of others. The fact is people cause harm. We are destructive beings and there’s no questioning that fact. There is harm all around us regardless of where you stand on any political, environmental, religious or social issue and most of it stems from the wrongful conduct of another.
An untrained mind will take this unfortunate state of humankind and spin in a vortex of trying to solve, correct, fix the situation by making the offender acknowledge the wrongfulness of their conduct and take it back. But even as I type this (and you read this), we know it is impossible to change other people. So we are left with the spinning. In this first slogan, we don’t fall for the mind’s spinning trap. Instead we turn inward to release whatever suffering we feel from the awareness of the harm regardless of its source. From this inner door we can let go of the need to blame and free up the mind’s spinning energy which then allows us to be responsive to the harms in our lives, our communities and our world.
But first, we have to be willing to acknowledge we are spinning and not actually “responding” to harm. Which brings in the second slogan – be grateful to everyone. No one survives alone. We are all interdependent on others. Being grateful doesn’t mean we turn into some door mat. There’s actually a strong reason for practicing gratitude. Gratitude softens the mind. The softer our minds, the more we can clearly comprehend the harshness and futility of our spinning. Once we unentangle ourselves from the spinning – we can get on with doing something about the harm.
See you tomorrow – Tuere:))
My apologies for the late post. Time completely got away from me :).
Tonight we will begin to look at slogans around transforming bad or difficult circumstances. There are several slogans in this section. Its probably best to look at two or three together. But first we need to get clear about the view (or lens) we are using to explore the slogans in this section. If we approach this section with the wrong view – much of the slogans will have a sense of demanding we simply “suck it up and keep moving”. The way I have learned to approach this section is to consider the slogan as a light to help me see through the darkness of delusion. We have often talked about things like attachment to pleasure, opinions, a sense of self, expectations, etc.; all of which bring let downs, disappointment, dissatisfaction – the foundation of suffering. What we need is a light, a warning sign, to let us know to where we are or a bell to remind us to tread lightly. That is how I hold the slogans in this section.
We will start with exploring the first slogan (as a stand alone) – When the world is filled with evil, Transform all mishaps into the path of Bodhi. To me this slogan basically means that everything that arises in our lives can be seen as support for our awakening. This is similar to the conversation we had last week about training with the slogans in everything we do but it takes us to an even more subtler way of abiding. What if the whole point of this human existence was to awaken the mind? It would require us to turn our view from an external perspective to an internal perspective.
To do this we need two assumptions – (1) wisdom comes from obstacles so we need them to awaken and (2) awakening has more to do with how we hold or relate to experience rather than the experience itself. It like welcoming the obstacles in life because they help us awaken. The more we are able to see our life obstacles as generous gifts, the more illuminated our path becomes and the more confidence, courage and capacity we have to move through life. Rather than spinning around worrying about the rightness and wrongness of the obstacles and experiences of ordinary life, we look for the stickiness in any situation first. It’s not that we don’t care about rightness or wrongness. It’s that the our practice (the path of Bodhi) uses the causing of harm or non-harm as it’s gage rather than the judgment that is stuck to rightness and wrongness. Paying attending to the stickiness first allows us to move through life with the least amount of harm even as we stand up for whatever truth we believe.
We’ll let the wisdom of the group bring this idea out more tonight…
This week we will look at two slogans together – Three Objects, Three Poisons and Three Seeds of Virtue and In All Activities, Train with Slogans. These two slogans represent one of the main reasons I love Buddhism. Everything about this practice points to finding the truth for oneself. We can listen to Dharma talks, read books, follow meditation instructions and talk over our difficulties with a teacher; none of which will liberate the mind. Freeing the mind requires a willingness to turn the practice, our insights and our understanding towards oneself. The Dharma works in the application not in the learning.
In the first slogan, the 3 objects are friends, enemies and neural persons; the 3 poisons are passion, aggression and delusion (or ignorance); and the 3 seeds of virtue are the absence of passion, aggression and delusion. When you initially consider these it may seem like this practice forces us to strip ourselves of all the goodness and power of life (given that virtue is pointed to the absence of passion, aggression and delusion). I believe, however, this slogan points towards seeing with wisdom. The labels we put on people, places and things is what makes something a friend or enemy or unworthy of any attention. It is not about getting rid of the label but rather recognizing that the labels come from our own minds not the object. Likewise, with our passions, aggressions and places of delusion. Until we are willing to see our part in these forces of nature, we will be slaves to their reactivity. When we can see our part, we will still have passion or aggression but we will also have the wisdom not to be pushed away from our values by it. We can find a way to live in relationship with the objects through the seeds of virtue.
The second slogan reminds us to view all experiences as an opportunity to practice. The more we see life as practice, the more capacity we generate to deal with anything that arises. Thus, we you find yourself stuck in some aggressive state you can first look at the labels and judgments you are bringing to the table. When you are able to remove your mental add-ons, you can deal with the situation from a place of wisdom. I believe wisdom is far more powerful than aggression. What do you think?
We’ll explore this together on Thursday. Until then…
Tonight we will be exploring the practice of giving and receiving – Sending and Taking should be practiced alternatively. These two should ride the breath. I have been reflecting on this section of the book over the last few days. I believe this slogan was one of the most freeing of all the slogan for mes. This is the practice of Tonglen. It is the practice of breathing in suffering and torment and breathing out goodness, ease and peace. With each inhale we take in more and more pain. We let the natural circulatory wisdom of the body transform the suffering into light, becoming increasingly expansive. Then with each exhale we send release. This is similar to our traditional. The taking and sending comes and go continuously in relationship to the rhythm of the breath.
You can start with breathing in darkness, letting the body transform it into light and breathe that out completely. Then again with each breath. When ready, we breathe in our own suffering, transform it into peace, ease (etc.) and breathe out it’s release. We do this continuously. If you began obsessing over your problems you are not riding the breath. There’s not enough time to dwell in the story when you are riding the breath. There is only time to feel the pain and the release. Finally, we breathe in the pain and suffering of another. We try to breathe in all their pain, let it be transformed within us and breathe out peace.
I think it was because I had never conceived of breathing in the suffering of another that this practice was so intriguing to me. After reading Chogyam Trungpa’s commentary, I had a lot of anticipation around the nature of this practice. I held a deep belief that the practice could change my life. I was so full of expectation that I spent much of my early years just thinking about the practice but never actually doing it. I basically became afraid of the practice. It seemed too powerful and painful.
Then one day nearly 10 years later, I drove my sister and mother to a department store. I didn’t want to go in so I agreed to sit in the car until they returned. While sitting alone in the car I decided to take on the suffering of the people who walked past the front of my car while leaving or entering the store and to send them joy, kindness, compassion and ease of wellbeing. At first it seemed kind of boring and I thought maybe I had conned myself into believing the practice was more than what it actually was. But then a couple walked into my view. They walked side by side with their heads down. They looked weary and tired. I focused on them and began to breathe in their heaviness and breathe out joy. I did this breath after breath. After a bit, I noticed them look at each other and began to laugh. They put their arms around each other and walked into the store. That moment changed everything. I began to focus on people – taking and sending – over and over. I must have been in the car for close to a half hour. The people ceased being random. They became my kids, my mom, grandparents, sisters, brothers, friends, etc. It was truly amazing. I have now been practicing Tonglen for over 15 years and I love it. It truly is transformative – mostly because of the riding the breath.
We will explore this idea of taking and sending tonight. The similarities and differences with Metta. We can even practice a little if you are up for it.
This week’s slogan is In Postmeditation Be A Child Of Illusion. Ultimately, this slogan speaks to the need to bring our sitting practice into our everyday life. Many practitioners live a split life. There is their sitting practice and their ordinary life. Their sitting practice may be centered around a desire to practice, an actual daily period of siting, attending a sangha sit and going on retreats. They may be in awe of what they observe during sitting and the insights that come from it and yet they drop everything as soon as they get up off the cushion or return home from sangha or retreat. This slogan points to remembering mindfulness even off the cushion.
We learn to connect with mindfulness off the cushion by practicing looking at life through a child’s eyes. It’s not that children don’t see difficulty and pain. Many children grow up in very adult type situations. The resiliency of a child’s mind, however, is the lack of complexity. As adults, we seem to make everything in life complicated. Its really because of our constant judging and comparing. Over the course of our lives we pick up so much information. The mind is constantly sifting through and applying this information to everything that come into its purview. Children do not have the benefit (or more likely the curse) of having all that information so they see the world through the simplicity of curiosity.
This slogan is not about living in the naiveté of a child. It is about living in the wisdom of an adult with the wonderment of a child. It is about cutting through the complexity of life with the simplicity of curiosity. This is what we do when we meditate. We apply non-judging awareness to whatever arises. Non-judging awareness is where curiosity lives and it is what strengthens our practice and allows insight to rise. If we applied this same non-judging awareness (curiosity) to our ordinary circumstances in life maybe we could see the delusion in some of our difficulties or perhaps see how some pleasurable things may not be worth all the pain they bring.
This week we will consider how we could carry the innocence of a child into our ordinary lives. What would this mean to you? Is it possible for an adult to reconnect with their childhood innocence? Would you even want to? And what does this have to do with lovingkindness; is there anything simpler than kindness?
This week’s slogan is – Self-Liberate Even the Antidote. According to Chogyam Trungpa, “[t]he idea of antidote is that everything is empty, so you have nothing to care about,…nothing really matters very much. It’s like a backslapping joke in which everything is going to be hoo-ha, yuk, yuk, yuk…All is empty so who cares? You can murder, you can meditate, you can perform art, you can do all kinds of things – everything is meditation, whatever you do…Antidotes are any notion that we can do what we want and that as long as we are meditative, everything is going to be fine…The whole point of this slogan is that antidotes of any kind are not appropriate things to do…we are not particularly seeking the simple experience of tranquility – we are trying to get over our deception.”
Even though we have been talking about softening and emptiness for two weeks – this week is about letting go of the idea of emptiness as a concept. We need to see that unless we are willing to see through our deceptions, no amount of discussion around meditative concepts will liberate us from delusion and as long as we live in delusion we will suffer the pain entangled within that delusion. It starts with a daily (or at the very least weekly) meditative practice of sitting still, softening and observing the mind. We take the time – or rather make the time – to withdraw from the impulses of our habitual mind. We watch how the mind seeks to create and control experience. There is no better way to see the deceptive nature of mind than when we are still and quiet.
This inability to see our deception is at the root of aversion to loving-kindness. We are deceived into believing that life centers around us – individually; that we move through life – individually; and that, while we have no control over the larger world, we do control our individual world. When we meditate, however, we see just how insignificant we actually are. We realize that we have no control over the sounds, thought, images, sensations, emotions, smells, tastes and moods that show up nor do we have control over how they impact us. This Thursday, we’ll explore how we get trapped in antidotes and how to self-liberate ourselves from them.
In this week’s slogan we will be exploring the nature of mind – Examine the Nature of Unborn Awareness. According to Chogyam Trungpa, “the reason our mind is known as ‘unborn awareness’ is that we have no idea of its history. We have no idea where this mind, our crazy mind, began in the beginning. It has no shape, no color, no particular portrait or characteristics. It usually flickers on and off, off and on, all the time. Sometimes it is hibernating, sometimes it is all over the place. Look at your mind.” And “when you look at your own mind (which you cannot actually do, but you can pretend to do) you find that there is nothing there.”
Mind is both empty and awareness. Mind is made up of neurons and pathways of habitual responses and yet “we” are also aware of all sorts of things – designs, memories, concepts, beliefs. Things that make up experience – past, present and future. Mind makes everything about us seems permanent, solid and absolute. I know who I am because I know where I came from. I know where I am going because I know where I am now. From this thinking – the mind can create permanent, solid, absolute characteristics of self, facts, projections, dangers, etc – that we live trapped within.
Last week’s slogan was about softening around the mind’s absolutes and this week we look at the nature of mind as empty. This softening and examining the nature of mind allows us to become malleable. Loving-kindness requires an ability to bend, to shift our focus from ourselves to others. That is why loving-kindness is so important. It’s not just about being nice. It’s about living in reality – we are all in relationship with each other. It doesn’t matter whether people are kind or cruel; loving or hateful; generous or selfish; protective or dangerous – we all live together and we cannot get rid of or change the people we don’t like. We have to learn to live with the very thing we don’t want to live with!
We are preparing ourselves to be able to do this. Just like when you prepare for a marathon – we are warming up. We are stretching our understanding. We’re getting comfortable with bending, twisting, and reaching. This Thursday we will explore what this means to you. What does it mean to you to be bendable? How bendable do you want to be? What if you are the only one bending – do you still want to do it? What would the world look like if no one bends?