Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Quiet Ending: On Not Expecting Applause or Thanks

Six months since my last post... wow. I know all the reasons I've ignored this blog, and don't think I'm going to enumerate them. However, I'm glad this is the last of the tenets to be considered since I don't really have time for two blogs on top of all the other projects I currently have on my plate. My deep apologies to the dozen of you who read this blog steadily in the past when I was writing it steadily. It was helpful to write about these concepts as I grappled with them, regardless.

The last tenet is as appropriate lesson on which to end as I've ever encountered:
Don't expect applause.
The translation adds another layer: "Don't expect thanks." Basically, don't expect any expressions of appreciation of any kind. And their explanation...
"You practice mind training to be free from your own conditioning. Why should anyone thank you? You are the one who benefits."
A few friends have noted the change in me, and I have to admit it felt nice. But I never expected or even asked for it. In fact, I've felt odd when people noted this blog. It's never been the reason for me pursuing or sharing this knowledge.

Judy Lief's take on this slogan pushes it out beyond the bounds of Buddhism, which is going to take some time to absorb. One particular passage really stuck with me:
"The desperation for outer rewards goes hand-in-hand with an increasing sense of inner poverty. If you are successful in your quest for recognition, you may be able to ignore what you have given up to achieve it. If you are unsuccessful, you may simply blame the system. But in either case, since you have given over [your] power to others, you are left empty."
So much of the last six months can be explained in that passage. Really hard to think about how I might have lived differently if I'd only read that first, but better late than never is an important truism.

I may come back to this project and revisit the lojong tenets. I may come back and delete the entire blog. But for now, I'm going to sit with what I've learned, try to learn more, and try to bloom.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Intentionality Again: On Not Being Frivolous

Upon reading the next tenet, my first reaction was pretty much...

You see, this is something I've been struggling with lately as it is. 
Don't be frivolous.
Even the translation at made me wince a bit: "Don't be impulsive." Not to mention the way their brief explanation resonated:
"Acting on whatever pops into your mind prevents you from developing any stability or consistency."
Don't get me wrong. I'm not really that impulsive. I'm a grown up (for the most part), but the part of my brain that flitters about from topic to topic or activity to activity is still alive and strong. I struggle with spending too much time on social media (although I'm getting better), and I've got a small problem when it comes to buying books that I don't even have room for in my apartment. I can keep myself from acting on most things that pop into my mind, but not all. I am consciously and intentionally working towards living my life more intentionally and towards strengthening my willpower, but I know I have a long way to go... thus the sigh.

Frivolity is another thing altogether. I have toys in my office and watch cartoons regularly. I named my cats for comic book characters, after all. But these aren't necessarily bad things. Lief's piece was especially illuminating on this topic:
"It is tricky to work with frivolity. First, it is easy to confuse it with the kind of openness, light-heartedness and playful childlike mind that is cultivated by meditative practice. Frivolity can seem to be a virtue, but it isn't. Second, it is possible to overcorrect to counter frivolity with an overblown display of seriousness. But the mind/heart cultivated by mind training is neither stodgy nor frivolous. The idea is to avoid both these extremes."
Yes, that is right at the heart of my struggle lately. Her advice is almost always exactly what I need, and I think this time is another example of that:
"Do a little census of what you think about and how you spend your time. How do you distinguish between what [is] frivolous and what is worthwhile?"
Having good definitions is the first step towards feeling more intentional.

So that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Inform But Not Override: On Not Being Jealous

When I read this week's slogan...
Don't be jealous.
...I rolled my eyes and winced a little bit. Some of these tenets are things that I've had handled for years, or my whole life. This one felt like Chekawa Yeshe Dorje was speaking directly to me. I know better. I know that we only see the surface of other's lives and even with our closest friends we don't see the whole picture. I also know, and really believe, that "comparison is the thief of happiness," but I have a hard time acting on the knowledge. has an equally pertinent translation: "don't be hypersensitive." And their explanation confirms how much this applies to me:
"Neither stability or momentum will develop if you constantly react to minor irritations, slights, or inconveniences."
I can't tell you how many times that has happened to me, even just in the last week.

Judy Lief's piece on this teaching brought the two translation into peace with each other:
"This slogan is not only about jealousy, but also about overall irritability. If your meditation practice or mind training is making you even more irritable and touchy than before, something is off. You should be less susceptible to jealousy and irritability, not more so."
She goes on to talk about how jealousy is really another disguise for self-pity, and that we have to be honest with ourselves about our emotions and our state. It's not that we shouldn't notice the differences between ourselves and others, it's just that we shouldn't lend it so much weight or so much emotion. Or, if we cannot avoid the weight and emotion, we should just observe it and learn from it - like we can observe and learn from any emotion.

Finally, she gives her readers a very practical way to apply this teaching:
"Think of someone you know who you are jealous or envious of, and take a look at all the characteristics that spark that feelings. Now think of qualities or circumstance you have that might make someone else envious. There is no end to jealousy once it takes hold. Notice how it feels to be captured by jealousy and how it feels when you are able to drop it before it grows."
I think about my resume, and how - at the beginning of my career - I felt so jealous of the model resumes I saw. Now I look at my resume and it's just as good as those I saw when applying for my first job, if not better. In my career, I let my jealousy inform but not override me. I need to learn how to do that with the rest of my life.

So that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Disappointment and Boastfulness: On Not Wallowing in Self Pity

This next slogan is confusing me a bit, but mostly because there are two translations - one from the cards I've been using and also from Tricycle, and the other from

Both the card and Tricycle translate is as:
Don't wallow in self pity.
That seems fairly straight-forward to me, and Judy Lief's piece echoed my thoughts. She speaks about persevering when the fatigue of self-examination hits. Lief also accurately captured a thought process that flitted through my mind earlier this week:
"When your practices is not going well, or you feel it is too hard, you may begin to regret undertaking it in the first place. It is easy to start to feel sorry for yourself. The anti-lojong slogan, 'Ignorance is bliss,' begins to sound pretty appealing. You think, why not just live a 'normal life' and forget about all this? Why take on this extra burden of mind training and the cultivation of loving-kindness?"
Actually, my whole life has felt a bit "why take on this extra burden of..." lately, with professional writing projects and work challenges piling up. But the answer to my workload is the same as the answer to lojong: because I've found the right way and can't imagine any other approach to my profession or to my religious practice. And indeed, Lief's piece echos that exact sentiment:
"The problem is that once you begin to see things through the eyes of lojong, it is very difficult to turn that off. If you have an insight, it is almost impossible to erase it, or to make the insight an un-insight. What you see, you see. And insight is a good thing, so why feel sorry for yourself?" has, as I mentioned above, a very different translation and corresponding explanation.
Don't boast. 
"When you brag about how kind your [sic] are or how well you do mind training, you are bolstering your sense of self. Send your practice, along with its benefits, to others."
That made me think of a very different kind of pig:

It does seem to me, however, that there is one common thread that runs through both translations of this tenet, and that's this: don't get lost in your image of yourself as a practitioner of Lojong and mind training. It isn't supposed to look a certain way or feel a certain way; it is a process you're following to benefit yourself, yes, but also others. I had a meeting earlier this week that might normally have sent me into a stress spiral but that I handled with equanimity and ease, and it kept the other people in the meeting from spiraling as well. There's something in moments like that one that is worth continuing.

Lief's advice for applying this teaching seems to me to apply to either translation:
"We expect so much from the world and from other people, and when those expectations are not met, we feel angry and sorry for ourselves. Notice the kinds of expectations you have and the relationship between those expectations and the arising of disappointment and self-pity."
And, I might add, the relationship between those expectations and the arising of boastfulness.

So that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Introspection's the Name of the Game: On Liberating Yourself by Examining and Analyzing

Last week's slogan pushed at the boundaries I've put around my practice of Buddhism, pushed further than I had - and I had been thinking about the way I, in the past, drew distinctions between my practice of Buddhism and my everyday life.

This week's pushes even further:
Liberate yourself by examining and analyzing. 
Introspection's the name of the game again, it seems.'s translation supports my interpretation, too: "Find freedom by probing and testing." The same can be said of their brief explanatory passage:
"If you don't push the limits, you will stay as you are. Push on patterns, question assumptions, and don't take anything for granted."
Judy Lief's piece at Tricycle gave further support to the idea that this is about truly looking at myself with an eye for growth:
"The tendency to pretend everything is okay, while avoiding unpleasant realities, can be seen in external social relationships and internally as well. But to train your heart/mind you need to stop pretending. Lojong is not about putting on a show, or keeping up appearances. Instead you bring all aspects of your experience to the surface, even those that provoke you the most."
It's odd how often my professional life dovetails with my spiritual life, and this is another whopping example of that. I've been working, very recently, with a group that is learning about autoethnographies with the ultimate goal for each of us to write a chapter in a book that collects the autoethnographies of academic librarians. So this idea of questioning assumptions and looking deeply and unflinchingly at my plusses as well as my minuses is a bit of a theme right now.

Lief's advice is going to be difficult to follow, but important:
"Bring to mind something that gets a rise out of you. Notice the heightening of emotionality and the arising of a kind of frozen and solid self-regard. Try to stay with that experience and to examine it in depth, as a mental, bodily, and emotional sensation In doing so, remember that lojong is gentle, so don't begin with your most challenging and deep-rooted habit patterns, but with something more ordinary."
I'm going to have to spend a while with this, going to have to keep coming back to it again and again. So that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Every Fiber: On Training Wholeheartedly

Kohler's Pig, by Michael Sowa
I know it's been a couple of weeks, but taking last Sunday off from this blog was one of the kindest things I could do for myself. It was a weekend for being in a weird head space, and getting through and out took most of my energy.

It also gave me experiences that prepared me for this next tenet:
Train wholeheartedly.
"Wholehearted" is one of my favorite words, so it definitely made me smile to see it in the cards I use to guide me through this study. I knew, in an instant, what this teaching means. I still turned to my usual resources for help deepening my understanding. had the exact same translation (it's hard to imagine a different way of saying this), and their brief explanation held no surprises for me:
"Going through the motions isn't enough. You chose to practice. Pour your heart into it."
In fact, this website is where I got the idea for the picture up there. Michael Sowa is one of my favorite artists. He puts animals in situations that make them seem almost human, and that pig jumping into a pond with an expression of utter glee... it really does embody the idea of wholeheartedness, of doing things with every fiber of your being.

I still turned to Judy Lief for a little more depth, and that's exactly what I found:
"Sometimes people think the Buddhist practices are all about mind, nothing else. But the notion of whole-heartedness is that you really feel what you feel and that you feel it completely. You should bring your heart and your emotions into the practice so that you can feel more and more deeply the contrast between ego-imprisonment and freedom."
Bam. That difference between "ego-imprisonment and freedom" is exactly the kind of thing I've been experiencing this week. That is where I'm living, both in my head and my heart. Realizing that I'm floundering a bit but not actually stuck is part of what's happened. And it's a big part of why I'm feeling much more wholehearted than I have in years.

Lief's parting advice will be particularly helpful to me, moving forward:
"Pay attention to the boundary between wholehearted practice and a more vague and lukewarm approach. Notice your thinking process, your bodily sensations and emotional undercurrents. What happens at those moments in which you click in and are really practicing?"
So that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Keeping It Switched On: On Not Vacillating

I wrote the first post on this blog at the beginning of last year. I'd promised myself I was going to write more and be more serious about studying and becoming a Buddhist. The two paired well for me, and it's odd to think of how I'm going to spend that hour every sunday that has typically been spent on this blog. More to the point of this new tenet, I'm going to have to find another way to avoid vacillating in the practice of my Buddhism.
Don't vacillate.
I didn't even bother forming an opinion about what this might mean before turning to Their alternate translation, "Don't switch on and off," didn't help much. Their explanatory passage just made me feel guilty.
"Consistency is the key to effective practice. On again, off again practice never develops any momentum."
I worry that I'll vacillate without the weekly post to write about the next slogan. I know I did before I hit on this blog idea. Judy Lief's piece, however, calmed me again:
  "No matter how you enter into the practice of mind training, the idea is to become more steady and confident. Constantly changing your mind about what you are doing drains away your enthusiasm and leaves you depleted of energy. You sink into a kind of undertow of self-doubt. It is important to break this pattern and to develop more self-confidence and certainty in the dharma and in your own insight."
I know I've built up some momentum on this mind training, and I have ideas about how to keep it going, so it's nice to see Lief talk about it as something "to develop." Her advice for applying this tenet also helps:
"When your enthusiasm seems to be flickering, try to drop down a layer to a more steady and fundamental stream of inspiration. By placing whatever you experience within that stream, you can gradually gain greater certainty in the view and practice of lojong."
So that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that.