Sunday, September 14, 2014

Always Look on the Bright Side: On Maintaining a Joyful Mind

If the tenet I worked with last week was something I needed to hear, then that goes double for this week's:
Always maintain only a joyful mind.
Like most other homo sapiens, I get bogged down from time to time. Sweeping world events, momentary personal upsets, and everything in between,.. any of it can rev up the negative.'s translation, "A joyous state of mind is a constant support," gives a bit of an answer to the "why?" I heard myself asking after reading this lojong tenet. That site's commentary adds a little as well:
"A deep and quiet joy is always present when your internal peace is such that you aren't disturbed or thrown into confusion by events in the world or by your own thoughts and feelings." (Source.)   
So, okay. I get it. Maintaining a positive mindset is a good thing. All lives end in tragedy eventually, so you might as well enjoy the ride. As absurd as that Monty Python song might be, it makes some sense. Regardless of systemic racism or global warming or mold on that bread I was saving to make bread pudding, life doesn't get easier if I'm angry or anxious about it.

So, not only to I get it, I'm on board with maintaining a joyful mind. But how? How do I do this?

Enter Judy Lief, as always, with some fabulously helpful commentary:
"Clearly this slogan is not referring to an ignorance-is-bliss type of joy. And it does not imply that everything is okay. Buddhism is known for telling it like it is and for not being afraid to face hard truths—and the truth is that everything is not okay. Yet we are still advised to be joyful."
Lief always manages to make these tenets concrete and tangible for me. And after reading her short piece on this topic, my interpretation is that this particular tenet is about enjoying the ride while recognizing the steep hills the roller coaster has to climb sometimes.

Further, her recommended practice makes even more sense:
"For today’s practice, I would simply like to pass on a practice I received from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche which is simplicity itself, but oddly effective: No matter what you are feeling or what is going on, smile at least once a day." [Inserted link mine.]
Even if I can't be joyful in ever moment, I can make sure to be joyful at least once per day. So that's what I'll be working on this week.

Until next time, namaste and all that. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Being Self Aware: On Holding the Principal Witness

This is a tenet I need to hear:
Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one.
The translation from is a little different, and adds a layer of understanding for me: "Two witnesses: rely on the important one." And the commentary added even more:
Feedback from others is unreliable. You know when you are clear and present. Rely on the witness of mind itself.   
After going that far, the commentary on this teaching from Judy Lief at Tricycle didn't feel necessary, but I always go there and I'm glad I stuck to my pattern. One phrase in particular stood out to me: "within a [community] of one hundred members, there are a hundred different paths." I sometimes worry that I'm doing this Buddhist thing wrong, that I'm not present enough or kind enough to myself and others, that I'm off the path. But this key phrase reminded me that I'm never off my own path - even if it goes by the woods and then through a garbage dump and finally along a highway, it's still my path.

I read on and found another passage that resonated strongly:
"It is hard to accept this kind of existential aloneness in ourselves or in others. We want people to really know us, and we want to have some way of truly understanding others. But no matter how much we bare our hearts, we can never convey the fullness of our experiential reality. And no matter how much we probe, we can never fully penetrate another person’s experience."
And that's the moment when that silly marmalade kitten seeing himself as a lion came to mind. I don't think I should always disregard my friends' observations, but really I'm the only person who can know when I'm present and in my skin - and being present is the whole point of my studying lojong.

Lief's parting advice in her piece about this tenet is a perfect way for me to navigate between needing the reflection my friends present and needing to trust my own experience: "Pay attention to the loneliness of experience. Notice the difference between seeking for confirmation and direct witnessing. What makes you trust or distrust your own experience?"

So that's what I'll be doing for a while. Until next time, namaste and all that.