Sunday, October 19, 2014

Making the Best of a Bad: On Practicing Even When Distracted


Yes, it's been a while. I'm teaching a class this semester and that seems to have eaten up all of my spare time that's not spent with friends or at work or doing crazy extravagant things like, yanno, sleeping and eating and chores. Despite having pretty good reasons for having ignored this little blog of mine, I've been feeling guilty about it. Then, when I saw the new tenet, I felt even guiltier:
If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained.
Really? A guilt trip? Also, isn't practice the opposite of distracted? <theatrical sigh> I have been meditating pretty much every day (missed three times in the last month, and I was sick for two of those), but I haven't done much beyond trying to be mindful and meditation. Too distracted.

As is my pattern with these teachings, I turned first to to see if they have an alternate translation and/or a helpful explanation. Their translation of this teaching wasn't very helpful, "Proficiency means you do it even when distracted." Their explanation helped, however:
"Your training arises naturally to correct imbalances when you encounter unexpected events, just as an expert equestrian corrects imbalances without thinking about doing so."
That passage made me think of a cat who does something utterly klutzy, but manages to make it look like the whole maneuver was on purpose - like that kitten above. Like you might get off balance, but you work with it and right yourself smoothly. (On a side note: I keep thinking about giving up on, but then I get occasional gems like this...)

Tricycle's piece echoed this idea of being able to regain your balance, but Lief added one further idea:
"According to this slogan, instead of waging a kind of battle with distractions you can co-opt them as supports for your practice. It is like setting a default tendency toward mindfulness and bodhichitta, so that the moment a distraction arises, it brings us right back. The instant we notice we have lost our attention, we have regained it. So for a well-trained mind, when sudden distractions arise, they do not interrupt your practice, but reinforce it." (Source)
And that gets at the whole reason lojong attracts me - the idea of using my daily life to inform my practice of Buddhism. It's about making the best of a bad situation. She adds one further idea in her suggestion of how to incorporate this tenet into practice more concretely:
"In your practice and during your daily activities, pay particular attention to the points at which you lose your mindfulness. In terms of bodhichitta practice, pay particular attention to the points at which you lose your openness or kindness. Notice the process of losing it and coming back."
So that's what I'll be doing. Until next time, namaste and all that. 

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