Sunday, December 21, 2014

Take the Left Turn at Albuquerque: On Not Being So Predictable

This slogan made me wince when I first read it:
Don't be so predictable. 
It made me wince because I am so very predictable. I have my well-worn patterns, grooves I've worn in my life. Sometimes predictability can be comforting, but other times it can only get us into trouble. The very next thing I thought of was Bugs Bunny and his predilection for never turning left at Albuquerque. It always gets him in trouble. Sure, his troubles end up being fairly entertaining for the rest of us, but think how happy that bull would have been if he'd been left to his own devices.

The thought of BB and Albuquerque never left me as I did my typical research. Skipped ahead to the Tricycle piece and was happy I'd done so because I found a few pieces that resonated, albeit uncomfortably.
"If we do not make an effort to do otherwise, if we do not pay attention, then much of what we do will be in the form of automatic reactions. We can see this whole process as it is happening, although often we do not. We might recognize it in the sinking feeling of 'Here I go again.' We might see it coming, but our reaction is so fast that we can’t stop ourselves."
 Yes. I resemble that remark. Quite a bit. I've lost track of how many times I've said something like "Here I go again" to myself over one emotional reaction or another - especially the negative ones. It really is Bugs all over again. The things that kick my anxiety up or my anger or even my pride... there so much that is predictable. 

I can't exhort BB to trust his instincts and take that left, but I can work on my own predictability. Lief's advice will be easier to practice since I'm on vacation this week and will mostly only be seeing friends who I adore:
"When you feel threatened, don’t get defensive, pause, and then react. When you are praised, don’t just lap it up, pause, and then react. What do you notice?  Explore the contrast between using experience to further your own agenda and seeing it from a broader perspective."
So that's what I'll be doing. Until next time, namaste and all that. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Avoiding the Sleeping Death: On Abandoning Poisonous Food

Last week I had to abandon hope of fruition, which didn't bother me so much because I gave that up long ago with regards to my practice of Buddhism. This week, the tenet instructs us to
Abandon poisonous food.
I've learned by now that any tenet that sounds super easy - of course I'll give up poisonous food! - is not going to be straightforwards at all. And a quick glance at the translation and explanatory paragraph for this teaching on support that. Well, the translation isn't that different: "Give up poisoned food." But the explanation...
"The poison is the tendency to form an identity around any activity or training. Let go of any sense of being special because you practice mind training."
Oof. I resemble this remark. I take a certain pride in the work I do studying Buddhism, but this tenet is reminding me that this sort of pride can actually get in the way of the work I'm doing. And that's exactly what Judy Lief, in her piece about this tenet, says:
"The image of poisonous food suggests an experience that is seemingly nourishing, but in fact can kill you. In terms of slogan practice, this image refers in particular to the poison of ego-fixation and its power to transform the nutritious food of loving-kindness practice into poison."
That's exactly what happens to Snow White when the evil queen gives her that apple that will induce a sleeping death.

Or, to use Lief's phrasing, "Eating poisonous food feeds the ego and poisons our spiritual freshness and innocence."

She then goes on to exhort her readers to
"Whether you follow a spiritual tradition, or you are affiliated with no tradition, reflect on... how you approach the spiritual path and the cultivation of loving kindness. Notice how easy it is to slip into approaching spirituality as just another commodity, bought and sold in the marketplace. Pay special attention to how nutritious food turns into poison."
So that's what I'll be doing. Until next time, namaste and all that.