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.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Setting Priorities: On Not Misinterpretting

Just two words on the slogan card this time:
Don't misinterpret.
All I could think upon reading that was, "that's all well and good to say one shouldn't misinterpret, but how are we to know when we are interpreting correctly and when we are otherwise?" So of course I turned to my commentaries. The translation offered by is even more confounding: "Don't get things wrong." I'm not Buddha. I'm still subject to samsara and am still a work in progress. I am going to make mistakes. I am going to get things wrong. Their brief explanation helped a bit, by putting this tenet in context. However, it added other confusion:
"When an attitude, behavior, or relationship pulls you out of balance and presence, you are not bringing attention to what is arising. Use taking and sending to experience the imbalance itself."
So, when you make a mistake and get out of balance, use taking and sending to fully experience the mistake? What?

Then, as frequently happens, Judy Lief made things make sense.
"This slogan focuses on six qualities - patience, yearning, excitement, compassion, priorities, and joy - and how they can be misinterpreted. More generally, the point is to see how we can twist things so that our avoidance of the dharma is considered to be a virtue rather than a fault."
Am I being patient only with myself and with people I like, or am I practicing patience with those who harm me and those I love? Am I yearning for another nerdy t-shirt or book or other worldly possession, or am I yearning for the opportunity to practice loving-kindness? Am I looking for a way to practice the dharma, or am I using the words of the dharma to further entrench without changing? What are my priorities?

I know my priorities aren't in line with my ambitions, and I'd already been thinking about that. Spending less time doing things like surfing the net and binging on series on Netflix, more time reading and doing things intentionally. So I think this week's exercise will help me in general. Lief recommends:
"Start with the misinterpretation of priorities. List out your main activities for a week, and calculate how much time you spend on each category, such as work, sleep, TV, study, practice, socializing, etc. What does this tell you about your priorities? What would need to shift to free up a little time for dharma practice?"
So that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that.