Sunday, April 26, 2015

My New Cat and Cartoon Characters: On Being Patient

Sometimes these slogans confuse me at first. Other times, I get a pang of guilt because I suspect what it's trying to tell me. Today when I picked up the car, all I could do was sigh and laugh.
Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.
You see, I've got a new cat in my life, and he is SUCH a cat. Martin can be incredibly sweet, but he's also a whole long younger and way more rambunctious than Holly, my recently departed cat, ever was. When I picked Martin from the cats at the shelter, I was reacting from a place of grief. I got him maybe an hour after coming from the vet after being told it was time to let my old cat go. Perhaps I should have waited, but I needed the distraction from the deep well of sadness that accompanied the loss of Holly.

Martin is about 40% the sweetest cat ever, 60% the most bitingest-fightingest cat ever. It's not for nothing that I contemplated naming him Six (short for Project 626) for a short time before settling on Martin Fivebones.

Martin's role in my life has evolved to be an immediate external test of my patience. That's why, when I read the card with the newest tenet, all I could do was sigh and laugh. I immediately translated it to "Whichever of the two Martins occurs, be patient." Don't give up hope when it's Bitey-Fighty Martin, and don't get too involved when it's Purry-Furry Martin. But expanded to my entire life, my entire practice.

What I found at echoes that idea. The slightly different translation, "Whatever happens, good or bad, be patient," as well as the brief explanation provided:
"If things go well in your life, send your wellbeing to others. If things go badly, take on the misfortunes of others. In either case, don't get carried away by what arises."
Judy Lief's piece on the slogan is also an expansion of this idea. I know when things are rough I have a hard time finding the mental energy or space to send and receive, to sit zazen. I'm pretty good at it when things are going well in my life, but I'll admit that I have gotten "caught up in [my] own pleasure and [my] wish to maintain it."

Her ideas for working with this tenet are a bit longer term, so I need to start thinking about it right away:
"Notice the waxing and waning of your inspiration to practice mind training. What patterns do you see? What would be threatened if your practice were more steady and continuous?"
So, that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bookending My Day: On Two Activities

It's been rough for me lately, between grieving for my former feline overlord and getting used to flow of things with my new one. But I feel back to myself the last few days, especially with the work I've done with the tenet from last week. I was definitely ready to read the commentary for this new teaching:
Two activities: one at the beginning, one at the end.
Funny aside: right as I started to do my research for this post, The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" started playing. Not really pertinent to this conversation, but it gave me a giggle.

Once I stopped chuckling, I turned to and found the alternate translation: "Two things to do: one at the beginning, one at the end." Sometimes I think the translations at UM are willfully different just to be different from the standard, and today was one of those times - nothing different, really, so it shed no new light. Their brief explanation, however, was a revelation:
"Start your day by setting the intention to be present and to use taking and sending. End your day with a review of your states of mind during the day."
There's that quality I value so highly in lojong: practicality. Kōans have their purpose, but I feel much more comfortable with immediately applicable lessons. So, armed with the idea that I'll be bookending my days with intention and examination, I turned to Tricycle and Judy Lief for a bit more illumination. And wow did I find it:
"The practice of lojong is a life-long journey, but that journey takes place one day at a time. You cannot do anything about days gone by, and speculating about the future can be overwhelming and somewhat pointless. But you can look at each day as a practice period, with a beginning and an end. So every morning, you take a fresh start, and every evening you have a chance [to] appraise how you have done."
That passage is both daunting and comforting. But it gives me a direction.

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

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Don't White Knuckle Your Way Through: On Correcting All Wrongs With One Intention

My daily and weekly routines have been disrupted, smashed to pieces, because of recent events. I've not been able to meditate for more than five minutes at a stretch and I can't concentrate much. The well worn ruts in my mind have become easier and easier, so I really needed the message behind this new tenet.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let me walk you through the research I always do...

There is no mistaking the fact that this teaching is a companion to the one I wrote about last week
Correct all wrongs with one intention.
As usual, the translation at is fairly different: "Use one remedy for everything." The explanation provided resonated deeply and made me feel a bit more optimistic about getting back in the habit of meditating:
"Use taking and sending to counteract any reactive tendency that arises."
Taking and sending is a hard practice since it goes against some ingrained ideas about "in with the good and out with the bad," but when I have practiced it regularly I found it extremely effective. I'm in the process of grieving for the cat I recently lost to kidney disease and just the reminder of taking and sending helped a bit. 

Then I turned to Tricycle to read Judy Lief's piece about correcting all wrongs with the "intention to train [my] mind in loving-kindness." Then there was the passage that made me cringe a bit because it totally captured my mindset lately:
When you encounter obstacles and obstructions to practice, how do you get back on track? How do you correct your course? The approach of just trying to push your way through does not work very well; it is hard to fight with your own state of mind.
Oof. Yes, that is exactly what I've been doing. Berating myself for not meditating and then, when I manage to sit zazen for a moment, not being able to concentrate. Me trying to push through this block is like Maru trying to get out of that box by walking forward. I can't just white-knuckle my way through the things that are getting in my way.

That's what makes Lief's advice particularly important to me. She recommends: 
When you find yourself struggling with an external or internal obstacle and falling into resentment or discouragement, notice the tendency to simply feel stuck and under attack. Notice how your relationship to such obstacles shifts when you reconnect with your intention to train your mind in loving kindness.
Wow, I needed to hear/read that.

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

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Embracing Service to Others: On Having One Intention

The new slogan has me thinking about how it would be so easy to disregard the inconvenient aspects of studying lojong, because this one is definitely presenting some difficulties.
All activities should be done with one intention.
My initial dig for commentary, at, yielded an alternative translation - "Use one practice for everything" - and my first inkling of I-Don't-Wanna. The toddler reaction came from the explanatory passage:
"Bring taking and sending to bear on everything you experience, in formal meditation and in daily life."
Everything? EVERYTHING? It's easy to apply these ideas with the negatives in my life - with my mistakes, with my neurotic moments, with my occasionally uncontrollable worry about my elderly and sick cat - but I don't wanna do it with the positives. I want to hold onto how people had such positive things to say about both of the presentations I gave at ACRL. I want to hold onto the memory of a macaw that danced with my friend at the zoo. I want to keep those for my own and hold them close.

So turning to Tricycle induced a bit of trepidation, but I did it anyway. That internal toddler might be loud at times, but I can usually resist her. And, as usual, I was glad I'd pushed through. 

The one passage that resonated most made me wince but it also made me a bit more willing to let go of the positive things:
"Without saying it in so many words, often the thread holding all our thoughts ad activities together is: 'What's in it for me?' We wonder how we can survive, get ahead, win, succeed, overcome, take over, grab something, be recognized, appreciated, rewarded... you name it, the list is endless."
Though that way of thinking, of holding onto all the positive things, might be helpful in the short term, it's not who I am or want to be in the long run. I want my "gestures, speech, thoughts, and emotions should all be expressions of one intention: the powerful intention of benefiting sentient beings." (It was upon reading that phrase that I got the image of a cat using a dog as a pillow stuck in my head, thus the above illustration for this teaching.)

Lief's advice for this tenet is especially appreciated since I know this will be hard for me to put into action:
"Notice the way in which your underlying intentions color your actions.  Notice also the quality of pointlessness or aimlessness and times when whatever you are doing seems to be without any clear intention. Choose an activity, you normally do and see what happens when you link it with the intention of cultivating gentles and service to others."
So, that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that.