Lojong Cards and Booklet

Lojong Cards and Booklet
This self-published deck and booklet are the intellectual property of Beverly King. Please do not copy or reproduce any photos or blog posts without permission.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Slogan Thirteen

Be grateful to everyone.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            This slogan doesn't mean we need to be a martyr and never speak up. When we find ourselves dealing with an upsetting or frustrating situation, we can (as Pema Chodron explains) “realize that when you've met your match, you've found a teacher.” We all have places where we are stuck yet unaware, and these teachers help point out our blind spots. Without them, we’d have nothing to work with in our spiritual practice, nor would we develop beyond our ego. As Alan Wallace says, such a person or situation “kicks us out of our complacency and pushes us into practice.”
Photo: Redbud leaf surrounded by lantana blooms and dogwood berries.*
*Early editions of the booklet may have a different description, because I originally failed to change it when I had to redo the photo for printing purposes.

            I have two furry alarm clocks that wake me up every morning at 5:30 am. They don’t care if I've had a restless night’s sleep or if I have no place important to be that day. The tomcat has a yowl on par with a foghorn. His mom doesn't meow; she just pats whatever part of me is sticking out from under the cover and gives me “the stare.” It’s their breakfast time regardless of how much I’d rather sleep. I could get angry, but that would be about as useful as screaming at my bedside clock. They act much like the alarm on the clock - as a tool used to wake me up. By the same token, I have a spiritual toolbox filled with implements like meditation, writing poetry and walks in nature. But inside are other items I may not think of as relaxing and restful, though they are just as useful on my spiritual journey. They may appear as a reoccurring bill that’s already been paid, the unwelcome diagnosis of a beloved pet or an angry driver who curses because I didn't move as soon as the traffic light turned green. None of these situations are pleasant, yet they are all tools to awaken me by offering an opportunity to practice patience, compassion and kindness.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Slogan Twelve

Drive all blames into one.

From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            Ordinary minds will always try to shift responsibility for mishaps to someone or something else. But this slogan suggests we stop guarding ourselves through attempts to shift the guilt elsewhere. Instead of aggressively pointing fingers, we should look within at the self-centeredness of our egos – the principle cause of our pain. Situations or people may provide the momentary circumstance of the problem, but it is the self-consumed ego that creates the suffering. This slogan does not mean we should not try to solve problems or stop injustices. But before we start blaming another, we should question what role we have played and how our views exacerbate the difficulty.
Photo: Water pooled in recess of large limestone rock.

            After a summer hail storm, we had to have our roof replaced. In just a few days’ time, the shingles and tar paper had been taken off and replaced with new. As the crew began to gather their tools and leave, I noticed an older man with a magnetic device sweeping the yard for roofing nails. Now this fellow wasn't one of the guys who had been on the roof, so he couldn't have dropped any of those nails. Yet he was aware that a person or pet might step on one and get hurt, therefore he was motivated to find and remove them. I need to be just as mindful with my emotions. It’s normal to feel angry about an injustice or injury, but what happens when that anger becomes a chronic condition? Such ongoing resentment causes me to suffer and spreads the hurt out to other people (some who may not even be connected to the situation). I don’t need to excuse another person’s bad behavior, but my bitterness won’t make things any better. As the Dhammapada says, “Hatred does not cease by hatred.” Holding on to my resentment and the story around it is the role I've played; if I take responsibility, I can ease my suffering.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Slogan Eleven

Transform all mishaps into the path of Bodhi (awakening).
            Because we live in a physical world, it is natural and inevitable that bad things will happen. Our habitual, mental response to such misfortunes is shaped by past thoughts and actions. But Norman Fischer assures us, “The way you spontaneously react in times of trouble is not fixed.” It is not necessary to see ourselves as victims, to blame other people or to let our egos convince us our views are “truth.” Instead, we can realize adversity is universal and not personal. We remember the slogans, practice patience, and understand our feelings are quite normal. We can be present with our emotions, responding to them with fortitude, courage and openness – thus changing our habitual patterns.
Photo: Quartz cluster between green sycamore and brown sweetgum seed balls.

            Awhile back I decided to cut down some dead tree trunks, because I was afraid they might fall and damage our car or roof. They were right next to a chain-link fence which made things a little tricky – I wanted them to land in the driveway but not on the roof or fence. The first trunk landed perfectly, and I cut it in small pieces to haul off. The second trunk took an unexpected twist on the way down and flattened the fence. It was so heavy I couldn't even budge it. As I cut it up in order to get it off the fence, the chain came off the chainsaw. Try as I might, I couldn't get the chain back on. But then I thought, “I’ll just use the ax.” On the second swing with the ax, the wooden handle split down the middle and sent the ax head flying. At that moment, I felt as it the universe had purposefully decided to torment me. Of course everyone has days like these, some much worse than this one, but when they happen to us it feels like we are personally being singled out. The Buddha was once met by a woman whose infant had died. She begged and pleaded with him to bring the baby back to life. The Buddha told her to go into the village and find one family who had not been touched by death; if she could, he would restore her child. Obviously she found no one, and she realized the Buddha was trying to gently teach her that she wasn't being punished – everyone has such hardships. Things break and wear out as do people; spring and summer turn to fall and winter. It’s a natural and universal part of life, but it’s not personal.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Slogan Ten

Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            To be able to sit with the suffering of another person, we must first be willing to accept our own. When we can experience our pain without disengaging, we will then deeply comprehend the pain of others. Without the push of resistance, we acknowledge all of our own anguish, from physical suffering to emotional despair.  Using tonglen, we breathe out kindness, serenity and healing to ourselves. We eventually expand this receptiveness to include the suffering of all others. This slogan is not an attempt to perfect ourselves before extending compassion to others. As Pema Chodron states, “Start where you are.”
Photo: Green cherry laurel leaves and red tip photinia leaves with stone on cracked, dried mud.

            I've had discussions with friends and acquaintances who believe Buddhist teachings turn a person into a doormat with “martyr” stamped across it. But the tenth slogan suggests just the opposite is true. As neuropsychologist Rick Hanson put it, “Kindness to you is kindness to me; kindness to me is kindness to you.” When my daughter was in elementary school, she received a birthday invitation for a party held at the local roller skating rink. She had never skated before, but I had enjoyed it as a teenager. I figured I would lace up some skates and help her as she learned. The problem with that line of logic was I hadn't skated in 25 years. When I got out on the rink floor, I felt like I had no traction or balance. If I had tried to help her, we would have both ended up on our bums. Starting with myself – being gentle, compassionate and kind – helps me gain clarity. I begin to understand what appropriate kindness looks like, so my motivation to help others isn't based on selfish, manipulative desires. This type of balance is beneficial for everyone.