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, October 25, 2015

Slogan Fifty-two

Don’t misinterpret.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            The ego likes to make sure all its efforts are self-serving, so it’s no surprise that we would misinterpret teachings to suit our own personal agenda. We seize a spiritual quality and apply it to an inappropriate object or circumstance.  This way we remain cozily tucked into our complacency and don’t have to worry about changing ourselves. For instance, we might explain our silence as patience and tolerance when actually we just want to avoid confrontation of any kind. Instead of being enthusiastic about our spiritual practice, we save our excitement for a winning bid on Ebay. In doling out compassion, we decide who is deserving of it and who is not. We manage to make fun a priority, but fail to schedule time to meditate. And though we experience joy, it is often based on a rival’s mistakes and misfortunes. These desirable qualities are meant to transform us, not give us an excuse to remain the same.
Photo: Not one flower but a cluster; a composite flower (zinnia) composed of small ray and disk flowers.

            I tend to overuse commas, colons, semicolons and dashes. When I have time, I try to double-check my punctuation by looking online for correct usage. Yesterday I was doing this when I came across some sites that showed what a difference a simple comma or colon can make in the meaning of a sentence. For instance:
A woman without her man is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.

And another:
I woke up in bed with my spouse, a chef, and a culinary arts instructor.
I woke up in bed with my spouse, a chef and a culinary arts instructor.

Now if you’re a man, you might prefer the first sentence; a woman might prefer the second. And if you are a monogamist, I imagine the fourth sentence would be favored over the third. The simple slogan of “don’t misinterpret” is a warning that my ego will translate meanings in a way that would favor me over another. As an example, the slogan “don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow” could be interpreted as if I am the one being taken advantage of instead of the other way around. This device of the ego will only hinder my progress. Spiritual punctuation can bring me clarity and awareness, but only when I use it correctly. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Slogan Fifty-one

This time, practice the main points.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            We have all the elements we need, and the time to use them is now. Every situation we encounter offers us an opportunity for practice. The three main points of this slogan are:
  • Selflessness – We should put the benefit of others before our own; our concerns should not be self-centered.
  • Application – Practice is more important than analytical study; we need to apply what we’ve learned in our daily lives.
  • Bodhichitta – An enlightened heart and mind is characterized by acts of loving-kindness rather than a focus on self-improvement; bodhichitta transforms a rigid, dogmatic practice into a gentle, spiritual one.
Photo: A sundial, surrounded by Spanish moss, with three immature hickory nuts on its face.

            In 1986, I vaguely remember hearing that Halley’s Comet was going to move close enough to be seen from Earth. Because of other distractions in my life, it came and went without notice by me. Unfortunately that was probably my last chance to see it, because the comet won’t make another appearance until 2061. Letting that event slip past me is similar to the caution of slogan fifty-one: don’t waste any opportunity for spiritual development. This slogan also suggests I develop discrimination with my practice in three ways. The first is to remember the welfare of others is more important than my progress. It’s better to do good than to look good. The second is to move from the intellectual realm into the real world. Studying the slogans is a waste of time if I don’t put them into practice. The third point is to practice with gentleness and a warm heart rather than dutiful detachment. The purpose is to develop compassion, not rack up credit points that I can redeem.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Slogan Fifty

Don’t get swayed by external circumstances.
            A sailboat has two sails – a large mainsail and a small jib. If the boat only relied on these, the wind would send it in whatever direction the breeze blew. But the boom (or pole) allows the sails to be positioned, and the rudder and tiller act as a sort of steering wheel. Many of us permit circumstances (the wind) to affect our thoughts and emotions (the sails). However, the steady practice of lojong can help steer us; we may have no control over external conditions, but we can choose the internal direction we want to move toward.
Photo: A dove’s feather floats in a bird bath.

            On the south side of my house is a flowering dogwood that was planted long before I moved into my home. It cycles through all the seasons with white blooms in spring, a leafy canopy for summer, red berries during the autumn then bare branches throughout the winter. One year lightning hit a nearby pine and traveled up its trunk. Part of the tree died and had to be pruned, but it continued to survive. Last night a summer thunderstorm whipped the leafy branches into a frenzy, yet this morning it remains rooted in place (though minus a few leaves). My life has similar cycles, some painful and some pleasurable. The training of lojong encourages me to stay rooted in my practice regardless of what is going on around me. Pema Chodron spoke of how even Buddha had every challenge in the book thrown at him before he attained enlightenment: “On that evening what was different was that he simply held his seat, opened his heart to whatever might arise, didn’t shut down, and was fully there.” 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Slogan Forty-nine

Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            Imagine roots that invade and clog a home's septic system. At first we may hear strange gurgling noises and see the drains aren't emptying as fast as they normally do. Eventually we'll get the smelly overflow if we continue to pretend nothing is wrong. At this point, would we try lots of air freshener or call a plumber? In the same manner, we sometimes think we shouldn't dwell on anything negative in our spiritual practice, choosing to focus only on what is beautiful or sweet. But resentment and other not-so-nice feelings can cause problems if we don't investigate them. Instead of ignoring them, we can pause, watch and listen, noticing what caused our self-centered reaction. Judy Lief suggests asking ourselves, "What are we clinging to? What are we afraid of losing?" Tonglen can help us create space around the emotion. We may discover that clog is not as solid as we thought.
Photo: Stinky squid mushroom, known for attracting pollinators by its fetid smell.

            One of my favorite jobs as a young adult was being employed as a preschool teacher, especially working with three-year-olds. Besides learning number and alphabet basics, we worked on tasks that required coordination, such as cutting with scissors or tying shoes. Most of the kids – even those who had learned to tie their laces – preferred a quick knot to a time-consuming bow when on the playground. At naptime, I would gather the shoes and attempt to untangle the knots. This memory arises when I remember this slogan, because both actions require a patient curiosity to complete. The purpose of meditating on resentment isn’t to rehash the story around the injustice or frustration. It is an alternative to reacting with anger and escalating the problem. Looking beneath the pain is a way to discover what I’m attached to that is causing me to suffer. It is likely I’ll find there is something I’m afraid I will lose or fail to gain. Untangling my emotions will create a space for clarity and allow me to respond with wisdom and compassion. It sure beats tying a bow on top of a knot or just adding more knots.