I am using Weeping Buddha and the lojong sayings and commentary from Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness by Chogyam Trungpa as a study, together.
I’ve been practicing tonglen for over two decades, and it is my main practice.
This is the first installment. To read the entire summary of posts go here.
There is a difference in studying and reading, and a difference in taking on a teaching as your practice. I read two lojong books before I decided this was going to be my practice. It sang to me. I was a bodhisattva with my foot on the path but other than sit meditation, had not formal practice, and so, stood on the sidelines gleaming what I could. I took to zen to develop a basic sanity, now I wanted to cultivate compassion.
As I have always done when learning anything, I took notes. I can’t really learn any other way, but the words coming through my hands onto the paper puts them into body, heart and mind. I used one of my red Okina journals and began, writing notes from the two books I had, Trungpa’s and Pema Chodron’s, Start Where You Are, a very good book for beginning steps. In place of meditation, I sat in silence and read and wrote and thought about each slogan or page, turning my desk (or the coffee shop) into a sacred place!
The first time through, going back and forth between the two books, was twenty-five+ years ago. The second time through I used only Trungpa. I had practiced tonglen for a few months, the sending and taking of breath, and his words became precious to me. I could relate. The practice became one I used when people around me were angry, when I was angry, when I was frightened, in traffic, in board meetings, when my former husband was having a heart attack. I added post-its all over the pages. The third time through I used Jamgon Kongtrul’s book, The Great Path of Awakening, which I had bought so many years before but could not comprehend. I inserted new pages, loose, for those notes, and for the other books from other teachers, always starting at the beginning.
Just when you think you have it all figured out, life throws curves. The last time it was the Great Recession (we are still experiencing it), and perhaps I am getting the hang of weathering it, though at great cost, because we work longer hours to make ends meet, less time for writing, artwork (and I give thanks for the work.) Now, in my fifties, years of that endless work has taken its toll: arthritis, a sore hip, aches and body pains, a changing diet, sleep deprivation. I battle the attachment to thinking that at our age we should be paid more and work fewer hours, because experience counts for something. That is how it was before 2009. I reconcile that this is our life, thank Spirit for work, and cope. Some days are just fine. At wits end (why does it always take pain to create change?) I embrace change, or perhaps fight it until I must succumb, and develop new practices:
- Unable to paint, my creative self suffered. I finally turned to learning watercolors so that I could paint in a small space. Beginning almost over again, my practice include making small art every day.
- Having exhausted the AMA options, a client brought us to a yoga therapist, and I now have a yoga practice that actually works for me, and is reducing my pain AND a side benefit is I sleep better. One huge change is working with Patti is that I have options to do yoga differently on the days when I am in spasm, so I can always do something.
- As of this writing, I can walk again, and so adding walking, for aerobics.
- I’ve taken to meditating regularly again for stress relief, not enlightenment. I sit and center and woosh, troubles are sent packing while I feel my body connect with the earth, just breath and body, peace and quiet — MOST DAYS. The other days I do mantra or music or eat chocolate!
- Finally, I am winding back through my favorite lojong, Trungpa’s, and this time will be in a new journal (I can’t think of a way to add to the old one with its bulging extra pages and weak spine), and I will, at least for now, work with the image of Weeping Buddha. Having drawn him several times late at night, he is a lovely study in lines and shapes. I’ll be getting to know intimately the statue that has been on my altar for two decades.
Thursdays I am posting this exploration in the lojong. We’ll see how it goes, as I’ve never shared my practice before ~ Namaste!