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 almost three decades, and it is my main practice.
This is the eighth weekly installment. To start at the beginning go here.
I began with the slogan translated as, “In post-meditation, be a child of illusion.” I thought it was about staying awake, staying present. Rinpoche spoke of how we perceive our world through the lenses of our preconceptions, and I thought I needed to rid myself of my preconceptions in order to be present for what is so. I worked on this, and failed miserably. I had a lot of preconceptions, and frankly, I know of no one who lives in the present moment.
Then I heard a different translation, “First thought, best thought.” At the time I was a year into sobriety, and was angry a LOT. I thought maybe the translator got it wrong. My knee-jerk reaction in so many situations was to be pissed, and that could not possibly be the best thought or response. I chewed on this slogan every time it came up on my altar as I rotated through the slogans daily. I let it stay for days without moving on to the next, and each time I thought there must be something wrong with the translation. I sent away for a few more books on the lojong. In most books, the translation was closer to “first thought, best thought.” Gads, how could that be?
Several years into my sobriety, I began to notice that I was hurt and sad, depressed even. These emotions were unwelcome, and my knee-jerk reaction was to defend the hurt vulnerable parts of me. Further, feeling the sadness was overwhelming. Alcohol had allowed me a pretty consistent armor, and I was just learning how the effects of alcohol last in your system, coloring your days. I had no way to deal with that amount of sadness, no inner resources. I had been raised by defended people, and learned well. But underneath the defenses was the vulnerability, the fear, the hurt, the open wound.
Tathagatagarbha is the seed of awakening present in yourself, or, the Buddha within. Mine dwelled in the woundings, which was covered up over many years of defenses and booze, and knee-jerk reactions. It was vulnerability, a soft spot, and in a world of defended angry people, it was hard to let that soft spot lead. I didn’t feel very safe when it was front and center. I could feel it with my animals, but not my former husband. He had to be far away from me in order for me to feel the immense love I had for him. I never felt it around my mother, even though I said, “I love you.” There was just too much danger of more hurt than I could withstand.
I stayed with it, trotting the vulnerability out into more and more situations. I could write a book about what I’ve learned by being open and present and vulnerable in situations where my old response would be, “Fuck You.” I can see into people much more clearly, and while it sometimes hurts immensely, I know I can stand up to the hurt. It won’t kill me. It passes.
I’ve been open in the face of my mother’s hatred, my brothers’ anger, death death death, and abandonment. It was never easy, and I didn’t always stay open. As I danced back and forth from vulnerability to defendedness, I learned compassion for myself. I can’t always do the right thing. I am flawed. They are flawed. They are hurt too, and do not have the gift of these teachings to open them up to a different response. Many are filled with hatred. Sometimes I do not understand what made them that way. I see my mother as trapped in a world so far away from love that she can’t see the simple way out, the path in the very dark forest. Does it hurt that, “She doesn’t love me?” Yes and no. She is so filled with neurosis she can’t love.
Continuing to walk through the world this way I am able to stand with foot in both worlds. Within me I can see in any given situation a million paths laid out ahead, and can stand open-handed toward any outcome. I can make my choice in any moment to be open in the face of anger and hatred and abandonment and war and poverty, to breathe in the negative and breath out the positive. There isn’t enough light within me to illuminate the path for others, but I can stand as a lighthouse in situations whenever possible.
Do I still hurt? You betcha. Do I still lash out in anger? Occasionally. I feel sorrow when I lash out, deep regret, and must then practice tonglen for myself, breathing in my own sorrow and letting go, letting go, letting go.
The practice is a long path. For me, the end is not in sight. What keeps me going is the change in scenery, a much clearer picture of my world.
In this weekly commentary on the lojong, I am not open to the feed becoming
a debate for people to nitpick Buddhism or my interpretations of Buddhist concepts.
(There are lots of places for debates.) I am more interested in hearing about
YOUR life or how the lojong affected you or your practice awakening in some manner.
For more info about why, go here.