The first time I heard a lojong teaching, I took a few notes, scribbled in my journal alongside some architectural building schematic. I was under twenty-five.
In my late twenties I bought “Training the Mind” by Chogyam Trungpa
at the Bodhi Tree (RIP best bookstore ever).
His book literally fell on my head, and I buy all books that fall on my head.
I skimmed it but did not resonate with it, and found some wording to be so
CATHOLIC (I was a recovering Catholic at the time),
so I tucked it into a stack that would become several shelves.
Then I read Ani Pema Chodron’s Book “Start Where You Are” in 1994, twenty years later, and as are all her books, it was excellent. She referred to this little blue book,
the “real thing” by her teacher, Trungpa. It took you through the slogans in depth.
I tried to find it in bookstores, but by now I was living in a provincial
little town with a small New Age bookstore. No luck.
Of course, you know it was the book I’d barely cracked!
As I have always done when learning anything, I kept a journal.
I can’t really learn any other way. Copying the slogans and teaching comments, adding my thoughts, and committing them into my journal puts them into body, heart and mind.
I used one of my red Okina journals and began, in 1994, writing notes from the two books, Trungpa’s and Pema Chodron’s, a very good book for beginning steps.
I sat in silence at the Blue Mountain coffee shop every morning and read and contemplated and wrote about each slogan, sometimes spending days on
commentary by Trungpa, and turning the coffee shop into a sacred place!
I’ve worked through the blue book a half-dozen times like this,
adding post-its and adding a sketching Okina,
and adding a couple of other commentaries.
I can read my early thoughts about the slogans as well as maturing thoughts.
Now it is a thoroughly messy and cherished journal!
If I had to grab just one book now it would be the two books together as one.
If not two, then my red journal, my notes on the lojong.
Of course, the practice is none of this.
It is a breathing practice.
I see dharma (literally, “truth”) — in my case these teachings — as a lifeline to sanity,
a path to mental health. Studying the teachings is a path to lightheartedness, to basic happiness or joy, and a salve in these awful times in which we live.
Pema Chodron spoke once about the moment when you realize the teachings are about yourself in the world; that connection, once made, I think, is hard to turn from. Teachings, whatever kind are a lifeline for you, illuminates a path to
know yourself intimately, to stop running away in addictive behavior
which ultimately causes you and yours more pain (drink, drugs, shopping,
surfing Instagram endlessly to avoid — my newest),
and to put your foot on a path which brings more joy even in trying circumstances.
For my most recent study, which was stopped for reasons I can’t discuss, here.
For information on the breathing practice, look here — and get a teacher, ultimately!