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, March 29, 2015

Slogan Twenty-two

If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            Meditation allows us to see just how jumbled and busy our minds are. The goal of mindfulness is to learn how to develop one-pointed attention, so we can choose what to be focused on rather than be at the mercy of whatever arises. This discipline of the mind is not meant to be harsh but gentle and relaxed. Instead of waging war on our distracting thoughts, we can use them to return us to the “default setting” of mindfulness. It is similar to daydreaming and driving; we suddenly wake up when the tires run off the smooth road onto the shoulder. Instead of struggling with distraction, we use it as leverage to help us resume our focus. It parallels the Zen saying: “When you fall down on the ground, you use the ground to get up.”
Photo: Quartz point surrounded by autumn dogwood leaves and pine straw.

            Frequent beach-goers, particularly those who are fond of getting in the ocean, are well aware of rip currents. Breaks or low points in sand bars can create a channel for water to flow rapidly back out to the sea. A snorkeler caught up in undersea sights or a person on a float enjoying the sun might suddenly find they have been pulled many yards out to sea. If they panic and try to swim back to shore, they will find this current moves much faster than they can paddle. Trying to fight it will only result in exhaustion. Experienced ocean swimmers know that the neck of the rip current is usually not very wide. They will swim parallel to the shore rather than perpendicular, allowing them to move out of the current and eventually back to the shore. Using the slogans in all of my affairs can help me become an experienced practitioner. When I find myself caught up in distractions, I can use them to wake me up. Instead seeing them as an adversary, I can view these disturbances as a reminder to “Keep Calm and Carry On.*”
*A 1939 British motivational poster produced by the government in preparation for World War II.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Slogan Twenty-one

Always maintain only a joyful mind.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            In a world filled with pain, this slogan appears impossible. Our ideas about what joy looks like can trap us, when we believe it should take a particular form. But training reminds us that conditions don’t have to automatically result in a habitual reaction. This slogan doesn’t mean we have to fake happiness or that we’re expected not to feel sad, frustrated or angry. Instead we can be grateful for a path that not only explains suffering but gives us a way to uproot it. We can relax and lighten up, maintaining our sense of humor. We stay curious and interested in the world around us, appreciating even the ordinary. We can choose where we invest our attention. True joy is unconditional, allowing us to maintain a sense of equanimity and contentment. Chogyam Trungpa suggests an exercise to remind us to travel through life lightly:  “No matter what you are feeling or what is going on, smile at least once a day.”
Photo: Group of purple coneflowers.

            In North America, there are several indigenous cultures whose mythology sees the coyote as a “trickster.” Such an archetype teaches in unorthodox ways – often giving us things we think we do want (that we soon change our minds about) or giving us things we don’t want (that we later realize are actually gifts.) When I was young and single, I had 15 such “pups” in my care as a preschool teacher. Those three-year-old children were responsible for teaching me about the absurdity of perfection and the power of compassionate humor. One autumn day, after discussing the natural changes that came with the season, I decided we would take a walk outside. I gave each child a bag to gather leaves and acorns as we walked, intending to let them make a fall collage upon our return. When our mission was complete, we returned to the classroom, and each child was given a large sheet of Manila paper and glue for their bag of items. About 15 minutes later, George ran up to me with his work of art excitedly saying, “Look at all the acorns I found to put on my picture!” Drying in the glue were a dozen, perfectly round pieces of rabbit poo. I just smiled and told him it was absolutely beautiful, because through eyes of joy it was.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Slogan Twenty

Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
                It is natural when we begin something new to want feedback on our progress, and we generally look to other folks to provide it. But this slogan teaches the only “witness” who can truly know whether we’re being genuine or phony is us, not other people. No one else knows what our existence is like, or what is going on inside us. People might give compliments or criticism, but we should not regard their opinions as more important than our own. It is our responsibility to see our life as clearly as possible – assets and liabilities – and act on what we see. The principle witness is not there to condemn or congratulate, neither does it judge us as worthy or unworthy. It is simply an honest, objective look at the way we relate to others, and whether the degree of our self-absorption has changed.
Photo: Lightning whelk above a collection of other seashells. 

          Imagine being on a game show, being presented with the following doors* and told to choose one. Behind one is a broken-down jalopy, another has a sack of garbage, a third has a box of thumbtacks, and the last has enough money to pay all your bills for a year. Which door would you choose?

 Is your choice influenced by the image carved into the door? That's the conundrum that this slogan points out. While it's good to listen to the opinions of others, no one else can see what's behind our door. They base their ideas on what they outwardly perceive. Yet there's no way for them to tell what is actually motivating us or whether we're even being honest. I am the only person who can look within and determine whether I'm being sincere in my spiritual practice, or if I'm just trying to impress other people. As the primary witness, I've got the inside scoop on what's behind that particular door.
*These doors were hand-carved by sculptor Ron Ramsey

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Slogan Nineteen

All dharma (teachings) agree at one point.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            How do we evaluate ourselves or our teachers to see if the spiritual path we are on is genuine? Buddhist teachings are extensive and may seem to contradict each other, but at the root of all lineages is a solution for self-attachment. Looking outward, we shouldn't be led by popularity or spiritual trappings. Looking inward, we should not be fooled by fluctuating moods or superficial modifications. The true measure of a teacher or practitioner is how well they relinquish their preoccupation with the ego. Successful training will teach us methods to subjugate rather than glorify our obsession with the self.
Photo: Base of a bald cypress trunk.

          A local Episcopal church has a labyrinth based on the Chartres design; they open it to the public once a month for contemplative walks. Unlike a maze that has multiple paths, a labyrinth only has a single pathway to its center. However, its path curves and loops, going close to the center then moving far away. At times it may feel like you’re moving in the wrong direction or making no progress at all. I may feel the same way about my spiritual practice, doubting whether it’s leading me in the right direction. I may even wonder if I've chosen the right path at all. Is it that I've become complacent or bored, and want something more exciting? Or did I choose the practice because at the time it was in vogue and seemed entertaining? The nineteenth slogan explains that there is only one criterion we need on our evaluation sheet: Does it lessen our self-absorption? Self-centeredness is the root of suffering; an authentic spiritual practice will help dig it out.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Slogan Eighteen

The Five Strengths are instructions for dying.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            The Five Strengths of the seventeenth slogan not only assist us as we live, they also prepare us for death.  The seed of virtue can counteract denial; nurturing the seed of our Buddha nature will awaken us rather than keep us asleep. Our aspirations can deflect anger as we remember to direct personal benefits toward others instead of self. Reproach neutralizes bargaining; when we stop cherishing our ego, we can release our attachments. Strong determination defuses our despair; consistent practice has given us a new view of reality and developed an open heart and mind. Familiarization aids us in seeing all situations as opportunities for practice, even death; thus we generate acceptance instead of fear.
Photo: Dying gardenia flower.

            Ronna Kabatznick, a psychologist who worked in Thailand during the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami, wrote: “Our minds are habituated to relate to suffering by resisting it through blame, bitterness, anger, resentment. That resistance is what the Buddha called ‘the second arrow,’ which follows the first arrow, the direct experience of pain. So much additional suffering comes from believing that ‘things shouldn't be this way’ – when in fact they are that way.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross noticed a similar response in working with terminally ill patients. In her book On Death and Dying, she describes “The Five Stages of Receiving Catastrophic News.*” Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance were the coping mechanisms she noticed when patients learned they were dying. The dedicated study and application of the lojong slogans can help us repel that second arrow - the suffering added to our pain. As B.A. Wallace states: “Unborn awareness continues beyond the death of the physical body and the dissolution of the personal ego… Therefore, the dying process is very important because death is not an end; it is a transition.”

*Others in the health field would later change the name to “The Five Stages of Grief.”