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, May 31, 2015

Slogan Thirty-one

Don’t malign others.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            Our words carry great power, and we need to be sensitive to how we use them in expressing ourselves. There is often a huge chasm between what we say and what is heard, especially when the words we say involve criticism or judgment. To malign someone means to speak about them in a spiteful way – in other words, with an intention to harm. This slogan encourages us to refrain from deliberately hurting someone by what we say to them or about them. The Victorian poet Mary Ann Pietzer advised considering three things before we open our mouths: “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?”
Photo: Ganoderma lucidum – a wood-decaying bracket fungus on an oak tree.

          Not too long ago, I replaced some worn-out furniture in my den with new pieces – two chairs, a couch and a bookcase. When the old furniture was removed, there were imprints on the carpet from where the pieces had rested. No amount of vacuuming seemed to raise the fibers again; they are a permanent reminder of what was there. Angry words, gossip, unfounded accusations or cruel taunts are all ways my words can malign others. No matter how many times I apologize, make amends, and try to right what was wrong, they still leave an indelible impression on the person I’ve harmed. When I’ve been on the receiving end of such injury, I tend to want to protect myself rather than be open and vulnerable around that person. My trust has been betrayed, and I am hesitant to expose myself. I wonder how many people I have damaged in this way, who feel they must stay guarded around me? Like the divots in the carpet, my words can have long-term consequences, and I should choose them with care.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Slogan Thirty

Don’t be so predictable.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
          Why is it that family and friends can so easily push our buttons or manipulate us? The answer is because our behavior is so predictable. We are like programmed robots; we react a certain way depending on whether a stimulus is painful or pleasurable. But with awareness we can pause instead of being carried away, responding from a less selfish and impassioned perspective. When our ego is not so busy defending itself, a spacious vista opens before us, full of endless, fresh possibilities.
Photo: On green moss, a row of cowrie shells with a cerith shell in the middle.

            Insurance companies make a profit by using statistics – a collection and analysis of numerical data used to compute probabilities. They've figured out that certain humans generally act in certain ways, so they use this to their advantage. For instance if you’re a married female between the ages of 25 and 65, your car insurance rates will be lower. They've found that men, single people, senior citizens and teens are riskier to insure. I’m sure my family and close friends could make similar predictions about me. Like a doctor testing a reflex, they know pretty well what my reaction will be to certain people or situations. They might say, “Don’t bring up that subject, or she’ll get angry and start and argument.” Or they could explain, “If she’s really afraid, sometimes it seems like she’s mad.” Yet the insurance companies know there are anomalies, people who deviate from their calculations. Slogan thirty encourages me to be one of those folks, someone who doesn't have a conditioned pattern of behavior. Keep them guessing!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Slogan Twenty-nine

Abandon poisonous food.
            This slogan is a warning that what appears as appealing may instead be contaminated. Self-centeredness is the poison that taints what might otherwise nourish us. Like a picnic spread left too long in the sun, virtuous thoughts and actions can become spoiled. Rather than enjoying the natural gratification that comes from an act of kindness, we ruin it with selfish motives. Our spiritual practice becomes spiritual narcissism, separating us from others. As Judy Lief explains, such egoism is “a form of ingesting experience to fatten our own self-absorption.”
Photo: Amanita sp. - a genus that includes some of the deadliest species in the world and accounts for over 90% of mushroom fatalities.

            I remember the first yoga class I ever attended. My doctor had suggested I find a better way to handle the stress in my life, so a friend introduced me to her teacher. As I attempted to learn to the poses, it was obvious I wasn't very flexible or coordinated. I became agitated that older women in the class seemed to be more advanced than I was. As a result I pushed myself beyond what was physically comfortable or safe, because I didn't want to look like a novice. I paid for it the next day with sore muscles, but even more insane was that I’d defeated the purpose of going – to unwind and relax. In the same manner, I can reverse the good that might come from spiritual practice when self-centeredness breeds arrogance or a competitive attitude. That poisonous food is what my ego craves, yet it is devoid of spiritual nourishment.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Slogan Twenty-eight

Abandon any hope of fruition.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:             
            “Fruition” implies a belief that certain efforts will make our future lives better. Unfortunately, we are inclined to carve in stone what we think the fruit should look like. If we’re constantly preoccupied with our expectations, we’ll never relax in the present; we’ll forget to enjoy the moment itself. And when we are fixated on the results, we lose track of the undertaking we’re supposed to be focused on. Instead of paying attention to the task we’re doing, we become obsessed with manipulating the end result to our satisfaction. Such an agenda can work against us, making us fearful, stubborn, frustrated and impatient. We may fail to see any signs of improvement, unaware that our preconceived ideas are preventing us from seeing progress. This slogan prompts us to act without attachment to a specific outcome.
Photo: Ripening fruit on a fig tree.

            One of the perks of marrying my husband is that he didn’t really care what I did to our yard. In one semi-isolated corner, I had a dream to build a small arbor-like enclosure. I could imagine myself sitting inside, communing with nature and having an outdoor spot for meditation. I sketched off some plans, bought lumber and screws, then began the task of measuring and sawing. A few weeks later the structure was finished, and I set about planting ferns inside. The finishing touches were a little bench to sit on and a terra cotta rabbit hidden beneath the fronds. It was a cozy little retreat, and I couldn’t wait to use it. Unfortunately when I was drawing up plans and dreaming of meditative bliss, I forgot to include dealing with mosquitoes. Here in South Georgia, the only time we don’t have these insects is winter. So as I tried to find my bliss, they buzzed in my ears and bit me wherever they could. Only covering myself in DEET seemed to help, which was not a solution I wanted to rely on. My expectation of a perfect escape turned out to be imperfect in reality; since I couldn’t accept it any other way, I was terribly unhappy. Over twenty years later, the structure still sits abandoned with the exception of its use by birds and squirrels. I may have control over my actions and efforts, but not their outcome. Forming a concrete shape of what my happiness and peace are supposed to look like is almost a guaranteed way not to find either one. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Slogan Twenty-seven

Work with the greatest defilements first.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            Judy Lief calls this precept “a great slogan for procrastinators,” because it requires that we look at what we avoid, put off or refuse to deal with. Defilements are inner obstacles – habitual patterns of thought or emotion. These obstacles sap our energy and block us from awakening our wisdom and compassion. Notice that the slogan says “work” rather than “eliminate,” which is more practical. Once we acknowledge which pattern is the most obvious and disturbing, we begin to pay attention to it and become willing to work at reducing it. As we begin to contain it, we lessen its strength until it becomes manageable. With perseverance, we continue to work on it until we are free of its hold over us.
Photo: A large pine tree limb next to a smaller maple branch.

            Herbalists might welcome a patch of dandelions in their yard, but lawn enthusiasts generally see them as weeds. Instead of a fibrous root system, these plants have a taproot – a thick, central root from which small, lateral roots sprout. Many folks attempt to eliminate dandelions by pulling them up by their leaves. Usually the top of the taproot will break off, leaving enough behind for it to sprout again. When I decide to work on my spiritual obstacles, I may choose one of my smaller habits (a leaf or two). For instance, if I notice a tendency to interrupt people during a discussion instead of listening, I might decide to practice keeping my mouth closed more to give them time to present their ideas. Yet instead of actually listening, I’m secretly planning what I’m going to say while they speak. The “taproot” of this behavior pattern is essentially self-centeredness. Though my ego doesn’t appreciate having this dominant issue pointed out, it is the underlying obstacle at which my efforts need to be directed. As I begin digging around this main root, many of those smaller, symptomatic behaviors will be reduced as a result. I’ll always have dandelions, just maybe not as many as before.