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, June 28, 2015

Slogan Thirty-five

Don’t try to be the fastest.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:             
            Even in our spiritual practice, we can become competitive, striving to achieve honor and distinction. Yet the struggle to outperform and outsmart doesn't work in this arena. It is a distraction that causes us to lose our gentleness and benevolence. Our practice is not a timed event but a lifetime affair; impatience won't speed up our progress. This slogan doesn't mean we shouldn't try to excel in all areas of our lives, rather it recommends that we use our past successes and failures to compete against instead of other people.
Photo: Rotund disc snail on a moss-covered limestone rock.

            When I do a balancing pose in yoga, I fix my eyes on one unmoving point. This technique is called drishti, a method that helps me with my wobble by maintaining a one-pointed focus. The thirty-fifth slogan draws attention to how we often become distracted and thrown off balance by the competitive side of our personality. I can easily get drawn into wanting to be the prettiest, smartest, or practically any other adjective that means I’m the best. What is the motive behind that longing for an “est” label? I call it the desire for “extra-special treatment.” My ego wants me to be acknowledged and lauded for my efforts and abilities. I crave those looks of awe and adoration. Now there’s nothing wrong with trying to become more skillful or endeavoring to make progress. But competition means I seek to gain something that others want without a wish to share - I want it all for myself. Cooperation and compassion become unimportant because these qualities won’t help me achieve that goal. Such striving is what causes a spiritual wobble; I get distracted by what is trivial and lose sight of what is of true worth. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Slogan Thirty-four

Don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet: 
            Ask a group of people if they want to have a party, and there will probably be a large show of hands. But ask this same group who would be willing to set up tables, prepare the food, or stay and clean up afterward, and most of them will likely scatter. We like to have fun and demand our rights, but we frequently run from responsibilities. This slogan asks us to check ourselves to see if we are avoiding commitments and shifting the burden of obligations to other people. Our load should be determined by our capabilities; we ought to avoid piling up duties on someone with less experience and time, especially if they are already overloaded. If the task is worthwhile and we have the freedom and ability, perhaps we should raise our hand rather than hide.
Photo: A dogwood tree supports a huge, fallen pine limb.

            I was listening to Larry Wilmore on The Nightly Show as he explained how differently a First World (industrialized) country defines a problem as opposed to a Third World (developing) country: “We’re all familiar with First World problems. Like when I have to turn on the subtitles on Netflix because I’m eating Doritos too loudly.” His example made me laugh, but it also directed a light on how those of us with “more” live our lives. We think our problems and obligations are more important or overwhelming than those of anyone else. We define our time as more valuable and only grudgingly give it away. Yet if I’m honest, I’ll realize how self-indulgent this kind of thinking is. My excuses are a convenient way to cover up my laziness and add to the load of another person. Rather than being a reason to avoid responsibility, having what I do should inspire me to carry the weight I’m capable of supporting.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Slogan Thirty-three

Don’t bring things to a painful point.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            Humans have a way of identifying and exploiting the weaknesses of other people for their own benefit. We may criticize someone, pretending to "help," when really we enjoy the power of making them appear deficient. Using our position (by having something the other person needs), we may manipulate them to get what we want. Sore spots can become a target, as we aim a kick in order to reinforce a person's liabilities. Bringing things to a painful point means we try to intentionally humiliate or bully someone. Instead, the bodhisattva ideal suggests we focus on encouraging their positive qualities rather than turning their inadequacies into our gain.
Photo: Thorns on the stem of a rose bush.

            When I was in middle school, my stepfather developed a punishment for me and my brother when he caught us fighting or arguing. He would sit in a chair and order us to scrap with fists and feet while he watched. We were not allowed to stop unless he directed us, and he generally waited until one of us was about to seriously injure the other. This form of discipline made as much sense to me as parents who spank a child to make them stop crying. How could violence produce nonviolence? This slogan prompts me to reinforce the positive behavior of others instead of encouraging or emphasizing their problems. Adding to the suffering of another person only causes separation and alienation; it fails to identify and focus on the actual problem. I must also question why I seem to derive such pleasure from rubbing salt in the wound of another. There’s enough pain in the world already without me amplifying it.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Slogan Thirty-two

Don’t wait in ambush.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            What normally happens when we feel insulted or slighted by another person? While we nurse our bruised egos, we cling to our grudges and resentments as elaborate plans are made for revenge. We wait patiently, gathering information that could be damaging, then attack unexpectedly when that person is vulnerable. Meanwhile, we lose the opportunity for spiritual practice and forget to enjoy the present moment in which we live. Enormous amounts of time and energy are wasted as we lurk and scheme instead of using these resources in more constructive ways. Pema Chodron describes such retaliation as the path of a coward, not the path of a warrior. A spiritual warrior would be willing to listen and speak with an open heart.
Photo: A ladybug watches for aphids on an Eastern black nightshade.

            I am almost convinced a Southern woman came up with the expression “revenge is a dish best served cold.” The Deep South has a tradition of being polite (while avoiding the truth), which can only lead to pretense. This form of “nice” can become a sneaky way to cover up one’s ulterior motives. I live next door to a city baseball park and have to contend with noise, crowds, litter and parking problems six months out of the year. One season I noticed a field manager had gotten in the daily habit of parking his truck on the side of the street by my home. From my kitchen window, I watched him take frequent cigarette breaks in his truck (there was a “no smoking” policy at the park). Instead of leaving the butts in his ashtray, he would flick them out the window into my yard. After a few dozen had collected there, I got angry. Rather than confront him directly with a request to stop, I asked him, “Do you know who’s been leaving all these cigarette butts here?” He responded that he had no idea. So while he was busy at the field, I slipped outside with my dustpan, swept them all up and dumped them in the back of his very clean truck. Yet I never felt any real satisfaction afterward and often worried about payback from him. Bent on revenge, I failed to see my resentment kept me stuck in a cycle of misery. Respectful and honest communication would have likely achieved what I wanted but failed to receive.