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.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Sending and taking should be practiced alternately. These two should ride the breath.

Cedar Waxwing - Photo by Dave Kilbey

          Here in North America, many trees and shrubs depend on birds to disperse their seeds. Berries are swallowed whole, the fruit digested, and then seeds are expelled away from the parent plant. This provided transport prevents the seeds from being in competition for water and light with well-established plants. A bird's digestive system also wears away some of the hard seed covering, improving its chances of sprouting once it reaches the soil. The relationship is mutually beneficial to both birds and plants, providing food for one group and increasing reproductive prospects for the other. Tonglen, a meditation of breathing in the suffering of others and breathing out with a wish for their comfort, is mutually valuable as well. For the person practicing tonglen, it loosens the ties of self-absorption, dissolves that feeling of separation, develops courage, and opens the heart. The person on the receiving end benefits too, though not through some magical lifting of their burden. Instead it comes through the compassionate, nonjudgmental focus of the practitioner, who doesn't run or attempt to avoid their pain.

I happened to be present one of the first times Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa sprang this bizarre sounding practice on an unsuspecting Western audience. One student of yoga had raised his hand and asked, with some bewilderment, why it wouldn't be better to imagine breathing in love and light and breathing out all negative impurities....Trungpa's unhesitating reply: “Well, then you'd just be like a polluting factory, taking in all these good resources and spewing out your gray cloud on everyone else.” ~ Marc Barasch

For more information on the seventh slogan, go here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

In post-meditation, be a child of illusion.

Photo by Mechelle Hyatt

          I was at a social gathering the other night and had the good fortune to sit next to an agreeable eight-month-old. She had just gotten fitted with a pair of glasses; her mom told me she had been enthusiastically exploring everything since she could now see with clarity. She picked up my hand and turned it over, examining the lines and spots as intently as she did the ring I wore. As she investigated with wonder, I realized she was a perfect representation of curiosity. While I may be able to maintain a similar inquisitiveness on the meditation chair, continuing to do so as I go through the day is a greater challenge. It's easier to pull a folder from my mental file cabinet and react in line with past patterns. There is a tendency to label an experience as the “same old same old” rather than seeing it with fresh eyes. I forget that each moment is new, and instead heap my opinions and preconceptions on top of it. The sixth slogan encourages me to carry the quality of openness into my daily life. If I look with the curiosity of a child, I might discover that moments aren’t quite so monotonous and predictable as I thought.

A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet.  To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is~ Pema Chödrön

For more information on the sixth slogan, go here.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence.

Bunched Bunnies - Photo by Hollis J. Works

          In 1959, students in Durban, South Africa decided to see how many people they could fit inside a telephone booth. They managed to squeeze in 25 students and reported their results to Guinness Book of World Records. That was the start of a new fad, and young people all around the world began trying to break the record for how many folks they could fit in booths, cars and other tight spaces. Comparing the tight space of ego's created awareness to natural (unborn) awareness is like comparing the capacity of a thimble with that of the sky. My little thimble holds so many preoccupations that there is little room left for other possibilities. I'm too caught up in my concerns and preferences and see only a tiny part of the whole. Yet alaya, the sky-like vastness of the unbiased mind, is limitless; there's room for all with room to spare. Instead of feeling squeezed by only being able to view how things affect me, I can see from a larger perspective. As Pema Chodron explains, I can rest in this openness and "enjoy the display of whatever arises without making a big deal." In classical Sanskrit, alaya means "home;" it is similar to the experience of coming home and relaxing after a long, stressful trip. I can drop the baggage of my discontent, irritability and worries and just "be."
For more information on the fifth slogan, go here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Self-liberate even the antidote.

          Infants have an instinctive fear of falling. When being picked up or put down, they prefer to have their head and body firmly supported. If they feel insecure, healthy babies exhibit the Moro reflex: eyes wide, the arms are flung out to the sides as if in free-fall, followed quickly by curling and folding their body inward. Though children outgrow this reflex, shifting circumstances can still make adults nervous. We prefer our lives to be dependable and stable. The fourth slogan recognizes the reflexive action we often take when things get shaky and uncertain. We grab at anything that might help us nail down the buckling floor - even the dharma. Yet the purpose of the dharma is to wake us up, not make us feel better. As Chogyam Trungpa explained, "We are not particularly seeking enlightenment or the simple experience of tranquility - we are trying to get over our deception." The truth is that life is precarious and unpredictable. But grasping at an idea to make it appear more solid won't change reality. Here is the opportunity to let go and free-fall instead of pouring concrete. 
For more information about the fourth slogan, go here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Examine the nature of unborn awareness.

Photo from Planetden.com

          Salar de Uyrini, found in southwestern Bolivia, is the world's largest salt flat. As one of the most level places on earth, it becomes a liquid mirror during the rainy season. Before the photographer took the magnificent photo above, there was a brief moment when he was aware of the scene without any any analysis or speculation. It was pure awareness, untouched by definitions, labels or categories. This natural awareness is always there in everyone. I'm sure it was only a split second in the photographer's mind before a running commentary started about choosing the right lens to capture such a fantastic image of land and sky. Created awareness (as opposed to natural awareness) is filled with dualistic, discursive thought. I liken it to a mirror that should accurately reflect back reality but can't, because I've covered the surface with Post-it notes. Unconcerned with just noticing what's there, these notes separate things into groups such as pleasant/unpleasant, same/different and you/me. Yet natural awareness can be found in meditation; it is what notices I'm narrating a story instead of focusing on the breath. It's that gap of clarity, and this slogan tells me to pay attention to it.  
For more information on the third slogan, go here.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Regard all experiences as dreams.

Photo by Ellen Barcel

I recently discovered a new form of graffiti called yarn bombing. Colorful knitted or crocheted blocks of yarn are used to cover public objects, such as trees, statues and posts. It made me think of what happens in my mind when I meditate. First, I am completely focused on the breath; thoughts may float by, but I don’t get snagged by any of them. But then “Something Important” passes through my head – usually a thought about the past or the future. I take that thought and start crocheting madly around it, forming a colorful story that is usually filled with emotional energy. Eventually I recognize I’m not following my breath, and I snap back into the present moment. I suddenly realize what felt so real during my discursive thought was only a mental creation. Waking up from those thoughts and feelings are, as the second slogan states, like waking up from a dream. Knitting such stories, whether in meditation or during daily activities, leaves very few gaps of space to see from a larger perspective. Yet seeing them as vibrant, imaginative fantasies reminds me that what I create in my mind does not necessarily make them real. 
For more information on the second slogan, go here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

First, train in the preliminaries.

          I was reading last night about the reason some folks put out eggshells for the birds, particularly during the late winter and spring months. The calcium carbonate found in the shell is particularly important as a nutrient for female birds. Their own eggshells are made up of about 95% of this supplement; when they don't get enough, it can negatively affect the survival rate of their chicks. Likewise, the Four Reflections could be considered the necessary vitamins required for a beginning practice. If I don't grasp these basic ideas - the preciousness and impermanence of life, that thoughts and actions produce effects, and that suffering is created by a search for security - it is doubtful my training will be very beneficial or lasting. I'll fail to see the part I play in the painful patterns of my life, and my habits will become like a washing machine forever stuck in a wash, rinse, and repeat cycle. Adopting such ideas may not be as tasty as a slice of illusion, but these principles can become my keys to clarity, allowing me to see the truth of reality.
For more information on the first slogan, go here.