One City

The other night, while discussing directing theater, my friend Peter asked about my directing process:  “so is that how you tend to work?” and I thought about it and said “you know honestly, I’m only twenty seven years old and although that may seem of the age that some folks have a sense of agency about their process, I don’t and all I’ll say is that I don’t really ‘tend’ to do anything, I have no patterns of working, and it all seems very experimental these days.  In fact the only thing I ‘tend’ to do is not book rehearsal space promptly enough.” 
That’s all to say what we *tend* to do in Hardcore Dharma is work with three texts from the three main Buddhist traditions, Zen, Theravaden and Tibetan.  But as all conditioned phenomena is subject to impermanence who knows if this may at one point change.  Last week, however, having dominated Zen and Theravada with our single pointed grasshopper minds we moved on to our Tibetan focus of this session, Lojong.
Lojong translates to mind-training – it’s a list of slogans designed to help one awaken by directing the mind.  There’s a wonderful website, that lists all the slogans as well as commentaries on each by seven Buddhist luminaries.  You can also sign up to get a slogan sent to you each day via email (although – for folks that have this – have you noticed that the emails are a tad wonky and sporadic?).  Nonetheless, I recommend.
Ripe with dharmic ambition, on the Sunday following HC Dharma class I commenced a slogan-a-day program to see what came up, starting from the beginning (last week we worked with the first seven) with the intention of working through all 59.
My thoughts were so varied that I decided to simply present Julia May Jonas’s Lojong Slogan Diary as practiced from Sunday the 22nd till today and the shifty-brained thoughts it inspired:
Sunday, February 22nd, 2009: First, Train in the Preliminaries.
At first  I thought this slogan was a vague kind of, eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, right action slogan, but it’s actually referring to the Four Reminders, my favorite contemplations.  The Four Reminders are
1. Noble Human Birth
2. Impermanence and the inevitability of death
3. Karma
4. The endlessness and vastness of samsara.
My noble human birth got me and my good health to yoga, my contemplations of impermanence kept me from wasting the class by feeling irritated at the person to my left, my considerations on karma helped me to savor with careful attention the last of the delicious The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch and Samsara displayed its vast ocean of dismissal, envy, discontent, shadenfreude, aggression and apathy in that smorgasbord of aspirational living known as the Academy Awards. 
Monday, February 23rd, 2009: Regard All Dharma as Dreams: 
Today I realized while meditating on this slogan that this is a direction for formal practice and not for life.  Because when I was thinking about this slogan for life, I was like, “this seems like a really good way to accumulate a ton of credit card debt.”  Within formal practice, however, I realized it was an excellent mental gear shift towards yet another method to help understand that thoughts are simply thoughts.  They are dreams, not reality – they are your mind doing the same thing it does when you are dreaming – spewing out its endless dross.  Dharma as Dreams is a reminder of mental spaciousness and the importance of not taking your mind so seriously.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009: Examine the Nature of Unborn Awareness: 
After a bit of contemplation about my unborn awareness in the morning, I realized getting dressed that whilst assembling an outfit I often have the voice of Vice Magazine’s Dos & Don’ts in my head – which if you’re not familiar is a nasty, judgmental, my-appearance-is-completely-connected-to-my-worth kind of voice (so much so that I’m not even going to link to it).  As I recognized the voice I thought, sheesh, one more example of how my awareness and opnions are empty and therefore very much dictated by my consumption of material, and how important it is, therefore, to be attentive and discerning to what I mentally consume.
Wednesday February 25th, 2009:   Self Liberate Even The Antidote:
The “kill the Buddha” recommendations are always the trickiest for me to process but today I remembered something that Alex and I briefly discussed at the end of class last week regarding clear seeing.  He said Buddhism is not about changing who you are.  Buddhism is about revealing the truth.  When you hold on to anything, even a teaching, you’re denying the truth in favor of a preconception.  Better to be brave and step into the stream and go with the flow.  Hence, I buy shoes.
Today I’m working with the slogan “Rest in the Nature of Alaya, The Essence.”  Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche interprets this slogan as trusting your simple, indiscriminate mind.  Like the third slogan (unborn awareness), I tend to think this happens far more easily when I simplify my mental intake and activity.  Turn off the radio, don’t refresh the email, only read the New York Times website once a day and stay the heck away from those Viceland Do’s and Don’ts.  Only with a degree of quietude am I able to even recognize, let alone rest in simple awareness.
So there’s an all over the map post from an all over the map skin bag of conditioned phenomena today.  Anything hit?  Has anyone had good/interesting/bad/so-so/lame/fascinating experiences with these slogans?  What do they do to you?  Is this one-a-day approach a skillful means of practice?  How do you feel about Lojong?

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