The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #16
Each Friday, Acharya Judy Lief, teacher in the Shambhala tradition of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, comments on one of Atisha’s 59 mind-training (Tib. lojong) slogans, which serve as the basis for a complete practice.
Atisha (980-1052 CE) was an Indian adept who brought to Tibet a systematized approach to bodhicitta (the desire to awaken for the sake of all sentient beings) and loving-kindness, through working with these slogans. Judy edited Chogyam Trungpa’s Training the Mind (Shambhala, 1993), which contains Trungpa Rinpoche’s commentaries on the lojong (“mind-training”) teachings.
Each entry includes a practice.
16. Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation.
When our lives are going relatively smoothly and predictably it is easier to maintain our mindfulness. But when things are happening fast, it is hard to remember to join what we encounter with meditation. It is also easier to think of others if we ourselves are not currently either in the midst of some crisis or caught up in some amazing opportunity. But it seems that no matter how hard we try to stay on an even keel, we keep being blindsided by unexpected events.
According to this slogan, taking an attitude of compassion and awareness does not need to be some formal or long drawn-out process. It can be done in an instant, in the tiny gap that occurs at the very moment we are surprised by something unexpected, whether positive or negative. Of course, that is the same point where we are most apt to “lose it.”
When we are at that point of just about to lose it, before we have gone into reaction mode or dragged out our usual arsenal of habits, we can pause. We can interrupt that momentum. Instead of joining whatever we meet with our bundle of preconceptions, self-absorptions, fixed views, and programmed responses, we can immediately join it with meditation. We can insert awareness and compassion.
Throughout the slogan teachings, we keep being reminded that each and every situation is an opportunity for growth and awakening. To take advantage of such opportunities, we need to keep expanding the boundaries of our meditation to include more and more aspects of our life. By cultivating an attitude of ongoing mindfulness, by becoming genuine practitioners, it is as if we create a well of loving-kindness and awareness that we can tap even in the midst of sudden changes and challenges.
In order to join experience and meditation, it is helpful to begin by noticing when that does not happen. So today’s practice is to pay attention to “losing it.” Strangely, simply seeing such moments more clearly, without too much judgment or commentary, is a way to extend an attitude of practice more consistently and deeply into our ongoing activities.
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