Lojong: I tried Mind Training to Awaken My Heart for 30 days and Here’s what happened

by Melissa West on

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Lojong for 30 Days

There are lots of videos on YouTube out there under the umbrella of, “I tried ____ for 30 days and this is what happened”

I tried meditation for 30 days and this is what happened.

I tried yoga for 30 days and this is what happened.

Since I already practice yoga and meditation these are not going to work for an I tried video for me.

But there are also I tried cold showers for 30 days, I went to the gym for 30 days, I quit social media for 30 days, waste free or plastic free for the 30 days of water challenge, pushups for 30 days, pull ups for 30 days. You get the picture.

While there are merits to these practices, I thought what if I could come up with an I tried ___ for 30 days that was deeply aligned with my own values.

In the lineage of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Tibetan Buddhism there is a practice called lojong. It is a bodhicitta mind training for those of us who aspire to awaken for the benefit of all beings.

There are 59 slogans which are designed to reverse our ego-clinging and cultivate tenderness and compassion.

Here are the slogans: Click Here

This is not about progress, about doing it right, about succeeding, but about noticing how I open and close to the slogan that I choose.

My idea is that I will take this deck shuffle through the cards and whatever slogan jumps out at me I will have to stick with for 30 days. The thing about these slogans is that they are not all clear from the get go:

A slogan like: don’t expect applause or be grateful to everyone are pretty straight forward, but a slogan like: examine the nature of unborn awareness would probably take me way more than 30 days to find understanding in.

I honestly don’t know what I am hoping. I know whatever I choose it is going to kick my but in some way and it will also bring some illumination and awakening.

I will set an alarm on my phone so that I will remember to check in each day and let you know how I am doing. I plan to share the frustrations as well as the insights. Hopefully this video will not be too long!

My lojong for 30 days May 18-June 18 is “Don’t turn Gods into demons”

There are three books I am drawing from for this challenge. Chogyam Trungpa’s Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving Kindness, Pema Chodron’s Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living and Norman Fischers’ Teaching in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong.

I also love Judy Leif’s teachings on Lojong in Tricycle magazine. She was a student of Chogyam Trungpa’s and she has written on each of the 59 slogans in Tricycle.

Train Your Mind: Don’t make gods into demons

I like to start with Chogyam Trungpa because he came first and seems closest to the source. With don’t turn gods into demons, he talks about our negativity bias and our tendency to complain. He says this slogan asks us to not make things that are joyful, painful.

The other thing that I love about what Chogyam Trungpa says is that dharma can become adharma. In other words, we can start using the teachings against ourselves. Oh my gosh, can I relate to that one. The number of times I have done that over the years, let’s be honest, in a single practice. This is something I can observe from minute to minute in my life.

He also talks about bringing awareness to the way we use the dharma to build up our ego. That is another aspect of this “don’t turn gods into demons” lojong slogan that I will notice throughout the month. How do I use what is good in my life to solidify my sense of self. Oh my gosh, that list is probably endless.

Day 1

I was reflecting on how the previous day my seventeen year old daughter had come into my bedroom and kissed me goodnight. I was quite touched by this tender act of affection. The next day, I said to my husband, did you ask her to do that? He said he did and then asked, did that make it any less special? Don’t turn gods into demons. I appreciated the moment for what it was, a rare moment of connection, love and tenderness between us.

Day 2

Today I reflected on the way we can use the dharma to build up our ego. Part of Buddha nature is generosity. This morning I did a video on my secondary channel to celebrate 20K subscribers and in it I tagged 5 yoga teachers and talked about what great yoga teachers they are. I could feel an embodied sense of generosity. I noticed how I wanted to hold onto that generosity as the day went on.

Day 4

This area tends to be a real sticking point for me with Buddhist teachings, it is that sticking point between being open with what is happening and knowing how to respond or taking right action in the world. Last night Trinity and I were having a discussion about her ideas of how she wants to spend the summer and some of my expectations of her for the summer. It was her comment that, “nothing is ever good enough for you,” that really stung.

This morning when I came and read Norman Fischer’s text on Lojong I was struck by the line do not demand so much of others that you lose sight of the positive circumstances in your life.

Then this morning Tim was sharing with me the tremendous growth we are having on our secondary channel on YouTube and almost immediately I went in on how we need to do this that and the other. He got incredibly upset with me and rightly so, because I couldn’t just for one minute appreciate the positive in my life.

Day 8

I was not feeling so well over the last four days, so I found myself ignoring my alarm when it went off each day at 4 pm.

What continued to stand out was this edge between right action and allowing or acknowledging the good and just how ingrained complaining or the negativity bias is.

Friday was the last day to register Trinity for summer school. She had me jumping through lots of hoops to do this. I found myself getting incredibly irritated by this. However, when I took a step back I realized that I was turning a God into a demon because summer school was going to be such a gift of structure for her this summer. So I tried to let go of the story that it shouldn´t be me doing all the stuff to make sure she gets registered.

Today, again it was around parenting! Can you sense a theme here. I had asked her to take out the recycling yesterday and Tim had reminded her that Sunday was the day that we call her Grandparents. Well she decided to kill two birds with one stone and take out the recycling while calling her grandparents before rushing off to be with her friends. So again it takes that discipline for me to be grateful that she has done what we asked instead of thinking: how rude that she was multitasking while talking to her grandparents.

Day 11

As I mentioned I have been suffering with a stomach bug for the past week or so. This has given me lots of opportunity to complain and feel quite low and depressed. This morning as I started to feel better, I returned to Norman Fischer ́s book Training in Compassion, Zen Teachings on Lojong. In his section on Don ́t Turn Gods into Demons, he turns the slogan on its head and also speaks about turning demons into gods. He talks about how often all we see are the problems and reminds us to see how fortunate our circumstances are.

So, I am quite lucky that even when I am not feeling well I can take it easy. Yesterday when I wasn’t feeling well it was a great opportunity to do something mindless like pin, pins on pinterest. This is something time consuming that I usually don´t have time for when I am feeling well. Yesterday I was able to schedule over 200 pins on pinterest.

Also yesterday I was able to relax and read a fiction book. I spent time over the last couple of days learning about medical qigong healing and watching medical qigong healing demonstrations which were quite fascinating to me. All of these things were things I probably not have spent so much time doing if I had been well.

June 1 Day 14

Today we went caving at Huson Lake on Vancouver Island. During the long drive, hiking and time in the caves I had time to reflect on the lojong slogan, ̈ Don’t turn gods into demons ̈ June is Tim ́s month, it is his birthday, father ́s day and our wedding anniversary. I was reflecting on how to celebrate Tim. Then I was thinking about the divine in each person. Today I was thinking about how easy it is to find fault with each other. Each person is an expression of the Divine. It is so easy to turn them into demons. That struck me as quite profound today.

June 2nd, Day 15.

Today I have been practicing the embodied gratitude retreat in our membership community. In the introduction to the retreat I talk about how we make our bodies into indentured servants. By extension I reflected on how we become indentured servants to the idea of how our lives should be. I started reflecting on my lojong slogan again. It occurred to me that we turn the preciousness of our human lives into something rather unpleasant quite often by so often being slaves to our lives. I am glad I am sticking with this 30 day challenge because the slogan is revealing more of itself to me. 🙂

June 5, Day 18

Yesterday I was feeling hurt and abandoned because some people in my life did not respond the way I wanted them to. I turned to my lojong slogan, ̈don ́t turn gods into demons ̈ to see if there was any wisdom for me.

This morning I turned to Judy Lief ́s commentary on the slogan. https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/train-your-mind-dont-make-gods-into-demons/

She says that the dharma is a path designed to make us more humble, flexible and compassionate. It can open us up or shut us down. Initially yesterday I felt myself shutting down and retracting. I felt emotionally hurt which turned to physical pain in my body. Then I began judging myself for having this experience. I felt ashamed for reacting this way. I felt that ¨I¨ should not be responding this way.

In many ways, this experience was showing me just how close-minded and arrogant I can be. Trying to control the outcome – both my own and that of others is incredibly egotistical. As I began to see the ways my ego wanted to control the situation and opened to the truth of what was happening I did soften. With that softness came some compassion and humility.

June 6 Day 19

I have been feeling inspired to go quite deeply into my personal meditation practice recently and so I have chosen something that I have been wanting to explore for some time now, Reggie Ray ́s program of somatic descent. It is quite an involved program that you can get through Sounds True. I am listening to all the teaching talks and doing all the practices.

Yesterday I was listening to him talk about the sacredness of our body. He was talking about how we needed to reorient our attitude towards our bodies and bring this into our lives. That is we need to respect our bodies in our ordinary lives as a sacred vessel of our journey. To treat them with the most nutritious foods, to nourish their health, to give them the movement they need and adequate rest. He was asking us to carry this devotion into ordinary life.

The part that stood out to me was when he asked us to let go of overwork based on our own ambition. This is a way that we treat our body as a slave, rather than with complete devotion.

To me, these teachings overlapped with my reflections on the lojong slogan don ́t turn gods into demons. So often I know I treat my body as a slave to my ego rather than with tenderness and devotion.

June 9 Day 22

Reggie Ray says, when we serve our deepest Self our lives will become a vehicle for others.

We have all kinds of projects and plans for our lives that come from our family, from our culture, from other people and businesses trying to sell us the things that they need to sell us in order to make a profit. This is where I spend a lot of time thinking and planning and creating agendas for our life and striving for my own personal gain. It is a kind of unconscious planning and striving that is always going on underneath the surface.

When I am grounded and connected with my True Self I can connect with the wisdom, love, compassion and right relation and right action for my life. I can connect with my highest self and receive guidance for my life.

For me over the last few days I realize this has been letting go of the arrogant aggression of ambition and my own small ego-informed agendas about how my life should be. Letting go of the priorities and pressures of the dominant culture that I have soaked into my consciousness. I have noticed that there are times I bow at the altar of growth, materialism and gain. This is turning a demon into a god.

At the same time, luckily I there has been a huge focus on practice. I have been focusing on this lojong slogan, I have been doing an intensive practice of somatic descent with the teachings of Reggie Ray and with that has come a lot of clarity of the wisdom, guidance, right action and right relationship in my life.

June 14, 2019 Day 27

I have been wrapping up the fire element course in our community over the last few days. Then over the last three days in particular I have been suffering with a migraine. During those three days I have been listening to the lojong slogans in bed with this recording on YouTube.

It has been interesting to hear the lojong slogan that I have been focusing on this month within the context of all the other slogans and to hear the slogans within the whole of the 59 slogans. I am reminded of the preliminaries of our precious life and I am reminded of the most important thing, that I have offered my life to be of service to all beings, again and again.

I also loved the way this slogan was translated in this recording: Don’t use these teachings to strengthen your self absorption. I think that is something that has definitely stands out for me as the transformation over the course of the month, that the self absorption, the pushing and striving to make gains for my self has softened. I feel myself dropping into something deeper.

June 17, 2019 Day 30

As I finish up my 30 days I am going back through my notes and what stands out to me are two things. Number one that the teachings are not there to strengthen our own self absorption. This was Pavana Dharma’s translation of slogan #37.

Number two, Pema Chodron’s teachings on lojong #37 don’t make gods into demons. She reminds us that all the teachings are there to encourage us. When we find ourselves struggling as I have over the last few days with migraines, to remind myself that I am not being punished. The idea is that we continually get the teachings we need to open our hearts.

The fear of failure has been so strong as the days stretch on with the migraines. So I turn towards the teachings on basic goodness and remind myself that I am enough and my life is enough, I do not have to do anything to be loved.

As I come to the end of these 30 days I realize that I can use these teachings to judge and criticize myself and others or I can continually open to the preciousness of life and the basic goodness, wisdom, love, compassion and joy that is inherent within each of us.

Namaste, Melissa


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