Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Introducing the #lojongchallenge

Last weekend I was at a retreat organized by Rigpa Netherlands about the topic of Lojong. Lojong means literally training the habitual mind. The Lojong text we focused on was the Seven points of mind training. What is amazing about these teachings is that they are very practical ways to bring kindness and compassion in your life, and at the same time to give you some tools to work with your emotions. Note that these blogs are not intended to be teaching tools, so if you want to know more about these teachings, I suggest you read some of the excellent books that are around, such as Training the Mind, The Intelligent Heart or for a more contemporary application to the workplace: Awake at Work. Or you can of course take a course at your local Tibetan Buddhist centre if they offer it.
Picture taken in my hotel room in Amsterdam at the retreat

The retreat was an interesting one for me, because Rigpa has been in a lot of turmoil because the main teacher Sogyal Rinpoche has been accused of sexual abuse, physical abuse and financial mis-management, and consequently he stepped down as the director of Rigpa.* This was the first retreat without him, quite a searching process for the sangha that is very divided on what they think of the matter. In the midst of all the rampant emotions and the general happenings in the world, it was magnificent to study and practise Lojong.

While I think these teachings are amazing, my main problem is that I always forget to actually put them into practice. For this reason, I came up with the #lojongchallenge, where I challenge myself (and whoever would like to join) to write a blog/tweet/facebook/instagram post on a Lojong topic every week. In these blogs I plan to not regurgitate the teaching, but rather write a short story on how I worked with the teachings in my life as a practitioner and as an academic (or even as a dancer). I will probably start by going through the 59 Lojong slogans in order, because that gives a nice structure, but I may deviate from that as time continues.

Note also that these stories are not intended as a showcase of my realization (which I clearly don't have), nor a teaching tool, but only as a motivation to take the Lojong teachings seriously, and maybe to inspire others as in the process...

An example of a story could be like what happened to me during this retreat. In the first day I felt pretty much everything went wrong: folding bicycle that was supposed to transport me every day from hotel to venue broke down (its chain kept falling off and cannot be repaired), my watch stopped working, the balloon that is inside my meditation cushion broke, and I lost my coat (meanwhile found). As all this happened, I felt my familiar tendency to catastrophize, to feel that "everything is going wrong" started to emerge. Then the slogan "all dharmas are dreamlike" came to the rescue. When you realize that all of these things are natural properties of the world (things will disintegrate, disappear, break...--that is called impermanence), it is no longer such a surprise, and I felt suddenly a lot more relaxed.
a dreamlike image...

So, this was my first contribution to #lojongchallenge. If anyone else wants to join me, please do so, and add the hashtag #lojongchallenge.

* Please note that I will not be discussing matters related to the Sogyal Rinpoche controversy here on this blog. This is not because I want to ignore it or think it is not important. Rather, I think this blog is not the correct forum for that. I am very much working with it in more personal ways in the organization and beyond.

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