Lojong Review

by Peter Carlson on January 14, 2016

During this final review of the lojong mind training aphorisms, Peter described how the lojong tradition is a revisiting of the Four Noble Truths from a Mahayana perspective, with emphasis on tonglen, the practice of compassion.  The last stage of the lojong listing is a reminder of the important things to integrate into meditation practice and daily lifestyle routines in order to further the process of awakening.

Here are the aphorisms referred to in the talk:  GUIDELINES FOR APPLYING THE COMMITMENTS

Next week’s discussion will focus on the value of regular meditation practice and occasional retreat participation to maximize the benefits received from the Buddhist process of awakening.

Avoiding Mental Rigidity

by Peter Carlson on December 17, 2015

During this talk, Peter reviewed 3 lojong mind training commitments:  “Don’t revert to magic”, “Don’t reduce a god to a demon”, and “Don’t seek pain as a component of happiness”.  The common theme of these three commitments is to be mindful of mental rigidity, which produces “magical thinking” (Misperceiving one’s beliefs to be “things”, that is, accurate personality defining characteristics).  This consequence of craving and clinging can create a rigid, doctrinaire, “holier than thou” approach to life, comparing and judging others harshly for their beliefs.  This rigidity can manifest as a punitive approach to life, that is, relishing the suffering of others.

The review was followed by discussion by various persons attending regarding how this rigidity is experienced and what aspects of the Four Noble Truth can bring resolution to the rigidity and harshness.

This review is the last focused on the commitments of lojong mind training.  Peter will be on a two-week self retreat over the holidays.  The first meeting in January will review the retreat process he experienced.  The following meeting will summarize the lojong mind training  with a review of the remaining aphorisms, which emphasize the importance of various elements of the lojong mind training system.

Here are the notes prepared for this discussion:   AVOIDING MENTAL RIGIDITY AND HARSHNESS

Releasing Unrealistic Expectations

by Peter Carlson on December 3, 2015

During this talk, the lojong commitment “Don’t Put A Horse’s Load On A Donkey” was reviewed.  The emphasis of the commitment is to avoid idealizing expectations of self or others, that is, to avoid perfectionism.  One of the benefits of being relieved of the stress and confusion of the five hindrances is the release of energy into the process of awareness.  This can manifest as overreaching one’s capabilities, or displacing responsibility on others, thereby expecting too much of their capabilities.  This leads to contempt and a feeling of disconnection from self and others.  A goal of this practice is to become clearly aware of how self-organization either leads to clarity or to confusion, and eventually understanding how to release the “hardened” expectations that result from craving and clinging.

Here are the notes for the discussion:  MANAGING THE BURDEN OF RESPONSIBILITY

Here is the worksheet provided for those attending the meeting:  Relationship Responsibility Worksheet

Avoiding Toxic Ego Food

by Peter Carlson on November 5, 2015

During this evening’s discussion, modern neuroscientific research was reviewed which suggests that activated neural pathways become more richly connected when “fed” by increased blood flow.  When unwholesome self-organizations are repeatedly enacted, the result is toxic.  A distinction was emphasized regarding external and internal “ego food”, that is, how modern entertainment and distractions provide external stimulation, while internal processes are either enhanced or depleted in their power by the amount of attention given to them in the mind.  Peter read the excerpt from the Four Foundations of Mindfulness discourse that describes being aware of the transitory nature of self-organizations (fourth foundation, regarding the arising and passing of the five aggregates of clinging).  These principles support the awareness qualities found in the lojong mind training commitments.

This review was followed by a lively discussion regarding the prevalence of external “junk food media” and how  being mindful of how the internal processing of the stimulation can be used to practice tonglen, that is, the ability to transform internal processes with compassion.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  BENEVOLENT EGO FOOD

Next week’s discussion will focus on the lojong aphorism “Don’t rely on consistency.”

Turning Humiliation Into Humility

by Peter Carlson on October 29, 2015

This talk addresses the problems of perfectionism, which often manifest as internal narratives that are shame-based.  Various lojong mind training aphorisms were reviewed to clarify how the applications of the aphorisms can support transforming feelings of shame and humiliation into humility.  Humility can be understood as recognizing the enormous complexity of external and internal conditions that are part of life, and how this recognition can reveal the interdependence/selflessness that is a core realization of Buddhist practice.  The internal transformation from humiliation to humility is accomplished with the practice of tonglen, which reforms self-organization through compassion.

Here are the notes prepared for this presentation:   LETTING GO OF PERFECTIONISM

Next week’s topic will be the aphorism “Give Up Toxic Ego Food”.

Balancing Emotions As Circumstances Change

The focus of this talk is how the Four Noble Truths are manifested while applying the lojong mind training aphorisms.  Reviewing aphorisms discussed in previous meetings, Peter described how the cultivation of internally stable focus and emotional balance creates the optimal “platform of awareness” for the practice of vipassana.  Vipassana, in turn, reveals the physical, […]

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Four Applications For Spiritual Growth

This talk reviewed the progressive steps from initial establishment of stable focus and internal tranquility through to last week’s exploration of how to work with confusion.  The new aphorism involves four applications to further spiritual development: cultivating a more integrated series of self-states motivated by lovingkindness and compassion, maintaining an ongoing investigation of emerging self-states, […]

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