It is probably clear by now that Zen practice with these slogans is all about a commitment to training the mind. And since the nature of mind training goes directly against our entrenched and deep-rooted habit of self-cherishing, it is easy to come up with a variety of excuses for not keeping up with meditation and study.
All humans have a tendency to ego solidification, and because of that we are ready to pounce on anything that threatens a long-ingrained fixed view of who we are. It is a natural function of the brain to be constantly scanning and seeking ways to secure ourselves further. Ego plays both a defensive and offensive game.
Ironically, our ego trickery is such that even when studying Zen and the slogans, the philosophy of mind training can be co-opted as just another tool of self-gratification. That is why meditation and study alone is not enough. For these teachings to have any effect at all they need to be practiced on a daily basis in our families and communities.
Although practice is essential, Zen training is not a clenched jaw or heavy-handed battle. However, it does require that you recognize the pain and claustrophobia of continually playing the game of ego, and that pain is hard to face. But as you practice, something radical occurs: You realize that you don’t have to play that game! You see that when you opt out, even briefly, there is relief, lightness and even joy.
Sometimes people think the Buddhist practices are all about mind, nothing else. But the notion of whole-heartedness is that you really feel what you feel and that you feel it completely. You should bring your heart and your emotions into the practice so that you can feel more and more deeply the contrast between ego-imprisonment and freedom.
Today’s practice: Pay attention to the boundary between wholehearted practice and a more vague and lukewarm approach. Notice your thinking process, your bodily sensations, and emotional undercurrents. What happens at those moments in which you click in and are really practicing?
This column is a long series of short essays exploring the meaning of the Lojong Slogans. It is inspired by the work of Judy Lief.
Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Creston’s ZenWords Zen Centre. For more information, she can be reached at 250-428-3390.