Lojong Practice Journal: If you can practice even when distracted…
The 59 slogans through a social justice lens
“If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained” is one of my favourite slogans. Anytime I hear it, I am tickled. It delights me in how simple and profound it is.
To practice is to apply the teachings in our lives, in any given moment, on or off the cushion. We begin with techniques and guides — our posture for sitting, choosing the object of meditation, making time to do so etc. As time passes our practice might also include bodywork, like yoga, or going on retreats, or listening to and reading dharma. And as our practice deepens, we become present and mindful in each activity…theoretically.
Anyone who has sat in meditation even once has probably noticed the many habits we have for distraction. One of the most common things I hear from new meditators is that not thinking is impossible! The brain conjures up so much, and our meditation sessions turn into epic fantasies, reminiscing about the past, or wondering what we’re going to have for our next meal.
I am always so happy to inform these new meditators that meditation is not about not-thinking. It’s about training in being present. This is why it’s called a practice. We are practising being right here, right now. And right here, right now, thoughts are happening and ideas are popping up and emotions are arising. And also, right here, right now, we can come back to the breath. Or the beat of our heart. Or the feel of our feet or butt as we sit in a chair or on a cushion or bench.
The more we intentionally spend time being present, the more it begins to become second-nature. This is what we are training in. As we practice coming back to the present in formal meditation, again and again, we will notice that sometimes, we do it while we’re not meditating. We start coming to the breath when we see something inflammatory on a social media feed, or when we’re starting to feel agitated while waiting in line, or when we’ve checked out during a visit with our deeply conservative family member.
Instead of habitually spinning off into thoughts, numbing out, or instantaneously reacting to our emotions, our habit can sometimes be a pause. We might just take a moment to ground ourselves in our bodies, bring awareness to the situation, how we are feeling, and considering what will serve. We noticed we have not impulsively typed out several paragraphs about why someone is wrong. Or we just start doing tonglen for everyone else waiting in that line with us. Or maybe we speak up without fear (or despite fear) from a place of deep love and compassion.
This is what it means to be well trained.
This blog was originally published on Medium.
This is part of a series of posts I am doing to support my practice.
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