Lojong Practice Journal: Whichever of the two occurs, be patient
The 59 slogans through a social justice lens
The slogan “Whichever of the two occurs, be patient” is instructing us to practice equanimity, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The wording— “whichever of the two”—is interesting and worth considering, as Buddhism is about understanding that we often approach things dualistically, despite the complexity of our interconnectedness. This is why I dislike when people talk about “understanding both sides” of a situation — as if any situation isn’t multi-faceted and representative of many perspectives.
In the case of this slogan, it’s acknowledging how we may encounter our lives in terms of “positive”, “negative”, and “neutral”, but when it comes to neurotic or obsessive attachments, it’s the positive and the negative occurrences where we get hung up. We either become overly attached to things going well, or overly attached to our suffering and the idea that nothing will ever change or we deserve suffering as a kind of punishment for our imperfections.
The instruction to “be patient” with both positive and negative situations and experiences is about bearing witness to what is happening without attachment or avoidance. It’s not saying to “grin and bear it” when suffering, or not to genuinely enjoy ourselves when we are happy or having fun. It’s simply a reminder that regardless of the situation, it is impermanent. Change is constant and we are never just one way and no moment is static.
This slogan has helped me in understanding my own capacity for growth in how I walk a path of liberation. For example, the other day I was given the opportunity to shine a spotlight on covert racism. I was nervous before I spoke up, but as soon as I pointed it out, I was met with affirmations from others who acknowledged they had witnessed the covert racism too. One of the people happened to be Black, and I was aware that as a white person, it feels pretty damn good when a Black person cheers you for naming racism as you see it.
Yes, I felt good about being affirmed for stepping up to name racism when I saw it and I also know that anti-racism is a constant practice.
I can’t cling to that one situation as proof of my work “being done” as a white person, or that I’m a “good white person” compared to other white people*. As long as white supremacy is functioning as a system, I can not guarantee that I won’t be the person saying or doing something racist that gets called out. I also know, that when I mess up, a white shame spiral isn’t going to benefit anyone.
Another example, this time on the flip side: A Korean friend of mine pointed out that when I said “…there is only one race, the human race”, it completely disregarded that systemic racism exists and that simply stating that we are all human does nothing to challenge that system.
Being patient in this situation looked like examining the assumptions in what I’d said and not freaking out about “being racist.”
Being patient involves sitting with the discomfort of being told that I am not quite so “woke” as I like to think. Being patient is a process of accepting I will mess up. It will feel gross. And also that I know I am capable of learning something new about myself as a white person and how I contribute to a system despite my intentions to consistently challenge and dismantle that system.
When we practice patience, we are in fact, practicing presence. Being in the body, acknowledging how we are feeling — elated or disappointed, proud or ashamed, giddy or anxious — and learning from that feeling. This slogan is instructing us to value how we are feeling and how to learn from what arises and how that will inform our actions in the future.
This blog was originally published on Medium.
*In the words of Lindsay Ellis, “If you play with the pigs, you’re going to get covered in shit.” Being racialised as white in a white supremacist culture means, no matter what you think of your bones, you will say and do racist things. If it helps you to cultivate an anti-racist practice to qualify that you “Aren’t racist, but you say and do racist things,” go for it. But if you are white and your approach to racism is “I’m not part of the problem,” um, *cough* I have news for you…
This is part of a series of posts I am doing to support my dharma practice.
Visit www.KaitlynSCHatch.com to find out more about what I do.