The good news is that you have already been training in the preliminaries.
If you completed the Learning to Exhale course and did the meditation as I prescribed, you more or less have the preliminaries covered. The preliminaries refer to the practice of mindfulness meditation that these slogans aim to enhance the mental insight of.
The slogans will still work for people who have not started meditating yet but they are really aimed at enhancing the mind of a person who is already meditating.
Meditation is going to be the foundation for the exploration of this journey of mindfulness slogans that we are now on. The lojong slogans are additions to meditation practice. A person who is a meditator should be able to comfortably meditate four times a week for at least 30 minutes each session. Other meditators for up to an hour.
This is not a meditation with a person in a detached emotional state that I speak of. You would have heard me say in week three that meditation should not be used as another way to numb out. Or go into what Schema Therapy calls - detached protector.
This is a completely wrong way to practice. Meditation was never invented to be practiced this way in a detached emotionless state and dissociated.
The meditation I am speaking of and teach, is one of openness and not being in a dissociated state psychotherapeutically speaking. Our Learning to Exhale style of meditation aims to train people to such an extent that they don’t have to hide from their feelings or emotions. In fact, we empower people through my mindfulness course to transform the emotions and promote positive emotion.
Too many people are using meditation to either numb out or stay in and justify - detached protector.
In the end, at higher training levels, meditation leads to bliss. So what a waste if you are practicing in detached protector.
As I have said in the classes, the benefits of meditation are not just seen when you are meditating seated on the cushion but also when you have done enough meditation it starts to break out in places you least expect.
When you get tense suddenly the accumulated momentum of the meditation can cause you to suddenly relax and breath…..
In addition to meditation we need to reflect on what are called the ‘four mind benders’.
We should aim traditionally to reflect on these four on a daily basis for six months.
This is not in order to get a medal or anything but to face these truths and for these truths to transform the mind.
In particular its perception. You could say this is a psychotherapeutic practice. The more you reflect and take to heart the above four mind benders then the mind starts to bend towards these fundamental life truths that really nobody can argue with. They are applicable to all people whatever race or creed.
Life is Precious
There are thousands of species of life on the earth and all life is part of a global ecosystem.
In the East our human life is believed to be difficult to gain and further, that it is only in a human body that enlightenment can be achieved so we must not waste this opportunity. For many this mind-bender is a call to basic sanity.
A sanity where you don’t waste your life away on superficial things.
Here I am not just talking about the necessities of earning a living and raising a family but perhaps neurosis such as anxiety and worry. Especially about things that do not come to pass. Many people could be classed as wandering generalities who do not know why they are here on the planet and what it is they should do. As a slice of lime goes with a gin and tonic a slice of meaning and purpose should go with life to give it the kick it needs.
To get the most out of a life we need to live this life with passion. Boats are not built to be kept in ports.
I once asked a very famous surgeon during an interview what was the worst cancer in his experience of treating 45,000 people. The reply I was expecting, out of possibly 160 cancers known to affect people, was probably brain cancer. His answer really surprised me.
He said,’The worst cancer is not living your life’.
Death Comes Without Warning
Death will eventually come for everyone. We are essentially on borrowed time but we live as if we have forever. Death is a type of taboo subject seldom spoken of in suburban dinner parties.
We have moved death to the periphery of how we live in the West. We hide it from children. Death comes in the blink of an eye. Over 70% of heart attacks are fatal. But actually death is around us all the time - everything that comes together eventually falls apart. Just a matter of time before it does.
Too many people are surprised when they receive a terminal diagnosis and sadly due to certain religious upbringings feel that God is choosing to be mean to them. This causes a spiritual crisis due to a lack of leadership from their traditions. When they most need their spiritual tradition then end up perhaps disconnecting from the heavens and the divine when they need it most.
There is also the truth in reflecting on death not just at the end but a thread that binds the book of our lives. Our childhood dies, our teen years die and also each phase after those. If we don’t live mindfully we can end up missing the boat. We have to normally have a good education at the start which enhances our chances of a good job for example.
Everything is impermanent. This is not to be macabre but to have an understanding from the wisdom traditions of the East, as what is called suffering is actually the ‘resistance’ of suffering or change. Equally bad times in our lives are impermanent which some people might find comforting. One spiritual teacher I know of when his students came to ask him about a new project they had in mind he would reply,’better not - impermanence’ this was a way to control his students and spiritually abuse them through a type of mind control.
We also should not waste our time. Ideally we should live mindfully whilst we can.
There is sadly such a thing as the living dead people who hide from living in routine. A nurse from the course shared a very valuable anecdote from her graduation. She told me the Dean of the University spoke to the students and said she congratulated them but wished them well in their career. The Dean made one very important point to the graduates contained there when the Dean advised them to have a career where every year was not the repeat of what came before. Otherwise 25-30 years were going to be the same.
This is such valuable advice not just to the graduates in the hall that day but to all of us.
Karma Cannot Be Escaped
Native American Chief Seattle once wrote that,’whatever man does to the web of his life he does to himself’. We can see the effects of karma nowhere better than what we are now seeing in the various manifestations of climate change. Man and his pollution is clearly the cause and climate change effects such as droughts, flooding and the ice caps melting are clearly the effect.
The purpose of this truth is to guide us away from harmful actions of body, speech and mind, and by doing so make us more mindful what we are doing with these three faculties.
Many people believe and the mindfulness movement is contributing this that mindfulness just pertains to mind but in actual fact also includes what being mindful about what we say and what we do with our bodies. Harmful speech does so much damage these days and nowhere more so than on social media. Trolls with mindless speech literally take aim at people and pulverise them with their bullying. Others suffer grave smear campaigns where two rumours make a fact.
This has driven a number of people to suicide with no remorse on the side of the people who were bullying them.
Once I heard a wonderful story that illustrates the profound effects of all this very well. A woman went to confession and when the priest asked what did she have to express she said she had started a rumour about someone that was false. The priest, who was quite insightful as we shall see, for penance told her to go to a hill with a pillow of duck feathers on a windy day. She was to open the pillow and shake all the feathers out into the wind. Then when they were all out into the air and environs she was to go and collected them all again. Every single one. When she exclaimed it would be a very difficult thing to do he replied - ‘exactly’!
Another story for the East is of a monk who was causing trouble in the monastery thought he could manipulate the master. The other monks wanted him to be expelled for all the trouble he was causing with his ‘forked tongue’. So when the Master said he could only stay if he was willing to do what the master instructed to remedy the situation he agreed whatever. The master said he was now committed to silence for an entire year but could ask only two questions.
When the monk asked what ones after committing to the remedy the master said gleefully replied,’Can I be of help? Have I been of help?’
By reflecting on karma not being escaped people might start to improve their behaviour especially when it is in relation to other people. If the troll finds out that what harm they did to another person is a boomerang now heading back for them impacting them in the same negative way they affected their victim it might focus their minds to be more kind.
Karma is also understood in the Celtic culture when you hear the old saying - the wheel always turns. This implies what goes around eventually comes around.
One teacher of mine taught that the self and the bad actions of body speech in mind should be illustrated with the image of a person stabbing themselves all over with a sword. As this is going to be the karmic consequences of harmful actions we may take.
Just to be clear karma is not advocating that a person is a walk-over and does not assert clear and healthy boundaries but more so the principle is inviting people to reflect on reducing harmful behaviours where you don’t speak to a person for example in a way that protects their self-esteem. A way of speaking that uplifts somebody and does not bring them down.
Egocentricity is an Ocean of Suffering
For the East and sometimes in the West selfishness, self-absorption and self-clinging are seen as a huge cause of our human pain. The more of a self we have the more pain. This is also borne out in the writings of people who have explored psychedelics such as LSD which is believed to be an ego destroyer. The belief in a self a mind that sees what it always needs outside itself gives rise to quite a lot of craving.
The view of the mind before meditation training is directed outside itself into the world into other people’s business and even to people we don’t even know such as celebrities. The mind trained through proper meditation training, practice and study starts to look inward and become very self- satisfied. Everything is understood as being perfect as it is.
So this is the first slogan and many may not be as long but this is a good foundation for us all to start with. Comment on what your thoughts are of the four mind benders and what you feel people would get from daily reflection of them.
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As I have finished my dissertation on 'AI, Transhumanism, Consciousness and Buddhist Ethics' for my MA I am now returning to my blog. So for the next 60 weeks or thereabouts I will be posting a special blog on what I am calling Mindfulness Slogans for Mind Training. These slogans have been used for centuries in India and also Tibet by most of the great meditation masters. All the great masters both practiced and trained in these mindfulness slogans.
I have used the image of crystals above as that is how I hope that you will view these slogans as you train your 'monkey mind'. Crystals to stabilise the mind.
There is also another important reason. Even though you have completed the Learning to Exhale training in Mindfulness or MBSR, the MBSR movement is a secularised form of meditation we must not forget that originated from Therevadan Buddhism. Stripping out the rituals and religious imagery I am not too bothered about as it is a means to and ends. However there are two sides to meditation in the East - shamatha and vipassanā. MBSR as a system is more shamatha based but there is a deep and desperate need for vipassanā practice and reflection which is why I am writing these blog entries.
MBSR is not all there is to meditation. How could eight weeks practice ever be? Especially when you consider some people in Tibetan Buddhism enter three year meditation retreats.
Another reason is that those who have completed the eight week MBSR training or our the Learning to Exhale mindfulness training are seeking out retreats where they can deepen their practice. Sadly secular ones do not really exist. People generally head to Buddhist ones whilst not being Buddhist which is cool. At these retreats inevitably vipassanā arises. So what is it?
This is the next stage of meditation training for people who have become meditators. This is where you start to enquire how and why you might feel dissatisfied by life and examine what are the patterns that cause that suffering and why you repeat them. This is where the hold the intellect has on you starts to loosen and the awareness starts to come to the fore more in your practice. You also start to question the seperation between yourself and others. This 'dualistic fixation' is gradually broken down generating real felt compassion not just conceptual.
In the market of 'spiritual materialism' the word 'ego' is bounded about. People of low self-esteem refer to those who live with healthy levels as having a big ego. An Irish mystic I know referred to it recently as 'edging God out'. Or rather - edging the divine out if the 'G' word irks as for many it now does due to years of hypocrisy in organised religions. In its most extreme form it refers at times to a narcissist someone so vain and self-absorbed they can't see anyone else. Sometimes people are labelled wrongly as this so others can control them. Anyways the ego is a big subject and nowhere bigger or more used as in 'mind body spirit' circles.
Added to ego is the discussion on 'self' or 'no self'. This can be confusing for westerners in a secular setting. We are told in the West to integrate the self and connect to the 'true self' but in the East it can be misunderstood that the self should be 'deconstructed' when in fact they are referring to the persona, or mask a person wears or the belief the mask is the self when really they are hoping that the false self is dis-guarded in favour of the true self of awareness.
If you attended week five of the course you would have heard me say 'the personality is what you do on the street and what you do in the home is character'. As the old age goes 'street angle house devil' and so true.
So this is the reason that we need the slogans to keep us practicing, guide us, police us and put us in the right direction to evolve our practice and give us insight personally rather than reading or hearing about everyone elses experience.
If you were on the course I illustrate the mind and its potential transformation using the metaphor of a kaleidoscope. Slogans enrich the mind like each turn of hand has on the beautiful designs in the scope it brings into being.
I am writing two books now the first is Learning to Exhale - Mindfulness which is a book with each chapter summarising what we we covered in the Learning to Exhale eight week course in mindfulness whose curriculum that I devised and evolved MBSR which is 30 years old now.
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So what are these slogans? See after the picture of our Sweet Dreams Box
Well there are 59 mindfulness slogans in total so there is going to be 59 blogs one for each slogan. Each week I will be explaining each one and how to integrate it into your daily mindfulness practice. They were devised by a number of Mediation masters but the best form is by a meditation genius called Atisha who lived in both India and Tibet.
The best way is to take one slogan a week as I am suggesting and reflect on it for a week. Slogans are also easy to remember and easy to apply.
As you can see the slogans are split up into seven sections which are traditionally referred to as 'The Seven Points of MInd Training'
Here are all the mindfulness slogans that we will be covering together over the next 60 weeks. Please forward to friends and get them to sign up with their emails. So we can automatically send them a blog link each week.
This is also a way for you, 2,500 of you that we have trained, to connect back to your practice and awareness that you discovered through the training.
Training in Absolute Bodhichitta
Training in Relative Bodhichitta
Transforming Negative Circumstances into the Path of Enlightenment
I am really looking forward to this journey with you all and what the positive effects will be and also am hoping that you will be commenting below on how you are applying the slogans as we go along.
A lot of what is contained here will be included in the new book Mindfulness Slogans by Ralph Quinlan Forde.
Finally more good news in that my first book The Book of Tibetan Medicine will be available as an ebook in the coming weeks on our site to download.
Discover Your Beautiful Mind
Bestselling author Ralph Quinlan Forde BSc (Hons) MA is the writer and editor of the Mindful Beauty blog. His first book The Book of Tibetan Medicine went into 11 languages. His second Nutriwine has