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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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