Lojong: How to Live and Die

For most of you these postings will be a departure from my normal artful posts,
but for some who follow zenkatwrites, they will be familiar.
This is an unfinished lojong (Buddhist) journal I was in the middle of when
work and committing to learning watercolors took center stage.
I still practiced tonglen (breathwork) and read a lojong slogan every day,
but I wasn’t taking the time to write once a week, going a bit deeper.
Now I am ready to commit to that again, and will post (usually) on Thursday.

I’ve studied the slogans a dozen times in my life;
these are my musings on the slogan currently, not a formal interpretation.
For that reason they are less about strict dharma teachings,
and I think able to be shared with most practitioners of other faiths or no faith.

If you have time and the inclination, I published the WHOLE thang here!

I had a belly laugh at the irony of starting back and this being the slogan
up for today, as it is all about how to live and how to die.
This month we’ve learned of many deaths,
some close to us, some partners/family of business associates.
And there were near misses, and that news was joyfully celebrated!

The slogan is:
#18: The Mahayana instruction for ejection of
consciousness at death is the five strengths.” 

or, and Pema Chodron says:
“Heart instructions on how to live and how to die.”

The five strengths are (and you can read more on each at the end, here):
1) strong determination (an “appetite for enlightenment”);
2) familiarization;
3) seeds of virtue (a tremendous yearning toward wakefulness);
4) reproach (as in reproaching your ego); and
5) aspiration (Boddhisatva vow).

My writing for today is a reflection on the timeliness of the slogan.
I don’t know if you can read my handwriting, here it is:

“There are no accidents.  I’ve not done formal study for months,
though I practice the breath*.   I felt an urge to return as we are hit with the
news of Lisa’s death, and the threat of death looms around us in near misses,
and the news — a virulent form of the flu and global catastrophe. 
Mitchell and I are concurrently discussing death in the form of wills and life insurance… coincidence?  Is it in the stars?  Slogan #18 is about preparing for death as a way to live, and it is!  I know!  My former husband died suddenly in the midst of my p’howa and tonglen studies, and the lessons of impermanence (experienced) never faded, but are part of my daily thought, effecting my actions.  If I fall asleep next to Mitchell without saying goodnight, when I wake a bit later and he is asleep, I stoke his arm and tell him how much I love him, a small gesture that has ritual force because of love and intention.”

To expand a bit, I think without some form of strong practice in mindfulness,
when a loved one dies suddenly you do not remember that each day may be your last with every person.  That soon fades into the background because for most people they think it is morbid to be aware.  It is not.  I don’t feel depressed knowing that it might happen, anymore than talking to my mom about her death (she is 95) feels morbid.  It just is part of my consciousness now, and it allows me not to be an ass for long if I lose my temper.
I come back, because I don’t want that to be my last words to anyone ever.
I wish I were so masterful as to never be an ass, but I’m not there yet!

*Note: Lojong is the written text, the slogans;
the breath is Tonglen, a meditation practice.

Okina Journal, with pen and ink, this week Super5 Australia in a Conklin stub pen.

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
This entry was posted in art, Buddha, journal, lojong, meditation, pen & ink, ritual, tonglen, watercolor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Lojong: How to Live and Die

  1. I like this informative and reflective post. Thanks Kate!


  2. I don’t think it’s morbid, either. Just part of reality. You can be here one minute and gone the next.


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