Those of you who read this blog regularly (thank you!) will know that I use the lojong cards from the Pema Chodron compassion box. Unfortunately, they are no longer available. However, her book ‘Start where you are’ which forms the basis of the compassion box is still available and contains a list of the lojong phrases at the back which you can number. So if you have this book you can use a random number generator app on your phone or computer to randomly select a phrase – then read the phrase and the relevant section of the book before you practice. The compassion box comes with a set of cards, each showing a different phrase, from which I randomly select one each morning. I always find them apt and it is bizarre how I select the same card repeatedly, until I get the lesson!
Anyway my one for New Year was ‘Abandon all hope of fruition’ which was very apt at the start of a new year of intentions or resolutions.
It is important to reflect regularly on our intentions. For me one that pops up easily is ‘To benefit myself to be better able to help others’ – very nice. I also have my Buddhist aspiration for liberation when I die. But on further reflection there is a hushed voice saying ‘To be perfect’ underpinned by my belief that ‘I am not good enough’. This is my hidden agenda, that has me striving and ruminating to look like a ‘perfect’ version of myself in the eyes of others. And boy do I strive and ruminate – especially if I think I’ve made a mistake. Even after all these years of practice!
I am reminded of the Radiohead lyric ‘I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul’, sound familiar? The chorus of this song ‘Creep’, goes ‘I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo’, and this lojong phrase is an invitation to embrace our inner creep, rejoice in our inner weirdo – who would want to be normal anyway! This is an opportunity for us to be happy with ourselves just as we are- to radically accept ourselves. After all, as Rob Nairn often says, we don’t have a spare in the cupboard. (For a teaching on this by Rob, go to the Resources page of our website click here and scroll down to the Level 1 audio archove and click on the track ‘Can I accept myself as I am?’)
So over the last few days I have been reminding myself to abandon all hope of fruition (I have put a daily alarm reminder on my phone) and it is such a relief! It is fortunate really, as I find myself poorly this week, after two weeks of doing no work over Christmas and New Year. I am not good at doing no work and after a few days of ‘leisure’ I find myself ruminating on all the things that I think I need to get done as soon as I get back to work. I notice the thoughts popping into my mind, with a flutter of anxiety, engage and start thinking about the undone work, gradually catastrophising worse and worse outcomes – fabricating a tower of anxiety, frustration and anger, until I realise what I have been doing and let it go…..until next time.
And all because – to my striving self – just being in the present isn’t quite good enough.
So starting work today is kiboshed by the complete loss of my voice – I can’t do phone calls & meetings! I am using an app on my iPhone to speak with – I just type in what I want to say. I say a lot less and that in itself is quite liberation. Also, I am finding it quite fun to swear in an electronic voice!
It is very strange, as I forget I have lost my voice as my throats feels quite normal. Then when I try to speak nothing comes out – for the time being it is quite amusing (so long as it is better for next week). On top of that I have bronchitis. After two weeks off and a pile of work!
So, abandon all hope of the work getting done – this week at least – what a relief to let it go. My plans will just have to wait a bit longer as I take some time out to look after myself (after writing this to you of course – but that’s a pleasure).
It’s good to have intentions for our life and practice, to orient us in the right general direction – but hold them lightly. When we have an outcome or fruition in mind, we block out the other options, which may be even better than our heart dared to dream. For me, this week it’s the Elementary Box set (and practice of course!).
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