Facing pain as a warrior…
Finding strength through the Buddhist practice of Lojong and
The Excellence of Bodhichitta.
Facing life in and with suffering presents a challenge for us all and finding “the way”, a way, through and within it is daunting, at some times more than others. Life can present us all with much, but when you live in constant pain, all of it, life’s upsets and problems, seem magnified ten-fold.
Buddhism, a philosophy thousands of years old, has offered many people an approach to living that has been described as the path of the compassionate warrior- a profound shift in our thinking…
our way of being, as a warrior that brings peace within and without, amongst our own suffering and with all people’s, living life, as Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, “As an experiment,” inquisitive, open and flexible.
A radical shift from Western thought and religious practices it proves initially formidable for many but, once initiated, can set one’s mind, heart and spirit on a revolutionary and liberating path to freedom, skilled to face not only one’s own pain but that of our world’s.
In Mahayana Buddhism, the belief is that we can all seek and become enlightened, awakened, as The Buddha himself became, through knowledge and right practice. Our actions and behavior matter as they impact our thoughts, hearts and mind, dictate our existence, and impact all of life, like a pebble tossed into a pond. This seeking is what is known as Bodhisattva. The term “Chitta” means mind, heart and attitude; “Bodhi”” means awake or completely open. “The completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound” says Pema Chodron.
In stark contrast to this state of being is the part of our human nature which attempts to shield ourselves from this “open wound”, the pain(s) of our existence. As a part of this shield we put up barriers. We hide behind our educations, jobs, money and opinionated and prejudicial thinking. Emotions like pride, envy and anger, born of fear, are a part of this reactive barrier and can, in some cases, lead to anxiety and in its extreme form, panic. Anxiety, depression, loneliness, panic attacks…many of the very side effects of Chronic Pain.
In Mahayana Buddhism we search to understand this nature of ours and the nature of reality, including suffering. By living in the present moment and learning to see the world without preconceptions we learn wisdom. By embracing compassion and kindness for ourselves and all living beings (for we all suffer), we learn to feel the pain we share with others, united with all sentient beings, as we are all interconnected, essence flowing through us all. As we come to understand the true nature of life and this world, we become awakened; we are freed from this life of suffering (known as Samsara).
Awakening is found through knowledge- coming to understand the false nature of dualities such as good and bad, right and wrong, pleasure and pain, life and death and that reality does not exist as such but simply as a conventional agreement. These shifts in our thinking, in our minds and hearts and the path to enlightenment are brought about through meditation, mind teachings, Lojong, and putting meditation into action.
Those who train in Bodhisattva are called bodhisattvas or warriors- warriors who enter challenging situations with non-aggression, cutting through personal reactivity and self-deception, in the pursuit of alleviating suffering for us all.
Lojong is a collection of fifty-nine sayings or guidelines helping us to awaken in our daily lives. These sayings are meant to aid us to live with loving-kindness and compassionate. The idea at the base of this practice is to move beyond the superficial lived experience of being aware and compassionate. Full awareness and compassion take true inner strength and peace and a life lived fully in the present moment, dedicated in all actions to the goodness of all sentient beings, wholeheartedly and unafraid, as seen in our lived experience and moment by moment actions and choices.
Examples of Lojong guidelines include:
Stay in the present moment
Don’t hold grudges
You know yourself better than anyone else
Be grateful to everyone
The Meditation practice, based upon the Lojong sayings, can be found here.
“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us
so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid,
or we can let them soften us
and make us kinder and more open
to what scares us. We always have the
~ Pema Chodren