The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #55
Each Friday, Acharya Judy Lief, teacher in the Shambhala tradition of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, comments on one of Atisha's 59 mind-training (Tib. lojong) slogans, which serve as the basis for a complete practice.
Atisha (980-1052 CE) was an Indian adept who brought to Tibet a systematized approach to bodhicitta (the desire to awaken for the sake of all sentient beings) and loving-kindness, through working with these slogans. Judy edited Chogyam Trungpa's Training the Mind (Shambhala, 1993), which contains Trungpa Rinpoche's commentaries on the lojong ("mind-training") teachings.
Each entry includes a practice.
55. Liberate yourself by examining and analyzing.
This slogan focuses on two major obstacles to realization: ego-clinging and disturbing emotions. The idea is that it is important to really look into those two patterns. In fact, it is so important that you may need to actually conjure them up so that you can examine them in detail.
The usual idea of meditation practice is to calm down, relax, and have a little break. But according to lojong training, unless you are willing to scrutinize your deep-rooted emotional undercurrents and long-standing fixation on yourself, your so-called calmness and relaxation will be superficial.
The tendency to pretend everything is okay, while avoiding unpleasant realities, can be seen in external social relationships and internally as well. But to train your heart/mind you need to stop pretending. Lojong is not about putting on a show, or keeping up appearances. Instead you bring all aspects of your experience to the surface, even those that provoke you the most.
In working with this slogan, you deliberately and systematically bring to mind the kinds of situations that make you crazy and that trigger your defensiveness. You push your own buttons, and then see what happens, and what you find is that just thinking about such things is usually enough to create a whoosh of simultaneous emotional upheaval and a re-solidified focus on the self.
Destructive patterns thrive on being hidden. That is what allows them to maintain their power. But if you are brave enough to arouse these powerful forces, to confront them, and to examine them, you can begin to free yourself from their control. Ironically, in order to develop true peace, you need to be willing to rile things up.
Bring to mind something that gets a rise out of you. Notice the heightening of emotionality and the arising of a kind of frozen and solid self-regard. Try to stay with that experience and to examine it in depth, as a mental, bodily, and emotional sensation. In doing so, remember that lojong is gentle, so don’t begin with your most challenging and deep-rooted habit patterns, but with something more ordinary.