Practical Mind-training

by Betsy Mayotte

For his birthday one year, I gave my husband a “deck” of Pema Chodron’s Compassion Cards. On one side of each card is a Lojong Slogan,* or mind-training teaching, and on the reverse side is a down-to-earth commentary on the teaching by Pema.  My husband leaves one of these cards on my desk every now and then, a reminder that these lessons help both of us.  A recent card said to start each day with an aspiration to keep an open heart and mind, and end the day with commitment to continue the practice. The Lojong teaching is… 

“Two activities: one at the beginning, one at the end.”

 Even if we sit for just a few quiet minutes at the beginning and at the end of each day, we invite the possibility of real change in our lives.  When I sit quietly twice a day, I find more contentment and joy as the day dawns and more patience and self-compassion as the day ends. I have the courage and stamina to begin again tomorrow.    

I like to think this twice-a-day practice helps to soften the edges of my being from moment-to-moment throughout the day. It also helps me work on another Lojong teaching, which urges us to…

Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of life.”

Our days can be a stream of passing memories until something suddenly happens that stops us in our tracks, as Pema would say.  This happened to me recently.  My day began with quiet aspiration, but soon the busy-ness of life set in and I was distracted.  A phone call jolted me awake.  My husband had miraculously survived a serious car accident and I rushed to the emergency room to be with him.  The loving care of first-responders, police officers, doctors, and nurses enabled him to walk out of the hospital that night in a neck brace.  My day ended in overwhelming gratitude for the preciousness of all life – and of his life. 

My practice continues - one at the beginning, one at the end - with an aspiration to stay aware and awake each day.  Life is precious.  For support, I use the Insight Timer app on my phone.  This simple tool encourages discipline in my practice and motivates me to stay with it. (OK, I also like to earn the stars.) In the app you can find guided meditations from wonderful teachers, help to improve your sleep, even music to support your practice.  If you are curious, click here for more information and to find the Insight Timer app for your phone.  We encourage you to join our Retreat Center of Maryland group in Insight Timer and experience a special connection with others who meditate.  We may sit individually in our own physical space as we practice each day, but we can be joined as a virtual retreat community through our meditation practice together. Welcome!     

  *Lojong Slogans come from Tibetan Buddhism and are grounded in a belief that we can use our own difficulties and problems to awaken our hearts.  As we develop unconditional compassion for ourselves, we move naturally toward unconditional compassion for others.

Samira Shuruk