Category Archives: Susan Piver

Day of Rest

muffinsI finally got around to making muffins this morning, America’s Test Kitchen “Better Bran Muffins” with dried raspberries from Trader Joe’s. I meant to make them on Friday, as I’d eaten the last one for breakfast, and that’s what I eat for breakfast every day lately — a muffin, raspberries, strawberries, a few dried plums, and a glass of water. But then I got busy (took an unplanned nap) Friday afternoon when I got home to let the dogs out and forgot about the muffins. Again, I meant to on Saturday, but went to the gym instead in the morning and forgot again once I got home. This morning, I felt like I really needed them, so made sure to get them done first thing, in between doing laundry and watching this month’s theme video for the Open Heart Project Sangha.

This month’s theme was the 7 characteristics of a Dharmic person. The short version is that a dharmic person cultivates the following:

  1. Passionlessness
  2. Contentment
  3. Preventing too many activities
  4. Good conduct
  5. Awareness of the teacher
  6. Propagating prajna/wisdom
  7. An attitude of goodness

The effort for me right now lands with the first three. And it’s a sort of “which came first, the chicken or the egg” sort of thing, because I can’t really say for sure which one happens first, what triggers what, I just know that I find myself circling between the three.

To be passionless doesn’t mean to be without passion, exactly. The energy of passion isn’t a bad thing. When it gets wonky is when you get caught in grasping and rejecting, agitating for something else, wanting things to be different, “wanting another now.” To be passionless is to cultivate some kind of tolerance for discomfort — when things don’t turn out the way you want, you don’t freak out. You can stay relaxed with what is.

To be content is to stop fussing with the way things are, to be okay with what is.

To prevent too many activities is to stop trying to do so much. This involves a busyness both physical and mental. The effort here is to not rush around, speed through things, smash yourself to bits. It also means to soften the way your mind constantly gnaws on your experience, working and worrying about all the things.

I have difficulty relaxing where I am, with what is. I want more, want something else, want better. If something is “wrong,” my immediate response is to try and fix it. And I keep myself so busy. Even if I look like I’m on the couch watching TV, my mind is rushing around. Even when I seem at rest, I’m busy.

Watching the video, listening to Susan’s talk this morning, made me more carefully consider my morning, my plans for the day. As I was watching the video, I was taking notes, making plans, baking muffins, and doing laundry. I was trying to get the video done so I could make it to a yoga class. I had plans for running errands after, three different stops. A shower when I got home, clean sheets on the bed, laundry put away, place an online order for some essentials we were running low on, balance the checkbook, make some flyers for my upcoming Wild Writing Crazy Wisdom classes, write a blog post, etc. This sort of planning, the rush, trying to do all the things, triggers an underlying and constant anxiety.

So I skipped my yoga class. I decided against running my errands because there wasn’t anything that couldn’t wait. And I remembered the video I watched the other day while I was riding the bike at the gym, the one where Laurie Foley talked about transforming energy, how as she was undergoing treatment for her cancer, she had to start asking herself about any choice she had to make “is this energizing, or is this draining?”

I’m spending the rest of my day contemplating these three qualities: passionlessness, contentment, and preventing too many activities — considering what tiny shifts I might make to cultivate them in this day of rest.


pathwithtextTo be honest, I was starting to think maybe I’d picked the wrong word this year. A month has passed already and instead of feeling immersed, focused, clear, I was feeling a little lost. Yoga and writing come more naturally to me, but I was finding it hard to meditate, let alone deepen my study of the dharma. This morning I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, trying to find some direction or distract myself when I saw a post from Lodro Rinzler, “New video teaching up to kick off a year series studying Atisha’s mind training slogans.” I recognized the screen capture from an email I got at the beginning of the week from him, one that I’d filed away like all the others for some later date when I have “more time.”

You can sign up for Lodro’s newsletter and he sends a meditation challenge every Monday. Sometimes I watch, but more often I file it away for later. When I saw the post on Facebook, I actually read what it was about, and I was in.

Three years ago, Susan Piver was focusing her Open Heart Project Practitioner teachings around the lojong slogans. I enjoyed it so much, was learning so much. I have two books from Pema Chödrön about the same topic and was using them to help deepen my understanding. Then Susan made the difficult decision to discontinue the Practitioner program, and we never made it past the 17th one. So I was so happy to see that Lodro was teaching them, that he was committed to the full set of 59.

Lojong (or “mind training”) slogans are from a classical Tibetan Buddhist text, and are described by Pema Chödrön as offering “pithy, powerful reminders on how to awaken our hearts in the midst of day-to-day life, under any circumstances.” The editor of the book by Chögyam Trungpa about these same slogans describes them this way,

The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind is a list of fifty-nine slogans, which form a pithy summary instruction on the view and practical application of mahayana Buddhism. The study and practice of these slogans is a very practical and earthy way of reversing our ego-clinging and of cultivating tenderness and compassion. They provide a method of training our minds through both formal meditation practice and using the events of everyday life as a means of awakening.

Pithy. Practical. Perfect. I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, kind and gentle reader, but it’s that practical application component that draws me to Buddhism. All the stuff about various deities and realms and karma is interesting to me as an intellectual exercise, but it’s the part where the rubber meets the road that I get excited about. I look to the dharma as a way to understand how to be a better human — how to meet what is beautiful and tender and keep my heart open, how to face what is brutal and terrible and not give up.

And the first lojong slogan is one of my favorites. It presents what are sometimes referred to as the Four Reminders. The slogan is “first, train in the preliminaries,” and those preliminaries or reminders are:

  1. Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life, the luck of a human birth
  2. Be aware of the reality that life ends, death comes for everyone
  3. Know that karma is real, actions have consequences
  4. Contemplate that as long as you are caught up in yearning for pleasure and shying away from pain, the suffering of suffering, you will remain trapped in unhappiness

I’ve written about the Four Reminders before. I was happy to revisit them this morning. Even happier to feel myself back on the path, encouraged by what Pema says about this study, that “when we work with the slogans, ordinary life becomes the path of awakening.”