A Year of Atisha Slogans
How to work with the slogans
What is the best way to work with the mind training slogans? The short answer is over and over again. At first the slogans may seem overly simple, even simple minded. But if you take the time to reflect slowly and carefully on each slogan, from many angles, they begin to sink in at a different level. You begin to uncover layers of depth and subtlety. What is really great is that the mundane grittiness and the subtle understanding are not opposed but are joined. They operate simultaneously and in tandem. So the whole way we divide our world into our ordinary dealings with daily life and what we consider more important or profound is dislodged.
Before launching into the slogans themselves, it is important to review some basic principles.
The underpinning of this practice is grounding in mindfulness and awareness. Through meditation you develop the ability to settle and relax the mind. Meditation practice enhances concentration and reduces the tendency to be judgmental and moralistic. It creates the mental room to look at life more dispassionately. So when you consider a slogan, take a moment to clear your mind and come into your body. Breathe. Be patient and don’t try to capture the meaning as if you were preparing for an exam.
Slogan practice revolves around a number of key themes: in particular, awareness, kindness, and openness. I prefer to look at it backwards, as overcoming three main obstacles: distractedness, indifference, and mental stuckness. Why do we distract ourselves? To avoid facing the fact that our very existence is shifting and insubstantial with no reliable solidity whatsoever. Why are we indifferent? Due to our self absorption, we have no room in our heart for others. Why are we mentally stuck? Because we are afraid of the limitless compassion and unbounded emptiness of our own nature.
As you go about your day notice what arises in your mind. Pay attention to the feeling of shutting down or opening out. When thoughts arise, how many revolve around you? How many times to you think of others, and what kinds of thoughts are they?