What could be better than a Lojong slogan for Christmas?
Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself
Photo: Green cherry laurel leaves and red tip photinia leaves with stone on cracked, dry mud.
The Buddhist philosophy of not running away from the pain you feel is one that widens your ability to see and sit with the suffering of others.
It’s a toughie though. I find that society emphasizes shopping in particular when you feel bad. God forbid you should actually feel any sadness or panic or suffering. Get your credit card out and un-payable debt be ignored.
Yet, it’s not so bad to sit with anguish and despair. You would think it would overwhelm you but it doesn’t, the feeling looms up and you sit there resisting the ensuing panic, and then you realize, maybe while your back is aching or your neck pain rears up, that if you simply sit there you aren’t going to panic or be overwhelmed or run out in the back yard to kill yourself. It’s there, it doesn’t feel good but it’s not quite as bad as you imagine when you hurtle around doing anything to avoid it.
It is really true that self-protection causes deeper pain. You hold onto things, you try to avoid what you don’t like, when simply facing things rather than trying to escape them works the best, and makes us feel better. You can’t control the world to suit yourself, but we don’t need to avoid or protect ourselves from pain. Turn to it, accept it, and something odd happens, it transforms pain and thus transforms you.
You send and take to yourself first, and then you can send it to others. I admit I find it difficult to send to others, perhaps because I have not developed compassion or kindness for myself yet. It’s difficult to believe but practice helps.
Photinias are of the rose family and related to apples and have glossy leaves. they are also close relatives of cotoneasters and hawthorns. Cotoneasters I do have and they have glossy leaves. Some varieties of photinia have toxic foliage and fruit. They grow in warm climates which is why I’ve never seen one.
Laurel is also from warmer climates and glossy. They sometimes have toxic sap to defend themselves and many are hard to identify and classify, but they are ancient plants. We know them best for the bay laurel which we use in cooking and the way ancient Romans and Greeks used the plant for wreaths or crowns.
Oh, that stone in the centre here, sitting in your chest, you trying to blow toxic shopping sprees to kill it, doing anything not to feel the heavy stone and the cracking mud underneath it. Sending and taking, like the polarity of these two plants around the stone, sometimes toxic, sometimes glossy and lovely. And so what if it’s dry for a time, cracking and horrible and dry, dry, dry? The stone could be heavy or it might just be solid, steady, and so what of that?
A lot of people have trouble with Christmas. I find it unbearably sad, but that’s okay, there is no need to die over it, sit and accept the feelings and send on the ensuing peace. It isn’t so bad, and knowing that, taking that ourselves, we can then send the feeling to others in their pain.