I invite you to a year of love, meaning and community

January 5, 2020   |   Leave a reply

Audio-only version  is here.
Meditation practice begins at 18:39.

Dear Open Heart Project,

Thank you so much for your responses to my end-of-year letter. 2020 is going to be a powerful year in the Open Heart Project, one crafted to offer you strength, friendship, and joy.

As you may have read, after seven years of sending free weekly meditations, I am making some changes. Beginning this week, access to weekly meditations is limited to members of the OHP Sangha.

For those who are just getting a feel for meditation, I am still here for you! Instead of one meditation per week, however, I will send you one new guided meditation per month. Meditations will still be 10 minutes long, preceded by a short talk.

For those who want to continue to practice together every week, the Open Heart Project Sangha was created for you! Members will continue to receive a weekly meditation video—in addition to daily audio meditations, weekly live gatherings, online retreats, and a chance to get to know fellow meditators all over the world. You can read all about the Sangha here.

A note about our meditations in 2020

Each weekly meditation in 2020 will begin with a discussion of lojong or slogan practice. Slogan practice dates back over a thousand years and centers on 59 sayings (or slogans) divided into 7 categories. We will examine a new slogan every week. Today, we begin with slogan number one, the aptly phrased First, train in the preliminaries. Perfect for a new year, a new decade, and a new way of looking at the world.

I’m sending this week’s meditation to everyone, though subsequent weekly emails will go to Sangha only because I wanted to share the flavor of these teachings with you in case you’re still undecided about joining the Sangha. (If you have any questions about membership, don’t hesitate to email us.)

More about slogan practice

When you meditate, you practice mindfulness (focus) and awareness (insight). This unbelievably simple technique has the power to deepen your ability to concentrate and expand your perceptions. Wonderful! But what happens to our mindfulness and awareness when meditation ends and the boss is grumpy, your partner is distant, and some jerk cuts you off in traffic? If you’re anything like, well, everyone, mindfulness and awareness may go out the window. We can’t stop what we’re doing and follow our breath until everyone calms down. We need a way to bring our wakefulness and compassion into life. (That is what is most important!) Slogan practice is a brilliant post-meditation practice—meaning, it is a practice you do in real time, as life unfolds.

Don’t take my word for this (or anything, really). Try it yourself and see. You may find, as I have, that the slogans actually reshape habitual mental processes. I’m not saying they have turned me into a lady Dalai Lama. I still get cranky and sad. But the slogans give me a way to meet crankiness and sadness—and joy and possibility and love and confusion—with the mind of meditation. Which basically changes everything.

To read more about slogan practice, check out this article by Pema Chodron and this pivotal book by Chogyam Trungpa.

Slogan One: First, Train in the Preliminaries

In classical Buddhist thought, the preliminaries refer to the Four Reminders. Before today’s meditation, I explain what they are and give an example of how they enlarge perspective at every turn. Also, I mention that they terrify me (and why). The great Tibetan teacher Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche has said that if we could fully bring the Four Reminders into awareness, fifty percent of the path to enlightenment would be complete. So, they’re powerful.

For more on the Four Reminders, this article is quite pithy.

How to work with slogans

Slogans are meant to be contemplated rather than analyzed. If you try to penetrate them with intellect alone, they will turn to dust.

This week, I suggest that you spend a little time each morning in the company of this slogan. Repeat it to yourself a few times and see how it feels to say these words within yourself. You could write down a few words or phrases in association. Let yourself feel the meaning rather than ponder it. Then forget about it. As you go about your day, see if it does or does not arise in response to your experience.

Spend time with the slogan and see how you get along. Next week, slogan number two, Regard all dharmas as dreams, will be your new best friend.

If you are in the midst of the 21-day meditation challenge

Yay, you! I hope it is going well and that you are finding delight in a consistent practice—and/or the delight of not beating yourself up if it is not going well. If you would like to make the meditation in this video your practice for the day, great. Please use it rather than today’s Challenge meditation. Alternatively, you could simply listen to the talk and use today’s Challenge meditation for your practice. It is up to you. (Both are 10 minutes long.)

Sangha members, your next video will arrive on January 13. These weekly videos and essays will take the place of our Sunday newsletters. Also, please note: our monthly dharma gatherings are discontinued. Instead, we will practice together intensively during our 3 annual online retreats.

And a very special welcome to all the new Sangha members! So happy you’re here! If you have any questions about how to access anything, please email Lisa.

For others in the Open Heart Project, your next email will arrive on February 3 and the first Monday of each month thereafter. So glad we can continue to practice together.

All my love, Susan

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