Palpung Thubten Choling Monastery, my home base, has been hosting a monthly sangha discussion via Zoom during the covid pandemic. The theme for March was “Refreshing Our Practice,” and by enthusiastic request we are continuing that general theme for a couple more months.
In March, we covered a variety of topics, beginning with the importance of consistent daily practice on the cushion or chair, within a time frame we can realistically maintain — 15 minutes a day was recommended as a good place to start. It can be challenging at the beginning to sit down every day to practice, and to stay sitting; but with repetition it gradually becomes a habit, like any other routine we wish to establish in our lives. And we may find that not only does our resistance diminish over time — we may even begin to look forward to this daily opportunity to deepen our understanding of our own mind.
In April, we zeroed in on how to work with our practice when it begins to lose vitality and become rote.
In 2013, Lama Jamdron gave a seminar at PTC called “Bringing Distraction and Procrastination to the Path.” It was a great topic, and I was reminded of it this week when the New York Times ran an article on why we procrastinate, which resonates in various ways, from a psychological perspective, with Buddhist teachings. It’s a very interesting exploration of the basic cause of procrastination — which isn’t what you might expect, though it totally makes sense. The link is below (click on the graphic, sorry I can’t get a better one), and here’s an excerpt, which borders on vipashyana (lhaktong, insight) meditation.
“Cultivate curiosity: If you’re feeling tempted to procrastinate, bring your attention to the sensations arising in your mind and body. What feelings are eliciting your temptation? Where do you feel them in your body? What do they remind you of? What happens to the thought of procrastinating as you observe it? Does it intensify? Dissipate? Cause other emotions to arise? How are the sensations in your body shifting as you continue to rest your awareness on them?”
When I avoid conditions that disturb me, / Emotional afflictions lose their strength.
When there are no distractions to engage me, / My dharma practice grows to fill the space.
Awareness – knowing – rigpa clarifies, / And certainty in dharma dawns and thrives.
On solitude and silence to rely: / This is the way a bodhisattva trains.
verse 3 chanted 3x.
verses 1-3 chanted 1x.
Verse 3! I think this may the hardest challenge of all in our 21st-century lives so rich with technology and other distractions. We will spend another week on verse 3, so please continue your study, contemplation, and meditation on it.
As you may know, we had a visit last week at PTC from Dr. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of The Distraction Addiction and teacher of contemplative computing. He talked to us about some ways to tame the hold digital technology exerts on our attention, which can be an issue for us at the monastery just as it might be for anyone who relies on technology in their work and daily life. Among the many topics he touched upon, one of the most immediately useful was “email apnea.” It seems that we users of digital devices have a tendency to hold our breath as we wait for our email to update. Though it may take just a few seconds each time, if we check frequently or have poor reception these intervals can add up to 15 minutes or more during the course of a day, or four 24-hour days over the span of a year.