Lojong has nothing to do with Mahjong
I’m interested in spiritual practices and like to attend demonstrations of them, such as Catholic masses, which is the tradition within which I was raised and which still seems frightening to me, but also beautiful (the stained glass interiors, in such contrast to those rented office spaces I’ve looked into and seen people swaying with raised hands—I haven’t entered there, but would like to, though I suspect I’d feel extra tourist-y in this environment).
But I have been trying to pursue, as of the past few years, the practice of Lojong, or mind training, which derives from about 40 proverbs from the Buddhist tradition, You don’t have to be a Buddhist to mind-train (I’m not—too much vocabulary and enumeration) (though I liked hearing Uma Thurman’s father, who IS a Buddhist, say that when he got mad at Dick Cheney he meditated on himself as Dick Cheney’s mother, as she was sixty years ago, nursing baby Dick Cheney at her breast).
One of the basic ideas is to assume all pain, all blame, all misguidedness--to take it in, and give compassion out, matching one’s breath to the idea of taking and giving. Or so it seems to a dilettante, a dimwit, a hunter and pecker of spiritual belief.
So anyway, the poetry connection: “Don’t be competitive” is one of the proverbs. Ego-surrender, as cliché as that phase sounds, is the general idea. But I wonder if poetry is possible without ego and without competitiveness. I’m thinking: Whitman, Roethke, Richard Hugo etc. And I’m also thinking that this is why men are so well represented in the canon—women are more prone to live lives of ego-surrender. (Insert comment about blogging here). The women we know of, take even someone like Emily Dickinson, generally had a strong sense of their importance—think of Dickinson taking the trouble to fabricate her sheaves (I don’t really believe she believed poetry was the auction of the mind). So it (the gender lumpiness) is not just a matter of digging up “forgotten texts.”
Yet the so-called po-biz is a competitive game that we participate in. It’s distasteful, but I’m not sure how to curve my way around it. Except to do this maybe-useless compassion send-out, which matches the maybe-uselessness of poetry when it comes to poetry’s ability to change the scheme of things.
Lucia Perillo grew up in the suburbs of New York City. She earned a BSc in wildlife management from McGill University in Montreal and worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before earning an MA in English from Syracuse University. Perillo was the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Dangerous...