Do you have a practice? Many things that I do are called 'practice'. I meditate - sitting on a cushion, bringing my mind to the now - that is my toughest practice. I write - sometimes no often - wrestling with the demons of my mind that tell me the world doesn't need another novel, play or poem. But I sit down and write through it. I have a householder's practice of remembering to put the garbage out and plant my lettuce in time but not too early, of keeping the compost bucket emptied and the fridge full. Often I want to jetison this practice but I chose to live with a family so I roll up my sleeves and get to it. I have a community of friends.They too need tending and care, even if I feel like going away and hiding - not feeling worthy of their love and attention or too full of my own importance to remember what needs remembering. I have a wider community too - in Buddhism we call our community of practioners our sangha. My wider sangha is suffering today. A community in Tibet has been devastated by earthquakes in the last few days, a monastery under the care of one of my dearest teachers has been demolished. Many monks are dead and thousands of people are homeless and without warmth (high altitude)water and food. I feel hopeless and like doing nothing but weeping BUT I have a practice. The reason we develop our practice - whatever it is - is so that we can do it when we most want to lie down and go to sleep. I remember practising my breathing for labour. No one was doing that much when I was giving birth forty years ago - it was just starting to come into fashion but I was determined. And I knew that if I practised enough while nothing was happening - I would be ready for when something was.
So today and tomorrow and on and on - I will sit on my cushion and do the practice of tonglen for those affected by this tragedy. I will take out my credit card and figure out how much I can give at this time and attend to the practice of generosity. I will meet with my friends and see if we can find out if the school where our little Tsering goes has been affected and what we need to do about it. Tsering is the foster child of the Canadian Babes and some of their Fellas. And I will feed the chickens, walk the dog, and write on my novel. Because the practice that my dear ole dad introduced me to many years ago is a military one that is useful 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going!'
Your challenge today is to contemplate what practices are yours and what ones have you been ignoring or what ones get jettisoned in times of stress. Maybe they need to be - you might note I have not mentioned accordion playing. It is not important right now. Oddly - the practice of doing the Friday Challenge is. See you next week, dear peoples.
- a picture and bit of history on the Thrangu Monastery.
In the autonomous region of Qinghai, China (formerly known as Kham- Eastern Tibet), lies the famous Thrangu Monastery, which is situated 5 km from the small county town of Jyekundo in Yushu County. This small town of Jyekundo (Jan's note here - this is where the earthquake happened)is approximately 800 km from the provincial capital city of Qinghai i.e., Xining. The journey by car is twelve hours through one of the most beautiful highlands in the world, untouched by modern civilization. Majestic mountain peaks and turquoise blue lakes compete with the azure sky to form picturesque postcard sceneries that never fail to take one's breath away.
This mountainous region is also the home of the source of the three Asian mighty rivers: the Hwang Ho (Yellow River), Yangtze Kiang and the Mekong.
Amidst this ethereal and conducive background and setting, the Thrangu Monastery has thrived for more than a thousand years and has produced and attracted many realized Buddhist masters of all lineages.