Monday, January 27, 2014

Tip Toe Through The Demons

Cold Wax, Oil, Pan pastel 10"x10"

Yesterday I went to a day long teaching on "Chod" practice.  What, you say, does this involve chocolate or shoes?  No, not for the moment anyhow. It's a practice from the Bon tradition, a lovely Shamanic, Buddhist tradition from Tibet that predates Buddhism. I love that the originator of the practice was a woman, a rather old woman,Machig Labdron,1054-1155.

The one day teaching on chod was a bit like an amuse bouche, a little something tiny and delicious to make you feel happy inside. It's an ancient practice laced with a large helping of fierceness and depth. The shamans who practiced chod used to travel around to fearful places known to have bad energy (are you thinking Walmart? I thought so.) They hung out in charnal grounds (places of sky burials) and generally worked to tame and release dark energies. They cured illnesses, turned around epidemics and delved deeply into their fears. Quite the calling card.

Chod translates as "cutting through".  And in the modern world, as urban, householder shamans, what we're cutting through is attachments, those things we think we must have to make us happy.  Those things we absolutely need. Fill in the blanks.  What is that for you?  In the 42" screen view of your life, what must happen for it to be okay?  In the minutiae of daily life, how are things supposed to shake down? What attachments are so subtle that they breath you without you even noticing? Do you think things should be fair? People respectful of you?

 In my world I like things being reasonably easy, not too much trouble. I like it that way, and start to grumble when things don't comply with this world view.  I have opinions and beliefs that I consider right. Many of the things we want and like are fine in themselves, it's the "needing", the insistence that tips us over into attachment and trouble.  Geshe YongDong who led the Chod teaching said, "we have 84,000 thoughts a day. Sixty percent of those thoughts are about our attachments.  Any time you find yourself in a struggle, you've got attachment."  That's a sobering thought that I'm probably not attached to.

Ego clinging and fear is where the chod knife aims to cut, aiming to sever the attachment we have to ourselves, because ultimately one day we will have to give up our bodies, our loved ones and all the accessories we have accumulated.  Our practice is to learn to give up "stuff", views,  expectations as we travel around with our trusty chod knife.  When we get to the ultimate giving up, it will be less difficult, since we have been practicing internal and external closet cleaning in the days of our life. That's the plan and chod is the road map. Geshe YongDong pointed out that we are just renting this skin covered real estate. We don't get to keep it in any lasting way.

It's a shamanic practice so of course there are songs and a lovely little Damaru drum and some bells that get played to work on the unseen energies that bind us to our attachments, to give us the unseen help that we need to navigate the path toward living in harmony with what is.  We make our plans, we buy our stuff, we go about our daily lives.  But we spend our energies on learning to be more content and peaceful and generous. If we are successful it becomes less about us and the demons tiptoe off into the night.