Saturday, April 28, 2012

My book club hasn't met yet to discuss the book we've read but just reading it has kickstarted me into a Buddhist phase.  Aside from that book, I've purchased How to Be Happy by Lama Zopa Rinpoche and The Art of Meditation by Matthieu Ricard.  I visited the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery, where I took a tour and a meditation class for beginners.  I also bought a mala for practicing meditation - it's only a wrist mala for starting.  I used to have one when I took Hindu meditation classes years ago, and it was the long standard 108-bead mala.  I don't know where it ended up when we moved, but I miss it.

So what's my angle?  I was raised born again Christian, departed from the faith in my early adult life, and remain interested in spirituality but from a safe distance.

I have always been drawn to images of the Buddha because he looks so peaceful.  I tried reading the Buddhist texts years ago but was put off by the idea of detachment.  Buddha taught that we suffer because we are attached to things - people, possessions, etc. - and if we detached from them, we would find peace.  I can understand a healthy detachment from your possessions, but from your family or friends?  That always threw me off and prevented me from taking Buddhism seriously.

Even now, when I meditate, I am not "praying."  Buddhists don't really have a deity they pray to.  The meditation class teacher explained to us that the different bodhisattvas (Tara, etc.) represent different aspects of the mind.  Seems like a religion an intellectual humanist can get into.  

I like the stress management aspect of Buddhism and meditation.  I am so amped up on stress every day of the week.  This is partly my personality and partly my living in one of the most stressful cities in the world :)  Either way, it needs to stop.  These books and practices have been helping me to slow down and calm down.  Breathe a little.  Pay more attention.  I'm not very good at it yet but it takes practice.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Be Present

I have so much to catch you up on. In the last month, I went from no interest in spirituality to joining a book club, practicing meditation and visiting a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. How did I get here?

My troubles have always led me to faith in the past. This is not surprising. I've had a lot of troubles in the past year, so I began reading books on self-improvement and meditation.

One day, I got an email about a new book club in my neighborhood focusing specifically on books about personal improvement and spirituality. Those were exactly the types of books I was reading at the time, so I joined.

We had our inaugural meeting a month ago and I joined the most interesting group of ragtag misfits - a Tarot reader and consultant, an Orthodox Christian high school English teacher, an elderly retired philosophy teacher, a young Christian woman close to my age, and a young man highly interested in "energy" as it is depicted in The Celestine Prophecy. We each brought a book near and dear to our hearts to share who we are with the group. My book? The life-changing A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, of course.

At the end of the meeting, the Schoolteacher, who organized the group in the first place, chose our first book: Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be by Lama Surya Das. I read and really enjoyed it. More on that later.