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.