On becoming a Buddhist (thinking outloud)

Life
English: The enso, a symbol of Zen Buddhism

English: The enso, a symbol of Zen Buddhism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day I finally made it into a popular bookstore in Portland, New Renaissance. It’s a really cool place, full of what some would call “new age” books but others might call spiritual (as opposed to religious). As I was wandering around I had my antennae up and was gauging how different sections of the store resonated. I got to to the Buddhist section, particularly the Zen Buddhist section, and felt this deep sense of security. I felt comfortable and secure and at home. I felt like I was hanging out with an old friend.

This makes me wonder if I shouldn’t go through the process of becoming an official, card carrying Buddhist. It’s actually quite the serious undertaking, which is why I haven’t considered it before now. I love what I have learned so far about Buddhism. It really resonates with me on a level I could never get with Christianity. However, I fear the idea of putting myself in a box. Christianity was so psychologically damaging to me so that is where that fear comes from. In my mind I know that Buddhism is nothing like Christianity but still. The fear is still there.

 

Explain why you do not believe in God.

Thoughts and Opinions

Getup Get God

It is fascinating that this came as a random blog post idea after seeing Oatmeal’s hilarious webcomic, How to suck at your religion  today.

I am not an atheist. I just don’t believe in God as “he” his presented to us via the Judeo/Christian dogma. I think the Judeo/Christian God as presented in the Bible is ridiculous (And, dare I say, a jerk. But that is a blog post for another time). I think the whole idea that God created this world in 7 days is just silly, if one is to believe this literally. It is story. Folklore. All cultures have stories of creation and this is just one of those many stories. The Bible is the story of a tribe, full of metaphor, like all folklore.

I don’t have any answers when it comes to God and religion. I believe everyone has to find their own path and it is a very personal thing. My own path has taken all sorts of twists and turns. I don’t deny that I am a seeker. Right now I believe that god (if that is what you want to call it) is in everything. I believe that we are all connected and “god” is the thing that connects us. I am no greater than the robin that sits outside my window. We are cut from the same cloth.

I like thinking this way. It is fairly new to me, having been raised with a Christian mindset. But looking at the world this way makes me feel happier and, generally, more at peace.

on coming out of the Buddhist closet

Thoughts and Opinions

If you read this blog you know that I’ve been interested in and studying Zen for a few years now. However, I’ve been reluctant to come right out and admit to myself that I’m Buddhist. For some reason I haven’t wanted to put myself in that box. I freely admit to being a Zennist, but I’m not sure I want to go “full Buddhist” you know? I think part of this has to do with the fact that Christianity is so ingrained in my psyche that it is almost a part of my D.N.A. I come from a very Catholic family, first of all. I could recite the Nicene Creed to you without even thinking about it. It is, seriously, etched into my consciousness.

Secondly, I had a “born again” experience that felt very real to me at the time. There was a short time in my life when this was very important to me. While some of that experience was damaging psychologically, some of it was positive, too. The best thing that came out of that experience,  I think, was that I actually read the Bible. So I know what the Bible says. That has been fairly useful.

So  this Christian background is  the reason why I’ve been reluctant to just come out and fully embrace Buddhism. I think that I feel that Christianity is part of what makes me who I am today and there is some fear of letting that part of me go.

Also, I’m worried about offending my Christian friends and family. There is fear that they might look down on me and think I’m “going to hell” or whatever. And I feel really bad about offending people regarding religion. It’s a touchy subject. I don’t want them to worry about me or waste time “praying for my soul.” I certainly don’t think I’m going to hell and am not worried about it. Why should anyone else worry?

But the past few days I’ve been listening to Brad Warner‘s Hardcore Zen podcast and really eating it up. I’ve been home sick a couple of days this week and I spent much of my time listening to the episodes and drinking tea (and knitting).

At some point (I can’t remember which episode it was) he talks about this idea that Zen Buddhism is a “religion” that is faithless.

This little idea got me thinking about it. This is stuff I know but never really gave serious thought to before. You don’t have to have faith in something to practice Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhism is not about believing in something “out there” or “up in the sky” or whatever. It is a “religion” in which one does something. Specifically one does zazen. Really, that is all it boils down to (at least that is how my newbie mind is interpreting all of this).

It is just me, sitting on a cushion, and breathing.

You do this everyday and develop a practice. And out of this practice really neat things happen. You find that cobwebs are dusted away in your brain and you can pay attention to things right in front of you. And when you pay attention to those things right in front of you life becomes more meaningful and happier.

I remembered that I have a zazen practice. I take time out everyday and sit and breathe.

I’m also, as it so happens, learning about and interested in following the ideas of Buddhism. Because how could you not, when you learn them? (There’s an end to suffering? Sign me up!)

I am practicing Zen Buddhism. Thus, I am a Zen Buddhist.

it is so simple. as it always is.

There I said it. I am a Zen Buddhist.

Whew.

A heavy post about a conversation I had with my Massage Therapist

Random
the Zen master Ummon.

Image via Wikipedia

Why, hello there! How are you? Good, I hope. I thought I would tell you a little story that happened earlier this week. Monday, in fact. At my Massage Therapy appointment.

First of all, I haven’t really told you much about massage therapy. I like it. I guess. It seems to be working. It definitely has helped with my problem of cramping muscles after the accident. So that’s good. I was very nervous about going at first. And still a little bit now. I am the kind of person that hates getting her hair cut because I am a little shy and not good with conversation while people are doing things with my hair. I hate the dentist for the same reason. And the doctor. I have recently been lucky to have found a very good hairdresser/dentist/doctor that make me feel comfortable. And my massage therapist has been pretty good in that regard, as well.

But this past Monday was different. First of all, the appointment was in the afternoon (not the morning ) and he seemed a bit chattier that usual. I suppose that’s fine, but I would rather relax during my massage than chit chat. We talked a little bit about the weekend, my job, etc. Then we went on to the news. Specifically, the horrific earthquake in China that happened that very morning. I thought it was a little weird that he would bring up something so devastating during my massage, but o.k. Then he said, “your going to see more and more earthquakes like this and worse.” So I asked, “why do you say that? what do you think is going to happen?” I mean, he seemed to have some knowledge of some future events and I was curious. But as soon as the question came out of my mouth I regretted asking it. He launched into his “End Times” theories and how we are are “very close to the end times right now.”

I won’t go into it with you here. You probably know them already. We are in the end times right now and there are all of these things going on right now that prove it: Food Shortage, Earthquakes, wars, Tony Blair and his “Faith and Globalisation” speech, blah blah blah.

ugh. I just listened and pretended to be interested. What else could I do? Just get up and leave (not a possibility at all. And if you’ve had a professional massage you know why)? So I lay there and listened. Taking it all in.

I have told you before about my Christian past. In my past life as a born-again crazy-ass Pentecostal Christian I believed and studied these end-time theories. I really thought this was all going to happen, Armageddon, the Rapture, the second coming of Christ. All of it. And deep down inside the whole thing scared the hell out of me. It didn’t make me happy. I didn’t rejoice in this (but I pretended to). It really just scared me, more than anything (Along with lots of other things including the idea that people could be possessed by the devil, but that’s another blog post). I got out of the church more than ten years ago and it took me many, many years to clear some of this fear out of my mind and my psyche. I think my experience with the Pentecostal Church screwed me up a little bit psychologically. I probably should have gone to a Psychiatrist because of it, but I have managed to work it out myself over the years.

When my massage therapist started talking to me about this some of that old fear came back and I started to question myself. I actually started to think, “Wow. He’s kind of making sense.” That old Fundamentalist Christian logic bubbled right back up to the surface. It’s kind of scary how I quickly I fell back into that way of thinking. But thank you skeptics . I read a few things that shook me back into the realm of logical thinking.

This episode has made me come a little bit closer to the realization that Christianity is not for me. I have nothing against Jesus. Jesus was cool. I just really have not had the best experience with the religion. I realized that my experience really kind of messed me up. I was brainwashed. And I am still, more than ten years later, having to deal with it. I know that not everyone has had this kind of an experience so this is not a generalization. This is totally personal. But I have come to realize that Christianity(as I have experienced it) is a religion based in fear. I don’t want to live in fear. Simple as that. I just do not want to live in fear. Been there. Didn’t like it. At all.

So I continue to look at Zen Buddhism. And I am liking what I see. I can’t believe I am actually in a place to even consider another religion other than Christianity. That thought would have really scared me not that long ago (I’d be going to hell if I thought about something else). But I moving on. It is liberating.

An interesting perspective

Books, Music, Art, Movies
Harry Potter Lightning

Image via Wikipedia

I am reading a really interesting blog post that presents a very good argument that the Harry Potter books are deeply rooted in the Christian faith, contrary to some of the other perspectives out there (one being that God does not exist in the stories). You can find it at the Blog Catholic and Enjoying it and the post is called More Harry. A very interesting read.

And, no, I haven’t re-found my Catholic faith. Somebody posted a link to the article on a list-serve I subscribe to.