Every so often at my meditation group we will have a discussion about how we came to be “here.” As in, what led us to meditation, Buddhism, etc. The first time this question came up I remember I was the last person to speak and the entire time I was hoping I would have something interesting to say, but nothing really bubbled up to the surface, so I was forced to tell the truth when my turn came. Here is what I said. Here is the story of how I came to be a Buddhist.
I started on this path by using Buddhism as a tool. It was a way to get evangelizing Christians off my back. It was the perfect plan, because people in our culture know nothing about Buddhism. So when a Christian in my life started talking to me about “the lord,” I would tell them that I was Buddhist and they didn’t know what to do with that answer. So they would move on to another topic.
I realize this is horrible. I know, I lied. At the time, I wasn’t Buddhist. I, like the people I was lying to, hadn’t a clue what Buddhism was about at all. But it sounded cool and it was a way of easily avoiding the conversation.
But as I perpetuated this lie I became interested in this mysterious religion I knew nothing about. So started to research it and it began to resonate with me. I liked what I heard. I still continue to learn.
As I’ve delved deeper into my meditation practice and my study of the Dharma I have replaced my intolerance with tolerance for, not just Christianity, but other religions as well. This way is the right way for me, but maybe it isn’t the right way for you. Christianity is the right way for some people and that’s fantastic. It wasn’t for me.
Once upon a time the Chief Of The Gods and his two sons, Pahto and Wy’east, traveled from the North down the Columbia River to find a place to settle. They came upon the most beautiful land they had ever seen and decided that this was the place. However, the two sons quarreled over the land and to settle the dispute their father shot two arrows from his bow: one to the North and one to the South. Pahto followed the arrow to the North and settled there, while Wy’east followed the arrow South. Their father then built A bridge across The Columbia so their family could gather from time to time.
Both sons fell in love with the same woman, the beautiful Loowit. She could not choose between them so the brothers fought each other for her hand. They buried villages in their destructive wake. The area was left devastated by their war, and the bridge built by their father fell into the Columbia river.
Their father punished the brothers by turning them into mountains. Wy’east became the volcano Mt. Hood, and Pahto became the volcano Mt Adams. The beautiful Loowit became Mt. Saint Helens which stands between Adams and Hood.
I’ve been working with fear for the past couple months.
At the end of August I saw a Facebook post in my neighboorhood watch group that a mountain lion cub was spotted sleeping in the middle of the path of a popular trail that winds through town. The cub was seen at around noon on a Friday. Well. We all know what it means when a baby is spotted. It means a mom isn’t far away. I recalled how that very morning I did my usual Friday Morning 4 mile run along that very trail, right around day break (when they are most active). I probably ran right past it.
I am very afraid of mountain lions. And I have reason to fear. They actually attack humans. I recall at least two news stories when I lived in California where a runner and a bike rider were killed by mountain lions. So yeah. It’s a rational fear.
Yet It was bugging me because, while it is something could could possibly happen I was really letting it get to me. I wondered if it went from being rational to irrational. Yes, there have been attacks on humans, but what, really, were my chances of getting attacked?
I tried running on parts of the trail, but the fear of getting attacked was so great that I ruined the relaxing nature of the run. I had to finish it on the street. Each time I would go out I would try to talk myself into running on the trail, but when I got to the trail head and saw the sign I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Finally, one Friday,about three weeks later, I woke up and I wasn’t afraid anymore. I didn’t wake up with that dread of fear. I decided that this was the day I would run on the trail again. So I did. And it felt good. Oddly, all of the signs were taken down, so apparently the threat moved on.
It makes me wonder if that fear I was feeling was my gut telling me to avoid the trail. Maybe primal instinct was keeping me off the trail while the mountain lions (it turns out it was a mother and 2 cubs) made their home there. And then when they left, so did my fear.
I don’t remember what the impetus was, but I found myself today doing a Google search for “Big Spiders in the Bay Area.” The first result is this website from Berkeley which informs us of spiders most frequently encountered in the Bay Area. Looking at these photos makes me feel a fear that I can’t fully describe in words. It is a fear that I feel deep inside me, at the core of my being. The kind of fear that makes me physically react with nausea.
My spider research today was prompted by a memory from when I was a nanny living in Menlo Park. I was in the sitting room hanging out with the little girl I took care of when I saw a creature hanging out in one of her Lego structures. It was a creature that I couldn’t pinpoint because I’d never seen anything like it. I guess it was a giant spider – that is the only way to describe it. It wasn’t a tarantula though because it wasn’t fuzzy. It had a shiny surface. It was horrific and large and it scared the shit out of both of us. I decided that I didn’t know what to do with it so the best course of action would be to ignore it and hope that it would go away. We left the room and played somewhere else and it, in fact, went away and I never saw it again. But in the back of my mind I wondered where it went and if I would encounter it again. I also wondered if I imagined the whole thing because I have never seen anything like it again.
I had a conversation with the parents of the little girl about it and they encountered one of these “things” as well – in the same room. The mom said that the thing tried to run away from her and she had to stab it several times with a pen to kill it (!!!) but it didn’t die, it ran away. The father encountered it later and killed it by putting it in the garbage disposal. Hearing about the demise of this creature kind of horrified me, as scary as it was to encounter it myself. It’s presence scared me, yes. But did it deserve to die such a terrible death? I’m sure it didn’t!
I have never seen one of these things again, and when I asked around about it I never got any answers either. Nobody I knew in the Bay Area had ever seen anything like the thing I described.
Something (I can’t remember what) prompted me to remember this and search Google to see if I could figure out what this thing was. And I did. I’m pretty sure it was a Calisoga longitarsus, otherwise known as a False Tarantula. I know it by looking at the picture. I will never forget what it looked like.
I wrote this post on November 19th, 2009. Today I was reminded of this childhood experience and thought I’d repost.
When I was in 3rd grade, one afternoon on the playground, the girls in my class formed the, “I hate Carol club.” I’m not sure why. Carol was a friend of ours. We all hung out with her regularly. I think there might have been a fight between Carol and another girl and the other girl decided to form this club behind Carol’s back. Somehow, like sheep, we were convinced that we needed to form this group because Carol was a horrible person and needed to be shunned.
Or maybe we were afaid of being shunned ourselves and went along with it.
Regardless, I remember thinking the whole thing was dumb. I knew that Carol felt bad, playing on the playground by herself. I was sure that she could see the sneers of her female classmates and I’m sure it made her sad.
I had an idea. I told the other girls that I would be a spy for them. This way I could still be friends with Carol and also be friends with the “I hate Carol club” girls.
I thought this was such a great idea at the time. But in retrospect I wish I would have had the guts to tell these girls how mean they were being.
It’s crazy, the things kids will do to fit in.
In the end, Carol and this other girl made up and all was right with our group again. And if I recall correctly, this all took place during the after-lunch recess one day.
This memory popped into my head today after reading about some online drama. Yeah. This shit still happens, even when we are adults.