1/24/09

Eastern Beliefs in My LIfe


          Eastern belief systems speak to me in so many more ways than all other religions combined.  I grew up in a Catholic home and went to a Catholic girl's high school in NYC, yet I never felt those beliefs fit me. Life experiences only further strengthened my realization that these Catholic-based beliefs did not emerge from me naturally. In fact, these experiences delivered me to Eastern-based beliefs and have come to further reinforce their usefulness and immense need in today's troubled world. 
         One of these many pivotal moments, happened in Catholic school. A teacher, whose name escapes me,  was telling some story about God.  She described how people trembled when they saw God.  This fact puzzled me for I had no knowledge of this "scary" god and raised my hand and asked, "why would people tremble at the sight of God? Is he not a loving God?".  Needless to say, she was frustrated at my questioning of this FACT. Too much of this type of reasoning escaped me, suffice it to say that these strict and disparaging definitions of God were fundamentally at odds with my soul and what I knew God to be for me. Oddly enough, it was in this school's World Religions Class where I first learned of Buddhism and what a breath of fresh air that was. 
         In addition to this class in high school, I was introduced to general Eastern beliefs through watching Kung Fu as a child.  This is not a joke. In watching this TV show as a very young child, I readily absorbed those simple, yet powerful messages such as "suffering is caused by attachments" or how the true nature of things may not be what I believe them to be.  Too bad TV has lost it's fascination with all things Eastern, now it's all bottom-of-the-barrel reality shows that have Americans glued to the tube. 
        When I came upon Buddhism through reading late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's Cutting Through Spiritualism Materialism (among other books of his) I was convinced this was for me.  It felt as if all along I had been thinking and living the ideas he so beautifully captured.  You can find excepts from this timeless book at WWW.sacred-texts.com. I read other great books about Eastern beliefs from authors like Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron,  Stephen Mitchell, The Dalai Lama.  
          I do not meditate unless while walking.  I do not chant or know any chants, I do not know of or observe Buddhist Holidays. I DO live in the moment when I go about my daily chores and simply live out each task without rushing to the next. I try my best to not define my role and the nature of my relationships in any conventional standards that may limit them from their true nature.  Looking at life through Buddhist beliefs reveals the richness of life. Everyday tasks, which most people rush to finish in order to get to the "real living", become magical clear colorful awake moments.  I do not cling to labels of me. Although, I am a mother, an artist, a wife, a daughter, a teacher...I do not follow blindly the conventional sets of "tasks" these roles require. Last, my stuff (or lack thereof ) does not define me. 
          To end, I have one great little piece of a story I remember from a letter-to-the-editor written to one of those popular Buddhist magazines; might have been Shambhala or Tricycle. A mom had written a funny note about how her toddler had eaten this paper Buddha image she had very much valued. In the end,  I aim to do as the toddler did; absorb the Buddha's message, enough to allow me to connect with all of humanity and to see me in everyone.  Sadly and too often, people use their beliefs as a shallow, externally-based tool used to raise themselves above or separate themselves from others. If the "me-versus-the-world" approach rises in any believer it's not a feeling borne out of strength, kindness or compassion, it rises out of one's feeling of lacking. Shouldn't one of spirituality's goal be to make you more available, more open to all of God's creatures? 
          We are on vacation in Virginia. Have to go catch the continental breakfast.  Have a great day!!



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