I consider myself a regular, middle-class, average white woman in America (although this is the first time I’ve actually stopped and tried to “classify” myself). I’m nice to people, they’re nice to me~I live in the mid-west where I think sometimes that everything is “overly” normal to boring. I have all kinds of friends, of different everything: old/young, rich/poor, church-going/not, and it is hard for me to think “different skin colors” because I just don’t think that way. I have friends from different countries and different religions and it really has never mattered to me.
I’ve seen horrible movies about racism and discrimination, and some of them I will never watch~because it makes me sick to my stomach and my heart. I always feel so sad and angry for the people who are punished or ostracized by the “regular” folks of the moment~BUT I really never had a stinking clue what even the smallest slice of that would feel like directed at me.
That is my intro~this is my life-lesson.
I was raised Lutheran, went to a parochial school until 8th grade, and quit going to church as soon as I got away from home on my own (as most of us do for a while). As time progressed, I became a student/seeker of all spiritual paths that I happened to come across because it interested me how similar the heart’s of these religions or churches were underneath the different rituals or practices. Our Creator is at the center of it all. God is God no matter what name you call him.
I noticed that the people here and there who truly lived their lives as they believed God wanted them to operated from the same tuned in heart to others, kindness, compassion, lack of judgement etc…what they wore, or how they did their hair, or their rituals, or their days of worship were all vastly different at times, but if I shut my eyes and listened, their hearts were all tuned to the same frequency.
My story up to now has led to my interest in Buddhism. As I have with every other branch of worship or whatever you want to call it, I began studying on the internet, bought a few books, read a few magazines and asked questions of those more educated on the subject than I.
I went to check out a beautiful temple and it’s grounds several months back, and decided to visit during one of their classes or teachings to see what it was like. The first time was interesting and made me a little nervous, but it was a professor instead of the regular teacher so we went back again Sunday to get the real experience so to speak.
It was so peaceful. The teaching was on a couple of verses from The Wheel of Sharp Weapons. I heard about compassion for others. Compassion so great and true that you are willing to go to the gates of hell to save just one. Even, only one. I heard about growing myself into the kind of person that has so much love and compassion that the very charisma of being such a person can disarm the cruelty and negativity in another simply with the true intention of attitude, expression, word, and heart. I heard about how hate is instilled artificially by the words or belief of another who also holds artificially installed hatred in their hearts. How can we hate people we don’t even know? A whole people? I don’t know the answer to that. I heard about programming myself with prayer and meditation to remove the power from the seeds in me I didn’t want to grow, and pour my attention on the seeds that needed to grow bigger, stronger, and more vibrant. I heard about stepping away from these prayers and meditations daily with a heart and mind of higher quality.
Seriously. Do you hear what I’m saying? I just re-read that last paragraph and I have to ask~who in God’s name would not want to be that person? At least strive to become more of that within themselves? Who would not want to learn how to love and accept themselves with all their bad seeds of anger, jealousy, judgement, flat-out meanness~and learn how to transform them into the compost of creating and growing the most beautiful person they could possibly be inside?
Thich Nhat Hanh says that if every single religion had one person who truly lived the heart of their religion, they would be practicing Buddhism. It is a practice of living in such a way that every religion of every name would be proud to claim and many do~under a different label. To me, Buddhism in practice is actually living the way you say you do when you go to church on Sunday. There’s not a person out there who doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t have to choose or label myself a Buddhist. I don’t need a label at all. But it is nice to learn and practice a better way of living and loving where the rubber meets the road. In such a short time it has revived my faith and belief in God and what it means to have this awesome gift of living that we have for such a short time. It speaks to me and has helped me shed my disillusionment with “religion” and the trappings thereof, and the players of such.
After attending my second teaching (the Wheel teaching), someone close to me saw a book I had bought ~”Buddhism for Beginners”. I was asked if I was becoming a f*****g Buddhist or what? I was told I was obviously a seeker and severely confused. There was serious anger, aggression, a condescending and demeaning tone and attitude. My answers were “no”, “what’s the big deal here”, and “do you even know what Buddhism is?”. The explanation of living as a more loving, kind, and compassionate person was ridiculed as me basically being a poser trying something new. (is that what learning is?). Then I was told to never f*****g talk about it again. (did I mention that I didn’t bring this topic up? I was asked.) So I was astounded and astonished by this whole scenario. I was so much struggling with this EPISODE that I had experienced that it wasn’t until I was driving to work this morning that I realized the entire event had been a tiny slice of full-blown discrimination and persecution. It was freaking awful. And I was so…overwhelmed by the meanness, judgement, and belittling that I did not know how to respond.
This kind of behavior has never been my reality. How can I actually know someone who would treat me like that? Even knowing me well? I have no idea what it must be like for ANYONE to put up with more than 60 seconds of this from anyone. I will not soon forget that feeling, or that knowledge.
Six months ago, my response to that kind of behavior towards me would have been so catastrophic that there would have been no healing from it. It would have been ugly, cold, and permanent. It would have been fire with fire. But I have learned a lot lately about dealing with anger in myself from the f*****g Buddhist studies I’ve been doing which brought back a verse I memorized in school from the Bible
A good man produces good out of the storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart.
That enables me to feel compassion for both of us. It’s all a lesson.