Lately my Buddhist inclinations seem to be sneaking into this blog. And I’m concerned it may be off-putting to some of you.
If so, I sympathize — for any number of reasons. At the top of my list is the way spirituality and the language of faith are exploited in the name of all major religions — Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Unitarian Universalism, Hinduism, and so on.
So pausing my posts for a word of explanation. . . .
I’m Just a Buddhist Amateur
For me, Buddhism isn’t a dogma or THE answer or anything of that sort. Rather, it helps me navigate life — especially the tough parts. You know. Those nasty things we all run into if we make it to adolescence — and probably long before then too.
I’ve actually been Buddhist-leaning for 44 years. In 1971, as I was emerging from a few rough years, I stumbled across first a book and then a college class on Far Eastern Religions. Next I happened upon some Oriental art history classes. By then I was hooked, though I didn’t yet know it.
The pace picked up when I moved to Ann Arbor to join my then boyfriend, now Mr. Web Diva. Ann Arbor in 1971 was a jaw-dropper for this Tennessee girl. There was a fair amount about that milieu I didn’t like (radical politics in particular) and I was never a rock-and-roll sort. But, oh my heavens, did I ever gravitate to peace-and-love, maxi-dresses and long-flowing hair, granny glasses and VW vans covered in flower-power graffiti — what I now think of as the hippie-dippy look-and-feel.
More to the point, I was totally wowed by the smorgasbord of alternative religious practices. Fortunately I had enough sense to be gun-shy of proselytizers and anything that smacked of cult. But I happened across Roshi Phillip Kapleau, a highly regarded Zen teacher, plus a wonderful satellite group of his Rochester Zen Center.
I practiced seriously for 10 or so years and it was a life changer. I’ll be forever grateful, especially to Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede, who in time became my teacher. But I was never more than a junior student.
For reasons not worth explaining, in 1995 I became a Unitarian Universalist. I love UUs, but, honestly, I don’t really get the faith. Not the way I do Buddhism. Also, for what it’s worth, in junior high, I went to a convent school and became a lifelong fan of a certain type of Catholic. Then in high school it turned out I was an atheist. I remember standing in a grocery line and seeing the Time headline “Is God Dead?” That’s how I figured out I was an atheist. I liked the huge heavy-duty red font set against flat black, but thought the message irrelevant. I looked at it, appreciated the clarity it gave me, and moved on to pay for the groceries.
I only say all of this so you know that I’m not coming from a place of thinking Buddhism is THE way — let alone wanting to convert you. It’s just an approach to life that works for me. If it works for you too, that’s absolutely wonderful. And if not, no problem.
So Why Now In This Blog?
In the past, I viewed the above as my private life, whereas this blog grew out of my work life. Specifically it was an outlet for my Web passion, which just happened to have morphed into my career.
But now that I’m retired, it seems the blog is adapting so that my larger life is reflected in it. Were I to censor this bigger picture, my bet is all except the very geekiest of my posts would be disingenuous or sterile. Also, with retirement and my children grown, I have more time to dig back into Buddhism.
In my work life, I often used to wonder if those happy hours of coding and building websites derived from a form of mindfulness. Maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. What does matter is nowadays when I code and write I intentionally aim to be mindful.
I hope this intent will inform at least a few of my future posts. So that’s why this very long explanation.
And I hope it sets any little fears you might have at rest. For, to quote Hafiz. . . .
Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions….
God wants to see
More love and playfulness in your eyes
For that is your greatest witness to Him.
P.S. of Feb. 2016: To my great joy and astonishment, I have re-joined the Rochester Zen Center. After 23 years away, this strayed sheep seems to be wandering back home.