Good Catholic Girl becomes Imperfect Buddhist
My road to redemption has been twisty. Take motion-sickness medication and follow me:
- Catholicism:I was born and raised a Catholic with all the accompanying guilt and fear. I seriously considered becoming a nun named Bernadette to save my soul.
- Atheism: During my rebellious and liquored-up teen years, I gave up on saving my soul.
- Agnosticism: I didn’t return to the Catholics and change my name to Agnes. I simply decided to be undecided about a Supreme Creator.
- Methodism: I adopted the religion as part of my marriage contract. I tried to fit in. But I was a better Method Actor than a Methodist.
- “New Age”:Rather than believing in Someone, or no one, I dallied in believing in everything. I spent a year’s salary on books, workshops, CDs, etc. before coming to the conclusion it all boiled down to one message: I have the power to shape my present, future and past life.
- Buddhism:This set of guiding principles was meant to help people navigate life moment-by-moment. Like any “simple” moral teaching, understanding and living it is as vexing as herding cats. But I was 50 years into this spiritual journey and I decided to settle down.
Finding a Buddhist sanga (community) in my strictly Christian region was like finding a vegan meal at a Longhorn Steakhouse. But I did. It was small and met once a week for an hour in private location. Careful word-of-mouth gets you in–they don’t advertise because we know how Christians deal with heathens.
Back to the meetings…The first half hour was devoted to silent mindfulness meditation; during the remaining time, we discussed Buddhist topics.
Mindfulness meditation sounded so peaceful and relaxing. I suppose it can be if you are the Dalai Lama. But for most mere mortals, this form of meditation is like trying to control a tired child on sugar-high–your mind is the unruly child AND the frustrated ward of the wild child.
To any observer, all is tranquil: silence, rhythmic breathing. The task is to focus only on the breath, which lasts for maybe two breaths. Then the mind wanders. If you’re lucky, you’ll notice you’ve been thinking about your leaky faucet and return to your breath.
Once, as I was drifting, I was abruptly brought back to the room by a distinct fart. Rather than using the noise to refocus on my breath (like a good Buddhist), my mind danced with the fart-distraction. Here’s a recap of my internal dialog between my Wild Child (WC) mind and my Buddhist (B) mind.
WC: Was that a fart? OMG. Someone farted during silent mediation! I wonder who it was? Does it stink? I can’t smell it. It seemed close but not too far away. Maybe I can figure out who it was. (I mentally reconstruct the circle.) Thank goodness I didn’t fart. I hope no one thinks it’s me! I wonder what other people are thinking. They must’ve heard it, too. I wonder if they smell it.
B: Lorna, stop! Just breathe.
WC: I don’t want to breathe too deeply. What if the smell travels. That would be gross! I wonder if the people around the farter are doing shallow breathing. This is going to make such a funny story…