Notes on a Buddhist path

The Test Driving Buddhist

November 6, 2011 By | 2 Comments


Three years ago the only thing I knew about the Dharma came from two television references: one was the female offspring of hippies in a 90’s sitcom and the other was a mysterious research initiative on the TV drama, Lost.

Now the Dhamma (from the Pali), or Dharma (Sanskrit), is the core of my life. I start each day with meditation and try very hard (really I do) to practice presence, awareness, and placing my feet squarely on the Eightfold Path.  Religion and I have not been the closest of friends so to even consider calling myself a Buddhist is a big announcement to the universe and a giant step towards the “C” word: commitment.

Spending all of my adult life as a recovering Catholic left a nasty religious taste in my mouth. I went through passionate bouts of atheism, agnostic depressions, new age bliss-fests and Sufi desire. After searching and trying on the beliefs of many faiths I had resolved myself to being a non-descript, non-committed, middle of the road, white bread member of the SBNR flock.

If there is one person responsible for helping me build the Dhamma bridge from TV trivia to my day in and day out modus operandi it’s my friend, John. A former Buddhist monk in the Theravada tradition, a master acupuncturist, filmmaker, musician, husband, father and generally great guy, John has answered my big questions (Is there a meaning to life?) and the not so big ones (Chocolate couldn’t be counted as dukkha, could it?) He has guided me through the parking lot of the various Buddhist schools and freely let me kick the tires of his preferred beliefs, taking them out for more than a few joy rides and given the Dhamma wheel a good spin. Besides discussing my constitution from the prospective of Five Elements acupuncture, John has also freely shared with me his advice on dating. Have you seen Kinky Boots? Check it out; we’ll talk.

To say I am a different person from who I was three years ago would be an understatement. Of course there are pieces of me entwined in my DNA, in my past and what I have done, the parts that make me me, but there are other pieces (values, discernments, choices and fears) that I have faced and in some instances abandoned and/or re-invented. I still love dancing and eating gourmet food, sipping fine wine and melting into a massage, curling up with a great book and passionate sex with a caring partner. What I now also embrace is conscious awareness of each millisecond of my inhales and exhales, feeling the elements arising in each step of my foot, experiencing the falling away of all senses, all suffering and arriving in a place of such peace that no words or sensations could describe it or replace it. If I had just one year left on this earth, I would spend half of it living and writing over a bakery in Paris and the other half in a Sri Lankan Buddhist monastery sitting and walking and following each rare and wondrous breath.

Today John and I had a good chat. Later this week he and his son are off to the far east to do some of that sitting and walking and breathing for the next few months. We talked of the Dhamma and retreats and right livelihood, of commitments and being tired and fighting off the flu. We discussed monastic teachers, the sometimes annoying and recurring themes in my love life and new theories he’s been reading about in Theravadan scholarly circles.

Good journey, my Dhamma brother. Thank you for your teachings and your friendship. Goodbye and I’ll see you soon. And about that test drive; I think I’ll take it.

This Body is Not Me.

by Thich Nhat Hanh

This body is not me.

I am not limited by this body.

I am life without boundaries.

I have never been born,

and I have never died.

Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars, manifestations from my wondrous true mind.

Since before time, I have been free.

Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey.

Birth and death are a game of hide- and seek.

So laugh with me,

hold my hand,

let us say good-bye,

say good-bye, to meet again soon.

We meet today.

We will meet again tomorrow.

We will meet at the source every moment.

We meet each other in all forms of life.

“This Body is Not Me” from Chanting and Recitations from Plum Village  by Thich Nhat Hanh. Parallax Press, copyright 2000, page 188.

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  1. Lovely.

  2. Kinky boots is a great film!

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