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Zen: A Way of Life

Posted on 2011.02.16 at 00:31
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So I saw on a site for people to post their stories on how they arrived at their belief systems/religion. So I figured it might make an interesting post here for anyone who is curious.

First off some background: I was born and raised Catholic. I went to Latin Mass and attended a Catholic preschool and extra classes. Aside from annoying the nuns because I could in fact read some at 3-4, I asked a lot of questions. By the time I was in grade school I was already rejecting things I had been taught. I argued that if God was loving and forgiving, we should have no fear of fire and brimstone. I flat out told my father that I believed animals had spirits. I also believe that all living things have spirits or souls of some kind. I spent a good deal of my time outside talking to and playing by an old maple tree.

By the time the church started changing practices for popularity, like allowing "helpers" to give people the host and taking it in the hand rather than on the tongue I had rejected the churches, at least in the United States. If the beliefs and rituals are sacred, changing them means you are turning your back on what you previously believed. Time passed and I experienced a lot of unrest in my home. Religion wasn't important to me as much as it had been.

One problem I had was the dreams. I would dream things and they would happen. I kept passing it off as coincidence, but eventually I had a dream about my grandfather. He came to me and got up to go and I, thinking he was going to the store, went to go with him. He told me I couldn't; he had to go but I had to stay. I started to run towards him as I felt him pull upward, crying as he told me he loved me but he had to go. I was so relieved the next day because he was alive. I was going to surprise him that weekend and visit, but at work the phone rang and they asked for me to pick it up. I knew. I had to tell my family and my mother told me he was probably okay, that my grandmother was overreacting (which she isn't all there so she often does). I told her I already knew he was gone. I didn't get to say goodbye.

I started searching. I determined I was deeply spiritual if not religious. I did carry some of my previous beliefs and still do to this day. In my studies I learned about energy, chakras, reiki, etc. I'm not totally convinced of everything I've learned about but meditation helped center me so I continued to study.

After a year with nine funerals I shied away from spirituality. Frankly I didn't want to deal with it. Then came the darkest period of my life, from which I am awakening. I don't want this to focus on that so I will leave all the specifics for another time. But I saw so much bad I couldn't stand it. The outside world, my family, me...it was too much. I fell into myself and away from the world as best I could so I didn't have to see it.

During this time I began to study meditation again in an attempt to regain some semblance of balance. I came across Buddhism and Heart of the Buddha's Teaching. It became like a bible to me...it made sense in a way nothing else had. The more I learned the more I felt this was the right path for me. It wasn't a religion, it was a philosophy. It didn't require I reject all my beliefs, but instead it taught me to embrace truth and life. The truth was much easier for me to hold on to at that point. No matter how bad things were I still could see the truth:

1. Show compassion to the angry and hurtful for they are in pain.
2. A few moments of patience or kindness can change someone's opinion of you; and yours of them.
3. Cultivate the seeds of kindness in your heart and the hearts of others.
4. We all have our struggles, but what matters is what we do despite it.
5. No one has more power over you than you give them.

Just a few things I have learned from the Buddhist philosophy on life. Granted there are many divisions of Buddhism, but most of them have this at their center. I'm currently looking into more Esoteric Buddhism; with Mudras and Mantras to increase my focus and balance.

Someone once told me when I first started studying that I had a very bright light; that I needed to be careful because darkness would be drawn to it. I'm not sure I understand completely or if she was right or wrong, but I know that the light, the happiness, I feel inside that I am starting to let shine through is much more powerful than I realized. As was withholding it as I did in the past. But I am who I am and people can accept that or not, that is not my decision or concern. This is the path I have found and decided to walk.

My tattoo is a hummingbird blooming out of a lotus blossom with my nickname in Japanese along side it. I remember a sign the artist had in his room: "To those who understand no explanation is necessary; To those who do not, no explanation will suffice."

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