Odd realization

I realized recently that I have been identifying as a Buddhist for over four years. It's an odd realization, because for most other Momentous Occasions - graduations, beginnings of relationships, break-ups, you name it - in my life, I have a date, something to remember. This was such a gradual thing, such a seamless transition, that there wasn't a day when I declared it. It's funny, though, because for all that it happened slowly, I wasn't deliberate about it in the same way I probably would be now. I still say "identify as" rather than "am," though, especially one degree in religious studies later, because it's tricky. There was no ceremony, I've never had a teacher. The only way I've taken refuge is by simply saying it: I take refuge in the buddha, the dharma, and the sangha.

The summer before college I was seventeen, brash, spontaneous, in love with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. I worked to eliminate periods from my writing entirely and I never edited anything. (Some of this has stayed with me.) I went off to college, leaving everyone and everything I knew for North Carolina, a place I never thought I would love. I read books on the Beats, meditation, Buddhism (never Dharma Bums in its entirety, however) - I walked around barefoot, words like bodhisattva on my tongue. I happened to stumble upon a flier for a meditation group, forced all my friends to come with me - and I never looked back. That meditation group wound up being an integral part of my college experience; it brought me to religious studies, ushered Eric (my mentor and dear friend) into my life, and best of all, it grounded me, made me less crazy.

I am a little ashamed to say that I have only meditated once in the past year, right after I bought myself a new meditation pillow. You can see post-collegiate life does not suit me all too well. I still very much consider myself Buddhist: I wear two sets of mala beads every day - both gifts from two of my best friends, Kris and
Becca, one set from India and the other from Prague, I still focus on breathing when anxiety gets too out of control, and I still believe that at the heart of Buddhism is truth. To whit, here is a (slightly edited) email I sent to some friends from Florida:

Here's a lesson I've been learning for years now: everything is transitory. Everything, including that which makes you happy, especially that which makes you happy, is temporary. It may last years and years but it too will go away. Tattoos are no more permanent than the body, which decays in the ground or gets burned up or swallowed in the sea. Nothing we have is permanent. (Until we get to the afterlife, then all bets are off. Of course, I'm of a mind that even then there's nothing permanent, but that's what you get for subscribing to Buddhism.)

It sounds kind of awful, I realize, that everything good in life is also transient. But it's not! I swear, it's not actually awful. Because, see, the thing is, all the bad stuff is also fleeting. There is a certain comfort in that.

Lately I've been more into yoga than sitting meditation. It shouldn't be surprising, really, since I sit all day, and yoga is still meditating, just with movement. DC Yoga Week brought me to Tranquil Space Yoga - the experience was more intense than either Jo, who went with me, or I expected (50 people in a tiny room! full of sweat!), but when at the end the instructor started talking about bodhisattvas and bodhicitta, I knew I was in the right place. (It doesn't hurt that the same class every week is pay-what-you-can.)


  1. ooooh, that makes a lot of sense...why you'd be more into yoga than sitting meditation right now. i miss meditation. man.

    also, it makes me happy that you wear the beads i brought you. and that you referred to me as one of your best friends. :)


  2. Yeah, I miss pretty much everything about meditation: the Hut, Eric, you, everyone else, hanging out afterward, &c., &c.

    Of course you are one of my best friends, silly! Just because you moved across the country doesn't change that!