This is difficult to write, primarily because spirituality is deeply personal and I don’t want to offend, alienate, or cause discomfort for anyone. Additionally, it has never been a major part of my life and it’s strange to write about something without much experience. However, I do believe that mental and emotional health is an important aspect of healthy living blogs and, for that reason, I wanted to share some of my recent explorations. It’s a long haul, so I sprinkled in pictures of my cat and island. Please feel free to scroll to the bottom where there’s a little summary ;)
While I was a teenager, I became disillusioned with the religion that I had grown up with. I don’t want to name it, but I was uncomfortable with its violent history, use of punishment to influence behavior, reliance on faith, and strict, male-dominated hierarchy. Religion wasn’t a big part of my adult life.
However, Chris and I visited Singapore recently, where I encountered Buddhist temples for the first time. I learned that Buddhism is a very large, very old tradition (here’s a nice, quick intro). Instead, I want to talk more about why I like it and what I have taken from it so far.
Respect for the Well-Being of All Life
I love this idea. Of course, when it says “life,” it obviously means that you shouldn’t harm other people. But it goes further to include animals, the environment, and yourself. It argues that you can’t possibly begin to have compassion for others if you don’t first have it for yourself. I really believe this is at the root of so many problems in our lives (more).
The Buddha believed that women were just as capable as men in regard to their spirituality. This is upheld to various degrees based on different traditions. For example, in some schools, senior nuns must defer to novice monks. In others, men and women practice side by side and are afforded equal opportunities to contribute (more).
You guys know that I struggled with this in the past because there are always other things I should be doing – cleaning, studying, cooking, ad nauseam. This drive to stay busy gave me huge anxiety while meditating. Buddhism argues that this anxiety is the strongest argument for meditation. Without concentrated effort and practice, our mind will never stop this perpetual mind vomit of to do lists. Realizing that I was literally unable to turn this off, calm down, and stop obsessing…was a little scary (more).
Studying Buddhism has definitely made me more mindful in little ways. While meditating, I’m more aware of sounds, smells, and sensations. While eating, I focus more on the tastes and textures of my food. While speaking, I often question if I truly believe my words or if I’m simply parroting something that I heard once (more).
This one is hy-ooge. Buddhism really encourages you to examine your life and realize that it’s pretty rad. Consider how many gazillions of life forms exist in the world, from movie stars to cats to little tiny phytoplankton floating in the ocean. Isn’t it fucking amazing that we happened to be born as humans? Not just humans, but humans in a safe country, with shelter and food and education. What are the odds of that, really? Pretty cool (more).
One Last Thing
I didn’t write this because I think Buddhism is superior. Rather, I wanted to share something that, until recently, I had very little exposure to and I believe that it’s relevant to the physical and emotional well-being that I often discuss. In fact, Buddhism argues that people of different spiritualties can easily coexist, so long as we’re nice to each other :)
TL;DR – The Cliff’s Notes Version
- I was unhappy with aspects of my birth religion.
- What I like about Buddhism: It encourages compassion for all creatures, including yourself. It often treats men and women as equals. It encourages meditation. It does not proselytize.
- What I have gained so far: Increased mindfulness and gratitude.
Spirituality – yay or nay?