“Mom, Dad … I’m not a Catholic,” I said, with as sober an expression as my 16-year-old face could muster. “I don’t know, maybe I’m a Buddhist,” I added, trying to offer them something in the way of consolation …
Rite of Passage?
It was the evening after my Confirmation, a Rite of Passage in the Catholic Church which was about as unmoving to me (spiritually-speaking) as any other ritual I’d endure for the first decade and a half of my life as a Catholic.
Where the “maybe I’m a Buddhist” bit came from was a mystery to me at the time – and for decades after. It just sort of blurted from my lips in the moment. Unplanned. Unexpected.
Needless to say, my parents weren’t at all please by the bombshell I’d just dropped on them, nor consoled by the Buddhism offering. (It was the first of several ‘sobering’ talks I sat them down for over the years, god bless them!)
There’s a name for folks like me, it’s called ‘Recovering Catholic’, and it’s prevalent among those of us whose experience in the church was tainted by guilt-tripping priests and petty tyrant catechism nuns. But this post isn’t an attempt to Catholic-bash. Some of the kindest people I’ve ever known are Catholics (including my wonderful parents!) This post is about a memory of a long ago talk that was, well, a bit prophetic as it turns out.
Prophesy Come to Pass?
Some 23 years after that ‘sit-down’ with Mom & Dad, I found myself on the shores of a deeply Buddhist nation. And while I had literally pulled the concept from the ethers all those years ago, I was now immersed in the real deal – Theravada Buddhism. I was living in Thailand, where the sound of chanting monks and the golden spires of temples are ubiquitous. I was finding out what this ‘Buddhism’ stuff actually was. Culturally-speaking, anyway.
Intellectually, I did learn a thing or two over my 4+ years in that Eastern Kingdom. And in time, I developed a meditation practice. But not in any true ‘Buddhist’ sense of the word. All I knew in those Thailand years was that monks wear saffron robes, don’t eat after noon, chant a lot, and often only enter the sangha (brotherhood of monks) for a brief stint before marriage.
Later on I learned about the Insight and Vipassana traditions, but not while I was living there. And not in connection with any sort of Buddhist awakening.
Waking Up to Buddhism
Fast-forward again and I find myself listening to a man at a conference who is ‘speaking my language’ when it comes to spiritual meaning. Although I’d never heard of him before, it turns out that Jack Kornfield is one of the most beloved and followed Buddhist teachers who presented at the WakeUp Festival, held in Estes Park this August.
Kornfield’s presentation, “The Awakened Heart” moved me deeply. And in a gentle way, I could say it has changed my life. Not only did this compassionate, wise and mirthful man guide us through meditations of abiding peace and connection, he also taught priceless principles of Buddhism in a way that I, a 21st century Western Woman could completely make sense of.
Following his talk, I did a little research. Who was this man anyway? And what lineage of Buddhism was he coming from? I mean, there’s Tibetan Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, there’s Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana, there’s Tantric, and Dharmaguptaka and Mulasarvastivada … But while they all stem from the original teachings of Siddartha Guatama, each lineage, after 2,500+ years, offers quite different practices perspectives.
Can you guess? Yep. Jack Kornfield studied Buddhism and was for a time, an ordained monk, in Thailand. No wonder, eh?
“… so maybe I am a Buddhist afterall, ma,” I said to my mom the other day.
“It sounds like maybe you are Dawn,” she replied.
Just a little note here to say that, while I am deeply moved by the teachings I am exploring, I still resist religious labels. Why? Because truly I believe that
All Paths Lead to One
And if the truth that speaks to you – the truth that calls you to live your deepest, highest, most soul-purposeful-Self is Catholic or Buddhist or any other religion (or a combination of many!) then as long as you connect with the wisdom of its founder and disconnect with the dogma of the many lesser men who followed, then I say ….
Blessed, Blessed Be!
What spiritual tradition, religion or combination of sacred teachings are guiding you most deeply at this time? Please share the Wisdom which moves you in the comments below.