On Being Buddhist

Today I was reading an article about the on the Huffington Post. If you don’t feel like clicking on the links, basically, the Under 35 project is a website devoted to “meditators” (Buddhists) under the age of 35. Normal, every day people submit their writings on a certain subject each month about how they apply the Buddha’s teachings to their life. It’s a fabulous website and I adore it, but I’ll admit I haven’t spent much time reading the entries. But one section of the Huffington Post article really got to me:

“Part of why I share these stories is because I think there are people out there (hello Internet) who will scream “bullshit.” They will say that you can’t drink and be a Buddhist. Or strip and be a Buddhist. Or (and this is why I hate the Internet) be a guy going down on a guy and be a Buddhist.

Yet, here they are folks.”

I just mentioned in my post last night that Buddhism explicitly frowns up drinking. Is it really possible to remain true to the Buddha’s teachings and yet still participate fully in the “world”?? This is a radical concept for me.

I truly believe converts are more devout than those raised in a faith. And because I’m a convert to Buddhism, I feel the need to be super devout – and it has been a great source of internal conflict for me. Even when I belonged to the Christian church, the religion was taught with an air of “if you don’t do this (or if you do this) then you’re not a Christian”, and I suppose I’ve carried over that thinking into my Buddhist practice. I feel like if I’m not being absolutely devout, then I’m failing.

But is that really true??

There is a part of me that desperately wants to pack up everything and become a Buddhist nun. But an even bigger part of me says no, there’s still too much left to accomplish in the world. And a tiny voice also tells me that becoming a nun is just a extreme way to run away from my problems.

I suppose some will argue that if you truly wanted to follow the Buddha’s teachings correctly, you wouldn’t drink or do any of that stuff. But that’s not my question. My question is can you do all of that “negative” stuff and remain true to the Buddha’s teachings?? And it seems that the answer may be yes.

But this brings up a lot of questions of what my practice should look like. I don’t meditate at all right now. I read books occasionally, but my practice boils down right now to trying to keep an attitude of compassion; and when college is in session, attending Buddhist gatherings. That’s certainly a worthy undertaking, but I’ve always chided myself internally for not being more devout. For not setting aside time every day to meditate and not having a better altar and still giving in to my desires.

But maybe I’m wrong to do that. The Buddha says himself not to trust anything anyone tells you until you have tested against your own understanding. Maybe I have forgotten that. Maybe not meditating or having a tiny altar doesn’t make me less of a Buddhist. Maybe that’s what just works for me.

This is a great realization for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to continue improving my practice or deepening my understanding of the Buddha’s teaching, because I do. But it means I don’t have to beat myself up for not being the “ideal Buddhist” (if there even is such a thing).

I feel fabulous right now. I feel freed knowing this. I’m not perfect, and I never will be. My practice works for me, and who cares if it’s not what other people think is “proper” or “ideal”?? I’m not any less of a Buddhist because of it.

I seems like such a vivid future lies ahead of me now, full of opportunities and possibilities unknown and unseen. It is an amazingly wonderful, glorious feeling.

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The Art of being Me, and mixing with Society.

Tonight I ponder one of the most cliché yet profoundly important questions one could ask themselves: Who am I?? And more specifically, can I change who I am??

Tonight was my MTV night: the season premiere of Awkward and a new episode of Snooki & Jwoww’s show. And so, by being bombarded by MTV’s definition of “normal”, I ask myself if I could ever be like that.

There is an ideal version of “female” I’ve always held in my head, an ideal version of me I’ve never been able to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, I pretty much love all of myself. But there are things, traits, that are absent from my personality that I’ve always desired.

My ideal self follows along the line of something like this: keep all of my already existent personality/character traits: introspective, intelligent, religiously minded, not materialistic, compassionate, and add some “societal” traits: social, appearance conscious, charismatic…..

Is it possible to combine all of those qualities, or do they naturally cancel each other out?? Is it possible to augment my existing personality to act and behave in a way that’s currently foreign to my nature?? I want to be that girl who always looks her best: hair done, wears heels everyday, super fashionable. But I also want to be that girl who’s super smart and does well in school and succeeds in an academic career. I want to be the girl who surprises people with the topics she’s knowledgeable about. I want to be the girl who goes out drinking with with her friends, who’s always doing something social. I want to be the modern day renaissance woman.

I suppose some might argue that I already fit that mold, but I don’t feel I fit that mold. Just look at the fashion board on my pinterest, it barely resembles my closet. And as per my blog post last night, the whole being social thing is kind of out of the question. I love being an introvert and loathe it at the same time. Is it really possible to change such a large part of one’s personality?? Not to mention, Buddhism explicitly frowns upon certain things I just mentioned (especially drinking). How can I maintain a religious life while conforming to society’s standards??

Can I ever overcome my laziness to become the woman who does everything?? I have chronic laziness problems. And cleanliness problems. But at the same time, I want to be the girl who wakes up at 5 and goes running, has time to make herself fabulous before class, gets all of her homework done that day, and still has time to hang out with her friends. Is that asking too much of myself, or is it just a matter of willpower??

And then there’s the question of the opposite sex. The kind of girl I want to be doesn’t necessarily attract the kind of men I’m interested in. How can I successfully meld myself with society while still retaining the essence of me?? How can I be like everyone else while still making sure that me shines through??

I don’t want to lose myself, but at the same time, I seem to have a constant feeling of dissatisfaction with myself. Is this more a matter of learning to accept myself rather than making myself fit society’s standards??

I don’t know who I want to be.
I wish I could hire someone to give me a makeover or something. I don’t know. I’ve tried “changing” myself in the past but it’s never succeeded, partly because I always had no clue what I was doing, and partly because, it always seemed impossible to make myself fit a mold that wasn’t me.

I guess the question I’m really getting at is, is one’s personality fixed, or can it be molded well into adulthood??

I guess it depends how badly one wants it or how necessary change is. And I guess in my case, I should really figure out if there are even any merits to molding myself to society’s standards. Is it really as fulfilling as I think it is, or is it just an empty promise?? Would it make me happy??

….No. Probably not.

On Being Alone

I have writer’s block.

I kind of feel like I’d like to write everyday on this blog. I love writing. It has always been an emotional escape for me, the easiest way to express myself. And if I can write everyday, then I can improve my writing.

But I have writer’s block right now.

I don’t know what to write about. I want to write something beautiful, moving, tear-inducing. I want to make people ponder and wonder and think, an activity that seems to be in short supply these days. But my brain will not produce any such topic for me to write about.

I fear disappointing the few readers I seem to have already accrued. I don’t want to bore them with my inane rambling about my day. I want to give them a reason to read.

I tried to write a post earlier about loneliness and fame. But I got nowhere. It seemed to lack substance and interest. It was a thinly veiled attempt to struggle with my own fear of loneliness, and my strange, illogical desire for fame.

But perhaps that’s what I wanted to get at. Is the desire for fame really illogical?? When I think about what fame entails: harassing paparazzi, exhausting hours, constant fear of being ousted from Hollywood, it seems to me to be a fairly illogical desire. And yet, when you’re famous, you have the comfort of knowing someone always cares about you. Someone always cares about what you’re doing, who you’re with. And that is a very human need to fill.

I struggle with being alone. I have learned from many years of introversion and isolation how to deal with, and succeed, while alone – in fact, I thrive in aloneness. But I struggle with being emotionally alone. Emotional aloneness is what threw me into a 3 year depression. Emotional aloneness is what made me contemplate suicide. I felt like no one cared about me or my struggles, my opinions.

I was miserable. Writing is one of the few things that helps me alleviate emotional loneliness. And while I am nowhere near as alone as I was when I was depressed, I have friends now who support me whenever I’m down, I still live with an underlying fear of being alone.

And it seems to be a popular fear in our culture.

I’m confused why our culture has developed as such to promote socializing and constant interaction. Why is aloneness not valued or promoted?? Why are loners ostracized rather than embraced?? Much can be accomplished when one is alone.

I don’t know what I’m getting at here. I can ramble on about the values of being alone, but that doesn’t change the fact that I myself find discomfort with it. I’m still here aren’t I?? Broadcasting my inner thoughts to an unfeeling Internet in hopes of someone reading my posts.

When does it end??

I feel like an anomaly when I can’t socialize the way society dictates I should. I shy away from parties and people I don’t know. My ex could never understand why I shut down in those situations. Whether I like aloneness or not, I am a loner by society’s definition.

Thats not to say there’s something wrong with me. There isn’t. I’ve embraced my introversion and graciously accept the gifts it allows me, like writing and self reflection. I only wish society saw the merits as well. And I only wish that certain people in my life understood what introversion entails, why I struggle to do certain social tasks.

Perhaps it’s a pipe dream, I doubt society will start embracing and promoting introversion anytime soon. Society has been bred to place the extroverts ahead. But I can dream. And luckily for me, I’ve found similar introvert friends and extrovert friends who embrace my introversion. And that is all I can ask for.

Musings about “Meant to be”

I’m sitting here staring at the little screen of my iPhone and I want to write, but I don’t know what to say. I want it to be eloquent; I want it to sound like I spent hours agonizing over every word, but how can I write if I don’t know what to say??

Earlier today I was quite curious to have others’ opinions about fate, or destiny, or both. I’m not sure if those words are interchangeable. I’ve spent many a nights wondering about fate, and whether it exists. I’m Buddhist, and Buddhism tells me fate and destiny do not exist. Because I’m Buddhist, I don’t believe in an omnipotent and omniscient creator god who guides my life like my mother believes. But the human in me, the part that’s emotional, illogical, impulsive, it wants to believe, oh so desperately. Not so much in god, but in fate, in order. The human in me still has a hard time accepting the atheistic idea of randomness and chaos.

I’ve tried looking for answers, for evidence for and against the existence of fate, of divine providence; but I can find nothing. It seems fate is something you either believe in, or you don’t. There’s no evidence in either direction, it’s one of those faith prerogatives. But faith is something I have a hard time trusting.

I seem to pick and choose when I want to believe in fate or destiny. I’m currently accruing thousands of dollars in college loan debt, yet I have faith that everything will work out, I’ll be able to get a decent job after college. That implies a belief in….something. As a child I always believed I was put on this earth for a specific purpose, that I would accomplish something great one day. That sounds a little like destiny right?? Yet I can’t seem to make a solid decision of belief. I seem to cling to it only when it’s convenient or comfortable.

And the Dean Koontz book I’m reading, From the Corner of his Eye, brings up even more questions I’ve yet to find an answer to. If fate or destiny really does exist, can it be predicted, foretold; do humans have that power?? I used to use tarot cards fairly regularly but fell out of favor with them after converting to Buddhism. But occasionally, in my most desperate moments, I use them in the hopes of finding even the slightest hint of guidance. Science tells me tarot cards are bunk, a waste of money, nothing more than pictures printed on paper; but a part of me believes.

I don’t know if my belief in such things is irrational, fueled by emotion and fear or if there’s any legitimacy to it.

Sometimes I wish I believed in the Christian creator god, so I could have an imaginary shoulder to lean on, have the comfort of knowing he will take care of everything. But I don’t believe, and so I’m left to puzzle about this mystery on my own. Hopefully people will be inclined to leave their opinion on this topic, because I haven’t got a clue.

Letter to my Ex

As I sit here listening to music you gave me, I can’t help but cry. And cry harder than I have in probably a month.

It still hurts. The wounds are just as fresh as if we’d broken up yesterday. I can’t seem to make myself stop thinking about you. And I can’t seem to make myself stop loving you.

There are no words to articulate how lonely I feel, how hurt and betrayed I feel. You were my prince charming, my superman. I believed in you more than I believed in myself. I believed in us, and it feels like you just gave up.

I used to believe that love conquered all. Now I wonder if you ever truly loved me, at least, if you ever loved me the way I loved you. When I say “I love you” I mean it forever. And I wanted to spend forever with you. But now you’re gone. All of my hopes and plans, shattered.

How can I forget the way you treated me after we broke up?? How can I forget the pain you’ve caused?? Even though you’ve apologized, promised to try better, how can I forget those wounds?? In less than a month you managed to shatter every good opinion I had of you. And somehow, I miraculously still love you. I still make myself suffer in order to stay friends. I wonder if you realize that’s why I’ve stuck around.

You told me if it was meant to be, it will be. If not now, then later. But I struggle to believe that. I struggle to believe in fate. I tend to believe that “meant to be” is actually just a lot of hard work. And if we were “meant to be” you would’ve put in the hard work necessary to make that a reality. Even though you assured me otherwise a thousand times, I still manage to blame myself. I recognize the mistakes I made in the relationship, but I also believed that those were easy enough to overcome. I still feel like I could’ve done something different.

The man I met when we first started dating, is not the man that exists now. Yes change can be good, but I don’t know if I like who you’re changing into. I now find myself wondering if I’m in love with a memory. I don’t know if I’m even love with the “real” you anymore. Because the man I fell in love with, would’ve never hurt me the way you have done.

I want to believe that life will work itself out, but I’m scared. I scared I was wrong about believing we were soul mates. I’m scared of the future. I’m scared of who you’ll become. I’m scared of losing you a second time. And most of all, I’m scared I’ll never find someone who measures up to you. Even after all the shit you put me through, you still have many immensely positive qualities that I’m afraid I won’t be able to find again in the same person.

I wonder if you could ever really be the person I need you to be. I wonder if you could ever love me the way I need to be loved. I’ve searched endlessly for answers, about the future, and life, and fate. But still no answers have been found.

I wish I knew what to do. I wish there was a way to make you love me again. But I know there’s not. I wish I knew what the future held, but only time will answer these questions. I wish I could get inside your head and know why. Why did you say you love me and still wind up leaving me?? And what made you stop loving me?? It’s a thought that still baffles me, as I have never broken up with anybody. I’ve always been forced to stop loving. I just wish I could understand your inner thoughts, but those are something that even in our relationship, you hesitated to share fully.

I don’t know if I feel like writing more. It’s all seems repetitive after a while, and none of it makes a difference anyways. Writing about it doesn’t change the current state of things, it’s just a temporary emotional release.

I never stop loving people, and I know I will never stop loving you. I hope eventually I can deaden my love enough to move on completely. I hope you figure yourself out, at the very least to prevent you from hurting future girlfriends like the way you hurt me. I don’t know if I’m yet ready to say I want you to be happy regardless of whether you’re with me, but maybe I’ll get there eventually.

I just hope you never forget me. And always have good memories of me. Know that I loved you more completely and fully than I have ever loved anyone in my life. And know there will always be a room for you in my heart.

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