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Posts Tagged ‘Buddhist’

My name is Olivia. I have been practicing Zen Buddhism for about 6 years. I don’t claim to be specially “trained” in Zen, nor am I formally educated in topics such as spirituality or philosophy. I’m basically a regular person who has found profound peace and joy through Zen practice. In fact, it saved my life 6 years ago. Perhaps I’ll expound on that in a later post.

Following is a little history about me and why I have decided to create this blog:
I grew up as a devout Southern Baptist in a small town. I was a youth leader for my church and I also led a traveling youth mission team for my local college. I have many fond memories of those days… most of which involved deeply and spiritually connecting with other people who truly wanted to do good things in this world. It was exhilarating to be able to be so open and vulnerable with other people — to learn from them, help them, and experience the joys and sadness that life brings. They were like a family to me. It didn’t matter what you looked like, what clothes you wore, or how rich or poor you were — they accepted you as you were. Well… as long as you believed exactly as they did.

That’s actually where we had issues. I had friends outside of my church who were Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Church of God, Atheist and Agnostic. I hadn’t met anyone who was Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or any other religions outside of those at the time; however I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have treated them any differently. The truth is, I was always interested in their beliefs and, subsequently, I was turned off by the fact that my own church rejected everything that didn’t fit into their idea of the true way to worship God. For my young, 19-year-old mind, it was just too close-minded for me to bear, particularly since I felt that there were far more important things to spend your days thinking about. I eventually walked away from my religion altogether and began searching for a different path. Walking away from the church was actually like losing a family. Even now, as I have found peace in my Buddhist teaching, I miss that very much.

10 years later I discovered Zen Buddhism, which, as I said previously, saved my life and helped me to bring a fresh and healthy perspective on life. The teachings I read from my books helped me to be a kinder, wiser, more compassionate person. My meditations helped me to be more focused, happy, patient, and accepting. As a new practitioner of Zen, I immediately began searching for a Zen community and a spiritual teacher or guide.

For about a year or so, I frequently visited my local Zendo for group meditation practice. A group of about 5 or 6 of us would burn incense, ring a brass bell, chant, and perform sitting and walking meditation for about 2 hours. Practicing in this way was certainly a test of discipline, especially when your feet tingle and go to sleep, you have to cough, you’re tired, or even if your nose starts whistling! I’m a fairly disciplined person, but I have to admit that I found it to be difficult at times. I was dismayed that the Zendo did not actively perform community service. It was as though we were sitting in a room, dreaming of peace and happiness to reach the corners of the earth without actually doing anything about it. I had a difficult time accepting that, so I stopped going.

Actually, there was an additional reason why I stopped going to the Zendo — I never felt like I had a guide or a real teacher. We performed meditation, chanting, and ringing of bells, but I always had unanswered questions. My mind was hungry to get at the essence of Zen, but I had nobody to help show me the way. I was reading “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” by Suzuki Roshi. In fact, I’ve probably read the book no less than 15 times. It is quite esoteric and filled with unique analogies that are sometimes difficult understand, particularly for Westerners. However it is truly a wonderful book. There are instructions on how, physically and mentally, to meditate. But even the book says that the student of Zen needs a teacher.

I tend to agree.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find anyone in my Maryland suburban community who is a Zen teacher. That is why I have created this blog. There is a Chinese proverb that says, San ren tong xing, bi you wo shi. Translated, it means, Three people walking together have more knowledge among them than any one master. My hope is that by sharing among us our thoughts and experiences, we can be as teachers to each other. Perhaps we can even start a community.

I don’t know all of the answers of life, nor do I wish to know them. But I do believe that the act of searching for them is what makes life interesting and wonderful. I ask you to take this journey of exploration by freely reading the posts and sharing your thoughts. Any and all comments are welcome on this blog. I wish you peace and joyous life.

Namaste!

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