Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life


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Choosing Silence

I didn’t actually choose to be silent the last few weeks. When I had the time to write and read blog posts, the Internet in Maine was like something out of the early nineties. I was on an island, and every thunderstorm or slight wind would knock everything out of commission for an afternoon or a day; once it came back on it would take five minutes to send one email.

The Path.

The Path.

Then when the Internet miraculously started working again I also started teaching again, picked up an online course that needed a sub, fast!–and I was spending all my kid-free time reading and grading. I kept wondering what I was missing over here in Buddhist Bloglandia, and one day I finally accepted: I’m not posting again, or checking in with Momaste, Bussokuseki, Amanda, and others, until I get back to Berkeley.

It was interesting, how difficult this felt. A few hours of work a day, that took me away from my blogging, while on an island Paradise with my family? Who could complain? And isn’t the point of a vacation to, well, unplug? On the other hand, I felt desperate to be blogging, maybe because, being on said island Paradise–with my family–I was testing my mindfulness at every turn, and I wanted that little piece of community and camaraderie to ground me.

The Path was everywhere back East.

The Path was everywhere back East.

I definitely felt conflicted, and aware of all these feelings like guilt (“I should be blogging!”), anxiety (“what if I lose all my readers?”), frustration (“fucking Internet!”)–fascinating. Finally I told myself that not being able to blog was perhaps one of the simplest yet important challenges of my new “Zen over it” lifestyle. I couldn’t post; there was no reason for guilt, frustration, or anxiety. It just was.

And so, without meaning to, I found…silence.

This morning, meditating, I thought a bit about silence, and it occurred to me how much of a good exercise taking a break actually was. While being away from the Bs (Berkeley, Becoming Buddhist, Blogs generally), I realized how important silence is, and how much, lately, I have been embracing it.

Now, I am a veritable chatterbox, and many of you close to me are probably cracking up at the moment (Right. Point taken). I mean, I have an ongoing case of laryngitis from talking too much. I cannot NOT process most facets of my marriage. I’m compulsively social. Etcetera. But lately I’ve been finding myself in a group situation and realizing, I don’t have to talk right now if I don’t feel like it. Or I’ll open my mouth to process something with my husband and think, I could skip it this time. Maybe I keep a revelation to myself instead of sharing it immediately. The idea comes to me and I think, oh my God, I could just…not…talk.

It’s a whole new world, people.

So this morning, after I’d ruminated on all this for a bit, I thought, wow, maybe I need to go on a silent meditation retreat. It just might be time.

Oops, I think that was a revelation that I shared immediately. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?

It’s good to be back.

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Scattershot Summer

I’ve had a post brewing for a few days but it’s felt scattered and unformed, and then I realized: perfect. How appropriate.

I’m in Maine with my parents and my son, and I’m thinking about how everything, always, is a duality of good/bad, right/wrong, confusing/clear, difficult/easy.

For example:

This is one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I know, yet I miss the bustle of Berkeley.

I craved the peacefulness of this place for weeks, but now I’m here, I can’t relax.

Being close to my parents makes me realize how much I miss them, but it also makes me realize how difficult it is to be with one’s parents.

Lex is adorable, but he is also, as a friend recently remarked, “fucking four”–loud, rude, inconsiderate.

Lex is perfectly normal, yet I worry that my relatives think maybe he’s an asshole.

I told myself a break from making a baby and a break from writing would be okay, good, but since I’ve been here I’m anxious about all the hours I’m not writing or making a baby.

I have been wanting to make space for these feelings of dissatisfaction, while at the same time, I feel guilty when I remember how lucky I am to have this nice life.

Etc.

Lately I have been reflecting on how my meditation practice this year has gotten me out of some sticky situations, mostly because, when I’m being mindful, I’m kinder to myself about what I perceive as failures and setbacks. I remember to be gentle, to have lovingkindness and temperance.

Lately I have also been reflecting on how challenging this year might have been if I hadn’t been meditating–and already, it feels like it’s been quite challenging. If anything, the negative voices in my head have increased. The stress about my writing has felt more overt, more divisive, more painful. The pain about being–say it–infertile–has been palpable. Meditation has helped me to deal with these feelings more, sure, but the feelings are still there, and I wonder if, along the road, when you start to practice sometimes things get worse before they get better.

On this issue in particular, I really want clarity.