Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life


Taking a Break

Long silence. (Actually I blogged on Christmas, but just found that post saved as a draft. Oops.)

I was with my family in New England for the holidays, and though I managed to meditate the first few days I was there, the practice quickly went out the window. This had to do with logistics, like jet lag, and not much private space, but I think also, mostly, had to do with the culture at my parents’ house, where I grew up.

My folks are lovely, lovely people. They really are. And they are also the type of folks who get up every morning and steep a cup of black tea for 10+ minutes before popping it down the hatch. They have another cup around noon. They bustle about, finding things to do. My dad is prone to periods of hanging out, but my mom seems to always feel that something needs to be done and is not getting done; she’ll invent errands or jobs or projects. When we were there we drove to the store every single day, I’m sure, and every meal was a production (a delicious production, but still).

A couple days in, Lex said to me, “I feel like we’re never going back to Berkeley!” I knew what he meant. I was drinking that strong tea along with everyone else, getting impatient with Marc’s…laid-back ways, and generally feeling the East coaster in me coming out. And I was definitely not meditating.

But I was noticing. I was noticing that I was not blogging and I was noticing that I was not meditating and I was noticing my impatience with a) my husband’s laid-back ways and b) my mother’s moments. Mostly I felt like I was on vacation from the practice. But this morning, back home, I got up for a very stiff yoga session and a brief meditation.

And so I start to build again.

One of my resolutions–and I have addressed the idea of resolutions before–is to work at this practice in January. That resolution goes in the pot with the plan to finish my book; start a fossil-fuels divestment campaign at my alma mater; clean my house to within an inch of its life; and explore my fertile and not-so-fertile self. The biggest resolution is to do it all calmly, mindfully, and in a balanced way. I don’t teach in January, you see. I am so excited for a break.


On Making Resolutions, or What I Learned from Reading The Happiness Project

I just finished Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, a book that in a roundabout way had some bearing on my decision to undertake this project. As I said in My Story, I’m not doing an experiment in happiness, exactly, but nonetheless Rubin’s decision to take a year to improve her relationships, be more mindful, clear out clutter, and pursue a passion definitely appealed to me. She and I are very different people, but I liked and admired her strange, thoughtful, and sometimes-hokey journey through self-improvement.

The Goddess in the side yard

The book is full of resolutions, and I must admit that was part of its appeal. I love to make resolutions: resolutions to be more tidy, resolutions to write more, resolutions to do yoga everyday, and the biggie, this resolution to find a spiritual life and live more mindfully. I have to admit, though, that I can’t tell whether resolutions are actually antithetical to what I’m trying to do. I struggle with the dichotomy of “get your ass to yoga, slacker” and “actually, if you choose not to go to yoga–and have a glass of wine instead–that’s A-ok.” I know Buddhism, and any spiritual practice, really, is about discipline. I also know that personally, I err way on the side of giving myself too many tasks to accomplish and things to do, and sometimes, the best choice for me would be saying no–even to yoga.

So I had an idea. I decided to make some mindful resolutions. What’s a mindful resolution, you ask? Well, resolutions that take me beyond those states like Ego, Anger, and Animality–and closer to Enlightenment. Resolutions that ultimately might help me end dukkha (suffering). Being more tidy is a good resolution, but let’s face it, it won’t bring me closer to God. Or will it?

Stay tuned, readers: next week. My mindful resolutions.

To read: The Happiness Project