Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life


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Renewing My Vows

FrogBuddha

I started this blog nearly two years ago, a fact I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. In the beginning, I had boundless energy for Buddhism and the project of blogging, but I’ve fallen off startlingly in the last year. As I was explaining to my amazing Creative Women’s Cocktail Hour group last night, in a week I feel like so many other things demand my attention: my kid, my house, my “real” writing, my teaching, trying to get published (we all have this story in our lives, no?), and blogging has fallen to the end of the list. It has both to do with logistics and some sense that this blog is less relevant to my work, and lately, I am almost all about what’s relevant. Over the summer I had two personal essays published in major magazines, and that’s given me the idea that I need to stay the course in terms of trying to get widely published in hopes that more will happen for me, that my memoir will get picked up or I’ll become somewhat, you know, known. 

Besides, so many changes in our lives. Kindergarten started at a brand new school, we moved (across the street), I started to work full time. It’s been a lot, though I am happy to report that these transitions have been fairly smooth for the whole family.

But for at least six months I have known that it’s time to throw myself into a new writing project, a big one. My memoir is still kicking around, and these essays keep coming, but I need a guiding principle in my writing life. As it happens, last week I shared this blog with a friend who is writing a book with a component in it about mindfulness and meditation (she, I would say fairly, is a skeptic), and her first reaction to the My Story page was–“wow, this would make a great book proposal.” Funny, because when I started this blog I had thought of it  that way–as a personal project but also, potentially, as a writing project. And then the writing part fell away. Her reminder that my original intention–to document my attempt to live a more mindful life–was still a possibility has really had me thinking. I had thought my next big project was a novel–a novel about violence, with a strong element of humor–but it also occurs to me that a book about this project, the Becoming Buddhist project, might be worth reading.

So where does that leave me? I don’t know; I think I’m going to start the novel, to see what happens, but also renew my commitment to this blog and to my meditation practice. I’ll try to blog every week; I’ll explore more. And I’ll see what happens. It means some rearranging of my life; I’ll have to push some of the logistical bits and pieces–the hours I spend crafting letters to agents and researching small presses, for example–to evenings and weekends, but that’s okay I think.

Tomorrow is my birthday. My birthday wish: clear vision.

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Why Are Blessings So Hard to Accept?

I’ve had such a wonderful few weeks. On May 17, my spring semester ended, and I turned in final grades a few days later. Lex’s school has been in session the whole time, which means, yes–my somewhat harried usual 15-20-hours-of-work-in-20-hours-of-childcare (and grading on the weekends) became long days with no grading to do and no kid to chase around until 12:30 or 3:00 p.m., sometimes 4:00. Sometimes, during these breaks (I get two long ones, and one short, per year), I can’t concentrate, and I fritter away the days worrying about the missing paychecks, but for whatever reason I fully embraced this break.

I:

  • Fulfilled my goal of sending out my memoir to at least 3 agents a week (my general goal was 5 submissions a week, of the memoir, of essays, whatever)
  • Finished up and sent out one essay
  • Drafted and polished another, and sent it out, too
  • Blogged
  • Figured out Twitter (insofar as one can do such a thing!)
  • Lazily graded the papers and exams I needed to for the other school where I teach very part-time
  • Got caught up with my preschool chair duties
  • Cleaned my house
  • Read some books
  • Cooked some good food
  • Meditated
  • Relaxed and concentrated on my IVF
  • And, today, went to yoga.

Formal yoga classes have left my life sphere in the last year or so. This started as a logistical issue; I couldn’t find a teacher I particularly liked, and all of the classes were either too long or at the wrong time. Then I decided that I’d rather save the money for a house (in these parts $16 per class is a good deal–oof–and a tiny house costs $650,000–double oof). So I began just doing a little yoga at home and the occasional 20-minute video here and there, which, actually, is pretty sustaining (try it!). So when I decided last minute today to hit a lunch-hour yoga class with a friend, it felt indulgent, exciting, and just a little bit like…a guilty pleasure.

Ah, guilt.

A little reminder that sits on the kitchen cupboard at a friend's house

A little reminder that sits on the kitchen cupboard at a friend’s house

At the class, the teacher talked about the concept of wounds, and how we heal from wounds by seeking out experiences that fulfill needs we missed as children. Some of this didn’t make sense to me; I of course have my wounds, but the ones the teacher was referencing were not ones I feel I need to address, exactly. Nonetheless it got me thinking about ways that I hurt–that we all hurt–and how those same hurts come up, again and again. And my experience of being in that class–feeling an inexplicable guilt because many of my friends were at work; my husband was at work; I was paying someone else to watch my kid while I was at yoga; etc etc etc–was compounded by the realization that one of my wounds is this inability to accept the blessings in my life without feeling guilty for them.

Put another way: why, when I have the chance to go to noon yoga, or morning meditation, or take a nap in the afternoon, why do I not think, wow, what a lucky, blessed life, that I can do this? and instead go to, you’re such a privileged little shit, you who only works part time and gets 12 weeks off a year. You suck.

This kind of guilt has pretty much plagued me my whole life. Call it white guilt, or privileged guilt, or just plain-old guilt, I always feel guilty for the good fortune I have had and conflicted when things are really going right for me, like I don’t deserve it.

Interestingly, this revelation dovetailed with something that happened yesterday. A writer friend told me she thinks I need more “mystery” on my writing blog, less an air of “Oh God I want to be published so badly” and more of an air of “I have so many irons in the fire, so much great is happening, look at me.” At first, this unsolicited advice really hurt. It made me feel I was doing something wrong. After, it made a little sense. It made sense because she reminded me that a) a prestigious publication has an essay of mine right now and is deliberating; and b) a prestigious literary agent is looking at my book. Both of these things are true! They’re flattering! It’s great! BUT, I am also the type of person who feels that more than likely neither of those great possibilities will pan out, and, I guess I am too superstitious to assume they will.

Now I’m a bit muddled. I think what I’m getting at is that it feels difficult to accept that blessings are all around me, and that, well, great things could happen for me and do happen for me and that I’m very lucky and I don’t need to feel guilty for having time off or good fortune or the ability to go to yoga sometimes. And, on the other I hand, nor do I need to feel less than authentic when shitty things happen to me.

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May I be open to the joy and happiness in my life. And may you, reader, too.