Saturday, August 30, 2014

Buddhism 101

I have been listening in the car to a CD by Tibetan Buddhist monk Kelsang Gyatso. I picked it up on the New Books on CD shelf at the library. I knew very little about Buddhism until the past few years, and I still don't know much. The Sanskrit words are all Greek to me (well, not really, because I studied Greek a million years ago so I should probably say all Urdu to me or something like that) and the concepts are ones I only semi-understand, but listening to it calms me down.

He talks about patience, and patient acceptance. That I understand. Understand, and most of the time don't practice. But I've been trying to practice it this week, and it feels good.

It reminds me of the time when my eldest was a toddler and my second a baby, and I was having lunch with my dad and the two kids in that big-ass double stroller that was building me some biceps pushing it all over town. My dad, who is many years sober and has his emotional shit far more together than most people, because decades of 12-stepping will do that to a person, remarked about how calm I was, how I took all the little kid messes and hassles in stride, and was so calm and patient with them.

I was, then. I took things in stride. I was joyful and grateful to be a mother at all, after fearing I'd waited too long and blown it and would never have kids, just an endless series of miscarriages. I was so grateful to be a mother, and really trying to do it right. In retrospect, I see that there was a lot of perfectionism in my attempt, but that's another post.

After that I had more kids and moved out of state, away from my awesomely sober dad and my friends and my support network, my marriage fell apart and I started swearing again (I had totally given it up during my Perfect New Mom phase), got divorced, tried to navigate my way through the working single mom thing, stopped writing and started drinking too much.

Now I have stopped drinking and started writing again, which is much better. And reading things I didn't use to read, like Buddhist stuff. I read something else, I think it was Buddha's Brain (it was the neuroscience rather than the Buddhism that I was after; I love reading about how the brain works),that said all suffering is caused by three things: craving pleasure, trying to avoid pain, and fooling ourselves that things are other than as they are. That made sense, but I am still trying to work out some of the bugs in my head about the pleasure part. More on that in a future post.

Kelsang Gyatso says on the CD that all of our problems stem from what he calls self-grasping ignorance, a concept I am still trying to wrap my very Western and non-Buddhist brain around. What he says about anger I totally get. Anger sucks. I get angry at myself for getting angry, which is both ironic and idiotic, but there you go. Paradox, I guess. But that's Jung, not Buddha, so we'll save that for another post. That's the cool thing about my anonymous blog: I can write stream of consciousness and who gives a shit (I am holding off on that not swearing thing, and calling it battling perfectionism) whereas on my public blog I would feel as though I have to stick to the subject at hand.

So anyway, about the anger. Gyatso is totally dead on about that. Anger is deadly, and the way to combat it is through practicing patient acceptance. I have been practicing the shit out of patient acceptance all week, and it feels great. It's also getting easier. Even without the double stroller.


  1. love this...
    the exploration.
    May I suggest Tara Brach? Buddhist and clinical Psychologist, amazing. She has a website and there are guided meditations and incredible dharma talks galore..made a huge difference in the way i live my life. Her books are amazing too, Radical Acceptance and True Refuge.

  2. A lot of people have recommended her to me. I've been to her website and MEANT to listen to the podcast, but...the best laid plans of mice and men... Thanks for the reminder!