Going to the Buddhist Centre for the first time can often be a decision that does not arrive with ease.
A respected member of the society, with the status you have earned, with all the fun you have, and the money you make, a sudden need to sit down and meditate (or pray) obviously indicates that something is WRONG with you. Your family will be concerned, your friends will say “whaaaaat?” and you will be left totally confused.
Do you not know what you should do next? Go back to the Buddhist Centre and meditate some more. Hah!
I am no Zen Master, nor am in any other way certified to tell you what to do, but let me just share the experience of a single day, that took me to the best of me. The day I decided that I was, and wanted to be—spiritual. Why? Just because some people are spiritual, and some are non-spiritual, as in smoker/ non-smoker, heterosexual/ gay, omnivore/ vegan. It simply is a choice, based on how you experience the world, and how you want to relate to it.
The very first meditation session took me—an art school graduate, working on 25 (approximately) projects at a time, being in a relationship, with free entrances to gigs, with famous friends and party invitations—to the place I was trying to get to through all my projects, friends, gigs, parties and relationships. A single meditation session immediately did it for me. Just like this, boom.
The practice would soon start making such a difference to my life that I felt keeping it solely to myself wouldn’t be fair. It just felt like a great gift that must be shared, but… how? All these people—they will have all these wrong ideas, prejudices, they will get it all wrong, think you are silly, suggest a psychotherapy… Moreover, I had noticed that lots of people practicing at the Buddhist Centre kept this Buddhist part of their life strictly private. They would not talk about it with friends and remove the tags of them from the retreats on Facebook. This did not suit me. It just reminded me of the smoking behind the sheds in the school yard.
Wait, does practice make me a better person? Yes. Does practice bring me joy and peace of mind? Yes. Does it harm anyone in any way? No. Do I think being spiritual is cool? Yes. Do I think I need some psychotherapy? No. There you go.
So, go out and tell them. Redecorate your room, wear an OM pendant openly, do not be embarrassed if your mala falls out of your bag in the office, or perhaps simply put it right to you on your desk. Keep true to yourself. If anyone asks, explain. If anyone teases, try and laugh with them. If anyone is concerned, invite them to a practice session so they can see “the danger” for themselves.
Listen, considering yourself a spiritual person does not leave you a moron, period. Yet if someone is advocating the opposite, in ex-Catholic traditions this may be, for instance, a rudimental opinion dating back to times when science started to have won over the Church’s set of rigid beliefs formed by people who were not necessarily very good people. In great numbers, we overcame the domination of the Church as an institution long time ago, and yet some tint on terms like “spirituality” still remains.
I say it is about time to wash this word in soapy water and introduce it freshly. There it goes:
“I am spiritual. This means I believe in the miracle of birth and death, the miracle of breathing the air, seeing, hearing and walking on Earth. I hold sacred questions of who I am and what does it mean to exist. I accept that there are no clear answers known to us about our origin and function as living beings. I only know that when your heart is open it feels really good. I believe in values such as kindness, non-violence, generosity, mindfulness, tolerance and courage. I believe every act we perform should originate from love, not fear. I practice being mindful and respectful of the environment I was born into because I did not create it, and yet it serves me well. I choose to practice positive states of mind. I choose to love.”
So come out and come here, you spiritual sexy thing.
Olya Samadhi is a performance artist, activist, blogger, yoga teacher, aspiring Bodhisattva. Presently practicing in London. Finding peace in bringing people together, committing positive together-actions, drinking tea and birthing new ideas that will possibly save the world.
Like elephant spirituality on Facebook
Assistant Ed. Lacy Rae Ramunno/Kate Bartolotta
(Photo Credit: Provided by Olya from a Five Precepts Ceremony, in Korean Kwan Um Zen tradition.)