August 31, 2014

Baby Steps To Dharma…or Somewhere Thereabouts. ~ Brian Westbye

Brian Westbye article

I like Waylon Lewis a lot.

We have never exchanged so much as two syllables in any form, but I like him. Why?

Because he is the Antichrist Buddhist, and so am I.

Start with the name Waylon. That is not the name of an almighty, mystical spiritual-crunchy. That’s the name of a country singer, or a parolee working the night shift at Napa.

Move on to his elephant journal bio pic. Not a robe, nor a shaved head with ponytail to be found. In this picture, Waylon Lewis looks much more like a relief pitcher fielding questions after serving up a 400’ home run. (“Waylon, about that slider you left over the plate in the 9th…”)

Waylon Lewis strikes me as an irreverent guy with a good sense of humor on top of his obvious spiritual balance—the kind of guy you’d love to have a cold one with and ogle chicks across the bar (um…for their spiritual aura).

I’ve always been areligious at best, and I haven’t been on any particular mission to find “spiritual” enlightenment. I’ve read little bits and pieces about Buddhism over the years, but it never even seemed like anything that was approachable. And I practically shrivel and turn to dust in Christian churches. I worship the NFL on Sundays, and I think the last time I was in a church was 1986.

But I’ve always believed in some kind of “higher power.” I’ve always believed that everything that happens in one’s life is perfect, all events unfolding exactly as they were meant to, even the bad stuff.  I’ve just never been sold on the idea of some mysterious sky-deity pulling the strings, nor of achieving peace and enlightenment from sitting barefoot under a Bodhi tree and thinking about shit. (Besides…bare ground! Pinecones! Glass shards!)

Waylon Lewis is a gate-keeper for exactly the kind of enlightenment I can get behind—the kind that says that we are all innately good and worthy (rather than wicked and doomed), and that we can have a hell of a good time while changing the world, and ourselves, for the better.

Life falls out of the sky and into our lap.

We read quotes and lyrics and absorb the message right when we need it. We have conversations and they resonate. We pick up a magazine at the dentist or the mechanic, start to read an article randomly, and something clicks. If we’re open and receptive to these little hints, we can follow the trail to a life-altering place.

My trail has been cracked and broken. When I was 26, I bought a copy of Chögyam Trungpa’s “The Great Eastern Sun” and a book on meditative breathing. I kind of got into the Trungpa, but quickly moved on to something else. And I did the breathing for about a week, and after every session I would flame up a few of my then-ubiquitous Marlboro Mediums. Felt a little better, but somehow not great.

I moved on. And not for the better.

About a year ago I found my depression and penchant for self-destruction winning. While researching my situation online, I stumbled on this site. It clicked.

I thought of “The Great Eastern Sun” and pulled my copy out. It clicked.

I wondered if the publisher, Shambhala Sun, still existed. It did. I read an article by Pema Chödrön.

It totally clicked.

Reading about maitri—unconditional friendliness toward myself—was revelatory. This is a religion? Isn’t religion all about believing how wicked I am and how I’m doomed unless I comport myself in the image of one interpretation of one Almighty, and then proselytize until I induce conversion or nausea?

Buddhism and mindfulness seemed to be about being okay with myself for a change. I can dig that!

And then I started following the work of Waylon Lewis.

Waylon?!? A Buddhist in street-clothes who opines on smoking weed and interviews gorgeous girls?!? Whaaaaaaaaaaaa?!?

It’s clicking.

I’m uncomfortable in general with labels, and I hesitate to call myself a Buddhist, a Warrior, a Republican or Democrat or anything else.

I believe in ideas, not ideology.

I believe in revolutions, not resolutions.

And labels imply rigid belief in a system. I’m much more flexible than that.

But I will say that I think of myself as something of a fledgling Buddhist, a fledgling Warrior in Training. It’s just clicking…the idea that I can believe in myself and that my innate goodness can help and inspire others to find their innate goodness and on and on. The idea that I can be like a drop of water evaporating on a stone, or like a drop of water in the ocean, never lost and perpetually in positive motion.

Choice is mine, always.

I have no idea where I’ll end up on this path to Dharma (or somewhere around there), but I’m becoming more and more comfortable the further I go. Being good to myself is kinda nice after being bad to myself for so long. And I love the idea that I can be a good person and that’s a great start. I love the idea that I can be like an everyday schlub like Waylon Lewis, a guy I like a lot.

An Antichrist Buddhist like me…




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Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Author’s Own


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