By Ty H. Phillips
Buddhism isn’t about making things pretty.
It’s about paying attention and we aren’t paying attention when we are distracted by fanciful thinking. Reality is nuts and bolts, earth and rain—not a series of new-agey positive psychology.
Falling off of the excited convert train is hard.
Filled with excitement and zeal for months, we teach and preach to anyone who will listen and then the reality sets in. Kids are behaving badly, relationships crumble, friends and family members die and our once dearly held sense of equanimity is realized to be fragile. Our pride in our own equipoise comes crashing down.
The struggle kicks in; the disappointment that we didn’t become enlightened in the last few months of revelry is realized and we blame Buddhism.
It is all a big delusion. It must be.
How else can we explain this profound let down? After all, we meditated every day and chanted and read a ton of books. We went to half a dozen Buddhist centers and facebooked the hell out of sutra passages. So many walk away at this point. When the zeal of conversion has worn away, anger has set in, anxiety bubbles up on the surface and we are cranky. That polished turd has made our fingers dirty.
Here though, is where it gets good, because we begin dealing with reality as it is—our hurts, our doubts, our anger and disappointment in hocus pocus thinking. All of our hang ups are hanging out and we can really apply what we think we know to who we think we are. We tend to use distractions for just that, which is actually distracting us from ourselves. Buddhism is designed to do the opposite. Now that we are exposed and open, we can truly get to work.
The path doesn’t start when we are happy, it starts when we are not.
Like a book with a beautiful dust jacket and intricate etchings, the content is missed when we don’t open the pages and read. We look at the art and miss the spaces. We sit it on a shelf and watch it collect dust and find ourselves puzzled by our stupidity of the subject. Buddhism is not just the path of effort but right application of that effort. We learn to apply it correctly as a medicine when we actually take it as prescribed.
When we are ready to face our hang ups, the rugged edges and broken pieces, we are ready to really start the medicine of the buddhadharma. Being down in the dumps, ready to call it quits and go spiritual window shopping once more means now is the time to make effort into skillful means.
Until then, we are only playing at Buddhism.
Photo: Roel Wijnants/Flickr
Editor: Dana Gornall