By Julia Prentice
I am a baby Buddhist.
I am becoming, unfolding like the 8 fold path, with twists and turns and ups and downs. There are many more folds than eight for me right now. I am attempting meditation, some days more fruitful than others, and some days I don’t choose it and feel the loss and shame of not living up to my high, high standards. Other days my mind is jumping like a fish out of water, flopping and struggling to breathe. Then I remember my Buddhist teacher, and saying good morning to myself in the mirror, and loving-kindness towards self…oops I messed up again. And over and over.
This path isn’t a cake-walk.
I think I have always been drawn towards being loving and kind—some things that weren’t always there as I grew up and left my family of origin. I practiced on animals by showering pets with affection; my horse, dogs, cats, and quite a few rescued wild baby birds. My sisters and I even cried when we caught the little fish in the pond and had trouble getting the hook out to throw them back. I never thought I would feel like that fish, caught on a hook.
When teenage years hit, a depression followed that robbed me of desire to do anything. Everything was a huge struggle, even getting out of my room to go eat or getting ready for school. I truly hated myself, but anger and hatred had been taboo for so long. I believe this was the downward spiral into darkness.
My parents brought me to a psychologist, who just listened. I met my future husband, moved away to college and began a new life. The depression dissolved (for awhile). I practiced love, with my partner, my children and my friends. I found Unitarian Universalism and began to learn about faith, and having a loving community of support.
Skip forward many years—years of happiness—to right after my dad died.
The tangled web of our relationship started to strangle me, and this brought back the depression. Fortunately, I was referred to a therapist, to begin a therapy founded on eastern principles of mindfulness as well as cognitive therapy—Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. That was my intro into loving-kindness, starting with myself. Using mindfulness and self-love as a base, I learned how to deal with the complex emotions of my inner world, and identify the mysterious ones called love and anger.
Now, nearly 20 years later, during which time I have been a practicing Unitarian Universalist, I have turned back toward the way of the Buddha, learning, reading, sitting with intentions of meditation, stumbling into shame when I “don’t do it right.” Then the wheel turns again and I am once more following the path. I don’t have much time under my belt, but I am totally committed to this effort.
I am a baby Buddhist. And even just saying the words brings me a peace, a wholeness, an ease of being.
Julia Prentice is a deeply feeling Cancer, and still has poetry from teenage years, when words were her salvation. She lives in California with her soulmate and a current furry companion. Former ASL interpreter, a passionate Peer Supporter of persons with mental health challenges, knitter, educator, crafter and singer. She writes like breathing: in ragged gasps, mighty shouts, half-voiced whispers. Always she is compelled to write. Finalist for ‘The Poet’s Billow’ Atlantis Award 2015. Published in the “Temptation Anthology”, “Where Journeys Meet – The Voice of Women’s Poetry” and “Poetry As a Spiritual Practice – Illuminating the Awakened Woman.” Her blog: rebel1955.wordpress.com
Editor: Dana Gornall
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