By Louis De Lauro
I want to help you, but I am not a Buddhist.
I am a fraud; I was brought up Catholic in New Jersey. I know all of the Bible stories and I know the Lord’s Prayer. I celebrate Christmas and I really like Christmas. I celebrate Easter too, without really meaning to celebrate it. What do I mean? Well, I eat a lot of jelly beans this time of year—way too many jelly beans (I like Peeps too). And I know the Easter story better than I know any stories about Buddha.
I don’t meditate often. Maybe for one week, I will meditate every day, but it becomes a chore. Then the next week, I will skip six or maybe seven days.
I am terrible at being a Buddhist.
I keep a paper in my wallet that lists The Eightfold Path to enlightenment because I have trouble remembering all eight things to practice. Sometimes I can’t remember the entire list, and then I look in my wallet and I can’t find that little paper. Like I said, I am a terrible Buddhist.
Okay, I found the paper. The Eightfold Path consists of eight practices:
Hmm, what’s samadhi? Let me think for a second; I have trouble concentrating. Hmm? That’s right, samadhi is right concentration.
So on most days I feel like a fraud. I am not a real Buddhist, I think. But then I catch myself embracing the day, staring at the clouds—fluffy white clouds or dark scary clouds, it doesn’t matter—and appreciating the moment. Or I catch myself shutting my mouth and listening to a friend speak—really listening. Focused on her words or his pain.
I am present.
And I maybe I am the one person in the room who says something kind. Like, I might say, “I am here for you,” or “I know what you mean,” or “I want to help you.”
And the truth is I really do want to help.
So today, I worked hard. Today I maintained my cool. Today, I meditated. It was the first time I meditated all week, but I meditated today. And damn it, I will meditate tomorrow, unless I forget. If I forget I will meditate the next day or the day after that.
And today, I suffered, I felt pain and I accepted every bit of the suffering and pain as part of my life experience. That’s a Buddhist thing to do.
And today, I wrote this article for The Tattooed Buddha. Maybe today, I am a Buddhist.
Just for a few minutes, let me pretend I am a Buddhist!
Maybe tomorrow, I will be a Catholic again. That’s not such a bad thing. Catholics, other Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Atheists can all be great people. I know so many great people who are not Buddhists.
Or maybe tomorrow, I will give up on the idea that I will ever be a Buddhist, and I will just accept that I am just a kind man trying his best to practice Buddhism. And Buddhism might just be impossible to practice.
Finally, maybe being kind is more important than being Buddhist.
And I am kind. And so are you.
I hope this article helps you.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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