I like to think.
Depending on who you ask, I may think too much. I experience so much enjoyment in finding new ideas, opinions, theories, or philosophies about the world and humanity. I eat it up. At the moment that means spending some time with “Ethics for the New Millennium” by the 14th Dalai Lama. Just the other day I reached the chapter discussing the definition of happiness and our path towards achieving it in a true, sustainable manner. This route (spoiler alert for a 19-year-old book) is to slow down and examine our goals. What is it that we are devoting our time and energy to? Too often are we quick to rush into our desire for instant gratification and we lose the ability to be patient and truly work for our happiness. The problem with instant gratification is how quickly it wanes. One of the most important lessons to be learned is that nothing comes quick and easy if it meant to last. There is usually some kind of related delay or suffering before the true happiness or positive result is realized. I found myself connecting once again to the Lama’s message of inner peace. Me; the former anti-theist turned beginner Buddhist…
I find religion and philosophy a bit funny. All of these different answers to the same question and so many things taken either out of context or manipulated to fit some desired context over the millennia. I enjoy studying these attempts to figure out the how and why of Humanity and they all seem to have the same goal of letting us sleep easy at night. Take your pick of myth (Greek, Christianity, Hinduism, etc) and the end result is really just to quiet that lack of knowledge that keeps our minds busy. Whether we are suffering loss, struggling financially, or just drifting through life there is a need that we all feel one way or another. A strive for answers. A reassurance. A hole to fill. Some find it in religion and others through a rejection of it.
I was in the latter camp for a great while. I dismissed all forms of spirituality as a waste of time meant to lie to people unable or too afraid to figure things out on their own. To be fair this is very much the case for a considerable number of believers but is not beholden to theism alone. Many people blindly accept a myriad of traditions and beliefs about the world without question. That, however, is a topic for another day.
More to the point, I was rejecting the idea of spirituality without really digging into it. A lesson I learned as a teenager, to learn before casting judgement, apparently needed to process through my brain in multiple stages for me to really get the point. I began to open my mind up to the goal of these philosophical and religious beliefs that so many people were adherent to. This is when I found Buddhism.
There is something that resonates with me about Buddhism. I’m not one to focus on the enlightenment or rebirth aspect. It’s not in my nature (yet?) to subscribe to the supernatural in that regard. I find the quest to achieve something beyond the present, tangible world to be a bit misdirected. What captures me is the simplicity of how focusing on getting yourself to a place of inner peace will influence your positive interaction with others. More specifically, it is the focus on the ability of the individual. Buddhist teachings don’t ask for submission to a deity or prophet. The strength and growth potential are instead focused within. Above all, a Buddhist strives to be good and do good, not for the sake of heavenly reward, but for the betterment of all living beings.
No fear. No metaphorical battles. No rewards. Just a goal of inner peace.
Throughout my life I have always had this burning curiosity to learn more and more about everything. Literally everything. I soaked up as much as I could and even earned the nickname Google with a reputation for being able to answer most questions my friends and family would have on random things. But with this high level knowledge of many things and no depth of any particular discipline, I felt like I had reached a level of intellectual humility that was beyond my conquering. At the end of the day did I really know anything or was I just a walking trivia game with an affection for bourbon?
This uncertainty created a lot of inner conflict and the result was inaction; curiosity lost.I stopped writing. I stopped reading. I stopped my education. I just sort of coasted. Luckily, it didn’t last. My curiosity was still alive no matter how pessimistic I tried to be about what I could accomplish.
Through various podcasts and social media posts I caught more and more about the ideas of Buddhism. I started reading the teachings of the Buddha and interpretations from devotees like the Dalai Lama, Lama Surya Das, Krishna Das, Ram Dass, Bhikkhu Bohdi, Shinzen Young, Lama Yeshe, Thich Nhat Hanh, and so many more were an awakening. These ideas helped reawaken my curiosity and let go of my previous idea that I needed to know everything about everything.
I’m not saying that Buddhist teachings are the sole, almighty savior we’ve all been looking for. Sort of the contrary. Buddhism has encouraged me to learn more, but without the undue pressure I was previously placing on myself. To reach a better understanding of my place on this beautiful ball of life we call home and give me time to do what I like to do best….