Bad Buddhist! No Nirvana for you!

17 May

I am just an angry middle-aged mom. Or is it I’m a bitter old woman. Either one has more than a grain of truth to it, but I didn’t come up with these descriptions. No, these proclamations came from my son, an angry, young man or a bitter (older) teenager. Whichever way you want to look at it, there’s a grain of truth there, too.

My son didn’t say these things in anger; if he were angry, there would have been lots of vile, disgusting words followed by a good, solid grounding. I’d also take away his wireless mouse and keyboard. Technology makes it so easy to remove technology privileges from a young man’s cave now. My son said these things quite calmly, in the middle of the snack aisle at Target, after telling me I am no kind of Buddhist.

Lest you think my son is prone to blurting unflattering statements about me in the aisles at Target . . .wait . . .he is. Ok, he blurts. This time, I probably deserved a good blurting. My daughter had just walked up to me with four packages of candy that she proposed to buy. These were not the cute little one-person servings of candy that I bought with a quarter when I was nine. These were the big honking Halloween bags of candy. I said the first thing that popped into my head: “You’re high if you think I’m going to let you buy that much candy.”

Apparently a good Buddhist wouldn’t say, “You’re high” to her nine-year old anywhere, any time, let alone in Target within earshot of all the other discriminating shoppers. I’m thinking it might be ok at Walmart, but I don’t shop there, so I can’t be sure.

My son is constantly telling me I’m the world’s worst Buddhist and I will give him that, frequently, I am a bad Buddhist. The worst? Nah, but bad a fair amount of time. When I’m feeling particularly charitable, I can convince myself that in recognizing I am a bad Buddhist, I am being a good Buddhist. But then I realize that I am congratulating myself for being a good Buddhist, which certainly makes me a bad Buddhist. Then I realize that I am self-flagellating and I might as well go back to being a Catholic.

I am an especially bad Buddhist behind the wheel. It’s not that my driving is aggressive, but that I don’t have a particularly peaceful attitude toward other drivers. If I don’t like the way you’re driving, I’ll tell you while also calling you a nasty name. Holding up traffic so you can turn left in the “no left turn” lane? I’ll be saying something like, “Oh! I get it! The rules don’t apply to you, asshole!” Of course, you won’t hear me but my son will and he’ll say, “You’re a terrible Buddhist.”

If my son were a Buddhist I could have nailed him with his badness the other day. He just got his driver’s permit so he’s been driving us around on our afternoon errands. Recently, a driver pulled into his lane unannounced. His response? “Nice turn signal, asshole.” I didn’t know if I should be proud or appalled.

I was a better Buddhist before I had kids. I had time to meditate. I was actually pretty good at it. I could drop into a meditative state just about anywhere, even on the bus to work. I read Buddhist teachings. I went to a Buddhist conference.

When children entered my life, meditation time became scarce. My practice moved from meditation to mindfulness. It’s so much easier to parent when you let go of trying to have your own way. Of course, being in the moment can mean sitting on the floor in the aisle of a certain not-Walmart retailer with a two-year old’s face cradled in your hands calmly explaining why screaming “I hate you” is not a constructive way to get one’s needs met.

Lots of mediation instructors tell beginning meditators to focus on the breath. Count one. Breathe in. Count two. Breathe out. Some have you count one for the whole breath cycle, but you get the idea. The trick is to not let your mind wander as you count to ten. Any mental misstep gets you back to one. So, when I started meditating it would go something like this: count one; breathe in; think about cute shoes I saw at Field’s. Back to one. Count one; breathe in; think about what to have for dinner. Count one; wonder if I’ll ever get to ten. Count one. Realize I forgot to breathe on the last one. Breathe. Count one. Count one again to get back in the “count one, breathe” sequence.

Lately, being a Buddhist has been more about staving off panic than finding any sort of peace. My son is failing history but no need to panic; the semester isn’t over today. My father is dying but he’s not dead today.  Money is an ongoing concern, but we’re not broke today. Ok, maybe we’re broke today but we’re not broke broke. It’s a constant struggle to not add the “yet” and slide into that place in my head where everything is crap and we’re all going to hell in a hand basket.

I’ve been trying to focus on my breath again, but more often than not, it comes out in a sigh. I don’t even try to do the counting thing. If being a Buddhist means anything to me, it means cutting myself enough slack to allow one breath to be enough. It’s what a bad Buddhist—and Buddha—would do.

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17 Responses to “Bad Buddhist! No Nirvana for you!”

  1. philosophermouseofthehedge May 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Nooooooo! Absolutely rolling on the ground hilarious.(can so identify) Surely a Buddhist gets bonus points for creating joy and mirth in the world. Thanks

    • jmlindy422 May 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

      Well, thanks so much! But if I thought I was getting bonus points then I probably wouldn’t be being a good Buddhist, so you just keep that joy stuff to yourself!

      • philosophermouseofthehedge May 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

        Hide that light under a barrel – but keep the giggles coming, OK? (it was soooo funny – soooo funny)

    • jmlindy422 May 17, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

      Thanks. I’ll work on not hiding my light. My husband would like there to be more money so that “not broke broke” thing goes away….soon!

  2. Madame Weebles May 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    I related to this so well. I’m not a Buddhist but I try to meditate and follow reiki principles (I’m a reiki master), but man, people make it reeaaaaallly hard, don’t they??

    • jmlindy422 May 17, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

      Thanks, Madame. I’m in awe of your idea to tax idiots. I have a whole list of them, with shirtless fat guys at the top.

      • Madame Weebles May 17, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

        Ew, shirtless fat guys. Yes, they need to be taxed mightily.

  3. nevercontrary May 17, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    The fact that you remain strong in your beliefs in the middle of the the conservative place is more buddhist than most.

    • jmlindy422 May 17, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

      Aw, thanks! Actually, I’m a contrarian, so being surrounded by unlike minded people is very inspiring for me.

      • nevercontrary May 17, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

        Me too! Oh we could be real friends.

  4. Janelle Allee Baker May 18, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    I too am a bad Buddhist…well, if I were a Buddhist. I have, however, spent a weekend in a Buddhist temple in the middle of South Korea. How do I know I’d be a bad one? As we signed in, my brother smashed a bug right in front of the lovely Buddhist giving us our room assignments. I laughed. As we settled in our room, I noticed a list of 10 rules (punishment would be 2000 bows the next morning for breaking rule #10). By this time, my travel companions and I had already broken at least 6. (It was me who broke #10 EVEN before I knew it was a rule! Whoops.) But, at 5:30 am breakfast, the guy sitting on the floor next to me asked me bluntly, yet in a whisper, if I had any pot to sell. Really? Me out of all the hippies he had to choose from? This guy was a really bad Buddhist. And, me, so am I…not that I had or have ever had any pot to sell…but I was very tickled to have been asked.

    • jmlindy422 May 18, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      Wow, that’s a pretty freaking amazing bad Buddhist story. I bow to you!

    • jmlindy422 May 18, 2012 at 9:44 am #

      BTW, what is rule #10?

  5. Janelle Allee Baker May 21, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Rule #10-Attend all meditation & bowing sessions. Instead I was in my room sitting on the floor enjoying a Korean pastry called “Cloudlike Dream” from the bus stop along the route to the temple. It was a cloudlike dream. Also, “No outside food”. Rule #3. As I was breaking rule #3 I read the rules posted in my room which I obviously missed upon arrival. The puninshment for rule #10 frightened me for about 5 seconds, then it made me laugh…I could sooooo out run those monks in their robes if they tried to catch me!

    • jmlindy422 May 21, 2012 at 10:36 am #

      I lol’d. I want a Cloudlike Dream. I should be able to find that near me since the mother of all Korean supermarkets, Super H Mart, is about 15 minutes from my house. Shall I ship you one?

  6. Barbara Markway May 22, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    I found myself laughing out loud! Thanks for being so honest! I am searching blogs trying to find inspiration to start meditating again. I’m actually procrastinating from meditating right now, which I obviously have time to do, since I am spending all this time reading blogs! I will definitely be visiting again!

    • jmlindy422 May 23, 2012 at 12:19 am #

      Thanks, Barbara. I think my blog is a little less serious than yours! Check if out and it looks very helpful. I do hope you’ll drop by again and I’ll be checking you out, too!

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