Katie's Voice

On Trying to Explain My Buddhism to My Mother-in-Law

letter-box-1150572_1920To my blog-reading peeps: this is from a letter I wrote to my new mother-in-law, who lives in England. I’m an introvert, so I hate talking on the phone. What to do instead, to connect with family who doesn’t really know me? Letters. Yeah. I’m that person. Not a “holier-than-thou-because-I-use-the-post” letter writer; just a stupid awkward person on the phone who associates email with work.

Also, I’m not against any of the religions, though I am against people who use them to oppress, control, or judge others. I just happen to find the language of Buddhism most appealing for me personally.

“[The husband] said you were reading a book on world religions, and finding it mostly full of twaddle. I just tried to type a paragraph about what Buddhism means to me, and why I say I’m ‘mostly Buddhist,’ but I couldn’t figure out how to write my own philosophies in a concise way. Like most people, I pick and choose what I like best about the philosophical system I follow—not all Buddhists would agree with me.

Basically I think Buddhism offers an alternative to the whole ‘be good and good things will happen to you’ message that is so very obviously untrue but touted by many religions. And Buddhism doesn’t claim that there’s any particular powerful being up there somewhere with your best interests at heart—again, a relief, because if the being is so powerful, why do innocents suffer? But mostly, Buddhism recognizes and reminds us that there is so very much in our lives we cannot control. That’s what the whole ‘live in the present moment’ admonition comes down to—we can’t control the future. Accepting that truth helps me to be nonjudging—of myself and of others. Basically we are all here together in this world we can’t control, able to remember the past and worry about the future but exist and act only in the present. How do we live as joyfully as possible, given those truths? china-1177009_1280

I suppose it could be ironic that I talk about joy when I suffer from depression, but I think joy is different from happiness. Joy is complex—not just about surface pleasures, not merely about the self and one’s individual experiences, but about connection and belonging and hope. When I meditate, I remember that I am also the part of myself that is noticing my sadness. I’m not trapped in my smallest, most pathetic feelings of worthlessness. I’m more than whatever society might judge me to be. Regardless of success or failure, winning or losing, being productive or barely getting through the day, I’m of value merely because I exist. Very little in contemporary life–besides love and meditation–sends that message to people. The messages we are most rigorously bombarded with are generally connected to someone wanting to make money, and money is made from insecurity, from persuading people they need to change/be better all the time because they are never, ever, good enough.

On that note I’ll sign off for now. And if you ever read my blogs, you might find some of this on there one day—trying to articulate these ideas to you, I have articulated them again for myself. I suppose that’s really what my blogs are about.”

p.s. I rarely feel good enough, myself. So any time I can hear those words—you are good enough—whether it’s from a loved one or an article or some sparking corner of my own mind, I value them. Those words do make a difference. You are good enough. Take it from me.

 

 

 

 

 

20 replies »

  1. As I got older I kind of think about the real meaning of the common things we see, hear and feel in your daily lives. All of us might just be seeing the first layer of happiness when we use that word. In my opinion, what I think about the word happiness means forever joy. And joy is just a random emotion of feeling great and appreciative of a certain number of events in your life.. It takes a continuous joy to be certainly say living with happiness.

  2. This was really lovely to read. You know, I’ve been on a bit of a funny journey with religion and belief. I went to a Catholic school, I went through a period later on in my teens where I firmly believed in God or something and now that’s all changed. I don’t feel like there is someone up there looking out for me for the exact same reason you wrote. Then there’s also the fact that I never felt God or heard him or whatever. I’ve always believed there was something though, just not a ‘God’. I believe in some kind of something – more like forces within nature. I interested in Buddhism and your post have given me more thought. I really want to travel one day and exploring Buddhism in other cultures is something I’m particularly interested in. I’ll figure it out one day.

  3. You really verbalized how I’ve been feeling. I’ve strayed from organized religion and found my place in this weird hybrid of Buddhism/Universal energy. Thanks for posting

  4. I sometimes think about similar things. Joy is complex. There are people who can have greatest joy by just kicking a pebble on a street, while some are unable to unless everything is prepared for them. In my opinion, this is how depression is triggered. I mean mechanism of depression is in one’s incapability of feeling joy.
    I wish you all the best.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your amazing article. I agree with you that joy is definitely complex. Religion is something that I have been trying to figure out for myself. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Reblogged this on Lisa Lanser Rose and commented:

    “Basically we are all here together in this world we can’t control, able to remember the past and worry about the future but exist and act only in the present. How do we live as joyfully as possible, given those truths?”

  7. Nice post! I love it. You are such a very good open-minded person. Please keep blogging. You have my total support although I don’t believe in budhism. I feel much inner peace when I feel spiritually connected to the Ultimate Power we call god.

  8. And don’t you find re-reading your blog that sometimes you have been wiser than you thought you were? I am lucky enough to find joy in the tiniest of things but can wallow in the depths of sadness like the best of them. Is balance the answer? I don’t think so, just to be aware and know that neither state will last.

  9. “You are good enough” what powerful words. Lovely article, I feel very much the same about religion and although I identify as Christian I definitely do not support religion when it is used to control or put down others. I also struggle with the be good and good things will happen to you because we all know life is not that simple.

  10. There are some Buddhist principles that make a lot of sense to me as a Christian. What you say here reminds me of what Christ says in John, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before it hated you.” In other words, if we feel like the world is harsh and dismissive to us, we’re in good company, because that’s what the world did to its Creator.

  11. Absolutely agree with your stance. I too follow Buddhist philosophy in many matters on a daily basis. Mine as well has been the thoughts expressed by Buddhism that adhere to the idea that we ultimately can not control so many things and the most monumental is that of death. After I really started looking deep into the words and not just the black printed on pages did it sink in. I was finally able to find a freedom that has eluded me since childhood. I also suffer from depression and mental illness and finally have chosen to just go with it because no matter how hard I try or how progressive the new drug may work in the beginning, none of it is a cure-all but a cover up. I have those good days and of course bad days. I don’t struggle against the bad but embrace it and hold onto the notion that tomorrow will bring new things.

  12. 6 month ago, I think both the joy and happiness are just similar to each other, but after when start meditation and follow the guru, I have been released that happiness is just temporary illusion of emotions, whereas being in joy is the nature of human being.