Friday, February 21, 2014

The Accidental Buddhist

I continue to be plagued by fear, confidence issues, and self-judgement about my writing abilities and my upcoming pursuit of an MFA in writing. In spite of these things, I keep moving forward step by step. These steps recently brought me to stand in front of the Buddhist shelf in my library.

And so it was that I discovered The Accidental Buddhist (Harmony, 1999) by Dinty W. Moore with a bit of serendipity. It is a Buddhism book for beginners. I have been studying Buddhism on and off for fifteen years, and would still call myself a beginner. It was fun to read a light-hearted and well written account of the ins and outs of a vast and variable spiritual tradition. 

I have indeed brought meditation back into my life recently, but I admit I picked this book up with an ulterior motive. The fellow who wrote it will be the special guest/keynote speaker at the Summer Community of Writer's at Chatham - the event which is the kickoff to my MFA program in July- the event which has my stomach tied in knots. Moore has written plenty of books, but my library had only two of them. So between Between Panic and Desire and The Accidental Buddhist, I have had my reading work cut out for me.

In The Accidental Buddhist, Moore is seeking answers, not necessarily to the all the questions of the universe, rather, to the questions of why he had such a bad experience with his childhood religion and why as an adult he sees Buddhism references all over the place. He is one person trying to understand meditation, Zen, and Buddhist retreats and how they are influencing America. He does it with humor, compassion, and a tendency toward some of those questions we all have about Buddhism, such as, how can you spend all day seeking enlightenment, and still make a living? Turns out, that is rather hard.

What I liked best was the reminder to sit. Just sit. Whenever you can, for however long makes sense, in whatever position works for you. Just sit. Pay attention. Breathe. Because it is there in those breaths that we can find whatever it is we are looking for. 

Interestingly, that's kind of how it is with writing too. Just sit. Put words to page. Breathe. Because when I remember to do that, the fears fall away, and there is just me, finding whatever it is I am looking for.


Sue Heavenrich said...

This is a wonderful book - he's wry and serious and funny and... always hits the point.

Winpenny Mustoe said...

I identify with everything you say here about the fear a writer may feel before diving in, especially a writer who is juggling many commitments to Real Life (children, pets, husbands, etc.). Here is a link to an helpful post on this subject that I encountered a few months ago:
In case the link doesn't work, the title of the post is "When just write is not enough" and it is posted on a blog called "Em's place." Breathing is perhaps the most important Buddhist tool, because you can do it standing up! You will be fine in your MFA! No worries!!!