What is it about being or doing something different that unnerves people so? Why is it that deviating from the expected is seen as an act of rebellion instead of a person’s right to choose for themselves? Why is moving away from family tradition or belief systems viewed as breaking some kind of unwritten rule as opposed to developing your mind and way of viewing the world? Why? Why? Why? I wish I had the answers to these questions. I wish I could tell you that life experiences have given me some keen insight into the psyche of others. Sadly, I am still confused by how one person’s desire to live authentically in their individuality can cause such a disruption to another. Nothing causes more discord like religion, especially in a black family. If you want to see all hell break loose, merely hint at the notion of leaving the family’s established doctrine of choice to seek your spiritual solace. You will be labeled as a heathen faster than they can gather the elders to pray fervently for your Hell bound soul. Apparently, I don’t have enough excitement in my life because I am that one, the prodigal wanderer, the one who has chosen to seek something other than church on Sunday.
My grandmother was one of the wisest, most nurturing and loving people that I’ve ever know yet open-mindedness was something she struggled with when it came to any religious belief that wasn’t Christianity. She had a non-negotiable rule, “believe in and serve Jesus or die!”Now, of course, she wouldn’t kill us for straying from the Christian path but we didn’t test the theory either. If you were gonna live in her house, you were going to be in church, no matter what. In my early teen years, I became aware of Yoga, that discovery led to me becoming cognizant of Buddhism. The only thing I knew about Buddhism was that there was a god named Buddha and to serve or worship any other god was idolatry and the punishment for such involved a lake of fire, NO THANKS! Needless to say, I abandoned any thought of Yoga and buried my curiosity in church duties.
My childhood was a great time overall, despite being raised by flawed humans. I will never say that my upbringing was violent, that would be a blatant lie. However, several incidents were brutal and they played a major role in defining a part of my temperament. I was raised in Detroit by a mom who battled her demons, relentlessly. I’ve seen, been the victim of, and had to do aggressively violent things. My grandma was extremely diligent about protecting us from the ugly elements of our surroundings but you can’t be in the hood and not get some of it on you. For the last four years, I have been working on my explosive nature. I fully acknowledge and own that I’m a person who reacts quickly and it can be highly combative. Backing down from any confrontation isn’t a language that I learned. I pride myself on being able to take care of myself and survive in any situation or environment, whether it be the backyard or the boardroom. I am as ferocious as I am feminine. Honestly, I didn’t see how damaging this demeanor is until about five months ago. When I became conscious of just how long violence has been my constant and welcomed companion, since the age of eight years old, I vowed to heal so I could be free of this hindrance.
Earlier, I told you how Buddhism piqued my interest early in life. What I failed to mention was, it was a calling that I heard frequently throughout my life. I didn’t understand it and assumed it was “the devil,’ trying to lead me down the sinner’s path of idolatry. When I began to understand the reasons behind the riotous side of my personality, I went into prayer, asking God to help me heal whatever wound that was bleeding all over my reactions. Almost instantly, the call of Buddhism sprung up, loudly. This time, though somewhat apprehensive, I yielded to the pull of my heart and dived into information and resources on Buddhism. I joined a Buddhism social group for people of color and I purchased a book, The Everything Essential Buddhism Book, as I began to read and study, I found that the things I had been told all my life about Buddhism were completely untrue. For me and many others, Buddhism is a philosophy or way of living not a religion, the Buddha isn’t a god but a teacher, and worshiping him is actually not advised because he IS NOT A GOD. Initially, I was extremely angry, feeling like I had been robbed of something that I could’ve had many years ago but I also understand divine timing. My exploration into Buddhism has ushered in a calm that I have always craved, I am more mindful of myself, my reactions, and my interactions with others. I see how everything that has taken place in my life has been laying the foundation for me to arrive at this point and I am enjoying the journey. While I am not necessarily ready to convert to Buddhism, I proudly consider myself a Practicing Buddhist. I’ve found my Yoga tribe with an amazing teacher and diverse community of women who are as empowering as they are inviting, it feels like home. Because I am a communal person and enjoy the gathering together aspect of spirituality(I mean I was raised in the church), I am excited to go to Temple, attend meditation classes and go on my first silent retreat.
Practicing Buddhism doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God and have abandoned all of the Christian principles that have carried me through life thus far. There are many proverbs and scriptures that I still rely on for guidance. However, for me, Christianity involved a lot of fear-based beliefs and I don’t want fear attached to my relationship with God. The freedom that I have found in studying Buddhism has shown me things about God’s love for me that I was unable to see before. God is no longer the almighty creator waiting in the shadows to condemn me to hell for a thought, mistake, or for just being an ever-evolving human. I am connected with God in me(Holy Spirit) in a way that makes me interdependent with Him. My reliance on God is out of my reverence for Him as the creator of my life and all that surrounds me. Though I am new to Buddhism and have much more to learn, it is safe to say that I have landed in a dwelling of spirituality that is as liberating as it is holy. Let me be clear, my decision to study and practice Buddhism wasn’t some quick fix that I stumbled upon and now it has miraculously changed me overnight. I am doing the work of healing, being accountable for who I am, going to therapy, and working with my life coach to deal with me but I am doing it with a frame of mind that connects me to God without fear ruling our relationship. As with anything, it is a process. I am deeply grateful for my current state of awakening because this is healing.