Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Buddhism for Busy People by David Michie

I've always had some level of fascination with Eastern religions generally, and with Tibetan Buddhism in particular, and I suppose that was what led me to pick this audiobook up from the library in the first place.  I don't often browse at the library, except for audio books.  I usually reserve the books that I want, and then just run and to pick them up from the desk.  I sort of like to use audiobooks as an opportunity to learn something, or to listen to a book that I might not otherwise have read, so I tend to browse for them, and I've come up with some good ones lately, but this one in particular struck me so much that I thought it required it's own post.
I'm not a Buddhist, and up until the past week or so that I've been listening and really thinking about this book, I would've told you that I was a Lutheren, and I guess really, I still am.  I was raised, baptised and confirmed in the Lutheren Church, and I have always really liked my religion.  Actually going to church hasn't been a huge part of my life lately, I admit, but I often think about my faith and about how it fits into my life, and it is very important to me, though not always outwardly so.  In listening to David Michie's partly-autobiographical, partly instructional, and partly introductory text book, thought, I've come to realize that whether I recognized it or not, Buddhist principles have already been a part of my day-to-day life for a long time.  Listening to this book on my way to and from work for a couple of weeks helped to center me, and helped me to put a number of things in my life into perspective.  At the same time, though, and perhaps more importantly, it called a number of things in my life into question.  I feel silly calling a book life-changing, but at the least it was certainly eye-opening for me.  Somehow, what I know of Buddhist teachings and principles (which is admittedly fairly minimal) just makes sense to me, in a way that my own faith never really has.  I am more able to accept and understand these principles than I am many of the teachings of my own judeo-christian upbringing.  Granted, basic tenents of these faiths are largely the same - do unto others and all of that - but it's more than that.  Buddhism seems, to me anyway, to be so much more focused on the teaching and learning and sharing and understanding than on the idea of "worship," which recently is what I have come to question.  It just sets better with me to be guided than to worship, I guess.

So now I find myself in an interesting place, and I feel as though I have some work to do.  I am beginning to work on more actively incorporating what I know and understand of Buddhist principles into my life, but cautiously so.  I have only a small idea of what I don't know, and I understand how much more I have to understand.  I'm not sure I want to "be a Buddhist," or even what that would entail, but I know that I want to learn more and I want to find myself some help in that learning, and I know that I find a level of solace in what I do know that I have not found elsewhere.  I'm also not in any rush to renounce what has always been my faith and my church, because I know that I still believe in it.  Somehow I just don't seem to take from it what I feel like I have always (and especially recently) needed to get from it, if that makes any sense.

A few months ago, I read Chuck Palahniuk's Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey, and I think the biggest thing I took from that book related to religion.  Rant Casey used to say, as he was riding around crashing cars, just at the moment of impact, Rant used to say, "this is what church should feel like."  He said the same thing just after he had an orgasm, and at various other times too, but what I get from that is that faith and enlightening and religion is not and should not be the same for everyone.  I think that live music, especially in a big arena or stadium with thousands of people all singing along, that's what church should feel like.  Or doing volunteer work.  Or the kind, smiling eyes of a stranger you pass on the street.  Or literally stopping to smell the flowers on a warm, sunny day.  It should feel warm and open and happy.  I'm not sure when I've ever felt warm and open and happy when I was at the church where I grew up, but I can think of a lot of times when I've been at a show and stopping singing along myself in order to listen to the thousands of voices enveloping me, and at those times I've though, if not in so many words, that it was what church should feel like.  Daily, I look for examples of things that church should feel like, and I think that's an excellent way to appreciate the little things.  And isn't that what it's about, in so many ways?


  1. I studied Religions a little in school...Not a lot mind you...what I found is they are not all that different...I mean of course they have their differences...But the foundations are all very similar...What do you think of that? What I think is that most people who are worshiping are loosing sight of what their religion is...Just an observation I made while studying....I will look into this book!

  2. I think you're absolutely right about so many religions being so similar. I think the basic foundations of most religions, Eastern and Judeo-Christian, are pure and simple moral principles. I agree with you about people losing sight of what their religion is, too - I think too many people tend to focus on what makes them different rather than what makes them similar.

    I don't feel like I'm ready to walk away from the Protestant beliefs that I was raised with and are so ingrained in me, and I don't feel like I'm doing that by taking up a meditation practice and learning more about and further considering Buddhism, and I feel like both can be a part of my life. Sort of a choose-your-own-religion - though to say that is probably blasphemous in some circles!

    Hey, while you're here - I'm going to see STP in August! Are you going to any shows?