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Project Conversion

…And he is asked to leave.

Just kidding! Lighten up people, it’s Friday.

As many of you know, we are a homeschooling family. One of the coolest things about homeschooling is that everything becomes a lesson. If we go to a theme park, boom, physics. If I take the kids to the river, bang, biology and possibly first aid. But every rose has its thorn. My home school thorn is the annual convention. This is where we shop for our curriculum and listen to a few seminars on how to be better home school parents.

The other thing that makes this process tricky is that most, I’m thinking about 90-95% of the few hundred people here, are Christians. That means most of the curriculum has a Christian bent (we loath looking for science material) and it means each seminar we attend will have prayer and heavy Biblical references/principles throughout.

Now, I’m cool with Christians. In fact, one of my good friends and his wife are here with us and he happens to be my favorite Christian. What makes this situation awkward is that I’m a Buddhist this month who enjoys wearing his robes (only the top piece over a shirt) and mala beads. Talk about being the center of attention. If I were getting these looks without the robes my wife would put a bag over my head and hide me from society.

In general, I just feel out of place. And because I was a serious Christian once, I can see in the eyes of some of these people the desire to “save” me. They may not know from what, but it’s clear I need saving. So now that I’m in my robes and looking like a heathen, how am I supposed to focus on what we are here to do? Should I disrobe and blend in? Eh, maybe, but I like wearing it and I promised my Christian pal that I’d wear the robes all weekend. So I go back to the Buddha for advice.

“Yo Buddha. What do I do?”

“Your anxiety comes from fear.”

“Pshhh, what fear? I ain’t scared of these people.”

“Remember the Four Noble Truths. Suffering is universal. Suffering comes from ignorance and ignorance stems from fear. You fear what you think you know of these people. You’ve projected a biased and false reality on the situation based on ignorance. Free yourself from bias. Let go of your expectations and face the moment exactly as it is.”

Okay, so the Buddha didn’t really speak to me (but man would that be piss-pants scary AND awesome at the same time!), however I’m sure that’s what he would say in this situation. And he’s right. Once I removed the bias and illusion of difference from my outlook, I began to see things in another light.

One surprising result was that even though each seminar had a heavy Christian leaning, I was able to glean a lot of wisdom from the talks. For example, one session addressed the issue of strong-willed children. How do you deal with such a child without killing them? I was (some might argue that I still am) strong-willed, so once I removed my bias from the speaker who used a lot of Christian theology in his presentation, I was not only able to see valuable wisdom from the Christian standpoint, but I was also reminded of myself.

Sometimes getting a gut check is just what we need. Children like my oldest (and myself when I was younger) who often act out, are very aggressive, yet usually express a high aptitude for a particular skill or art typically have some things going on inside them and they are simply trying to communicate. My wife swears that my oldest daughter is just myself reincarnate, so we butt heads all the time. It doesn’t help that I spend most of my days now in study of my current faith. Things happen around me but I’m so involved in what I’m doing that I don’t acknowledge the universe orbiting me, waiting for me to look up.

This is one of the issues I’ve struggled with this month. The Buddha was very clear on several occasions that the best life is not only one lived with compassion, but the “Homeless Life,” that is, one of renunciation. All fetters, all attachments, all things must be dropped with achieved the ultimate goal. Any distraction can lead you off course. I know I’ll catch flak for that one, but try reading the Buddha’s words first (especially the Dhammapada) and then let’s talk. But I can’t do that. I can’t live like that in my current status as a husband and a father. This Buddhist is a lay Buddhist, and I forget sometimes that my household is not a monastery, but a noisy and messy place of growth, joy, and sometimes, pain.

The Christian speaker reminded me of this fact once he got into how to face my strong-willed child. Some of those suggestions included: setting time just for her and her interests, celebrate their existence, participate in their dreams, have fun. I think all these things, but I’m guilty for not always acting on them. I was reminded of an earlier post I made regarding kindness. Remember what the Buddha said?

Brothers, Right Thought (from the Eightfold Path) consists of thought in which there is universal love. In reality, the love to which all creatures aspire is universal love. In universal love there is compassion and devotion. Compassion and devotion have as their aim the happiness of everyone and do not demand anything in return. –The Piyajatika Sutta

Sometimes I forget that my silent meditation doesn’t end when the kids barge into the house giggling and squealing. I have to realize that when I open my eyes and behold my own creation, that standing up, bowing to the Buddha, and embracing my children in that moment is just another moment of meditation itself. Suffering is when we make life about ourselves. Nirvana is when we no longer suffer because our lives are consumed with bringing joy to others.

My challenge to you is to remember not to take yourself too seriously in any pursuit. What are some things that get between you and the moment that really matters?

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