It was in late January that I finally started meditating seriously. I took refuge as a Buddhist almost two years ago, and it’s taken me this long to get down to a consistent daily practice. By “meditation” I mean what Zen traditions call “zazen” and Tibetan Buddhists usually call by its Sanskrit name, “shamatha”–seated meditation, quieting and focusing the mind by following the breath.
After a few weeks of meditating, after shifting my practice to the early morning before breakfast after thinking about what I wanted to do for an evening practice and trying a number of things from the Western magical tradition, I tried a daring experiment: I dropped everything that wasn’t strictly Buddhist. No more New Hermetics exercises. No sitting around trying to draw up a schedule of practices based on Golden Dawn or New Hermetics models and do a Middle Pillar or an Invoking Pentagram Ritual every day. I started doing deity yoga in the evenings, in the simplest way, visualizing Medicine Buddha before me and saying his mantra. Deity yoga can be a very advanced practice, visualizing *oneself* as a buddha or bodhisattva and meditating or doing energy work as the deity, but I’m not there yet.
The more I did strictly Buddhist stuff, the better I felt. I took all the non-Buddhist, Western-magical stuff off my shrine. I started making the daily offering again, seven bowls of water laid out in a straight line, poured in the morning, cleaned up and turned upside down before bed. I bought more of my favorite Tibetan incenses (the Medicine Buddha blend was on sale!) and sat in a happy cloud of smoke.
As my mind started to calm down during meditation, as stress started to recede from daily life, as I started to read Buddhist writings again and rediscover how much sense the Dharma makes, I found myself thinking, Why fight it? Why not just say, “I’m Buddhist”? Why not just *be* Buddhist? Have I gotten so many rewards from trying to be Pagan, Druid, Anglican, Anglican Druid, Buddhist Pagan, Ceremonial Mage, etc., that it’s worth clinging to any of those things? The answer to that last question, of course, is No. The rewards haven’t been great. While I have to admit that if it weren’t for the dysfunctions of the particular parish where my husband works, I *might* possibly still be an Anglican, if a rather heterodox one, I also have to admit that I’ve tried various kinds of paganism, particularly variations of Druidry, without getting much return on my investment. You’ve heard that definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results? By that definition, I have been insane when it comes to paganism.
I don’t intend to dismiss the New Hermetics here, nor Druidry. NH taught me how to discipline my mind and quit sabotaging myself; it made big and positive changes in my life and made them *fast*; and it pointed me toward Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, getting me to look at a religion I hadn’t been interested in since I was a child and interested in *everyone’s* religion. But it has never quite worked for me as an ongoing daily practice; it suits me better as a problem-solving kit. And despite decades of interest in Druidry, it seemed that the harder I tried to make it work for me, the less possible it became.
After a few weeks of all Buddhism, all the time, I ran into an interesting, well, actually, a scary problem: I wasn’t writing. I didn’t want to write, at least not in the relative sense of feeling like writing, being motivated to do so when I opened a new file or wrote the date in my notebook. Blogging, fiction, and fanfiction all shriveled away. I was silent. It occurred to me that I must have run into this problem before; I must have hit the crux where Buddhist practice was doing me good in every respect *except* that I wasn’t writing, and then backed down, stopped meditating, started messing with something else, because I was afraid. I would say I needed Western methods because I’m a Westerner, I would say the Buddhadharma wasn’t enough for me, I would say I felt called to rejuvenate Western magic and religion with the perspectives of Buddhism, but I think now that what I really meant was, “I’m not writing, and it scares me.”
I made up my mind that I was not going to back down this time. I was going to ride it out. I wrote my first story in red and purple crayon in the first grade, at the age of seven; I told myself I was not about to stop writing completely after almost forty years’ engagement with it. I kept meditating and doing deity yoga for Medicine Buddha and Green Tara and reading Buddhist books and sitting in clouds of incense.
I have come to a point where I believe and am convinced that Buddhism, and specifically Tibetan Buddhism, is the only right, useful, practical, and complete spiritual path for me. It has everything I need, in a form that is appealing to me, and I don’t need anything else. In fact, I am pretty convinced that Buddhism would be beneficial for *everyone*, though not necessarily the Buddhism of my tradition. I have a friend who is Pure Land Buddhist, which is a more devotional path; I can think of a number of people I know who I think would make good Theravadin Buddhists, in a very rational way, or very austere Zen practitioners. It would be so very easy for me to be obnoxious about this, to preach like a True Believer, and I’ve seen enough examples of that obnoxiousness online to want to avoid it utterly. It’s only natural, perhaps, to look down on a religious path you’ve left behind (see also under “reformed alcoholics”), but I don’t want to behave that way, I don’t want to alienate people by being a True Believer. And yet I do believe, I have confidence and trust in the Three Jewels, in the Dharma, in the Tibetan tradition.
I am a Tibetan Buddhist in the Drikung Kagyu tradition. I sought a home there, and they accepted me. It’s not really complicated. To use a traditional Buddhist sign off, Sarva mangalam, good luck to all.