A lot of people turn to religion to gain stability in times of stress. Buddhism is considered a religion, but I have always seen it more like a set of philosophies and life practices. Regardless of whether you are experiencing some kind of stress or pain, Buddhism practices can bring more enlightenment, peace and happiness.
I am not a Buddhist, but since becoming exposed to the religion, I have applied many of the principals to my own life and I know it has had a profound impact on my life.
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Many years back I bought a book by the Dalai Lama called the Meaning of Life. I can’t recall what led me to buy the book, perhaps the title simply looked interesting or perhaps I had heard of the Dalai Lama and wanted to find out who he was. In any event, I never actually read the book and it collected dust in a stack of books in my apartment.
Then a few years later I found myself on a plane sitting beside a woman who I’d never met. She was returning from a Buddhist retreat in the South of France and I myself was returning from much needed downtime in Europe. In the years preceding this trip, I had been divorced, had one of my businesses acquired, experienced my first business failure, and went through a messy relationship break-up. I was in a mood for a break and before leaving for the trip, I had joked with friends that I was going to sit on top of a mountain chill out and seek answers to life (which I sort of did in Switzerland). She was returning from a similar trip.
Earlier in the year, my flight-mate had been traveling with friends in Africa, when her husband told her by telephone that he wanted to end their marriage of 30 years. There was no opportunity for reconciliation so she was devastated and was trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She had immersed herself in Buddhism and was returning from a retreat held by Thich Nhat Hanh, an exiled Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and author living at the time in Dordogne, France. At his retreat had spent time learning about Buddhist practices and healing.
She shared with me stories about the retreat and explained the different parts of Buddhism and how it had impacted her life. I learned about the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Middle Way. I learned about impermanence, kharma, selflessness, love, forgiveness and the importance of living in the present. She told me about the most insightful Buddhist authors and centers in my own home town in case I wanted to learn more and begin practicing myself. She was coping with her life changes remarkably well and I figured there must be something special in the Buddhist way of life.
I also thought it was very serendipitous that I was on a trip looking for answers and found myself sitting beside a wise woman who was showing me a path to finding clarity.
After the trip, I read a lot about Buddhism. and started meditating (although without much success). I made a lot of mistakes, applying the principles incorrectly, worrying about things that hadn’t yet happened, being selfish or harboring anger. Luckily Buddhism doesn’t expect you to be perfect or even adopt the religion fully. The religion hopes for everyone to be at peace by taking what they need whether that’s all or nothing.
Over the years, I studied a lot about the religion and started to learn about other eastern religions such as the Tao as well. I have consciously practiced the Buddhist concepts and enjoyed more clarity, peace, harmony and personal success as a result. One of my goals in the near term is to attend a Buddhist retreat to continue my learning about Buddhists ways and life. It is a great soul adventure.
I hope to write about that soon.