While talking with my mother on the phone a few weeks ago she casually said “I would like to go with you on your next meditation retreat.”
I was completely floored.
My transition to Buddhism was not easy in its early stages. I was met with a lot of resistance, specifically from my family. Not unlike any Black person I grew up in Christian dominated household. From a small age I can remember attending church at least every Sunday, though Christian principles were never instilled in me. My grandmother was–and still is–very good at quoting Bible scriptures but she wasn’t as good at teaching us lessons on Christian morals and ethics. As a result the point of Christianity totally missed me. I’ll also admit that I never felt comfortable in church. Standing in a pew clapping and praising never felt like it was me. So I started researching.
Being the naturally curious mind that I am I started researching other religions in junior high school. When I say religions I mean all religions from Judaism and Islam to Wiccan and Hinduism. Somewhere along the way I came across Buddhism and was immediately drawn to it. It took years before I had the courage to officially put down Christianity and pick up Buddhism. I initially only had one person really supporting me. The reaction I received from my family was predictable. The responses ranged everywhere from total dismissal and demanded church participation to outright condemnation of my practice. My mother was the most harsh about it. It got to a point where I got tired of having to justify my Buddhist practice. When I saw that my family refused to accept my practice I stopped allowing them to engage me in conversations about it.
That was three years ago. Since then I’ve continued to study and practice Buddhism. I found a really good sangha that I’ve remained active in. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to attend two residential meditation retreats at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. I even attended a conference hosted by the Dalai Lama last year in Long Beach, California.
I’ve grown a lot through all these experiences and my family has noticed a positive change in me. See what appeals the most to me about Buddhism is the fact that it’s a spiritual philosophy that emphasizes daily practice. It’s not just about believing in a higher being and memorizing scripture, it’s about applying the principles to your life. From day one that’s what I’ve striven to do. To be mindful of prajna (wisdom) in right view and aspiration, shila (morality) in right speech, action, and livelihood, and samadhi (meditation) in right effort, mindfulness, and concentration in everything I engage in from work to community activism to personal relationships.
I love Buddhism but my practice is my own. I believe that everyone has their own spiritual path. There is no one right way. It’s for this reason that I don’t ever seek to “convert” people to Buddhism. I typically won’t even mention it unless someone else brings it up first. Oddly enough I’ve introduced a lot of people to Buddhism and meditation. I think this is because they see the positive things that Buddhism does for me. It’s not my words but my actions that people have responded to. A very powerful lesson for me to have learned. Through example I was able to make my harshest critic come around, my mother.
I’ve arranged for my mother to attend a three-day retreat with me in April. This will be a new experience for the both of us. For her, because she knows very little about Buddhism in addition to it being her first retreat. For me, because this will be the first time I’ll be attending a retreat with anyone. I’m sure I’ll be writing about the experience.