If somebody knocked on my door and asked me my religion I would say, without hesitation: none. I am a secular atheist, or perhaps a humanist. While I believe people should be able to freely believe whatever they choose (without discriminating against others), I generally believe society is better when it doesn’t embrace organised religion.
That said: there’s something about Buddhism that keeps bringing me back.
It just feels different to the others. In fact it doesn’t really seem like a religion at all – more a philosophy; an approach to life. It seems I’m not the only one that feels that way. A quick search for ‘secular Buddhism’ throws up 5.5 million results, the first one of which is the Secular Buddhism Association. A contradiction in terms? It would appear not.
So what makes it different? Mainly this quote, supposedly from the Buddha himself:
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
I think this is what appeals to my naturally sceptical nature. There is not a list of rules, handed out on a tablet, to be obeyed or to risk fire and brimstone. There are some suggestions to be pondered.
So tonight I took the bit between my teeth and booked myself onto an ‘introducing Buddhism’ course. I have also been thinking about ways I would like to be a bit more ‘Buddhist’ and thought I would share them with you. (In between cups of tea and filling up hot water bottles… I’m currently dying of man flu)*.
(*despite not being a man, this is possible.)
So anyway. It’s not going to be easy – I would make the worst Buddhist EVER, mainly for the following reasons:
– I am grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. Far from seeing the positive in everyone and showing endless patience like the Dalai Lama (love him), it only takes someone walking slowly in front of me (why? why??) or my other half sniffing too loudly and I’m off in an irritable huff. Must do better.
– I virtually never live in the moment, which is one of the cornerstones of Buddhism. I am constantly over-analysing a conversation from yesterday, or worrying about a meeting tomorrow, or ruminating over whether there will be a nuclear war, or whether the economy will tank, or whether my coffee will run out in the morning, or whether I offended one of my colleagues last week…. etc etc etc.
– I try and do everything at once and do none of them very well.
– I am in a constant state of nail-biting angst.
But I’m going to try and do some of the following, over the next few weeks.
1. Be compassionate
Yes, even towards that person walking in front of me at the pace of an arthritic snail. Yes, even to the wasp that came in through a microscopic gap, but now cannot find a way to exit even though all the windows and doors are wide open. Yes, even to my long suffering partner despite an insistence on watching Top Gear or humming the same line of song over and over. (Love you really, sweety).
2. Be patient.
I am SO impatient. I want everything yesterday. When I call the lift from floor 13, I want it here now. When I put something in the microwave, I don’t want to wait 45 seconds.
This has to stop.
3. Do one thing at a time and concentrate on it.
This means not checking my phone while I’m eating tea; this means concentrating when I lock the door so I don’t have to check ten times; this means starting a piece of work and seeing it through to completion.
4. Live in the moment.
This will be the hardest of all, but I’m going to try and stop ruminating on the past and the future. All we have is now. I’m going to make the most of it.
I will keep you updated, and I’ll also let you know how the course goes.
What do you think? Do you follow a religion? If so feel free to share parts of your religion that help you to live life better, I’d love to hear.