What led you to Buddhism?

I would like to hear from community members about what it was that led you to become interested in and/or begin practicing Buddhism.

I know one man who, after a lifetime of being an "overachiever"—getting straight A's throughout his school years and graduating from an Ivy League university at the top of his class—had a full psychological and existential breakdown, feeling that all the knowledge and skill he had gained was useless because, at a very fundamental level, he didn't even know who or what he was. When he began to study dharma and practice meditation he saw that, "there are some things you just can't learn in school."

I know a woman who once believed that she had nothing to offer anyone but her beauty. She became a successful model but in the process began a long struggle with drug addiction. In the throes of depression and thoughts of suicide, she sought guidance from a Buddhist teacher and, after receiving much instruction, saw for the first time that her life didn't have to be about herself. She said, "Waking up, for the first time, to the reality that I am able to care for and help others was what saved my life."

I know a guy who ate LSD and "saw infinity." Then, when he saw the Buddhist symbol known as the "knot of eternity" he thought, they must know. He sought out a Tibetan Buddhist Sangha to "learn the secrets" and while he didn't gain the mind-blowing metaphysical knowledge that he expected, he did begin practicing meditation and striving to cultivate wisdom and compassion. Regarding his quest for infinity, that last I heard him say about this was, "My discursive mind is infinite enough."

I've read letters from people who practice Buddhism in prison, and have always found it both inspiring and heart-breaking to hear from people who are on the path in such circumstances. I recall reading one letter from a woman that was the saddest story I have ever heard. After a lifetime of unspeakable suffering and tragedy, she had been sentenced just after seeing her boyfriend killed. Yet, this letter ended along the lines of "What else am I going to do while I'm here? I've got to deal with this stuff one way or another." After reading everything this woman had lived through, that she was turning to meditation and requesting reading materials to support her practice was astounding to me.  While reading this month's Tricycle Book Club selection The Heart of the Revolution by teacher and author Noah Levine, I was struck my Noah's recollection of practicing while locked up:

While in jail for my third felony arrest at a young age, at my father's suggestion I began to meditate. That practice gave me the determination and strength to stop taking drugs and drinking. I turned my attention inward and began the process of healing—a process that continues to this day.

Also, in contrast to the people I have mentioned so far, I think it is important to mention that not everybody arrives at the Buddhist path because of some difficult or extraordinary circumstance. It seems that for some, it just happens, no existential dilemma and tragedy needed. I am reminded of this passage by the late great American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck from her interview, "Life's Not a Problem":

I had a fine life. I was divorced—my husband was mentally ill—but I had a nice man in my life. My kids were okay. I had a good job. And I used to wake up and say, “Is this all there is?”

Then I met Maezumi Roshi, who was a monk at the time. He was giving a talk in the Unitarian Church downtown. I was out for the evening with a friend, a woman, a sort of hard-boiled business type, and we decided to hear his talk. And as we went in, he bowed to each person and looked right at us. It was absolutely direct contact. When we sat down, my friend said to me, “What was that?” He wasn’t doing anything special—except, for once, somebody was paying attention.

I wanted whatever he had.

Please feel free to share your own stories! Is there anyone above that you most identify with? What was it for you? As we work with the present and try to build a better future, there is much that can be learned from examining our past.

best,
Monty McKeever
Tricycle

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sallyotter's picture

I was raised Catholic but there was always something missing. In 1984 I got sober through AA. Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, used concepts from various spiritual programs and the idea of self-centeredness is key to recovery. I instinctively knew that ego was my problem, "...the bondage of self" as expressed in AA, but was unable to figure out what to do about it. Then, in 2002, I was in working in a VISTA position in a small town in Texas. They had an awesome library; I picked up a book by Pema Chodron and knew I had found a spiritual home. On returning to my small town in Florida, I found a teacher and began meditating. Everything just fell into place. For me, Buddhism is a total, 24/7 way of life. I view people differently; they just want to be happy and don't want to suffer...the guy who cuts me off in traffic or the politician who's running the state (that's harder but at least I'm aware). I'm just so grateful!!

Monty McKeever's picture

Thank you for replying Sally! Interestingly, you are the second person who has reported finding the Dharma in the form of a Pema book in a library. Hooray for Pema and libraries!

poetess1966's picture

I had a strange upbringing, at least when it came to religion. My father was atheist. My mother was agnostic and my grandfather was a Baptist Deacon. In my teens I had practiced TM and some Buddhist meditations, but kind of let it go when I became a paramedic. That's how I met my husband, who was a lapsed Catholic/Methodist. When we got married and had our oldest son, I agreed to try the Methodist church. I didn't really believe the dogma, I guess when you can't accept the Bible as being the "True Word Of God", then it makes it hard to believe the rest. I always felt uncomfortable in church. For me, the final straw came when my youngest son was about 5 months old. I contracted something called Desert Fever, even though I live in Alabama. It comes from a fungus growing under the skin of tomatoes grown out west. My husband was driving long haul at the time and had gotten a free box. It causes multiple pneumonias. He was staying home taking care of me, a 3 year old and a 5 month old. He called the church and asked if they could have one of the "ladies" of the church to come sit with me for an hour or so for him to get a few errands run and buy groceries. His mom had just had a stroke so there was no one in the family who could do it. The church said "NO". That was it for me. He was done too. Neither of us has walked into a church since with the exception of his mom and dad's funerals. When I finally got well, I told him I was done with the church, done with trying to be a Christian when I didn't believe half of what they said, and I wanted to go back to the Buddhism from my youth. He asked me what I needed to begin. I set up a small Altar and begin taking Refuge 3 times a day. My practice has grown since then. That was 12 years ago. I went through the Refuge Ceremony in 2004 and officially took the Lay Vows and Refuge in the Triple Gem. And finally feel like I've come back home. I've come back to where my heart really belongs.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks poetess1966. That's so odd that no one from the church would help in such a circumstance! Sadly, Buddhist sanghas tend to make mistakes as well, as I'm sure you know.

I'm glad you found your home (or maybe I should say refuge).

konchogkunsang's picture

Suffering led me to Buddhism: intense, ordinary, selfish, self-inflicted suffering. I had been first exposed to Buddhism in my early teenage years by a neighbor and had done some meditation, reflection and dharma study throughout my early adult years, but had "forgotten" about them as I went about my adult life cheerfully digging myself into a hole so deep until it became painfully obvious that either the walls would collapse on me or I would need to climb out-- and the walls were so high, so slippery, with no apparent hand- and foot-holds to use as leverage. I was fortunate enough to have lost enough of my arrogant and prideful attitude to seek help in the bookshelves of a local store and rediscover the dharma. In the subsequent years, climbing out of my hole, my view has expanded infinitely. With the help of a most generous teacher, the very precious Lama Drupon Gonpo Dorje, I am learning to see things as they really are. It is beyond wonderful.

PS - Thank you for this opportunity to read the stories of others on the path and to share my own. May each of your journeys be swift and without obstacles.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thank you for posting konchogkunsang! It is truly a pleasure to have so many people come and share.

I am not familiar with Lama Drupon Gonpo Dorje, if you can point me to anyhere where I can learn more, please feel free to email monty-at-tricycle.com. We are always happy to discover new teachers.

wtompepper's picture

This is wonderful to read. Like several other people who have posted, I really got interested in Buddhism because of Suzuki's "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind." I'd read a few popular books on Buddhism, and thought it was just a bunch of self-help nonsense. Then, in while I was in rehab for alcoholism, somebody gave me a copy of Suzuki's book, and for the first time I saw that there was some profound and serious thought involved in Buddhism. I've been practicing Buddhism (and sober) ever since. I would love to thank the guy who gave me that book, but I only know his first name.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for posting Tom. I like the Tintin pic by the way!

Dominic Gomez's picture

Thank you, Monty, for providing this opportunity for us to share our personal experiences with Buddhism. It's been great reading about the many paths that have lead people to the dharma.
My own began in a parochial elementary school. I remember calling up to the heavens, "God, if you are real come down here and shake my hand!" Fifty years later and still waiting.
A few years later on TV I watched "Inherit the Wind" (1960), the dramatization of the Scopes monkey trial. I was especially moved by Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) confronting Matthew Brady (Fredric March) on the witness stand with the conclusion "God did not create Man! Man created God." That made sense to me. Later on in college, I began studying art and noticed that Chinese landscape paintings portrayed something intangible yet very real. I learned that what was being implied was a law or principle that underlies natural phenomena. This was a more plausible notion than that of an anthropomorphic supreme deity.
San Francisco in the 60's-70's was a veritable supermarket of alternative belief systems. So I dabbled in Taoism, Zen, Hinduism, TM, et al. During this time I was invited to a Buddhist discussion meeting by a fellow student. It was here that I first heard about Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. That was in 1973.

Monty McKeever's picture

You're very welcome Dominic! Indeed, I'm overjoyed with all the responses that have been posted, very interesting.

Thank you for posting. I've learned a fair amount from posts of yours in the past and it is nice to be able to know a bit more of the story behind the name. Thank you for your continued presence here!

stupierson's picture

Pardon this bit of a ramble... I was introduced to Zen specifically in a college literature class. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind was assigned. That book blew my mind but I didn't allow myself to be 'hands on' with Buddhism until recently. I had a spiritual 'sock in the stomach' experience when I was younger which showed me that indeed no one gets off this planet alive, that this is it. That has always stuck with me but has dulled into something more intellectual than experiential. Now, since being divorced, becoming an RN and working with people experiencing the ultimate verification of impermanence (death), I am allowing myself to realize a goal I wrote in a letter once, "I want to be a Buddhist (but I probably don't know what I'm talking about)." I'm smart enough to know that one should get training regarding this thing we call "living on earth". So, I'm developing the ability to sit very still and concentrate, alone and in the company of others working on the same thing.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for posting stupierson. That's not a ramble at all! You're right, "living on earth" does seem to benefit from some training...

Aleric's picture

I am in a process of transition that started when I was 19. In time, I studied theology and philosophy, and earned graduate degrees in both, and then in a doctoral program, I studied social psychology. I was and am ordained as a Christian minister. The long slow process of continued learning has caused me to realize that much of the theology of the Christian tradition, (and I suspect many others) is a result of a long gradual process of human political posturing, group dynamics and personal ego, with others (often well intentioned) putting their own spin on what they think was taught or how they interpreted . Much of Christianity, has become an institutionalized acculturated organization that has lost both its power and way, even though very good deeds, actions, and programs continue to exist. My graduate work in the social sciences has shown me the importance of knowing what you know and knowing what you don't know, and the not knowing is far more vast than the knowing. Hence, I have come to dislike the often static dogma, theological arrogance, simplistic formulas, and misplaced moral concerns that undergird many faith based organizations. I understand that this is what I think and others may disagree. I revere the teaching of Jesus but also have come to appreciate and respect the teaching of the Buddha. I am not sure that Jesus would recognize or endorse the infrastructure that was created after his life. I have come to have doubts on much of what is taught in the traditional and historic Christian faith, much of it just does not make logical sense in the modern world, even though I know that much of this arose after the fact. I find great truth and wisdom in the 4 noble truths and the 8 fold path. It is logical and it makes coherent sense. My spiritual progression continues. I am not interested in transplanted cultural artifacts, icons, chants, statues, rituals, and such, and am not at all bothered with others who need, want or appreciate them. In fact, I have a sense that I would just like to live by the 4 truths and 8 fold path and be in fellowship with all who are on serious spiritual paths, most especially if it impacts how they live and treat others. I do not think that spiritual truth is something primarily to be mentally assented to. It is a something non-tangible but understood that makes a real difference in how you live in community with all life. I don't just want to move from one boxed traditional formula with set answers to another one. I mention all this here, the day I joined this community, as I think there may be some good responses to guide me. Today I bought my 1st copy of tricycle and this is what led me here. Thank you to all who read and especially to those who respond.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for posting Aleric. I think your insight into how some traditions have developed is spot on.

carol.delk's picture

I was a confirmed Catholic in my youth and after disconnecting, I began to search for other spiritual avenues and Buddhism came up somewhere between Jane Roberts and Atlantis. I stuck with the Buddhism ;) To me the philosophy is so simple that I find it difficult at times to keep in the forefront of my day. But I continue to return to thoughts of the kindness it exudes. About 20 various books on the subject later, it fits. I ask more of it than it does of me. . . . . and it never lets me down

djfqld's picture

I came to Buddhism whilst training to be a teacher in Australia. I got invited to attend a meditation class and quickly found great benefit in the practice. From there I began listening to Gil Fronsdal's dharma talks online and audiobooks by Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield and others and got talking to dharma friends. Basically, Buddhist practices and teachings made a huge difference in my life and continue to do so. I'm now a trainee in Integrative Psychotherapy and am very excited about working with mindfulness and being of benefit to others. I think online communities like this are great and I wish everyone here happiness and good health.

Danny

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks Danny! Good luck with your training!

Richard Fidler's picture

After rejecting Christianity when I was an adolescent, I became a total secularist--science informed my life--in fact, I eventually became a science teacher. In high school I developed an interest in Zen Buddhism by reading Alan Watts book, The Way of Zen. That way of thinking was so foreign to me, I read the book twenty times, eventually breaking the binding so that all the pages came loose. It was a whole new way of looking at the world, but it did not require me to abandon what I loved about science: its insistence that the world could be understood if we asked the right questions and did the right kind of investigations. Since that time science and Buddhism have intermingled in ways that helped both lines of thought and practice. At first I wanted to achieve enlightenment, but later came to see Buddhism as a way of making me a better person. I am able to criticize Buddhist teachings in a way that respects science and I can let go of science to work on my Buddhist practice. Analytical thinking is not the answer to every problem! Anyway, I am a secular Buddhist now, not a practitioner of any sect. I guess I have fabricated my own perspective on religion and the world.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thank you Richard. I wish you the best with your work both with science and Buddhist practice!

"At first I wanted to achieve enlightenment, but later came to see Buddhism as a way of making me a better person."

I like that line.

lisanator1077's picture

I grew up the daughter of a Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher single mother and an absent retired Army father. The only real approval I got as a kid was through my incredible ability to memorize and comprehend scripture at very early ages. As a child, I wanted to be a preacher...to which the Baptist church replied "Isn't that cute, little girl, you can't be a preacher." Maybe that was a seed of discontent.

I suffered terrible things, but well into my teens my Christian faith was still deep and profound. I was devout, and my spiritual experiences were incredible. During an attempt to comfort a dear friend in high school the only way I knew how, she challenged me with the question of how the Bible handled the experience of sexual violence. I searched high and low for an answer to this question, boggling that I had never asked myself. Short version: I didn't like what I found. I had to stop taking the Bible literally, could no longer accept it as literal truth and fact. In my family's understanding of things, one might as well discard all of it if one cannot accept any small portion of it. I eventually concluded that either there was no god, or there was a god and I hated him, and either way I was doomed...and discard it I did. In hindsight, and in reviewing passages that I highlighted in my troubled youth and to which I felt deeply connected, my entire meaningful experience with Christian scripture was in the themes of suffering and relief of suffering.

I started arguing scripture with my mother, often citing the Sermon on the Mount to prove her wrong about so many of her beliefs. I began observing the world and its workings for myself, deciphering it, sharing what I thought truth really was and what scripture must really mean. My mother one day accused me of sounding like a Humanist. I had no idea what that meant, and set out to research it. In those days that involved a trip to the public library and thumbing through a card catalog. As I learned a little about Humanism, I thought that it indeed described my own observation and understanding of things.

I had a dear friend who was practicing Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. He and I debated often, and I tried with all my intellect to dismantle Buddhism entirely, to prove how it was just as flawed as every other religion in my disillusioned condition. I formed my own philosophies about life, and he'd point out how this brilliant observation of mine or that profound realization matched various Buddhist doctrines and concepts. It irritated me...because I wanted to feel I was generating original thought, and Buddhism kept taking that rug out from under me from thousands of years ago. So Buddhism essentially matched what I was already realizing and held up to my harshest analysis, and eventually I decided it might be okay for me to learn from the hard work already done. I called myself a non-practicing Buddhist for the first ten years of my adult life.

I didn't take it seriously until I was falling apart from the sum of my life's sufferings. I had embarked upon a journey of healing old wounds and trauma with Reiki and conventional talk therapy. In the course of making supportive connections with folks of similar experiences, a new friend challenged me on my "non-practice" with gentle dialog about what I thought that meant and what being or not being a Buddhist meant. She introduced me to Pema Chodron with a quote that changed my life: "The gravest sorrow comes from closing our minds to the suffering of others and feeling justified in doing so." Attempting to keep the story shorter, I'll just say that Pema Chodron's books and lectures helped me resolve my conflicts, especially with the ideas of karma and reincarnation and how I felt about those concepts in relation to my own terrible suffering in precious early life. It helped me turn my Western misunderstandings onto their heads.

So I decided to allow myself to take on Buddhist practice, and I wanted a community. Locally, the only accessible community was the SGI. So I began practicing Nichiren's Buddhism with the SGI hoping to benefit from the community. I ended up experiencing greater benefit from the practice itself than from the community, but I am grateful to that community for making this practice, that I found so incredibly healing and helpful, available to me. Now I have practiced for almost 5 years, and my life condition has improved far beyond my capacity to ever have imagined possible. I still enjoy what benefits I experience from the teachings of other traditions as well, and I often find that other teachings help me understand how I am affected by my practice more deeply. I love all of it, and I have sincere gratitude for everyone around the world, throughout history, that has kept all these teachings alive, and cultivated them, and brought them to me.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thank you for posting lisanator1077. There is much beauty and clarity in your recollections.

Susan A's picture

My father was a Naval fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. As strange as it sounds, I was practically raised on the war, fearing for my father, grieving for friends fathers who didn't make it back home. At the beginning of the first war in Iraq I shut down. I couldn't deal with the memories that the air bombings brought back to me. One day my husband and I were waiting at the dentist. He picked up a news magazine and inside found a sidebar about Thich Nhat Hanh's first retreat with American Vietnam War veterans. One of his friends was in that picture. I read a couple of Thay's books and felt deeply moved by both his own experiences and his teachings on how to find peace again in my heart. I found out later about a meditation and writing retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh and Maxine Hong Kingston for veterans and family members. I had never been to a meditation retreat, or done much personal writing. I was the only family member, only child of a veteran at the retreat. I was terrified, uncomfortable on that black cushion on the floor and wrote about casseroles. The veterans treated me with such kindness, and I listened to the stories of their experiences that still haunted them. That was 30 years ago.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thank you Susan.

CelticPurl's picture

I was raised in an Irish Catholic family and although I'm an only child, I have dozens of cousins and we all all very close. It seemed like the beliefs of their faith clicked with them but not with me. I couldn't understand why it didn't resonate within me as it did with them. Ever since I was a child I've held the belief that we come back again and again until we get "IT" right. I didn't know what reincarnation was - never heard of it until I was a teenager and then Pow! my thoughts began to make sense to me, not just reincarnation but other feelings that I had. I tried to supress these naturally occurring thoughts that I had had for as long as I can remember until I finally realized that Buddhism is the only thing that made sense in my life. After reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying I took refuge and haven't looked back. What a wonderful world this is!

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for posting CelticPurl. A wonderful world indeed!

matthewoconnell's picture

I grew up with a very 'spiritual' mum who took me to White Eagle Lodge meditations with her friends who were all antique, when I was 7 or 8. I then read the 'Life of Milerapa', by Lobsang Jivaka, which is so much fun and a rollicking read (highly recommended if you haven't read it). Later when I was 16 I read 'Buddha Mind' by Thulku Thondup, or I should say I read a few chapters, and then got extremely paranoid after reading about 'no-self' at an age when I was trying to 'become a somebody.'
I finally came back to Buddhism after some negative experiences with hallucinogens at 19 and joined the New Kadampa guys in exploring Shantideva's 'Way of the Bodhisatva.' I lived with them for a year and then decided they were not really into practicing in a way that I was into and so left. I was 22 at that time. I'm now 34 and have finally found a great teacher I can work with after meditating by myself for 12 years!

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for sharing matthew. I've always been fanscinated with the life of Milarepa ever since I read Eva Van Dam's comic about him as a kid. I blogged a few pics from it here: http://www.tricycle.com/blog/magic-life-milarepa

TracyMGamble's picture

I'd just like to know what the image associated with this discussion represents. Is it a flag of some sort?

kathyd's picture

Namaste_/\_
This is the International Buddhist Flag.
For more, see http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=16883#more-16883

khrystene's picture

My exposure started with Monkey ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_%28TV_series%29 ) the quirky, camp Japanese TV show with English dubbing based on the Wu Cheng'en book http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_to_the_West - still a great fave.

Fascination with Tibet was something I recall from my early teens as well. Then it was probably Jack Kerouac and C. Jung amongst others as a teen.... then Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the Dalai Lama in mid/late teens and onwards!

Monty McKeever's picture

thanks for commenting khrystene.

I love Monkey! I've read two different translation of the Wu Chen'en book and think they were both great.

khrystene's picture

Super!! :D

alalaho's picture

i was visiting a friend's studio back in '93-94. she and her husband were working on a film documentary on the Tibetan struggle. when they would show me some of their footage i began to take interest in these monks and what they were saying. i was fascinated by their non-violence stance and wondering how they could maintain such equanimity and compassion. on this day of my visit, i noticed a small postcard pinned on my friend's bulletin board. it had a picture of HH The Dalai Lama and a short quote:

“All joy in this world comes from wanting others to be happy, and all suffering in this world comes from wanting only oneself to be happy.” - Shantideva

to me, this was the real revolution. i was hooked. in a good way, this time. and it continues.

thanks,
cesar

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for posting alahalo.

bblueskye's picture

What attracted me to it was the Tibetan Freedom Concerts that went on during my teen years. I'd also say I was curious about spirituality around those years. I found myself studying about Tibetan Buddhism, studying about Zen Buddhism, and I found my place in Theravadan Buddhism.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for posting bbluesky. I had a blast at the Tibetan Freedom Concert on Randalls Island in NYC as a teenager. My brother started a massive mud fight.

konzertposaune's picture

I felt out of place in the Catholic church since about the age of 6. Due to my family being religious, it was the only one I new about for a long time. I felt myself an atheist for most my life, giving a good try to absorb the Catholic faith around confirmation time, however it didn't stick. When I left for college I looked through information on all sorts of faiths, Baha'i, Islam, Judaism, Paganism, some Buddhism, and Taoism. I was drawn to Taoism and bought the Tao Teh Ching. For a year I read through that and felt a bit better inside, but still not complete. This past year, I looked further and further into Buddhism after having a discussion on newsvine about it. I finally found that feeling inside that told me this is truth after reading some of the Pali Canon. The Theravadan tradition is what I follow.

I meditate sometimes, though I need to do it more frequently. I can see the Dhamma in daily life, and it's beautiful. My family is still extremely Catholic and were not thrilled when I told them. It has gotten a bit better since then, but I"m still struggling to get them to respect my decision. Unfortunately where I life there is no nearby temple, the nearest being in Minneapolis (but that is a 3 hour drive and a college kid can't afford the gas :P) so I do what I can with the online communities and the amazing books I have. I started with "In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon" by bikkhu bhodi, and was gifted from a good friend "The Middle Discourses" by Bhikku Nanamoli, "The Long Discourses" by Maurice Walshe, and "The Connected Discourses" by Bhikku Bhodi. Learning to pray with the help of Thich Nhat Hanh's book "The Energy of Prayer: How to Deepen Your Spiritual Practice" brought even more fulfillment to me.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for posting Missy. I'm sorry to hear about the lack of a temple in your area. That sounds frustrating. Yet it is true that there are so many great online resources. Making Buddhist material widely available and accessible online is one of aspects of working for Tricycle I am most grateful for. We will continue to do our best to help keep you supplied with good material!

steph.mohan's picture

After over 30 years of a full time stressful project & change management career in Financial Services, I was 'burnt out' at age 46 - it was the end of 2008 and the Global Financial Crisis was in full swing - I was fortunate to get a redundancy and my husband's work contract was cut short. So, we decided to pack up everything in Singapore (we are Aussie's) and take a 1 year sabbatical touring NZ with nothing except our 20kg each of suitcase luggage. We arrived in NZ just before Easter in 2010 and began what was a wonderful year. In June that year, my husband had to go home to India for 4 weeks to attend some weddings and I was left in a house-sit we had landed on the North Island. I had been talking to my mentor coach (as a coaching student at the time) about my desire to 'just be' and here was my opportunity. Every morning I would sit on the back deck which was overlooking a lake and just sit and just be. I didn't call it meditation because I didn't realize that was what I was doing. I sat for hours each day - I felt like I just 'had to'. In the afternoons, I would work on my assignments and also began following a strong urge to research about Buddha and his teachings - I can't remember why /what triggered it as I knew very little about Buddhism at that time. I started reading e-books and internet materials 'voraciously' like I had finally found my true home. I was pretty much fasting for 2 weeks of that time - I felt like I needed to, but was still drinking some alcohol even though alone in the house - a habit developed since I was a teenager. My husband returned home 2 days after I had decided on my own to take the 5 precepts and I had quit drinking alcohol completely, just like that. He joined me as he wasn't much interested in drinking alcohol anyway. I had ended my fasting and returned to normal healthy eating. I think it was the morning after my hubby got home I was in bed, it was early (about 6am) and very cold. For the first time in my life, I suddenly experienced vertigo in the most alarming way. I thought it was an earthquake so I sat up in bed and shook my husband awake whispering urgently "earthquake" - he awoke with a shock and said nothing was happening. Meanwhile the whole room was shifting and moving violently around me for over a minute and I felt drunk in a different way. The next morning it happened again and the only way I could stop it was by sitting up and breathing deeply but it would start again when I laid back down - stopping again after about 3 minutes. The third morning it happened again - and I was getting really scared. I didn't say anything to my husband...I just rolled on my pillow and grasped for the bed rails. Suddenly I heard "Follow Me" - I can't describe the voice - a male voice, so clear, resonant, not in my head but outside the bedroom around the corner - clear as a bell; a voice I had never heard. The vertigo stopped (and never returned since). I got up and looked around the house and nothing. My husband was still asleep. My mind and heart were telling me - "that was Buddha". Of course, I don't really know what it was.... but since then, I have been a practicing Buddhist. I do not have a teacher. My sangha is the internet communities and people who provide me with readings and podcasts to listen to daily. I have found my true home. And I can't explain what happened...for me, it dispelled any doubt that I had about being on my right path. Stephanie

mitaky's picture

Hi Stephanie, I had similar experience(s) of earthquake in my body, most powerfully the first time after seven-ten days of uninstructed inner guided meditative absorption. I would not label that as 'vertigo'. It also took me beyond any doubt that conventional reality is not the only Reality. Blessings and metta.

Monty McKeever's picture

That is an incredible story Stephanie. Thank you. I've had a few experiences that I can't really explain, kind of like the mysterious voice you describe. I've wondered about them a lot, but ultimately don't feel the need to "know." An experience is an experience.

magicmeditation's picture

I do not restrict myself to one religion. I admire several archetypes and want to see more of those qualities in me. Mary Baker Eddy, Deepak Chopra, and Wayne Dyer are some of my strongest. The Buddha is the most prominent, and I have just finished the Dharmmapada and am working through the Pali Cannon. I have really come to the understanding that meditation has become most important in my life and am very interested in the teachings of the Buddha. It follows more of the way I have thought all along. I do feel that the Buddha continues to be my teacher as well as my other archetypes.

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for posting magicmeditation. It's great you reading through the Pali Canon! That's quite an endeavor!

BenTremblay's picture

"we work with the present and try to build a better future, there is much that can be learned from examining our past" ... someone wrote a book for me to read. Someone had established a priory for me to live in and practice. "Random acts of kindness" is always good fun, but substantial generosity inspired by compassion / empathy / solidarity, that's the loving kindness that really transmits the teachings, if I may be so bold.

mangalam!

Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for the wise words Ben.

lovinaklife's picture

What a great discussion!! I had always been interested in Buddhism - but didn't take Refuge until last year. After five years of what seemed like constant tragic "life" events (starting with my father's sudden death and ending with my mother's stroke) I found that Buddhism was only thing that brought me peace.

Monty McKeever's picture

I'm happy to appreciate the discussion lovinaklife! I am pretty blown away by all responses myself. I'm happy you found peace despite such painful events.

worthmoremusic's picture

...it was just after the death of my partner in 1990 that I sought refuge in "something"....I needed a new life path and the Buddha offered his hand....and has led the way since !

_/\_

Monty McKeever's picture

Thank you for sharing worthmoremusic. I think practice is an excellent way to honor not only ourselves, but those we have lost as well. I wish you the best!

pierrerowe's picture

What else is there to do ? Honestly !