Saturday, June 25, 2011

Seeds sprout

Yesterday a reader asked me how I arrived at faith.  I think he is referring to faith in the path of Buddhist practice, faith that it would help me.  I believe I learned that respect from the example of one woman, a neighbor named Gini Whiting, who is no longer alive in that form, but is in my mind.

She was a meditator, and this was in the 1950's, when Buddhism was just coming alive in America, and that on the coasts, not in the midwest. So it was remarkable. I imagine she could have learned meditation when she had tuberculosis; before antibiotics you took a long, quiet rest to get over it.

She was a soft-voiced woman with a quiet presence, a stillness, and she was very good to me, and was markedly different than any other adult I ever saw.

But in the course of my life I've known other people who seemed contented, happy, who enjoyed life in a quiet way.  One couple was Christian, and had been missionaries. Another man, George, brought yoga to Lancaster, Ohio in the early 1970's, and led us through meditation at the end of each class. It was wonderful. Sometimes I still hear him say softly, "It feels good to relax."  He was living entirely a yogic life, and took me to a vegetarian restaurant here in Columbus, Seva, now sadly long gone, to show me how delicious meat-free food could be. And since then, of course, I've met and worked with realized Zen teachers.  One meeting with some of these people and you think, They've got something I want.

So I experientially gained faith that spiritual practice could cut my suffering, even give me peace. In fact, I tried to establish a meditation practice, as I knew it, two or three times in my life, but had no spiritual friend to help me know what to do and keep at it. Those efforts discouraged me until I was found to have breast cancer. Then I must have remembered Gini and George and Bill and Ruth, and thought, maybe what they do could help. It was the only thing I could think of.

As for faith in a belief system . . . I entered this as someone who had long ago been disappointed by the Christian God. Everything I believe about life and the workings of the universe I have affirmed with my own experience.  It just happens to coincide with the dharma. 

[image: our front lawn with tiny new oak trees, result of last fall's huge acorn crop.]


  1. faith started to grow as my anger and discontent started to wain when I heard dhamma and practiced meditation. I could begin to see where I could have chosen the old way, or the new way with calm and equanimity...not all the time but I could actually see the difference.

  2. I had heard the dharma way back - owned "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones," and tried hard to understand it. And "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind," also very difficult to understand until you've meditated for some time. It didn't take me too long, either, to realize that meditation was helping me once I made the firm intention to meditate every day whether I liked it or not.