Posts Tagged ‘Buddhists & Buddhism’

“The holidays are upon us,” I keep hearing, meaning Thanksgiving-and-Christmas, the season of spending large amounts of money on friends and family to prove our love for them and eating large amounts of food which we will be called upon to ritually repent in January.

“The holidays” are upon us, if I believe the advertising I see and hear, the jolly red-and-white covers of December issues of magazines that I check in at work, splashed with candy canes and cake recipes, and we are expected to rejoice. As for me, I’m always grumpy and refractory, this time of year. It’s still November and I’m thinking about the dead–my Aunt Margaret, whose birthday was yesterday; my father-in-law, whom I ought to pray to and for more often; my mother, dead 26 years on the 22d, who still in many ways haunts my life.

And I’m thinking about Advent, about apocalypse stories, about the Rapture and the great zombie takeover and what the Mayans did or did not predict. Just for the record, I don’t think they or anyone else predicted the End of the World on 21 December 2012. I definitely don’t think Jesus is coming at any minute to waft away all the True Believers and punish the rest of us with gruesome special effects. As for the zombies, well, we are the zombies, aren’t we? Mindless consumers who will eat everything in sight until there is nothing left, and we eat one another, and die off.


But it might just be the late-afternoon, early winter light making me feel this way, right at the moment. Remembering the beloved dead is not necessarily a sad thing. It’s remembering the not-so-beloved dead, like my mother and our problematic relationship, that is hard. And for an introvert like myself, the over-cultural exhortations to cook, eat, buy presents, spend money, drink egg nog, ho ho ho, ha ha ha, always make me want to lock myself in a dim room and listen to austere Gregorian chant until it all goes away. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to the Thanksgiving meal with family, or to exchanging gifts with those I love. It just means I want to do so in my time, not at the corporate world’s demand.

Long-term readers of this blog (if there are any–one or two) are no doubt used to my vacillating between religious labels: Am I a Druid, an Anglican, a Buddhist, or something else? Is there anything I haven’t tried and found wanting? Maybe I, myself, have been tried and found wanting, by the gods or the egregores of a tradition or at least by my readers. I was raised an Episcopalian, and I will probably always be able to quote the Prayerbook and sing hymns from the Hymnal 1940 with gusto. But the Christian tradition that in large measure formed my spirituality has done a lot in the past ten years or so to kill my love and admiration for it. Granted, it’s been helped along by the atrocities of a number of other Christian traditions–the Roman Catholic hierarchy protecting its pedophile priests, the right-wing Evangelical Protestants in the U.S. doing their best to control female sexuality and reproduction throughout the population–but I cannot hold the Anglican Communion blameless any more.

Nor can I ignore the fact that I just don’t believe any more. I don’t believe or accept many points of Christian doctrine, as a description of reality. I don’t believe in, trust, have any significant relationship with Jesus. Jesus makes most sense to me now as a buddha or bodhisattva, a fully enlightened human being, a teacher of wisdom and compassion who, like Amitabha or Padmasambhava, has his own pure land, the heaven he offers his followers.

I have failed to find a place in Druidry, or to make a druidry for myself. Nobody can say that I haven’t tried, but Druidry has been for me a very beautiful, very attractive garment, in all my favorite colors, that just Does. Not. Fit, no matter how much I squirm or fuss. It is a cloak I cannot wear, a house I cannot live in, no matter how much I like and admire those who can wear the druid cloak and live in the druid grove.

Buddhism continues to provide me with invaluable perspective on managing my mind, on the purpose of spiritual work, on ethical questions, on how the scattered branches of the Western tradition, like the scattered limbs of Osiris, might fit together again into a living whole. Yet it remains a school of practice that is not for me, perhaps because of its cultural contexts, perhaps for more individual reasons. I’m not certain I agree with Dion Fortune‘s dictum that Western people must follow Western paths, but it does seem to me that Westerners who genuinely “convert” to Buddhism, for lack of a better word than “convert”, often come from a background in which there was no significant religious commitment, a secular Jewishness, for example, or a twice-a-year mainstream Protestantism, not from deeply committed practice in a Western tradition.

So where does that leave me? Actually, despite my gloomy start to this entry, I am not left alone in the cold, dark winter night of an atheistic existence. (Getting dark where I am, at the moment, but not terribly cold or wintry.) I still have my training in the New Hermetics, otherwise known as That Thing I Tried And I Finished The Whole Course And It Worked Really Well For Me. I also have, unexpectedly, a new devotion–to Antinous, the Bithynian Boy, the beloved of the Roman Emperor Hadrian who was deified, in accordance with ancient Egyptian tradition, when he drowned in the Nile.

There are a lot of interesting connections between Antinous, Hermetic magic, and stuff in my life, which I think I should save for another post. As I contemplate that, I’ll also be contemplating whether to change the name of this blog, or start a new one, or just muddle on with the name recognition of “Confessions of an Urban Druid” while I blog about magic, Antinous, and my media intake. Cheers.

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For as long as I’ve been able to read, I’ve loved to read about religion. Whether it was my own religion, Protestant (Episcopal) Christianity, or the more exotic forms of Christianity in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, or other religions entirely, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, it was all interesting. I started with picture-heavy tomes on Religions of the World, went on to children’s retellings of Greek and Norse myths, and branched out into adult books on archaeology, mythology, and comparative religion. For most of my life (I could already read when I entered kindergarten), religion has been for me one of the most fascinating things in the world.

When I discovered The Spiral Dance at thirteen, the same year it was published, what I discovered was not just that some people believed in a Goddess, or The Goddess, or gods and goddesses. I discovered that people like me believed in them, worshipped them, took them seriously, right now today. People who were Americans, who were brought up as White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who weren’t ethnic or exotic or distant from in time or space. People like me.

As soon as I finished the book, I was quite certain I was actually a Witch, or at least a Pagan, and that I always would be. My observance took the form of writing a lot of bad poetry about spring and fall and my two favorite deities, Athena and Dionysus. Well, I was only thirteen. Then when I was sixteen, my grandmother died, after no illness and a massive heart attack and on my birthday, and within two years, I was back at my little Episcopal church, because there was a new priest there and absolutely no community, no support, in my solitary poetry-writing paganism.

In the last twenty years, I have identified variously as a Neopagan, an Anglican, a Druid, a Magician, and a Buddhist. I have been a member of two different druid organizations, trained in a Hermetic magical system, flirted with Greco-Egyptian syncretism, and taken refuge and bodhisattva vows. I have kept and abandoned and restarted this blog multiple times. I have read not only on Druidry, magic and occultism, and Tibetan Buddhism, but on Zen, Santeria, Wicca, Feri, Reclaiming, Asatru and the Northern Tradition, and Thelema.

In that same period of time, I have been happily monogamously married to one man, my husband, my best friend, my lover. Being sexually and emotional faithful, being true to the traditional Christian wedding vows we made, has not been difficult or challenging in the slightest. Admiring beautiful people and swooning over beautiful, talented actors has not interfered with my commitment to one person and our life together.

A lot of people find long-term sexual/romantic commitment difficult, even impossible. They cheat on spouses, adopt serial monogamy, or try the path of polyamory. Yet they might not have a problem adopting one spiritual path, one system of practice, and sticking to it. I know people who have been Wiccan or Heathen or Buddhist for decades, as contentedly as I have been married. If someone asked me for relationship advice, as somebody with a successful marriage, I would have no hesitation in giving it. But if someone asked me for spiritual advice, well, I have to admit, finally, that I remain in many ways a beginner, because I have never stayed the course and gone deep with anything.

Right now I’m reading Dedicant: A Witch’s Circle of Fire by Thuri Calafia. In the introduction, she describes her system of study in the Craft as a circle of five stages corresponding to the elements: Seeker (Air), Dedicant (Fire), Initiate (Water), Adept (Earth), and Master (Spirit). The Initiate, Adept, and Master stages correspond to the First, Second, and Third Degrees of coven-based Craft. Here is how Calafia describes the Dedicant:

The Dedicant becomes very passionate and fired up about this religion, and begins by learning to use his will as he learns about himself and the Craft.

And the Initiate:

The Initiate (in traditional Wicca, the first-degree) falls in love in a whole new way with her religion as she comes to understand how deep she must go to truly know and love herself and her gods.

Somehow, I have never crossed the threshold from the enthusiasm of the Dedicant to the commitment of the Initiate. I’ve gotten engaged a lot of times but never made it to the altar.

Why is it that a sexual, relationship commitment has been easy for me to make and maintain, but a spiritual commitment nearly impossible? Why does the grass always look greener to me in somebody else’s circle? I don’t have an answer, but this is a question I am going to be exploring for a while.

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Lent began on Wednesday the 22d. I said the Daily Office but did not attend any services. (I was amused and appalled that a local Episcopal church, my own denomination, described their service as “Ashing & Holy Communion”. I thought the heirs of Cranmer and Hooker could do better than that.) Will I engage in acts of fasting and self-denial? Probably not, although I may say the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross privately. Years ago I read in a Roman Catholic publication that the Lenten fast grew out of the conditions of pre-industrial living: Before factory farming and refrigeration, the winter stores of food that made the Yuletide so jolly were nearly exhausted by February, and new foods were not yet available. Beginning in early February (Imbolc/Candlemas), milk, butter, and cheese became available thanks to the birth of lambs; as the days got longer, chickens began to lay again. (Perhaps that’s why eggs are associated with the Spring Equinox–chickens would be laying reliably by then, if not sooner.)

Am I a Christian? I don’t know. I believe that Jesus was an incarnation of divinity and a great teacher, perhaps the most important teacher of the Western traditions. I don’t think he was the sole embodiment of divinity, but rather a model for what all human persons are capable of. I could say I believe in him, but I don’t really have much of a relationship with him. I have much more of a relationship with Julian of Norwich, whose writings I have studied in more depth and with more devotion than I have given any book of the Christian Scriptures.

Am I a Pagan, then? Again, I don’t know. I think many gods exist; I think many spirits or wights, beings neither human nor divine, angel nor devil, exist. I think some of them are benevolently interested in humankind, a few are actively hostile to us, and many are basically indifferent. But I don’t have much of a relationship with any non-Christian deity, either. I have gained strength and benefit from the practice of Tara and Medicine Buddha in Tibetan Buddhist contexts. I definitely have a relationship with birds, all birds, not just my own companions; anywhere I go, birds seem to recognize me, to know that I am a safe human, to come near to me. On the other hand, I have actually tried to cultivate relationships with some Celtic deities who seemed interested in me, and that situation seems to have resulted in FAIL all round.

Am I a Buddhist? No, as much as I admire Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, as much as I have learned from studying and practicing it. Perhaps Dion Fortune and her successors were right in saying Eastern methods are not for Western methods. Perhaps I just had too many years of Western religion and magic behind me, too many patterns formed, before I discovered Buddhism; I might be a thorough-going Buddhist if I’d made contact with it in my early twenties.

Am I a Druid, even? Probably not. I’m feeling like I’ve made repeated efforts, alone and as part of a group, to connect with Druidry, with the traditions of Arthur and Merlin and Taliesin, with faery lore, with bardic lore, with the Druid Revival and with more Reconstructionist systems, all to no avail. I’ve been banging my head against a wall, or possibly knocking at a door that just won’t open, and I’m exhausted by it. I want a holiday from all things Druidic and Celtic and Arthurian, except possibly Celtic music and episodes of the BBC’s Merlin.

What am I? I’m a married woman; a writer; a library paraprofessional; a singer, or former singer, specifically a chorister; and… a magician? a mage? an Adept of the New Hermetics? I trained with Jason Augustus Newcomb in the original New Hermetics course, in 2005-2006, and have completed all levels through Advanced Adept (equivalent to the Golden Dawn’s Adeptus Major). I have the certificates and the Rose Cross lamen to prove it. And for the last year, I’ve been trying to get my act together and undertake Jason’s revised version of the course.

I think about saying, “I’m a Hermeticist… I’m a Hermetic magician…” and the words just don’t want to come out of my mouth. I think about saying, “I’m a magician–” and my brain adds, “–not a priestess!” and follows it up with Bones McCoy growling, “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!” (I believe that episode, “Devil in the Dark“, was the first appearance of the Great McCoy Disclaimer, which has since been echoed by every other Starfleet doctor.)

Here are a few things I’m certain of:

  • I’m interested in religious and magical traditions and what I can learn from them, even if I never identify with or practice them. This has been true of me since I was a child and read the grown-up books on comparative religion.
  • The New Hermetics has worked better for me as a spiritual practice than pretty much anything else I’ve ever tried.
  • I am convinced of the rightness of the Mahayana Buddhist approach: To seek the fullest possible personal freedom and self-development in order to help other beings achieve the same thing. I cannot be genuinely free and genuinely happy while others are trapped and miserable; helping others is an essential part of my own fulfillment. Helping others may not look like anything more than doing my library job, keeping this blog, and helping individuals as opportunity arises, but it is still part of the Great Work.

So I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog to reflect… whatever I’ve changed into.

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A couple of weeks ago, I found myself interested in the Gnostics again. Like the sinking of the Titanic, the early Christian Gnostics are a topic I get interested in and read about fairly intensely every once in a while.

This time I ordered a couple of books from Amazon and started reading The Gospel of Philip: Annotated and Explained by Andrew Philip Smith. I also Kindled Voices of Gnosticism, an anthology of interviews with prominent scholars of Gnosticism and early Christianity.

I haven’t finished either of those books yet. They’re good, well worth reading if you’re interested in Gnosticism and/or early Christianity. The problem is that I got bored with the Gnostics themselves, not with the books I was reading. The Gospel of Philip is a fascinating text, full of vibrant imagery, perhaps almost as important in the big picture of early Christianity as the Gospel of Thomas. At times I am certain that it came out of a community that used sexual intercourse in a Tantric way, as a shortcut method to holiness, just as some (but not all) forms of Hindu and Buddhist Tantra use sex as a shortcut to enlightenment. At times I am certain that the Gnostics were the Vajrayana adepts of the early Church, the magicians who possessed the shortened way, and it was a terrible shame that they and their teachings were wiped out.

At other times, like lately, I think the Gnostics were a bunch of stuck-up snobs. Because there really is an Us and Them mentality in their writings, far sooner than the orthodox or catholic Christians (i.e., the winning team) began to think that way. The general thrust of the winning church’s teaching and missionizing and so forth was that the message of Jesus was for everyone, the grace of God was for everyone, there was no more division of Chosen Jews and unchosen Gentiles (or of slave and free, male and female–it’s right there in St. Paul), but *everybody* had been given a fresh chance through the saving action of Jesus.

With the Gnostics, though, there’s still an Us and a Them. It’s no longer the Usness of chosen Israel and their tangled history of relationship with YHVH vs. the ignorance of the nations (goyim); now it’s the Usness of the Gnostics, the Knowers, the Spiritual People (pneumatics, as the Greek texts call them) vs. the unwashed Them of the non-knowers, the unspiritual, the people the Gnostics called “psychics” (meaning “of the soul”) or “hylic” (meaning just material–Muggles, cowans, mundanes).

Obviously the human urge to create an Us and a Them is strong. It’s present in politics and fandom and sports and all areas of life, not just religion. That fans have words for non-fans, pagans have words for non-pagans, descriptive words like “liberal” have become derogatory epithets, and the Left Behind books have sold big all stands as evidence of this truth. But there’s also always this counter-thrust to include everybody. That’s why the more structured, less elitist, politically successful Christians called themselves Catholic, kata holos, for everybody. That’s why the early monastic traditions of Buddhism (possibly in contact with early Christianity) developed the concept of the Mahayana, the Great Vehicle, all aboard–a practitioner’s efforts toward enlightenment are not just for the isolated self, but for all sentient beings. Only when you have the Mahayana, the concept of working for the benefit of all, can you safely develop the Vajrayana, the secret special shortcut teachings that make possible enlightenment in! this! lifetime! so that you can benefit all sentient beings even more.

We may never be sure, really, if the Gnostics were adepts like the Tibetan lamas or just prigs with their noses in the air. There may not be enough of their literary remains to be sure. Scholars are already certain that, contrary to what their orthodox opponents said, they didn’t just make up heresies so they could seduce gullible women or have fancy bishop hats of their own; they had genuine religious motivations. But ultimately, I’m not interested in a system that doesn’t potentially include everybody. That includes types of Christianity or Paganism that reserve salvation or enlightenment or apotheosis for a chosen few. I don’t know if we’ll all Get There, but I believe we all have a chance.

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Well, apparently I am not a druid.  Again.

My attempts back in November to fulfill the requirements for NaBloPoMo and to make Druid spirituality my primary path both failed.  Since then I have wrestled repeatedly with the angelic conundrum of being attracted to a number of religious paths that I simply can not practice, or can not practice simply.

I’ve been attracted to Druidry since the early 1990s.  Back then I longed to join OBOD, but the cost was prohibitive; while my income has increased since those days, so has the cost of OBOD’s famous correspondence course.  Whatever the exchange rates between the pound and the U.S. dollar might be, the Atlantic has not gotten any smaller, and packets from OBOD will always have to cross it to get to prospective druids in the States.

I discovered the Ancient Order of Druids in America at the end of 2004, and I managed to achieve the first degree, Apprentice Druid, within a couple of years.  I’ve tried repeatedly to advance to second degree, but no matter my intentions, I repeatedly found myself not doing the work.  I am still a First Degree member in good standing, but the work for further degrees is not, I think, going to get done.

I learned today that there has been a big blow-up in another pagan tradition to which I’ve been attracted for years, the Feri or Faery tradition stemming from Victor and Cora Anderson.  Like many people, I think, I first heard of it through Starhawk’s mentions in The Spiral Dance, which I first read when I was thirteen and the book was brand new.  I was thrilled to discover that people actually worshipped the old gods whose stories I’d read throughout my childhood, and practiced a kind of magic, another topic I’d read about precociously.  I was enchanted, and I use the word in the fullest sense, with her descriptions of Victor’s Faery teachings, though that enchantment translated into lots of bad poetry rather than into trying the magical exercises or even performing rituals.

I still rather miss being an Anglican, particularly around Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.  The Incarnation was and is far more important to me as a doctrine than the Atonement; the Atonement, for me, makes little sense without a stress on the Incarnation and has everything to do with Divine Love revealing itself in extremity and nothing to do with a wrathful Deity being bought off somehow by the torture of his Son.

Buddhism, especially the Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet, is the thing that has been the most helpful and illuminating for me over the past five years or so.  Its philosophy explained so much of Western magic and religion in a newly coherent way, and the practices and community I found helped me deal with stress, train my mind, look at the big picture.  But I don’t live in circumstances where I have regular access to a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, and I’m not willing to make huge changes in my life–such as relocating to another city or learning to drive and buying a car for the first time–in order to do so.  I can’t help but feel that makes me a bad Buddhist, a half-assed practitioner, but I’m insistent that my spiritual practice reduce chaos and stress in my life (give or take a few necessary crises) rather than increase it, and moving or buying a car would definitely count as an increase in stress.  I can’t even switch tracks and practice with a Zen lineage, which might not be a bad thing; again, there’s no sangha with a teacher that’s accessible to me in time and place.

There’s a saying that is often useful even though it sounds ditzy: “Bloom where you’re planted.”  I prefer metaphors like, “Go through the door that’s open, or out the window if the door is locked.”  Or, “Deal with what lands in your lap.”  Recently two things have opened up for me or landed in my lap: The chance to take yoga classes and develop a practice, and the chance to study further with Jason Augustus Newcomb in the New Hermetics system.

I’ve been interested in yoga since I was a teenager (hm, along with Witchcraft and Druidry and what not else), and right before Christmas I discovered I was living a few blocks away from a thriving yoga studio.  I registered for their five-class beginners’ workshop, which started anew on December 23rd, and started attending regular beginner-level classes alongside my equally interested husband. The improvement we have both felt in strength, flexibility, pain relief, and overall well-being has been enormous, in a relatively short time. I can do things with my body that six weeks ago I would have sworn were impossible for me, and that’s after little more than a month of classes.  Those really terrifying postures you see on yoga calendars now look to me like a difference of quality, not of kind–like the difference between my own fiction and [insert Great Novel here] rather than like the difference between my body and an invertebrate’s.  Even now I’m looking forward to sweating through tomorrow night’s class and hoping that the mix of snow, sleet, and rain we’re predicted to get won’t cause a cancellation or make walking too treacherous.

Back in 2005, I was one of the first students to take the course that Jason based on his then-new book, The New Hermetics, and one of a few to make it through the whole program and go on to take the Advanced work two years later.  Jason’s system of mental and magical training worked better for me, in terms of both daily life management and of working big changes in my life, than any other spiritual practice had worked before.  It also led me to the Mahayana ideals of bodhichitta and dedicating the merit of one’s practice to the benefit of all beings, and thus to investigating Buddhism afresh and finding new answers and inspiration there.  When Jason recently announced that he was going to teach a beta version of a revised course, available to previous students at a hefty discount, I was right there like all the bad metaphors for being right there that you can think of–white on rice, ugly date, cheap suit, the works.

Actual work with the new program is starting in February, at Imbolc.  I’ll be lighting some candles for the Star Goddess again and asking for a blessing on the work.  My overriding goal for this re-training is to bring everything that I’ve learned, from Feri, Druidry, the Church, Buddhism, and wherever, and use the New Hermetics to contain it.  To put it another way, my goal is to cross-fertilize the New Hermetics, which comes out of a specific tradition of Western magic, with everything else that has worked for me.  I have, after all, spent over twenty years seeking, studying, learning, in a variety of traditions; perhaps it’s time for me to stop envying people who have spent as many years identifying by one name, one tradition (whilst no doubt studying many things), and start taking seriously what I’ve learned and bringing it to bear on the practice that I know I can work, and that will work for me.

To that end, I would like to stop posting here and renew posting at A Comfortable Oxymoron, to give myself a wider context in which to talk about walking the Path and undertaking the Great Work.  I will likely be cross-posting a version of this entry to that blog.  See you at the new URL, I hope.

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Medicine BuddhaIt was in late January that I finally started meditating seriously.  I took refuge as a Buddhist almost two years ago, and it’s taken me this long to get down to a consistent daily practice.  By “meditation” I mean what Zen traditions call “zazen” and Tibetan Buddhists usually call by its Sanskrit name, “shamatha”–seated meditation, quieting and focusing the mind by following the breath.

After a few weeks of meditating, after shifting my practice to the early morning before breakfast after thinking about what I wanted to do for an evening practice and trying a number of things from the Western magical tradition, I tried a daring experiment: I dropped everything that wasn’t strictly Buddhist. No more New Hermetics exercises. No sitting around trying to draw up a schedule of practices based on Golden Dawn or New Hermetics models and do a Middle Pillar or an Invoking Pentagram Ritual every day. I started doing deity yoga in the evenings, in the simplest way, visualizing Medicine Buddha before me and saying his mantra. Deity yoga can be a very advanced practice, visualizing *oneself* as a buddha or bodhisattva and meditating or doing energy work as the deity, but I’m not there yet.

The more I did strictly Buddhist stuff, the better I felt. I took all the non-Buddhist, Western-magical stuff off my shrine. I started making the daily offering again, seven bowls of water laid out in a straight line, poured in the morning, cleaned up and turned upside down before bed. I bought more of my favorite Tibetan incenses (the Medicine Buddha blend was on sale!) and sat in a happy cloud of smoke.

As my mind started to calm down during meditation, as stress started to recede from daily life, as I started to read Buddhist writings again and rediscover how much sense the Dharma makes, I found myself thinking, Why fight it? Why not just say, “I’m Buddhist”? Why not just *be* Buddhist? Have I gotten so many rewards from trying to be Pagan, Druid, Anglican, Anglican Druid, Buddhist Pagan, Ceremonial Mage, etc., that it’s worth clinging to any of those things? The answer to that last question, of course, is No. The rewards haven’t been great. While I have to admit that if it weren’t for the dysfunctions of the particular parish where my husband works, I *might* possibly still be an Anglican, if a rather heterodox one, I also have to admit that I’ve tried various kinds of paganism, particularly variations of Druidry, without getting much return on my investment. You’ve heard that definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results? By that definition, I have been insane when it comes to paganism.

I don’t intend to dismiss the New Hermetics here, nor Druidry. NH taught me how to discipline my mind and quit sabotaging myself; it made big and positive changes in my life and made them *fast*; and it pointed me toward Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, getting me to look at a religion I hadn’t been interested in since I was a child and interested in *everyone’s* religion. But it has never quite worked for me as an ongoing daily practice; it suits me better as a problem-solving kit.  And despite decades of interest in Druidry, it seemed that the harder I tried to make it work for me, the less possible it became.

After a few weeks of all Buddhism, all the time, I ran into an interesting, well, actually, a scary problem: I wasn’t writing. I didn’t want to write, at least not in the relative sense of feeling like writing, being motivated to do so when I opened a new file or wrote the date in my notebook. Blogging, fiction, and fanfiction all shriveled away. I was silent. It occurred to me that I must have run into this problem before; I must have hit the crux where Buddhist practice was doing me good in every respect *except* that I wasn’t writing, and then backed down, stopped meditating, started messing with something else, because I was afraid. I would say I needed Western methods because I’m a Westerner, I would say the Buddhadharma wasn’t enough for me, I would say I felt called to rejuvenate Western magic and religion with the perspectives of Buddhism, but I think now that what I really meant was, “I’m not writing, and it scares me.”

I made up my mind that I was not going to back down this time. I was going to ride it out. I wrote my first story in red and purple crayon in the first grade, at the age of seven; I told myself I was not about to stop writing completely after almost forty years’ engagement with it. I kept meditating and doing deity yoga for Medicine Buddha and Green Tara and reading Buddhist books and sitting in clouds of incense.

I have come to a point where I believe and am convinced that Buddhism, and specifically Tibetan Buddhism, is the only right, useful, practical, and complete spiritual path for me. It has everything I need, in a form that is appealing to me, and I don’t need anything else. In fact, I am pretty convinced that Buddhism would be beneficial for *everyone*, though not necessarily the Buddhism of my tradition. I have a friend who is Pure Land Buddhist, which is a more devotional path; I can think of a number of people I know who I think would make good Theravadin Buddhists, in a very rational way, or very austere Zen practitioners. It would be so very easy for me to be obnoxious about this, to preach like a True Believer, and I’ve seen enough examples of that obnoxiousness online to want to avoid it utterly. It’s only natural, perhaps, to look down on a religious path you’ve left behind (see also under “reformed alcoholics”), but I don’t want to behave that way, I don’t want to alienate people by being a True Believer. And yet I do believe, I have confidence and trust in the Three Jewels, in the Dharma, in the Tibetan tradition.

I am a Tibetan Buddhist in the Drikung Kagyu tradition. I sought a home there, and they accepted me. It’s not really complicated. To use a traditional Buddhist sign off, Sarva mangalam, good luck to all.

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