I’m not sure why, but whenever I read words like “mindfulness” or “spirituality”- I always picture some serene yet serious ascetic sitting in a silent monochromatic room with, like, a single cup of tea- just staring off into the distance. I certainly don’t fit this mold, and for a long time it made me feel alienated from any type of spiritual path- could I really transform myself into this still waters run deep person?
While I was searching around for a path that felt right I met many people from different spiritual and religious practices- and many of them fit the serene and serious mold. I would go to meetings or temples and feel like a fraud- I had to tame down my natural instinct to laugh and move and look around and smile. As is usually the case when we try to cram ourselves into a mold that doesn’t fit- I never stuck with anything for long.
It was quite by accident that I became acquainted with Buddhism. I was working for a Tibetan family that owned several different stores. We all clicked immediately, and became fast friends. Even though the job was menial in certain ways, and didn’t pay very much money, I loved it. For the first few weeks I couldn’t put my finger on what it was about being around my new friends, I felt happy at work for the first time, I also felt calm, and relaxed, like I had come home. We all laughed constantly, we ate meals together, we teased each other, and in time we referred to each other as “Acha”- which means sister.
It’s funny because we rarely talked about Buddhism directly- although I knew they all practiced. By simply seeing what I perceived as the result of practice, I became interested to learn more. I began to read about Buddhism on my own, and it immediately felt right to me. I am still so early in my studies (2-3 years), but as I have continued I notice certain changes.
I do speak less now, not because I have magically transformed into a less vivacious person, but because before I was engaging in a whole lot of mindless chatter- and now I try not to (although it is difficult for me at times). I am less frantic about having nothing to do, I think more about my internal state, and I experience a greater overall feeling of “peace”, or “internal happiness”, or whatever you’d like to call it.
I’m still a complete goof ball (around those who know me well), I still love movies and cooking and talking to my cat like he’s a person. I laugh every day, I love to laugh. I’m still bored to tears by yoga, I’d much rather do a dance or acrobatics class. Which, I now realizes makes perfect sense for me. As a former ballet dancer, I’m used to very rigorous and difficult physical activity- that kind of physical challenge is part of what brings me internal peace. When I’m hanging upside down or trying to land a difficult jump, my mind is perfectly clear. Meditation is challenging, but I am learning to get better at it. It has been interesting to see the natural changes that have started to happen in my life as an effect of finding a guide that works for me- and I know the changes will continue to come, along with the challenges. I know that for me laughter will always be a big part of life, and I now realize that it isn’t in conflict with having a higher plane of thinking.