In 2005, I began studying Buddhism. This was an academic pursuit; I was interested in learning about something new, and what I knew of Buddhism mostly came from a short segment in a half semester course I took in high school called Religion and Philosophy. I knew plenty about Judaism and Christianity, since my bachelor's degree is in History with a focus on Medieval and Renaissance Europe, and you can't study Medieval and Renaissance Europe without knowing about those two major religions. And so, in the pursuit of knowledge, I began reading about Buddhism.
It didn't take long before I began to absorb what I was learning in a more personal way. I adored Susan Murcott's First Buddhist Women, which encouraged my feminist perspectives. I truly enjoyed David Lopez's The Story of Buddhism, finding a lovely academic history that allowed me to parse the different sects. What I was reading began to resonate inwardly. I felt that Thubten Chodron's Buddhism for Beginners was talking just to me.
And this led to me taking up meditation, partially with the help of the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, but mostly on my own. I began to think of my day in terms of mindfulness, being mindful of my feet on the ground as I walked, of the smell of the air, of the thrum of my own pulse beneath my skin.
And now, I am working on integrating the five lay precepts into my life. This is a big change, and so I'm working slowly on them, so I don't disrupt everything and become frustrated and give up. The five precepts are:
- Not to kill
- Not to steal
- Not to lie
- Not to engage in sexual misconduct
- Not to take in intoxicating substances
The first precept is the one that I am focusing on the most at present. I am a novice vegetarian now, so I am not killing animals for food. There are exceptions to this; because monks eat whatever is given to them, if they are given meat, they eat the meat (this comes from Lopez's book). So if I am at my in-laws' house, and the dinner they have prepared is meat, I will eat a small portion to show my gratitude that they have made a meal for me. I don't want to force my beliefs on others, because that is something I abhor when others try to force their beliefs on me. I expect as time passes, it will become easier.