• N'Digo Yaayaa Kali

Dharma & Dao: My Mindful Life

I've taken my self-exploration of the dharma to the next level (dharma, meaning the teachings of the Buddha). My spiritual journey has evolved in such a way over the last two years that has directed me to dive deeper into the practical wisdom that Buddhism offers. From reading "Being Black: Zen & the Art of Fearlessness and Grace" by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams many times over (starting in 1999), to challenging myself to meditate to 40 consecutive days near the end of 2018, the year 2020 marked my commitment to walk the Buddhist path moving forward.

I've had what you would call a crush on Buddhism. I found it attractive; it made me feel good about myself, but I never built up the courage to say, "Hey, you're cute. Do you want to go out with me?" This has been going on for over 20 years. I'm at a point in my life that I want to develop more compassion for myself and others, and release my attachment to controlling life and wanting things to change. More specifically, I turn to the dharma to release my personal suffering of perfectionism, rumination, and people pleasing.

"To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others." - the Buddha

I was introduced to Buddhism at 15 or 16 years old and purchased "Being Black" by Rev. angel. Buddhism as a philosophy has always made sense to me - even as a teen - and it gave me gentle tools to live by. But because Buddhism wasn't as readily available, understood, or practiced in my community (definitely not as a black person), I shied away from it for years.

Fast forward to 2018 and a work colleague returns from a 10-day vipassana silent meditation retreat and I am intrigued by his experience and the clarity he's seemed to have gained from the venture. I became inspired to embark on a 40-day meditation challenge, and invited a group of women over social media to participate in the venture with me. Next thing I know, I'm sitting at a local sangha (group of Buddhist and/or meditation practitioners) on New Years Day 2019, meditating with a group of strangers and engaging in dialogue about the five precepts. The precepts inspired me to question my daily habits and attachments to having to live an "ideal way", and I begin to purge my possessions and fantasy self (the idealized, perfected vision of myself) to adopt a sustainable, minimalist lifestyle.

Then it happened - the moment that I built the courage for Buddhism to go out with me. I'm sitting in a virtual BIPOC gathering featuring Lama Rod Owens discussing his new book, "Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation through Anger" and he says something along the lines of people expect to live in a more intentional and empowered way but don't make the time to practice or test the teachings out for themselves to see if it works for them. I realized in that moment that it's not enough to admire Buddhism from afar, I need to apply them as well. It's the equivalent of talking about which diet is the best diet for our bodies without actually changing the way we eat to confirm whether what we said is true or not. Intellectually, I understood that 1. Life is suffering, 2. It's full of suffering because we are want to control/change it, 3. That there is a way to be free from the suffering, and 4. The way to the liberation from suffering is through the noble eight-fold path. For it to remain on the intellectual level was not enough; I needed to engage in it to experience what it had to offer and to know that it was Truth.

So here I am, deep down in the rabbit hole of the Dharma AND Dao (because many principles in Buddhism can be found within the Dao as well),'s actually been eye-opening and centering (unsurprisingly). I'm still a novice in it all, though I've had a few people reach out to me inquiring on how I started my Buddhist journey. Hands down, I have found Tricycle's Buddhism for Beginners modules immensely helpful. Some I already knew, but a lot I did not. I highly recommend going through every module and absorb what you can to make sense of it all. I gave myself a week to digest it, and it helped me to determine which school of Buddhism resonates with me the most (which in turn informed the teachers and books I read). I watch Brother Phap Hai's talks on each of the four noble truths and the eightfold path (I am on "Right Mindfulness" as I type this), Einzelgänger and The Art of Effortless Living (a Taoist Documentary) on YouTube. I'm currently reading "What the Buddha Taught", by Walpola Rahula at this time.

Have I reached enlightenment? No. I'm not very compassionate or kind either. But I am more compassionate and kind than I was a month ago, and my attachment to pleasing people, overthinking, and needing to be perfect has diminished tremendously. I'm also enjoying each moment. No, like, really being present with what I'm doing with less internal distractions. THAT alone has made it all worth it.

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