Friday, November 30, 2007

Buddhist Blog Survey

Mark, over at Marco Polo, is doing a research project on Buddhism on the internet for his Eastern Religions and Philosophies class. he sent out a survey to some Buddhist blogs, and mine was one.

For the fun of it, I thought I'd share my answers.

1. How did you get acquainted with the teachings of the Buddha?

I first discovered Buddhism in a comparative religions class in college. I was interested, but I was into shamanism at the time, so I didn't really follow up on my interest until I was in my late twenties, really depressed, and looking for something that could explain my suffering. The integral author Ken Wilber talks a lot about Buddhism and meditation (with a lot of examples from his own life in One Taste) as tools for changing our relationship with ourselves, so I started studying and reading.

a. If you weren’t a Buddhist your whole life, which tradition did you grow up in?
Why did you leave that tradition (if you did)?

I was raised Catholic. I stopped believing in God at age 13, when my father died suddenly (though not unexpectedly, as I look back) of a heart attack. I couldn't believe in a God who would do that to me. Later, in my teens, I started reading Plato, Aristotle, and other philosophers -- at that point it was over. No more religion for me. When I came to Buddhism it felt more like a philosophy and psychology of mind, not a religion, so it worked for me.

2. What, if any, religion or philosophy do you associate yourself with currently? Could you describe your faith a bit?

I'm a progressive Buddhist, mostly in the Shambhala tradition of Chogyam Trungpa. I meditate three or more times a week, but I try to practice mindfulness and the eightfold path in my daily life. To be honest, this is mixed in with a lot of Western psychology practice -- shadow work, subpersonalities, and so on. Lama Surya Das and Thich Nhat Hanh have also influenced my thought, so I'm not tied to one school.

I don't believe in heavens or hells, demons or anything else. I'm essentially a rationalist who understands that there are increasing levels of consciousness, each one more expansive and compassionate than the previous one. Buddhist practice, combined with other forms of practice, can help us evolve through these stages of unfolding -- the unfolding of spirit in matter (Buddhanature).

3. Which of the Buddhist teachings do you find most valuable in your everyday life? Why?

My favorite sutra is the Heart Sutra, along with the interpretation by the Dalai Lama (Essence of the Heart Sutra).

Mindfulness has been incredibly useful for me, as well as the teachings about impermanence. I have also been a big fan of all of Pema Chodron's teachings -- a down to earth approach that works for an American with a busy life.

Mindfulness, both on the cushion or in daily life, has made me a much more compassionate person -- with others and with myself (I tend to have a loud inner critic, and being mindful keeps that voice from running my life).

Impermanence has helped me deal with my attachment and clinging to outcomes. I'm not a big materialist, but I am a control junky. Knowing that everything is fleeting, at best, has helped me free myself, to an extent, from some forms of clinging. I know that I can fully control outcomes, so it's easier to just do what I can do and let the rest happen as it will.

The teachings on Buddha-nature have also been crucial. When I begin to see Buddha-nature in myself and others, I lose a lot of me/you, I/other kind of thinking. I have a LONG way to go on this stuff, but I like the journey.

4. Describe your blog.

My blog is an integral blog. Nothing is off limits -- music, art, pop culture, satire, animation, politics, poetry and literature, science, psychology, integral theory (Ken Wilber, Spiral Dynamics, Jean Gebser, Sri Aurobindo, and so on), and of course Buddhism. As much as possible, I take an integral and Buddhist approach to things, but not necessarily in every post.

What is your approach to writing?

I blog whatever interests me, which is why it is all over the place. As much as I cover all the topics above, I also write about my personal life from time, mostly growth challenges and major events. I try to post some kind of dharma teaching each day.

Who is your intended audience?

My audience was originally other integral and Buddhist bloggers. I have no idea who reads my blog now, but I average over 300 hits a day -- which isn't much. I'd like to think that non-Buddhist and non-integral thinkers also read my blog, which is know is true to some extent.

What issues does your blog tend to focus on, be they Buddhist or otherwise?

I've been focusing a lot on the new atheists of late, because I think they represent an important "leading edge" in the cultural conversation. But I also have focused on subpersonalities, integral theory, progressive Buddhism, relationships, among other things.

Anything that gets me fired up will become a topic for a while, until I move on to something else.

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