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“. . . Mine is a secular Buddhism. . . I’m really secular. It’s. . . a better way to live, and it’s a way to handle stress. . .”
One of the first things Theresa told me is that she is not Buddhist. Theresa grew up in a Christian household and left Christianity as a young adult. When Theresa first approached Buddhist meditation, she was seeking a way to relieve stress. “I wasn’t searching for anything spiritual,” she describes, “and I still am not. Mine is a secular Buddhism. . . I’m really secular. It’s. . . a better way to live, and it’s a way to handle stress, habit energy, which we all have that, [and] fears. ..” She takes notes at the Practice Periods and Dharma talks.
Theresa sees Buddhism, especially at the Northfield Buddhist Meditation Center, as something in which she can practice without following any specific dogmas, and describes Buddhism as not particularly “doctrinal,” especially as it is practiced in the United States. Though she feels that many people at the center are more interested in Buddhist spirituality than she is, she also feels that her approach is entirely accepted and supported within the sangha. “For me,” she says, ” it’s just great to have the other people; it’s really affirming and focusing.”
While Theresa feels that she has become much calmer and more adept at dealing with stress since beginning to practice Buddhist meditation, she also expresses her continuous struggle in learning to meditate. “I don’t think I’m a good meditator,” she admits, adding that she has trouble focusing if her eyes are open, and falling asleep if her eyes are closed. Her close friend and a member of the center has suggested mantras for her to repeat silently during meditation:
"Just this, here now, not me, not mine. In, out, deep, slow, come, ease, smile, release."
To hear Theresa describe the way she uses these mantras, her struggle with meditating and how she has learned to accept the difficulty of meditating, click on the audio clip above
* Pseudonym given by author