Well, the title of my blog is "A naturalist tries out buddhism." Since it's been about a year since I first started learning about Buddhism and attempting to practice it, I figure it's time for some introspection.
I can't remember exactly when I started downloading my first Dharma talks, or even when I decided to start calling myself (among many other things) a Buddhist, but I know it was around last Autumn. Since then, I've only been to 3 (maybe 4?) Sangha meetings, and I've meditated only a few times each month. Looking back, it sounds like I've made a pretty epic Fail on my buddhism... I could whine about how my kids wake me up too early to meditate in the morning and they wear me out too much by night to meditate after they've gone to sleep... Ok, I just did... but I don't want you to think I'm just a slacker! Alright, I know I could do better...
But one thing I also notice is that I'm very bad at ever following through with anything. I pick up new interests and hobbies then get disinterested again and abandon them like nobody's business. Some might call me indecisive (or capricious, or inconsistent, or impulsive...); though I like to think of myself as just having "too much passion."
But I notice that Buddhism has not suffered the same fate. I still listen to Dharma talks every week. I still try to meditate, even if I'm not very consistent with it. And I still consider Buddhism to be an intrinsic part of my identity--at least, the part I get to choose for myself.
And I think there's a good reason for that. I think it's because Buddhism really works.
Now, you may say I'm suffering from confirmation bias or self-fulfilling prophecy, but... isn't that just what I set out to do? When I started on my Buddhist path, I was interested in ways to decrease unhappiness, increase happiness, and reign in my volatile emotions (among other things); and I've found that it really does help.
I have, in the past year, had many instances where I recognized the source of my unhappiness as clinging to certain wants or desires; and that when I looked at those desires from the right perspective--a broader, "zoomed out" point of view--the aching need often evaporated away.
I have learned the immeasurable value of ignoring the constant torrent-of-consciousness thoughts that bray for my attention, and to soak in "every second as a lifetime," in the words of VNV Nation. Especially now that I am "professionally" a stay-at-home dad, learning to let go off the "The kids just made that mess!" and the "We need to be here at this o'clock, then there at that o'clock," and to just experience being with them at this age... just soaking in every up and down... that's something I'll never regret.
And Buddhism has been another tool in my ongoing battle against depression (like my hobbies, it comes and goes). When everything seems like it's closing in; when it all seems too much to handle and I just don't feel like going on... I remember that everything is impermanent. Everything. And, though it may seem counter-intuitive, it makes it better to realize that the bad things are not forever, and it makes the good things in my life that much more precious for being fragile.
So, Year One into Buddhism and I don't plan on stopping. I can see how much help it's been so far, and I've also seen how much help it's been directly correlates with when I actually practice meditating ^_^, so I'm quite confident that it can only get better the more regular my practice becomes.
I'm also quite confident Buddhism can work for you, too; but I'm not trying to sell you a religion or anything. Any type of philosophy or practice that helps you to look at things from a wider perspective, or teaches you to appreciate the moment, I'm quite sure would have the same effects. There's nothing magical about Buddhism. What's important is conquering the more instinctive, less rational parts of our minds; what's important is being brutally honest with ourselves about our motivations and our goals, at all times; what's important is striving--not just to continue existing, not just to "get ahead" in life; but to strive to eliminate suffering, and increase happiness, not just in ourselves, but for all living beings.
10 hours ago