The short answer to why I became a practicing Buddhist is; Strangling people who I felt deserved it wouldn’t work for me because #1) Orange is not a good color for my skin tone and #2) I don’t like confined spaces.
The longer answer is; Most of my life I did things so I wouldn’t “rock the boat” which left me feeling angry a lot of the time. I put up with way too much shit from people who cared less about me and more about what I could do for them. I took jobs because I didn’t think I could get something better. If someone was giving me a hard time about something I would sit and listen to them while I fantasized stabbing them in the neck with a fork. Those thoughts usually popped into my head when I was a waitress and a customer was ripping into me because his or her food either took too long to cook, or the food wasn’t as good as they expected. Some customers (although not all) think people working in food service are not only food “servers” but are actually their personal “servants.”
Then I worked other jobs where the boss thought he or she could boss me around all day long for the only reason being, he or she was the “boss.” I did work for myself for a few years as a massage therapist and that was awesome. It was during that time I learned about treating my body as a temple. I still needed some lessons about nutrition though and I don’t mean what is taught in medical schools that are a sorry excuse for nutrition. That’s what happens when major food corporations hand out huge donations to schools. Students learn what those corporations want you to learn which is “buy my junk food.” it’s healthy for (our bottom line).
I stopped working as a massage therapist when we moved from San Francisco to Chico. I couldn’t make the kind of income I did in the City because there wasn’t enough people wanting to relax. At least that’s what I told myself, so I went back to restaurants.
Then we decided to move to Southern California. At the time I was in my early fifties and I couldn’t find work. It was the first time I found myself competing with much younger people who were also looking for work. I couldn’t get hired as a food server but I did get a job as an assistant manager at a major restaurant chain (famous for their homemade pies). Now I had to deal with angry customers, as well as a wait staff that acted more like kids in a nursery school and a boss who thought he could say what ever popped into his head, no matter how outrageous it sounded. I did stand up for myself. I was never one to put up with verbal or sexual harassment but I found myself stewing about the event hours after it happened. Anger whether it’s verbally expressed or festering in my mind has to manifest somewhere because it’s energy. I’m sure the occasional outburst isn’t that big of as deal but as in my case, over the years that shit built up and manifested itself in my ass. I got sick for the first time in my life. Yes, I had the occasional cold and flu but this was “big one.” It was the c-word and my life was on the line. Sitting in waiting rooms in doctor’s offices and spending time as an inpatient in hospitals gave me lots of time to review my life. How the hell did this happen to me? I always knew I would beat the dreaded c-word, but I didn’t know how I could prevent it from coming back.
I went back to reading books on spirituality that I read when I was a massage therapist, only this time I took them seriously which led me to meditation. I had some experience with meditation when I lived in San Francisco. I sat sazen at the Zen Center once a week for almost a year. I loved going but when we left, I stopped meditating altogether. There were no Zen centers in Chico, although there were lot’s in Southern California but I was too caught up in the “rat race” again. I lost my groove when it came to finding peace in just sitting and being in the moment. The c-work brought my desire to find that place again and never let go. I now watch several YouTube videos on Zen and follow different Buddhist teachers online. At the moment I do not belong to a Sangha. Being part of a group where I have to show up in person on a regular basis isn’t for me but that doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind in the future.
I have been meditating daily for almost eight years. I still get pissed off but I see myself doing it and before that I didn’t. Now I can decide if getting angry is really worth possibly making myself sick again and for the most part, it definitely is not. I learned to say “no” to anything that didn’t feel right to me. I learned to enjoy my own company. I am still learning not to be a control freak. That’s probably my biggest lesson to work on. I cannot control events or people’s actions outside myself, only my inner being. I remind myself of that sometimes a hundred times a day. But most of all, I am learning to take care of me.