It can be hard to see past one’s presuppositions, but I’ve never known a case when it wasn’t worth trying. Ideas about the world easily go stale; the world, however, does not. It is always alive with possibilities. Although studying and practicing Buddhism may well alert us to the problems of holding ideas that have worn out their welcome, it doesn’t immunize us from doing so.
Buddhism in the West is a dynamic and multifaceted project, but it is often seen, including by Buddhists, in terms of simple categories and stereotypes. For all its positive contributions, Buddhist publishing has done more than a little to reinforce these errors. Tricycle is no exception. We have, though, seen in recent years, largely through the participation of our online community, that much of the standard thinking about who practices Buddhism and how they practice is quite stale and needs dismantling.
Readers of the magazine may have noticed that we have been taking steps toward that end. Here is another. We have reached out to three members of the Tricycle community who in some way or ways—ethnicity, geographic region, health issues, age—don’t fit the image of a Western Buddhist put forth in the popular press or, for that matter, in the Buddhist press. We asked them to lift a corner to reveal parts of the Buddhist experience that often are hidden. Hearing their stories, we can better appreciate the richness of the community life we share.
—James Shaheen, Editor & Publisher
By Meara Claire Hayden
I didn’t really want to go. Meditation seemed ridiculous to me; something that my mom does at 5:30 in the morning. And to go to a retreat where you do nothing but sit there for an entire week—it seemed like there was scarcely anything that could be less appealing or a bigger waste of time.
It was September of my freshman year of high school, and I was 14 and not particularly happy. I hated my school. The kids all seemed to be cut from the same apple pie; if anyone was thinking for themselves, they certainly didn’t speak their minds out loud. I was attempting to create my own group, but I felt unhappy all the time, and I just didn’t fit in.
This was about the time when my 16 -year-old brother, Miles, who I didn’t consider the world’s best role model, was pushing me to go to one of the teen meditation retreats he attended. They were put on twice a year by Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme). He told me about the amazing group of people and how easy it was to be accepted just for who you are. That sounded good, but the idea of sitting there for close to seven hours a day, doing nothing, didn’t. But I figured it was something new, an out from the Wonder Bread suburban education mill at my school. So the day after Christmas in 2009, I got onto an Amtrak train in Philadelphia with my brother and set off for the lower left-hand corner of Virginia.
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