Monday, January 9, 2017

My "Year of Faiths" Project

It's 2017. And for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and my last year of seminary, I've adopted a kind of expansive life project. The idea came to me on January 5. I sat down to meditate, and afterward had the idea to read the Qu'ran (the one a beneficent stranger gave me after a chance meeting on an airplane HERE) all the way through this year, searching for points of convergence with my Christian faith...
Midway through Surah 2, another idea dropped into my head. A kind of crazy-fun, exuberant idea.
(Don't you just love those?!)
For the months of this year, I've resolved to adopt a different world religion (or variant from Protestant Christianity) and integrate it into my life. I'll read from its sacred texts and mystics, adopt a daily spiritual discipline, participate in its community, keep a journal of the journey, and (hopefully) record a podcast conversation with a faith leader: chronicling my experience, gaining deeper wisdom and performing a comparative study with Christianity at month's end. 

I call this grand experiment my:


I established some Ground Rules. These are to:
  • Streeetch myself. Growth is rarely comfortable and tidy.
  • Adopt and adapt practices, postures and words without being legalistic.
  • Go with the Flow - wherever that takes me...
Just to be clear, this Year of Faiths project is NOT in any way abandoning, neglecting, rejecting, denying, swapping, upgrading, degrading or painting Christianity, the beloved faith that so profoundly orients and reorients my life to the Mystery that is Love, a dull and dusty beige. 

The Year of Faiths, rather, IS an attempt at becoming a more enlightened, compassionate and loving Christian through a deeper embrace and solidarity with my good neighbors of other religions. Love thy neighbor (someone said once, can't recall who...) ;)

For the month of January, I landed on Buddhism as my adopted religion. Mostly because I discovered, when researching this Year of Faiths project, a class hosted on January 5. Nothing like jumping in feet first!

So that night, I made my way through slush and snow to the Unity Temple Buddhist Center... 

... and met Matt Foster, a vibrant teacher who guided me in the basics of Buddhism, and taught me a few traditional mantras/chants: Lama Chenno is the one I adopted for my 20 minutes of daily Buddhist meditation, calling forth the sacred teacher. The class was extraordinarily peaceful. I felt goose pimples up my spine as the community together chanted, and I was lost in some semblance of "Nirvana."

(RULE #3 again: Go with the Flow...)
 And the next day, hit up the library for these gems to begin my sacred reading & study:
 For the first time in my life, I've taken up a vegetarian diet. This is going to be difficult, something I've never done, and will require planning. All life is sacred to Buddhists, which means no meat.
This was my lunch today (Do eggs count? Please tell me eggs don't count...):
My other resolutions for January/Buddhism include:
  • Cultivating the practice of mindfulness
  • Doing an end of the day review before bed, as proscribed by the Dalai Lama, calling to mind virtuous attitudes before sleep
  • Dedicating the day each morning with the Dalai Lama's affirmation:
“I am spending my life as a full-fledged follower of [Christ]. May I remove the three poisons of lust, hatred, and ignorance! Destructive emotions, of course, will arise, but I will not voluntarily rush into them. Today I will do whatever I can to read texts, reflect on their meaning, and work at developing wisdom. I will also do whatever I can to generate the altruistic intention to become enlightened and implement compassion in my behavior. May whatever obstructs the generation of these practices be pacified!” -Becoming Enlighted, p. 19-20

On top of these PRACTICES and DISCIPLINES, I'm working to MEMORIZE the important tenets of each faith. This month, my study includes:

  • The Three Refuges/Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma & Sangha (introduced by Matt Foster @ class) 
  • The Noble Eightfold Path (including the Three Paths to Enlightenment: wisdom/prajñā; moral virtues/sīla; meditation/samādhi) 

  1. Right view

  2. Right intention

(Moral virtues)

  3. Right speech

  4. Right action

  5. Right livelihood


  6. Right effort

  7. Right mindfulness

  8. Right concentration
  • The Three Poisons (destructive emotions): lust, hatred, ignorance  
  • ... and the Diamond Cutter Sutra (about Impermanence): 
“View things compounded from causes

To be like twinkling stars, figments seen with an eye disease,

The flickering light of a butter-lamp, magical illusions,

Dew, bubbles, dreams, lightning, and clouds.”

Gripping poetry. It's going above my sink on an index card, for when I mindfully wash dishes, always by hand.

Wish me luck! I hope you'll follow along, as another pilgrim-on-the-way, for my Year of Faiths adventures!