I've just embarked on an extensive, crazy book tour (yes, writers still do such things--more on that later) to promote my new book, which came out last week. The first stop was an appearance two days ago on CBS's Early Show to discuss "The Wisdom of a Broken Heart: An Uncommon Guide to Healing, Insight, and Love." The "uncommon" part, I suppose, is that the principles presented in the book are based on my 15 years of study of Buddhism. (Surprisingly, Buddhism has a lot to say on the topic of heartbreak.)
During the interview, I talked about the difference between sadness and depression, how coming face-to-face with your naked need to love and be loved (naked or otherwise) isn't such a bad thing, and that a broken heart can actually change your life for the better. These statements were rooted in my interpretation of traditional Buddhist teachings on compassion and wisdom. I never mentioned the "B" (Buddhism) word. I'm not presenting myself as a Buddhist teacher nor am I hiding the fact that I graduated from a Buddhist seminary and teach meditation, I just don't lead with my "credentials" because I know what a puny human I really am and feel embarrassed about inferring anything to the contrary.
ANYWAY. So what. The point of this blog post (my first for HuffPo) is to talk about what it's like to go out into the world to talk about spirituality (aka authenticity, love, meaning, connection) as a Buddhist who isn't broadcasting or hiding her Buddhism. (There are pros and cons to both. Broadcasting pro: credibility. Broadcasting con: arrogance. Hiding pro: more direct, less jargon. Hiding con: who is this chick, anyway?)
Here's an excerpt from an email I received a few hours post-Early Show. It's from a man who thought my book might have benefited one of his children who was going through a rough marital split.
I was thinking of purchasing for my son your book you showcased today - the Wisdom of a Broken Heart...I read your bio and got stuck on what I read...I felt that a book such as yours if it was from a Christian perspective would be a good choice. How does a Buddhist talk about a savior as in the Christ? That is where I'm left. Cold. I would be interested in how you lost Christianity and "found" what some would claim to be truth? Of course, most Christians are just that...in name only...and that is why they chase Eastern Religions...
Clearly this pales next to Brit Hume's recent suggestion to Tiger Woods on FOX News that he "Turn to the Christian faith and you can make a complete recovery and be a great example to the world." Nonetheless, both Brit and my email pal are making some pretty incredible assumptions. Both believe that the truth is out there somewhere, cold and hard and real, and that they know what it is and where to find it. Both tsk-tsk those who choose something other than Christianity and, without any sense of heart (or knowledge) at all, suggest an alternative. Both also assume a priori that Christianity is the benchmark go-to faith. However, for me, becoming a Buddhist has given my life meaning. It has for sure made me a nicer person. The reasons Buddhist practice have had this impact on me are incredibly personal and intimate. No one will ever know my inner experience and how clicked-into-place perfect it feels. What about that? (Forget about being born and raised Jewish and never possessing any Christianity to lose in the first place.)
In a post-flap interview with Bill O'Reilly, Hume noted wryly that non-believers get very, very upset whenever the name of Jesus Christ is mentioned, hinting (IMO) that the power and glory so brilliantly illuminate our sins that we have no choice but to repent or dis the Lord. If only I could say to Brit and Bill that it's not Jesus who causes the giant pushback, it's those who, purporting to speak in His name, insist that theirs is the only way. We don't have to look far to see what blossoms when the seeds of fundamentalism, no matter how oblique, are planted. And you don't have to be Buddhist to know beyond any doubt that aggression in any form only ever leads to more aggression. Ever, ever, ever. Period, period, period.
So my response to my newly concerned friend was to say that I hoped his child would find solace in any direction he looked and that I couldn't speak to the issues of losing Christianity since I had never possessed it in the first place. What I wanted to close with but didn't is this poem from Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa:
In the jungles of flaming ego,
May there be a cool iceberg of bodhicitta.*
On the racetrack of bureaucracy,
May there be the walk of the elephant.
May the sumptuous castle of arrogance,
Be destroyed by vajra confidence.
In the garden of gentle sanity,
May you be bombarded with coconuts of wakefulness.