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Thread: Zen at home

  1. #1

    Zen at home

    All,

    Has practicing Zen/Buddhism in general caused any strife at home with loved ones that don't have an understanding of what it is we do? I ask this because I seem to get weird looks and confusion as to why "i" "we" sit on a cushion (not to mention the alter). Even though I've tried to explain, it maybe to esoteric for some .

    Gassho,

    Matt

  2. #2

    Re: Zen at home

    Oh sure... in many ways.

    Naturally it depends on the person, their openness and their beliefs. Some of my family members are ardent Christians that fear for the damnation of my soul... others try not to bring up anything related to worldviews or religions, etc...

    And I do my common job of mangling descriptions of what Buddhism is and the views that one encompasses (in general) that lead to plenty of confusion.. (See post in Norway thread on Life board)... Interestingly, if you sit in meditation then many people seem to think we are trying to transcend this world and have these out of body or other realm experiences.. for which they think you are a kook...and then when I tell them "nope, I'm just staring at a wall actually"... they think that is even crazier than the transcendental view they had prior..

    What I have managed to convey is that since many in my family have ... uh hummm.... issues, then I am able to explain to them that I believe one reason that I haven't "gone off the deep end" so to speak is because I am now able to separate from my thoughts. I am able to see thoughts more as thoughts and not as "me"... so I don't buy into the suicidal thoughts or the worthlessness of it all.. or similar... Also, as many of my family members relate to also.. we have raging thoughts - that is thoughts that come and come and come without rest or end... and so I explain that I can now sense breaks in those thoughts. It is not a continuous stream but discrete and what's more .. there are times when I can extend those pauses and its not because I block the thoughts but because I am not hooked by them or buy into them.. i just watch them so then they seem to come a little less frequently of their own accord.. which brings up another hard part - because this is usually met with "so this is what you work on when you sit there then?"... to which I say "no. I just sit and look at a wall... but these are outcomes of me sitting there that are not the purpose of me sitting there..."... and then they return to thinking I am crazier than a kook....

    It really depends alot on the people you're talking with... for my grandparents, I don't say much or bring it up or address it because they're old and very religious and I don't see a point in upsetting them. For others that wish to engage, I will occasionally do so.. but not as often as previous because I still suffer from a strong case of "I am right and I will prove it"...

    All that to say... you're not alone. The hardest part is with kids... because they don't hold back "Uncle Nathan, I know you don't love Jesus and you're going to hell"... is kind of hard to deal with... because if you destroy the kids image of his god and religion then you're the a-hole, not to mention you siblings appreciate for ripping their child's beliefs.. so in cases such as this, you grin and bear it.. kind of the same with your own kids if you have a spouse or baby-momma with a different religion or world view... One of the many challenges.. or uhhh hmmm... opportunities for practice in life...

    _/_ Nate

  3. #3
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Zen at home

    I have not had any issues with anyone... just a general lack of belief in my seriousness. I have spent quite a few years jumping around from one spiritual system to the next, so I guess my interest in Buddhism might be looked at as yet another phase. To me, personally, though, Buddhism is the one spiritual system that had profound impacts on the way I thought and behaved, in a very short period of time.

    My only tense memory was like this: I don't know how it came up, but I told my mom that I didn't consider myself a Catholic. Knowing my mom, I didn't think this would bother her, because she isn't really a practicing Catholic either (AND she has had Buddha statues and has done her I Ching for years). However, she revealed to me that her logic was as thus: I was baptized Catholic, so I am Catholic and I can't change that.

    Then there have been a couple of fights with my boyfriend in which he's said something like, "Why are you acting like this? Aren't you supposed to be all Buddhist? :roll:

    I don't really tell people I am a Buddhist, though, so I don't have many opportunities to see first responses to the idea.

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Zen at home

    Well, there is no way in this earth that I can talk to my parents about Buddhism.

    They know I am a Buddhist but they avoid the topic at all costs.

    Living in an ultra Catholic country people assume you are a Christian by default and they never even think it is possible that other religions/philosophies exist.

    So after all these years my mom still asks from time to time if I still worship Satan.

    Other than that I think I manage pretty well when asked about Buddha and people like that because I am never aggressive or even passionate about it. I just answer questions with a big smile and the truth.

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Zen at home

    Quote Originally Posted by natezenmaster
    when I tell them "nope, I'm just staring at a wall actually"... they think that is even crazier than the transcendental view they had prior..
    LOL this cracked me up.

    People tend to think there is a divine or magical purpose behind zazen. But when I say something like "I'm just sitting here watching the wall" I get the looks like if I was mad.

    You gotta love my parents.

  6. #6

    Re: Zen at home

    Not much strife on my end of things, though one time my wife's grandmother asked about me. They are an Italian American / Catholic family so the conversation went like this:

    Grandmother-In-Law: "So, is he Italian?"

    Wife: "No, Grand mom."

    Grandmother-In-Law: "Well, is he at least Catholic?"

    Wife: "No, Grand mom."

    Grandmother-In-Law: "Well what did he do, make up his own God-damned religion?!?!"

    And that was the end of that. They never really asked about it again. I tell people who are interested, they might see my alter, or ask me about a tattoo I have on my leg (sanskrit, it says "Student of Buddha") and I try to answer their questions as best I can. But in the end, what can you do? The only times I get upset are when others try to force their beliefs on me, especially passive aggressively like, "You know you're going to go to hell, right." Well that might be more aggressive and less passive now that I look at it..... But the way I see it, you can't really do much about it. You can just explain that it makes sense to you and you aren't doing anything that hurts anyone, but if you try to explain too much, people will most likely try to argue with you. It has always amazed me the reaction that religion will bring on. Studying religions is somewhat of a hobby of mine, so I know many of the historical aspects of some of religion's biggest moments, and when I've tried to bring them up in conversation, and I mean topics well accepted by religious scholars, the people I'm talking with just get more and more angry. For many people, fact is simply no substitute for faith.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    Re: Zen at home

    natezenmaster wrote:
    when I tell them "nope, I'm just staring at a wall actually"... they think that is even crazier than the transcendental view they had prior..
    That made me laugh too!
    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Then there have been a couple of fights with my boyfriend in which he's said something like, "Why are you acting like this? Aren't you supposed to be all Buddhist?
    Totally understand that! My husband does the same thing to me. Just because we are Buddhists doesn't make us happy-happy, joy-joy all the time.

    Speaking of my husband, I don't get any grief about Buddhism. It's actually the opposite, he doesn't want to hear or even care anything about it. I have tried to explain it to him but he acts like "whatever" or "that just sounds stupid". I do accept him for who he is and would never push any religion or beliefs on him but it would be nice if he would at least listen to me when I explain what it is all about. I feel he is missing a great deal of who I am sometimes.

    Thanks,
    Jodi

  8. #8

    Re: Zen at home

    Quote Originally Posted by jodi_h
    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Then there have been a couple of fights with my boyfriend in which he's said something like, "Why are you acting like this? Aren't you supposed to be all Buddhist?
    Totally understand that! My husband does the same thing to me. Just because we are Buddhists doesn't make us happy-happy, joy-joy all the time.

    Speaking of my husband, I don't get any grief about Buddhism. It's actually the opposite, he doesn't want to hear or even care anything about it. I have tried to explain it to him but he acts like "whatever" or "that just sounds stupid". I do accept him for who he is and would never push any religion or beliefs on him but it would be nice if he would at least listen to me when I explain what it is all about. I feel he is missing a great deal of who I am sometimes.

    Thanks,
    Jodi
    I understand these feelings as well. I too feel that something my family misses a piece of me by not understanding what it is I am doing.


    _/_

    Seiryu

  9. #9
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: Zen at home

    I don't have a problem with my practice among my (very small) family, they are not offended by it. On the other hand, they treat it as if it were a passing phase that they are tolerating because it will soon be over. Either they think it's part of some wild spiritual experimentation, or they think I'm doing it to get attention or because I think I look trendy.

    I don't make a big deal out of it, because things obviously could be worse. But I do also feel like they're missing a big piece of me, because if they understood me well, they wouldn't make those assumptions.

    I also sometimes get some of the, "I thought Buddhists never did that!" kind of thing, as if we put ourselves on a pedestal as a model for everyone to follow. I know I'm the last person people should be following...in most circumstances :mrgreen:

    I have a devout Christian friend who asked me one day if I went to church, and when I replied I was Buddhist, he exclaimed, "No you're not!" His surprise was kind of funny to me. I think he was ready to start persuading me to go "back" to church, assuming I would say, "No, I haven't been in a while, I really should go..." but my answer was so unexpected that he didn't bother and dropped the subject

    gassho
    Julia

  10. #10
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Zen at home

    Nate wrote:
    Interestingly, if you sit in meditation then many people seem to think we are trying to transcend this world and have these out of body or other realm experiences.. for which they think you are a kook...and then when I tell them "nope, I'm just staring at a wall actually"... they think that is even crazier than the transcendental view they had prior..
    :lol:

    I haven't had any problems yet for a number of very specific reasons. First my wife's family is Nichiren Buddhist and Japanese so not much conflict with culture or philosophy there. Most importantly though is thart I work VERY hard to not let the practice take away time from family life. If I didn't, I'm positive there would be trouble in our home with me on the loosing end! See, I wait until everyone is taken care of and the children are in bed before doing my daily Zazen. Likewise I wake up at 5am on my days off work so that I can participate in our Zazenkai. By the time it's over everyone is waking up and I'm off to change daipers, feed the kids, etc. So most of the time I sacrifice my own time, and rather than sleeping, I do Zazen. Hard to argue against that! So far that's working, though the lack of sleep thing does start to accumulate :shock:

    Gassho,
    John

  11. #11
    disastermouse
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    Re: Zen at home

    Quote Originally Posted by chocobuda
    Quote Originally Posted by natezenmaster
    when I tell them "nope, I'm just staring at a wall actually"... they think that is even crazier than the transcendental view they had prior..
    LOL this cracked me up.

    People tend to think there is a divine or magical purpose behind zazen. But when I say something like "I'm just sitting here watching the wall" I get the looks like if I was mad.

    You gotta love my parents.
    My ex-girlfriend used to ask me what the purpose of my meditation was. She literally didn't believe me when I told her it has no purpose, that's what makes it the kind of meditation I do. I never thought to add that it's specifically because it has no purpose that it is so radical.

    Chet

  12. #12

    Re: Zen at home

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    Nate wrote:
    Interestingly, if you sit in meditation then many people seem to think we are trying to transcend this world and have these out of body or other realm experiences.. for which they think you are a kook...and then when I tell them "nope, I'm just staring at a wall actually"... they think that is even crazier than the transcendental view they had prior..
    :lol:

    I haven't had any problems yet for a number of very specific reasons. First my wife's family is Nichiren Buddhist and Japanese so not much conflict with culture or philosophy there. Most importantly though is thart I work VERY hard to not let the practice take away time from family life. If I didn't, I'm positive there would be trouble in our home with me on the loosing end! See, I wait until everyone is taken care of and the children are in bed before doing my daily Zazen. Likewise I wake up at 5am on my days off work so that I can participate in our Zazenkai. By the time it's over everyone is waking up and I'm off to change daipers, feed the kids, etc. So most of the time I sacrifice my own time, and rather than sleeping, I do Zazen. Hard to argue against that! So far that's working, though the lack of sleep thing does start to accumulate :shock:

    Gassho,
    John
    Gassho John.. wow!

    I'm similar, except I do not get up at 5am!!!! At first my wife thought something was wrong when I started practicing zazen. lol Then the more I did it, she just flowed with it. I sewed my Rakusu in front of her, and I'm very careful to explain what Zen is, which is challenging as hell. I don't know what it is, but I explain why I do it.

    My last birthday she bought me a statue of Kuan Yin. I was very impressed. Even though she isn't Buddhist she supports my religion of choice, which I'm very grateful for.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Zen at home

    Risho wrote:
    My last birthday she bought me a statue of Kuan Yin. I was very impressed. Even though she isn't Buddhist she supports my religion of choice, which I'm very grateful for.
    That's awesome! I feel it would be nearly impossible if our spouses didn't support us! Another recent example of this was mentioned by Jundo Sensei, who said Mina watches Leon so that he can do Zazenkai with us all.
    Big thank you to all the supportive spouses/partners out there who help, in their own way, to make our parctice as well as Treeleaf possible for many of us here!

    Gassho,
    John

  14. #14

    Re: Zen at home

    This topic is a great example of why Treeleaf is such a special place. Gassho, everyone!

    Reading these funny, wrenching posts, I realize how lucky I am. In particular, I'm blessed with a very supportive wife and two kids (6 and nearly 14). We all went to Tokyo in summer 2010, and my wife and I traveled to Thailand in 2008; I think we all had moving experiences at the various Buddhist temples we visited. Though I'm the only one who's developed a committed practice to zen, those concrete experiences have been grounding, especially for the kids.

    Getting regular practice going has been a remarkable, powerful experience. There were a few start-up bumps, but we've figured out little logistical systems for, say, keeping the hound's nose out of daddy's face. I've had to accommodate my sitting to the flow of a busy family life, of course, and regularly get up at 5:45a or 6a for my morning sit. (Evenings are easier to schedule.) That's not to say that all falls silent and still because daddy's sitting! When I read blog posts about someone getting annoyed at a fidgety sesshin neighbor, I have to chuckle wondering how they'd do sitting in the whirlwind that is my house on a work/school morning.... :shock:

    Parents are touch-and-go and in deep flux at the moment. I've shared a few books with my dad (who asked), who is a big reader and has tried to consume the knowledge of zen the way he's consumed the history of Prussia. While it hasn't worked very well -- he has repeatedly joked that he just doesn't get this "think non-thinking" stuff and would never sit zazen to try to find out -- he respects what I'm doing in his own way. The two of them are confronting a lot of very vexing issues around their relationship, health, aging, and -- looming -- impending death, and I've not been able to figure out any real way to bridge that gap....

    My wife is no Zen Buddhist, but she was raised in an explicitly atheist family and has always been non-religious: no Bible-thumping for her. For whatever reason, we've been able to talk a bit about what this practice means to me in ways that are meaningful to her. I think that she (rightly) sees it as supportive of the family life we are building together, and for that she's grateful. She also has a sense of humor about it all: she joked the other day that OF COURSE she knew not to say, "So how'd it go?" after I have been sitting -- a silly but real affirmation that she knows more or less what I'm doing in there. I've also been able to talk explicitly with her about what has been happening with me around my practice, specifically concerning practical matters related to letting go of feelings and thoughts as they rise up; being able to back out of and pull the plug on idiotic arguments is a very convincing sign that this zen business has benefits, even if you're not striving for them!

    That reminds me of one thought I had as I read everyone else's great posts. I bet everyone here, whatever difficulty you have in putting your beliefs and practices into words, is pretty good at putting them into actions in relation to the people around you who are struggling to understand -- or judging without struggle at all! After all, finding the "right speech" is just one (very tricky!) aspect of the Eightfold Path, and you're probably doing a lot of the other seven with these folks. You know?

  15. #15
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Zen at home

    Chris wrote:
    She also has a sense of humor about it all: she joked the other day that OF COURSE she knew not to say, "So how'd it go?" after I have been sitting
    Hi Chris,

    I got a good chuckle out of this one! I can actually relate, only my wife is totally serrious when she asks "So how was Zazen?" or "How did Zazenkai go?". I just smile and say "Good!"

    Gassho,
    John

  16. #16

    Re: Zen at home

    I'm still unsure of how to even breach the topic with my family - we've lived continents apart for several years so the topic has simply never come up. However, eventually it will, and there will be a definite clash between my philosophical approach and my father's strong Orthodox Christian faith. From those of you who've been there, any tips on rocking that boat without capsizing?

  17. #17

    Re: Zen at home

    Quote Originally Posted by Echo
    I'm still unsure of how to even breach the topic with my family - we've lived continents apart for several years so the topic has simply never come up. However, eventually it will, and there will be a definite clash between my philosophical approach and my father's strong Orthodox Christian faith. From those of you who've been there, any tips on rocking that boat without capsizing?
    Hello Konstantin,

    When I was in the process of leaving the Christian faith (and it was a process), I found that these two articles helped explain my position and bridge the gap between my Christian family and Buddhism. While they're still not wildly enthusiastic about it, they've come to more or less accept that yes, I am serious, no, it's not a rebellion thing, and I still support them in the practice of their faith.

    1.) The Enemy Within, by Archmandrite Dionysios
    2.) No Escape for the Ego, by Rev. Sheng-yen

    I sincerely hope this helps.

    Metta and Gassho,

    Saijun

  18. #18

    Re: Zen at home

    Quote Originally Posted by Echo
    From those of you who've been there, any tips on rocking that boat without capsizing?
    Hi Echo,

    I often say that we don't prosthelytize and rarely need to try to convince anyone of the worth of these things.

    Rather, just be a good son/daughter/husband/wife/parent/friend ... perhaps let the peace and gentleness show itself in our ordinary behavior and interactions with others as the years pass ... and many folks will slowly come to understand, even if they do not fully understand.

    Gassho, J

  19. #19
    disastermouse
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    Re: Zen at home

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Echo
    From those of you who've been there, any tips on rocking that boat without capsizing?
    Hi Echo,

    I often say that we don't prosthelytize and rarely need to try to convince anyone of the worth of these things.

    Rather, just be a good son/daughter/husband/wife/parent/friend ... perhaps let the peace and gentleness show itself in our ordinary behavior and interactions with others as the years pass ... and many folks will slowly come to understand, even if they do not fully understand.

    Gassho, J
    I wouldn't even know how to proselytize this practice. Heck, I can't even convincingly explain that I'm sitting for no reason at all. Compared to the everlasting life promised by other religions, Zen seems to offer very little.

    Chet

  20. #20

    Re: Zen at home

    When Buddhism becomes a thing in my head, it creates friction with my family and friends.

    When Buddhism becomes a path of right action, everyone around me benefits without really even knowing why.

    Views are just views. Whoever is right in front of you at this moment, that is Buddha. Serve and love and honor that, whether it's your spouse, children, boss, homeless person, animal, plant, whatever. By being "nothing special" in itself, Zen opens up the uniqueness of every experience of our life and elevates every encounter to an encounter with Emptiness.

    gassho
    Greg

  21. #21

    Re: Zen at home

    I
    just don’t see a big conflict with religion. The way I relate to Buddha’s teaching, I just don’t consider it a religion. My step-mother did object a little when I talked about Buddhist philosophy, but I told her Buddhism wasn’t a religion in my viewpoint. (There is another thread on Treeleaf on whether Buddhism is a philosophy or a religion.) As a Christian, I never took the Bible literally and I have never been one to accept “unthinking dogma,” for instance I do no believe in hell or creationism. I do, however, relate to Jesus and his example, and I could call myself both (or neither!). Gassho, Grace.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Zen at home

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    Chris wrote:
    She also has a sense of humor about it all: she joked the other day that OF COURSE she knew not to say, "So how'd it go?" after I have been sitting
    Hi Chris,

    I got a good chuckle out of this one! I can actually relate, only my wife is totally serrious when she asks "So how was Zazen?" or "How did Zazenkai go?". I just smile and say "Good!"

    Gassho,
    John
    Here is a humorous followup to this....
    Tonight after Zazen I came upstairs and my wife asked the usual "How was Zazen?" to which I replied "It was great I attained enlightenment!"
    Her response couldn't have been better even if I was serious!
    She said "That's good." then just casually turned around and went back to brushing her teeth :lol:

  23. #23

    Re: Zen at home

    Quote Originally Posted by JRBrisson
    She said "That's good." then just casually turned around and went back to brushing her teeth :lol:
    Maybe she was practicing enlightenment...either that, or she realizes it's nothing special.

    Gassho

    s

  24. #24

    Re: Zen at home

    Yeah, "nothing special," very zen: I'm surprised she didn't tell you to "just brush your teeth"!

  25. #25

    Re: Zen at home

    The only problem I've ever had is from Catholic in-laws who can't quite grasp that we don't worship Buddha. When I explained that having being raised a Christian, I still revere Jesus and have nothng but respect for his teachings (in many ways more than they do without their realizing it,) it brought some peace; the picture of Jesus meditating that I have in the frontroom helped a lot. (I also have a picure of an Eastern Icon that depicts Christ and the Buddha embracing... that at least led to some reasonable conversation.)
    The Baby will be read to sleep with both "Stillwater the Bear" and "Jesus Loves Me."

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