Ssssh! I’m Trying To Be a Buddhist

Three things cannot be long hidden:
the sun, the moon, and the truth.

Gautama Buddha

It’s a thin line between being a Buddhist and a serial killer: that’s what I’ve learned in my quest for the spiritual enlightenment that most people I meet appear to seek.

If in doubt, buy the book; that’s always been my motto.

I’m not someone who buys the book, puts it on a shelf and forgets about the messages therein, though. I buy them, devour them, and put their words into practice within the hour. Hence, I bought Alan Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Drinking, and stopped drinking. I bought Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat! about screenwriting, and went to Hollywood to put the tools into practice. Neither lasted, but the spirit was willing at the time.

I don’t do things by halves, so I have to avoid sections of the bookstore with titles like Bonsai for Beginners, which would see me spending the next 10 years fiddling about with small trees in my kitchen sink.

I know I need to live a less frenetic life, so I went to my local Borders bookstore in LA in search of things that might help me. I drank my “Calming” Yogi tea beforehand, which stressed me out a bit, because no sooner had I set out on my walk than I needed a bathroom.

I had also taken my calming herbal Kava Kava pills, which also stressed me out, as I could feel them regurgitating in my chest. But I concentrated on the good they were doing me and just breathed deeply: calm, calm.

Then, I arrived at the store and wanted to knock the head off the small child who was screaming for sweets. Why do parents take small kids shopping when it is clear to anyone with half a brain that they absolutely hate it and are always going to kick up a fuss about something?

But calm, calm, I said, as I headed towards the spiritual/new age religion section and chose 20 books about Buddhism that were to be the foundation of creating the new me. I felt very good in my transformed skin.

Two hours later, I took them to the cash register, deposited them and told the assistant I was headed for the restroom (you see how American I have become? I no longer “go to the loo”; I am now “headed for the restroom”). He assured me that my books would be fine and that I could pay for them upon my return.

So, ablutions completed, I went back downstairs, only to discover that my two hours’ worth of research had all been put back on the shelves. “Where are my books?” I squealed. No, if I’m honestQ, I screamed. Louder than the child. “Oh, for goodness sake you turn your back for one minute and your life’s ruined and if I wanted this kind of shit I’d have stayed in Britain and whatever happened to customer service and look at the time . . . ” Calm, calm.

Two hours more again, I had recouped my selection and regrouped emotionally. I returned to my apartment, sweaty, with, I am sure, high blood pressure, and set about reading Buddhism for Dummies.

The little I knew about Buddhism, I had always liked, although, with my 112 lb frame, I suspected the weight thing might be an issue. Did I have to turn into an overweight, squat person in order to practise Buddhism? I suspected that the reason the obese god sat down, cross-legged, to meditate, was because he was too fat to stand, and I’d been down that path enough to know that it wasn’t where I wanted to return.

Some years ago, I learned Transcendental Meditation and adhered quite strictly to Ayurvedic principles (an Indian philosophy that really does reap physical, emotional and spiritual benefits). I read books by Oprah’s mate Deepak Chopra, a well known proponent of Ayurveda, and it was through re-reading him that I had become interested in Buddhism again. I also bought Chopra’s novel, Buddha, but thought that Buddhism for Dummies might be an easier way in.

It was. As I made my way through chapter one, I instantly took to my new philosophical path. I liked the non-dogmatism and the easily applicable principles: creating the right kind of mental attitude in order to bring about a better quality of life. I was on the floor and crossing my legs before you could sing Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon (I wonder if Boy George got the idea for that song by reading Buddhism for Dummies?).

By lunchtime, I had Buddhism sorted and felt calm enough to deal with the bank to sort my ever complicated finances.
Now, despite the efficient service I mostly find everywhere (post offices excepted), the one thing my bank has difficulty with is the transfer of money in and out of Europe. The idea that this continent would be in anyone’s minds in anathema to the staff, and this causes considerable stress – for all of us.

If you asked the cashiers to pilot the next space shuttle, they could not look more terrified, nor be slower at working out what goes where. This day was no exception and, as my new self evaporated, I ended up not so much tapping my fingers as putting them through my pockets in search of a handy weapon that might speed things along a bit.

One of the fundamentals of Buddhism is that pain and suffering are caused through our attachment to permanence, which is, in reality, only an illusion; and that when we let go of that pursuit of permanence, we will be happier (Got it?). Try telling that to a would-be convert when a bank clerk’s forefinger is permanently stuck on the £ to $ conversion key on his computer.

My Buddha-gathering expedition well and truly on hold, I did what any self-respecting citizen would do and took action. I assume the LAPD got there in time to untie everyone in time for the weekend. 

Me? I swapped Buddhism for Dummies for the Criminal Minds box set.