this side of KOOL-AID

I’ve been thinking about this blog for a long time. Lately, since the release of my book, I have given tremendous thought to being a part of a community – an amazing community of women. Now, I have to say that once my book sold to Seal Press, I clearly understood on many levels both the power of a collective ‘female’ voice (Seal press!), and more importantly, the absolute need for healthy, strong vital disagreement. One, i believe, can not thrive or stay alive with out the other. In other words, the sustainability of standing your own ground coupled with the ability to give a pat on the back to those who can only make you look better. I believe that’s called generosity of spirit.

I am fortunate. I am surrounded by stunning, brilliant, smart, delightful GENEROUS women. This, i believe, is as good as it gets.

I’ve been thinking about this blog for a long time.

For 37 years I belonged to a Buddhist community. I no longer belong to that community. Having been very young when I first encountered Buddhism, I found a ‘home’ within an organization, and truly believed that if i stayed true to the law, the precepts and the practice, along with rigid formality of the lay organization, I would be more than okay. I would thrive.

A funny thing happens when you decide – really truly decide – that something needs to be said. When you need to speak your mind, stand up… after all, buddhism at it’s core is about standing up, awakening to your own greatness, knowing that you are in fact the Buddha (each person in fact has that very life condition called buddha-hood), and no one… not one single person … is or should be your personal savior slash God. Now, there are tons and tons of folks who will disagree vehemently, and stand up and say, nah, you can’t be the Buddha, or you’re a buddha in training, or worse, a bodhi-buddha , which is somewhat like a mani-pedi without the nail color. or yes, you can be that — you can be all these things, but then comes: I GET TO TELL YOU WHEN, AND IF, AND ONLY IF YOU’RE PRACTICING CORRECTLY. Hmmm. Practicing correctly? okay, so this is where the bubble bursts. this is where the macy’s day parade float deflates and hisses and collapses, this is where you step away from the mess and ask yourself: is this about co-dependency and possibly a looser definition … a cult. Is this how life/religion/spirituality is supposed to be? look like? filled with those you have the power, the answers, the guidance credibility chip – the ones who if they don’t like what you’re fucking asking, put you at the end of the line, hoping you’ll either disappear or shut up. What’s that saying, “if you see something, say something.” Well, I saw something, and I desperately needed to say something. I am a firm believer that each and every human being is entitled to their opinion, I don’t have to agree, I don’t have to go to the dance or party, but you bet your ass I have to give another person the opportunity to speak his or her mind, share his or her thoughts and have a dialogue. A discussion. There is no such thing as a one sided dialogue. Any person who thinks that their trying to convince you that their side is right, is NOT, i repeat NOT, having a dialogue with you. This is not a party you’ve been invited to. This is merely the bar sitting area. You will not be invited into the grand dining hall. This I know for sure.

So this organization that I belonged to for 37 years decides that some of the members are to be ‘deemed’ evil doers for having remained friends with someone who is also deemed an evil doer for having a different opinion, which translates, “Oh my god. he’s trying to overthrow the organization and have some sort of mutiny and become the Big Kahuna, THE (uh oh) TOR-MENTOR. Having just watched Lewis Black on John Stewart where he does this huge long brilliant riff on Hitler –reminding me of the absurdity to define anyone other than a say Hitler or Mussolini as evil doers – i just start to churn away inside. And as an aside, it is truly mind-blowing (no pun intended) that all of these religions, philosophies, half baked woo hoo schools all use the same exact language. evil doers. parasites, reform members…

you know how you just sometime outgrow a pair of pants, you’ve had them forever, but THEY NO LONGER FIT. SAME WITH A BELIEF SYSTEM. SOMETIMES it just doesn’t work any longer, it ran it’s course.

The notion that anyone can be defined as an evil doer for disagreeing, or for having an ego, or for having done something 45 years ago and no, mustn’t be forgiven — within an organized religion, a buddhist RELIGION no less, seems so hypocritical I am beside myself with buddha-pain.

First of all, for the record, any organization that tells you that you MUST FOLLOW ONE PARTICULAR PERSON AS YOUR MENTOR, please, take a breath, and say, no thank you. I will pick my mentor, but thanks for the grand offer. And yeah, maybe this person can be one of my mentors, but THE ONLY MENTOR…please…again, bow out gracefully.
If they continue to push this person in your face, laying on thick the “you are not following correctly, or, you will not receive full benefit from this practice” please, again, beg to differ. Ones fortune has to do with ones ability to stand up and say fuck you with just enough clarity and ummmmppph, believe in the greatness of your own life. Anyone who claims they know your karma…. please, again, hand them a mirror and tell them to look at themselves for a good few hours. No one, not one person knows your karma, or destiny. You do. Or don’t. And no one knows what’s best for you. That’s arrogance not leadership.

My heart was broken by the organization I belonged to. It was truly ruptured. I had donated many many years to the daily ritual of practice, many many years to the rhetoric, many many years to the belief that these were good kind generous loving supportive people. And it was years later, when I stepped out of line and spoke my mind loud and clear, that i realized this was not my home any more. It was time to leave. It was time to take what i believed to be true, and leave behind what i felt was false and manipulative and damaging. It was fucking scary to leave ‘the compound’ so to speak. The disrespect, the demonizing, the rumor mill, the false statements, the hierarchal bullshit… it’s a wonder folks survive on their own dreams & goals & desires, and not only survive, but prove the beauty of fortitude.

I have a passion, a deep seated passion that goes way beyond the everyday, I have this passion that folks step out from behind others. And stand side by side. There is nothing more extraordinary than folks sitting around having a discussion and tackling it from all angles. How would we ever understand someone else’s point of view unless we can actually hear it, how can we understand why someone choose a particular side, unless we embrace it in conversation. We are so damn afraid of being wrong, that we’ll take someone to mat with a death defiance toss.

Organized Religions, overbearing Radio Hosts, Homophobic zealots who truly squander their life because they live and hide in shame and guilt, bible touting militants who shout and scream BABY KILLER BABY KILLER while thinking nothing, absolutely nothing, of taking the life of another human being. The hypocrisy is stunning.

For the last few years, i struggled with whether or not I could in fact consider myself a practicing buddhist since I no longer have that ‘home’ of a community. I struggled daily with this as many like minded friends can tell you. We questioned our faith, the truth of our own experiences, the ability to transform our own lives without the bells and whistles; we questioned our lives through superstitious reflexes. That’s not Buddhism, that’s pure unadulterated FEAR.

And this is the turn in the road. the moment. When you question and replay, and then realize that yes I’m a Buddhist. I believe all people are capable of greatness, wonder, magic. I believe that the universe is vast and kind and loving. I believe that yes, we make causes, we get effects, and one must make different causes in order to get different effects. I believe we all fuck up royally and make gigantic mistakes and want forgiveness. We all carry secrets and pain. But when the secrets become hypocrisy, and the pain becomes blame that’s when it all starts crumbling down. The answers are all here – inside, in here, right in here – and it takes quiet and patience and the ability to decipher what’s pulsating in your heart and soul, and what’s chipping away at your head. I also believe that everything… everything … leads us to here. Right here. For many years I liked (well, maybe not liked, but it was easy…. easy and comfortable) being told what to do, where to go, how to pray, what to say… and then one day -BOOM -I spoke up because i didn’t like the way my best friend was being treated. I didn’t like what was being said, whispered about him. That was my cue.

I woke up.

See that, holy mother of god, I am a buddha.

No more permission needed.

Category: Uncategorized 2 comments »

2 Responses to “this side of KOOL-AID”

  1. Hollye Dexter

    awesome Amy.

    and I so agree with you. No one can possibly define your relationship to your creator, any more than they could tell you how to love your husband. It is personal and intimate.

    The older I get, the less I claim to “know”. I’m doing my best to embrace uncertainty, because letting someone else, or some religious book, tell me how it all plays out no longer works for me.

    I went through a similar thing with Self-Realization Fellowship. I loved the philosophy, but once “mankind” becomes involved with a religion, it always becomes about ego and power, even when that’s the opposite of what they’re preaching.

    I think it’s when we have the courage to break away and follow our own inner wisdom, to listen to that voice inside, that’s when we begin to finally find the truth.

    You emanate truth. You must be on the right path.


  2. Linda Lichtman

    Wow! Having just allowed myself to be released from something like what you’ve described so BRILLIANTLY, I am with you sister…I’m no longer hearing the funneled messages…I’m hearing life calling. I love you for feeling, acknowledging and writing this magnificent piece…my heart is covered with “you-ness.”

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