It’s funny how some words pop spontaneously into your vocabulary and then you start saying those words all the time. For months. For years. It could be a a saying – Gag me with a spoon, Cool beans, Shut UP!, Seriously? Really?, That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout, etc. For me, it was a word. Last year I was using the adjective “engaged” a lot. Random, I know. It’s not a hip saying, but that word got stuck in my craw and I was inserting into sentences at least once a day for about 6 months. And then one day I was reading something – an article, a book, I can’t remember – by Thich Nhat Hanh about “engaged Buddhism” and thought, “Oh my God! That’s my word!”
Again, this is sort of silly, but since I’m always looking out for signs and omens, I took this as one of those synchronicities and read a little more closely. Engaged Buddhism is living life with your Buddha light turned on. It’s walking and talking and working, knowing that you are a sacred being and behaving in a way that reflects that. It’s applying your practice practically. It’s employing mindfulness and gratitude with every breath, with every action. But you’ve got to engage your practice to make it work for you properly.
For example, your Mr. Coffee is just a kitchen appliance. It has knobs and buttons and carafe that holds liquid. But when you plug it in, your Mr. Coffee reaches its full potential, providing a beautiful service that tickles each of your senses. We humans are sort of like that. We are full of potential, but once we plug in, or tap in, to the source, we can do a wonder of the great things.
I subscribe to Buddhism, though I haven’t yet taken refuge vows because I want to be as sure as I can be that this is the right commitment for me. Each time I listen to a sermon or attend a class, I’m amazed to discover how beautifully my heart lines up with the Dharma. I think I’ve been a Buddhist my whole life but just didn’t know what to call it. When I take in the lessons I think, Yes, this is what I think, too. Yes, I do that. Yes, these are my intentions, too. Yes, yes, yes!
Buddhism works for many, like me, but for countless others the answers to life’s mysteries are found elsewhere. As passionate as folks are about their mindfulness practices, you will never find a Buddhist missionary out there converting people.
The important thing is, that no matter what your source, in order to live your best life you need to plug in. Your source might be religion or philosophy or family or school – we’re all so different, there’s no defining what the source is for an entire race of earthlings. For many, at least here in America, the source is Jesus Christ. If Jesus is the guru that speaks to you, engage Him in your heart.
This does not mean knocking on doors and telling people they’re doomed to hell unless they commit their lives to Jesus. This does not mean falling asleep in the pew on Sundays. This does not mean volunteering to lead the church youth group retreat. These are all important parts of a church community. But engaging the Christ light means something deeper, something that can serve humanity even better and create real peace in your life. I’m talking about breathing in Jesus each time you inhale, I use the word Jesus, but I could also use the word Holy Spirit or God, source, Universe, energy, Buddha, Allah, Krishna.
We’re not just human beings. We are spiritual beings. Hiding under those layers of skin and bone is divinely perfect energy. Look down at yourself right now. Spread your hands over your chest and your belly. A little piece of heaven has broken off and lives right under your hands. This energy wants to be acknowledged, to be useful, to shine. And it can, if you engage it.
Use whatever awesomeness inspires you. If you want to engage but find yourself forgetting during the day, wear something that reminds you. We wear engagement rings to remind us of our commitment to a significant other. Maybe you can wear a ring to remind you of your commitment to yourself. I wear a special necklace. Or sometimes I wear my mala beads. They help to remind me to feel gratitude, stop gossiping, smile at strangers, meditate, clean my house, give my time, be a better mom. They remind me to tell people, “I am here for you.” They remind me to engage my spirit and let it pull me in the right direction.
I’m trying really hard not to sound cheesy or hippie right now, just honest. While there’s nothing I know about this world for sure, tapping into my inner Buddha causes a shift in me that feels real. I attended a retreat last weekend and at the end a Buddhist nun blessed me by gently wrapping a scarf around my neck while holding my forehead to hers. A surge of loving kindness flooded my heart and I started to cry. It was beautiful. This energy is a vibrant gem in each of our hearts. When treasured properly through wholesome behavior and daily engaged practice, it will become a magnet that attracts goodness and, in turn, spreads that goodness to others.
From mine to yours,
p.s. As always, if you like this, please share it! Many thanks and much love!