When I was preparing to move to Virginia from Vermont, back in 1979, a few of my friends said I really needed to be careful down here in the Bible Belt. They were sure I’d be swarmed by Born Agains wanting to save me. My off the cuff remark to them went something like this: “Don’t worry, when they knock on the door to invite me to church, I’ll just tell them I’m a Buddhist. They’ll never come back again.” I mean no disrespect. It is just that I’ve had my tangles with organized religion and don’t want to go through any of it again.
I planned to use those words the same way I often tell people that I’m a poet when asked what I do, mostly when I travel and don’t feel much like talking. It’s generally a real turnoff and the questions end. Thankfully, I’ve never had the person say, “Oh, I’m a poet too!” or “Where can I find your books?”
It’s not that I’m don’t want to be kind or friendly. I love talking to people I don’t know. It’s just that I am a bit of an introvert and when I’m belted into my window seat, hurtling through the sky at a gazillion miles an hour, I love watching the landscape unfold below me. I find myself doing some of my deepest wonderings about the Universe and how I got here. Perhaps that sounds strange or even crazy, but that’s how it is with me.
When I was moving, I was not a Buddhist and had no desire to become one. Nor was I poet when I first started saying that I was. Virginia seems to have some strange, magical power, because it is here that I started studying Buddhism and also began writing poetry. I’m still studying Buddhism and have a meditation practice. But I’m very much a hybrid when it comes to spiritual matters. Though I’m still writing, it isn’t poetry, at the moment anyway.
I’m extremely happy that some Entity saw fit to introduce me to Buddhism and to help me start writing. But I’m even more happy that I never told anyone that I was running from the law, a prostitute or a banker. I wonder where I’d be if I had?