Let me share my story with you… As well as a sort-of-Buddhist (this will become clearer as you read more!) I am a UX consultant for multinationals, a tech enthusiast, and a lover of fashion and animals. I grew up in a sad and conflict ridden family, with all my siblings suffering from manic depression or worse as a result, even to this day. I had my fair share of anxiety and depression for at least two decades. Today, at age 42, I’m stable, happy, in a great relationship (as well as being a divorcee ಠ_ಠ ), and a successful User Experience Designer and Digital Strategist. I would have never seen myself living in this way when I was growing up, especially when I looked at everyone else in my family.
Buddhism had a big part to play on my long path to today’s mental stability and inner joie de vivre. Currently – if I had to label myself – I am a “lapsed” Buddhist. I was deeply involved in Buddhist communities and meditating daily, including top-ups by going on retreats. Over those two decades, something shifted inside me. I also learned to navigate my inner world, not something we are taught about in the business world or a secular culture in general.
1: When I was a keen-as-beans yoga teacher (that photo is 10 years old!)
2: Eating rose flavoured ice-cream with the ladies on a recent retreat in Paris [I’m in the middle with my mouth open]
3: Book I’m reading now – Tranquilologie: A DIY Guide to Everyday Tranquility, written by the Paris retreat host & yoga teacher Kimberly Wilson
4: Mick, my partner – getting his head shaved by the late Chöje Akong Rinpoche in 2005 – before going into a 1 year retreat after which he became a Buddhist monk
5: Pickles, one of our beloved Cairnoodles in Savasana (the resting pose in yoga)
6: Bingo, our other Cairnoodle, a blonde beauty
7: A sketch I made based on a real life event, when Pickles had a thorny bramble in her fur and Bingo stuck his paws on her head and pulled it out. The orangutan surrounded by macaroons represents compassion (referring the event around the famous orangutan Sandra).
Now I am at a place where I find great joy in being with, and working with, people who haven’t been immersed in niche or alternative communities their whole lives – before I was so dysfunctional that I was very judgmental about the ‘normal’ world. Paths like Buddhism can thus sometimes be a vehicle for ‘spiritual bypassing’ for people like me who came to it emotionally immature, and I certainly was that way inclined.
I enjoy being ‘normal’ now – being able to make and manage money, enjoy ‘lady’ things like a Tom Ford lipstick and Louboutin shoes, eat meat occasionally together with a glass of pink champagne… and to function and enjoy the corporate environment. Before, it was just about sharing inner states with fellow meditators, comparing gurus and reading serious spiritual texts/manuals. That was fun too. But now, I’ve come out the other side. I love the sacred and the profane in equal measure. And learned to appreciate – first through Tibetan Buddhism, and then through Zen Buddhism – that the spiritual and material, the divine and the mundane – are simply like the two sides on one hand.
This past June, I attended a yoga and creativity retreat in Paris, led by the amazing Kimberly Wilson. Instead of brown rice, silence and hours of meditation – which is what the retreats I normally went on were like – we:
- Practiced yoga in Jardin du Luxembourg
- Ate macaroons at Ladurée
- Went on a champagne cruise on the Seine (a lot of inelegant cackling laugher from all of us by the middle of the cruise).
Something about the practice of meditation and yoga while immersed IN the world, seemed wonderful. (I’m not being sponsored by Kimberly but I can’t recommend that Paris retreat enough!)
Follow me on my journey as an in-the-past-serious-Buddhist-and-today-stepping-back-a-bit-for-this-moment-Buddhist I explore various topics:
At least every other month, there will be an interview with well-known and not-so-well-known Buddhists or Buddhist inclined thinkers and business people (from writers to teachers to ex-monks to entrepreneurs)
- I will rediscover the practice of meditation, compassion and other Buddhist themes as I reintegrate them more consciously in my life
- I’ll look at the balance between alternative vs. mainstream lifestyles, and between introversion vs. extroversion.
- And finally, I’ll also muse with others about how Buddhist practice and principles like meditation and compassion can be part of corporate life.
And please let me know if any areas of Buddhism or the topics I’ve brought up in this post resonate with you.
Until next time,