Finding 'Buddha nature' in Brew City

By Kenya Evans, JS Online Dec. 15, 2006

Milwaukee, WI (USA) -- Comedian Ellen DeGeneres joked that meditating in her yoga class was like paying for silence. Although I don't pay for meditation at the Milwaukee Mindfulness Practice Center, the price of peace of mind is costly.

Quite often, I find myself juggling a multitude of tasks and to-do's - running for Miss Duplicity of the year. However, I believe in balance. So I make sure I do my fair share of procrastination - call it my "yin-yang nature."

As we all try not to spill our cup of errands and responsibilities that runneth over, especially during the holiday season, stress levels rise and anxieties intensify. So there is no time like the present to exercise mindfulness.

Quiet as it's kept, Milwaukee has a cluster of Buddhist centers on the east side and sprinkled throughout the city - about nine in Milwaukee and more than 30 in Wisconsin. Each differs in practice, tradition and ceremony.

The Buddhism, where I attend, focuses on practicing loving kindness and mindfulness in our daily lives. We often discuss discovering the "Buddha nature" in everyone: our neighbor, sister, father, child or co-worker. Members are from all walks of life, including atheists, Christians and everything in between.

The Buddha nature is the spirit of compassion, loving-kindness, equanimity and wanting happiness for others as deeply as you want it for yourself. Religion, age, race, profession or nationality is irrelevant. What does matter is the wisdom and care one demonstrates.

Being conscious of your every action and thought is a way to practice mindfulness, inadvertently letting the bud of your Buddha nature blossom into a lotus flower.

'Tis the season to be jolly, cheerful, caring and generous. So why not practice these four acorns of affection and blissfulness year-round?

Instead, we scatter about, empty our pockets to retailers and burn ourselves out in the excitement and expectation of it all.

Relinquishing our cornerstones of communication, we've replaced human contact with technology. At work, we e-mail assignments and conversations. On the streets, we avoid eye contact, preoccupied with handheld Internet games and gadgets. While in the company of friends and family, we talk to someone on our cell phone, or worse still, through text messaging. This disconnect enables us to function in a constant state of mindlessness or what some call being "on autopilot."

In spite of our desire to do so, it's hard to slow down. Mindfulness serves in quieting the mind and being still with ourselves - the silent night to our chaotic daze.

"Practicing . . . the way of awareness gives rise to benefits without limits," according to the Sangha Closing Verse at the Milwaukee Mindfulness Center.

When we learn to share our prosperity and honor each other's divinity, we can begin to get along, flourish and be at ease in a loving community. So give a little bit of your love and authentic self to people a little more often. You don't have to be afraid of or naive with your generosity. And if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

This is not fluffy, touchy-feely babble, nor is it nonsense. It's sincerity expressed tenderly that touches people's hearts and uplifts their spirits, and that trumps all hatred and foolishness. So the next time someone hurts or offends you, remember to practice compassion and understanding. Yes, it's easier said than done, but it's a good thing to keep in mind.

May Milwaukee lead the way in making magic, miracles and merriment out of everyday madness.