Parenting led couple on path to Buddhism

The Indianapolis Star, October 21, 2007

Indianapolis, IN (USA) -- Step into the home of Clifton and Julie Carmody and you immediately recognize that the occupants give more than casual thought to matters of the spirit and that their path is heavily influenced by Eastern philosophy.

Above the main picture window is a painted Om, a Sanskrit symbol found in Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. A frame above the TV features a large stitched elephant. And scattered about the room, on the coffee table and crowded bookshelves, are volumes on yoga and feng shui, magazines devoted to vegetarianism and reflexology and the Sufi poems of Rumi.

The Carmodys are Buddhists.

Julie, 36, teaches yoga in a Greenwood studio. And Clifton, 40, manages a Macaroni Grill restaurant on the Far Northside and is the president of the Indiana Buddhist Center, a small group that meets weekly in Julie's studio.

They came to their current spiritual station through parenthood.

When baby Nicole, their second child, grew into solid foods, she simply refused to eat meat, despite the time-honored tricks of masking it with peas or broccoli. Clifton was learning about vegetarianism then and decided to ditch meat. Eventually, Julie decided it was easier to go vegetarian than make multiple meals. About the same time Clifton, a lifelong agnostic, began reading about Buddhism.

At first, he thought the meditation might simply help him develop a calmer, kinder demeanor. But the more he studied, the more he saw it as a way of life.

"I was always a searcher," he said. "What ended up happening was that I became closer to Jesus and his way of living and the things he says in the Bible. They are totally true. It just made a lot more sense to me. Everything made a lot more sense."

Julie, who grew up in California hearing her mother tell her to seek God in a personal manner, was skeptical of Buddhism. She suspected it of being idol worship. She doubted that the Buddhist monks were as peaceful as they always seemed. But when Clifton started sharing what he was learning about Buddhism, it started to make sense.

When she saw the Dalai Lama in Indianapolis in 1999, she was touched by his story of compassion and forgiveness, even toward the Chinese leaders who were oppressing his Tibetan people. By 2001, she started the daily practice of meditation, and sitting with Buddhist teachers.

Now, she is a believer in Buddhism's tenets of compassion and forgiveness. She believes that the way she lives her life today will impact her state in future lives.

"How you live your life today affects your tomorrow," she said. "Every action that you do is going to create an effect for whatever you do."

This week, when the Dalai Lama visits Indiana, the Carmodys plan to be in the audience for his teachings. And they plan to enjoy the fellowship of other Buddhists who will come for the festivities.

"I am looking forward to just being around a group of like-minded people," Julie said, "and the energy that goes along with that."