Am I Buddhist?

Am I Buddhist?

Written by Brittany Johansen, HOYH’s Chief Strategist


At my new haunt in Austin this morning, sipping coffee and sifting through posts from friends. The place is basically empty. Over the two or so hours I spent there, roughly a dozen people came and went, most just grabbing some caffeine to go. The two giant great danes I like to bring everywhere with me are generally a conversation starter so I am used to meeting new folks, and I enjoy it too. This particular morning, though, varied greatly from the norm. Not sure if it was dumb luck or fate, but I only crossed paths with women. Women of all kinds and ones I will forever keep in the highest regard. There was the cop from Houston – animal lover and devoted sister. She travels to Austin and other cities once a week to deliver wine to various venues. She tells stories with confidence and finesse. I’d like to meet her parrots one day.

Then there was the brave and bold woman about to embark on a brand new adventure, out of her comfort zone and into something entirely new. It could have been easy for me to get lost in her sharp blue eyes and perfect jaw line, I admit I drooled a little at her flawless physical beauty – but her story was equally captivating. Listening to her big dreams was just as caffeinating as my cup of coffee. What was in the water this morning? Such heart-forward, powerful women. But it was my connection with one woman in particular that really set the tone for my entire day. To meet someone for the first time and be changed; this is magic.

Pearl. On top of her wonderfully vibrant and magnetic soul, her name was freaking Pearl. She was a gem, too. Not sure how the conversation started, but it flowed effortlessly. Time passed without notice. The tone of the exchange glided quickly from superficial to deep – another mermaid, I see. This was going to be good.

She told me she was Buddhist and I immediately needed to know more. Was she always? Her mother is devoutly Buddhist and lives a peaceful, equanimous life. Pearl laughed, “When your mom talks to ants you believe she is crazy. When they listen you think she might be on to something.” Apparently, believing that all life is equal (none greater than the other including humans and ants), Pearl’s mother was overheard trying to reason with the ants that had taken up residence in her kitchen. With all the sincerity in her heart, she encouraged them to leave and dwell elsewhere – she couldn’t keep them safe from those who did not believe they were creatures worthy of love, respect, and peace.

Is it just me or do you also want to hug her mom right now? The second story Pearl shared was the moment she realized that it all made sense; this oneness with nature, with animals, with all life. She had traveled home to visit her mom, and buzzing around her were two large bees as she entered the house. She yelled for her mother and begged her to get them out of the house. With all the majesty that she is, Pearl’s mother came into the room with a plastic shopping bag and asked the bees to leave because they were frightening her daughter. Included in her request was, “You’re scaring my daughter. I know you don’t mean her harm. Please come into this bag and I will bring you away.” And so the bees buzzed right into the bag and she carried them gently outside to set them free, where also, no doubt, she thanked them for their understanding.

As Pearl continued to discuss her beliefs with me, I thought about how the immense beauty in all religions makes it hard to limit to just one, but she does claim her one to be Buddhism. I understood this. Depth in a person demands diversity, acceptance, and our own truth that has been developed through countless curiosity and soul searching. Our insignificance in the grand scheme of all the greatness in the world keeps her humble and she said to me simply, beautifully, “I am nothing, so I am everything.”

This effervescent woman continued to educate me on her life as a child, a young adult, and finally as a married woman living thousands of miles away from her family. How she went to religious schools just to learn more about them, and how she traveled from her home country of Taiwan to the States bravely and courageously fulfilling her dream of working with children. Several stories later, I realized that I was in awe of this woman before me. She spoke with such intention, but it wasn’t too much – just enough to make it clear and thoughtful, but never uncomfortable.

As the wind picked up and distracts us from our mesmerizing interaction, my waitress (Pearl was my waitress, did I mention that?), turns to leave. Since I am not sure if we’ll another opportunity to speak before I leave, I decided to tell her how incredible she is because women need to celebrate other women for more than their outward appearance. Women need to be telling other women that they are smart, capable, and enough just as they are. I believe that Pearl, like every other woman on this earth, deserved to know all the things that make her special, that drew her so effortlessly to others. I told her she was fascinating, beauty beyond measure. She replied, “Then you must be too. We only see in the world what we have inside us.”

Honestly?! How does she do this, how is she this profound? I’m in love with her magic heart and profound truths. Is polygamy legal in Texas? Would she marry me if I asked nicely? Am I Buddhist? Am I all religions? Am I none?  (#curiosity and #soulsearching, see!)

The equanimity, peace and love she exuded brought out a side of myself that I could really get used to. There is beauty everywhere in this world, if you choose to see it. Pearl said, “Some people see with their eyes when they should be looking with their hearts.” Truth, my new friend. When you open your heart you will get hurt, yes. But you will also get love. You will also be found. You will also find acceptance, not just from others, but more importantly, yourself. Even if for just a moment, I urge you to find what is beautiful about your surroundings and soak it up as long as you can. Rinse. Repeat. Go digging for Pearls. Because sometimes you can walk into a restaurant and meet someone life-changing if you are open to it.


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