For background, I was always an atheist. I would not be considered mixed-race, but I am culturally mixed. I am half English and half Italian, and I have always lived in Canada. I have always been very depressed, very anxious, and I have struggled with an eating disorder in the past. With my parents being non-religious and from two completely different schools of Christianity, I never knew how to get involved with any church. I am also a woman who is only interested in other women, so that was difficult to navigate, as well.
My favourite people were my grandparents from my mom’s side of the family. My grandpa died when I was about to turn 13 years old. I became very angry, and I refused to listen to people who were in a religious community who would tell me, “he’s in a better place now”.
My nana died when I was 23 years old. Her decline in health was really quick. I started to question the meaning of life, and what would happen with her when she passed on. This was the first time I ever seriously thought about these hard-hitting questions.
I was taking frequent trips to the library around the time. I felt some force of nature, not one I could see, but I felt something pulling me towards the spirituality section of the library. Before I knew it, I was holding the Dhammapada in my hands, the first Buddhist teachings after Lord Siddharta Gautama became enlightened. I have been studying the dharma ever since.
I have read several Buddhist and Vedic scriptures at this point in time. I have zero Indian heritage, but I have been asked by Indian-Canadian people from my hometown what got me onto this path. I explained to them the scriptures I’ve read and what resonated with me. I explained that I am not half-bad at learning the mantras in their original Sanskrit, either.
There have been times when certain teachings and traditions have rubbed me the wrong way, but I have come to the conclusion that the teacher’s personal biases and cultural practises can be problematic and a stark contrast to the eternal truth of the dharma.
The breathing exercises are very much known to calm down anxiety and depression. Obviously, one should learn proper instructions before attempting meditation on their own. I also found it remarkable that the issues I have had related to my body image and eating disorder decreased quite a bit when I learned about reincarnation and detachment. I made wonderful friends in the sangha who can really see me for who I am. I have learned a lot about myself in my spiritual development, and about connecting with other people. I have learned to be compassionate with myself and others, and how to be self-reliant but also ask for help when it is necessary.
Truthfully, I still don’t know what became of my grandparents in their new lives. I may never know. But I have learned to trust the karma that they earned.