I'm not a very religious person. I believe that religion is a highly personal subject, and am totally turned off by proselytizing. That said, I'm going to try to talk about Buddhism in this post because it's something I'm really interested in, and frankly, my interests make up this entire website. If you aren't down with the Buddha, I have no problem with you ignoring this entry. In any case it's really just me rambling, because I don't know of many Austin resources to share for this topic.
I've been dabbling with Buddhism since my San Francisco days. It's the first religion that makes sense to me, although I suppose you could call it a philosophy instead of a religion. I used to sit with a Insight Meditation (Vipassana) group occasionally in SF and stay for the Dharma talks. I never totally got meditation, which is really at the core of Buddhism, but I loved (and still love) learning about the Buddha's teachings.
I spent a week at a Zen Center in San Francisco, where we got up at the ungodly hour of 5am to meditate for an hour and a half, then spend the day cleaning the temple. We had another hour of meditation in the evening. I HATED it. I don't think anyone likes to get up that early, but really what I hated was the formalism of Zen -- how you had to have your legs crossed a certain way, your eyes open a certain way, your hands resting a certain way.... I rebelled in small ways, like closing my eyes, or letting my mind wander on purpose. I loved the Dharma lectures, but was creeped out by the chanting. I couldn't wait to get home. I figured Zen wasn't for me, and that the more informal Insight Meditation was the branch for me.
I stopped practicing when we moved to Austin, because I couldn't really find anything like the group I had in SF. I tried going to 3 separate groups, but nothing really clicked. Plus I started having kids, and we all know how impossible it is to get away from babies to go spend time on yourself, so I let Buddhism take a back seat for a while.
A couple weeks ago I was browsing at Half Price Books and saw a book on Buddhism called Awakening the Buddha Within
, by Lama Surya Das. I am soooooo glad I bought it. The author is an American lama who is classically trained in Tibetan Buddhism, and has such a knack for explaining Buddhist concepts to a Western audience. So much clicked into place for me while reading this book: I get the point of meditation now, and much to my disbelief, I get the formalism of Zen. I get the point of regularly practicing with a group (sangha), and even chanting in a strange foreign language.
I can't give a brief synopsis of his teachings because I would just be finger-painting next to his Renaissance masterpiece. If you have any interest in Buddhism, I highly recommend his book.
Anyway, to bring this back to Austin: I'm on the hunt again for a sangha to practice with. I might even give Zen a try again, and head to the Austin Zen Center. However, if anyone out there can recommend a good group, I would be very grateful to know of it.