Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The Taiko, used as a call to worship represents the commanding voice of Buddha.

We seem to be in a sort of seeking mood here at the Zimmerman/Ludwig home lately. Maybe spurred on by our eldest son's rejection of our faith (see blog below) or maybe by my own passion for yoga and the spiritual side of that physical practice, I'm not sure. But lately we've been trying all kinds of new eastern approaches and belief systems on for size and I have to say the results have been pretty good.

Now don't worry, I haven't gone all Tom Cruise Scientology on you but I have been taking Grace to see a Holistic doctor for her stomach aches. She has had chronic stomach aches for six years--ever since, hmm, yes ever since her baby sister was diagnosed with cancer. Gee, Dr. Fraud, do you think there's a connection?

We have tried everything...Tums, massage, herbal tea, Pepcid AC, wedge pillow, changes in diet, changes in bed-time, peppermint, meditation, and even, in desperation, a few visits to a gastroenterologist who prescribed Prevacid (a drug that keeps your stomach from producing acid which I feel, intuitively, can not be a long-term solution). None of these things have given her more than a few days' relief from the stomach-ache that strikes her every night at bed-time.

Finally, we decided to try something new. We went to see a holistic doctor. I would like to tell you about the visits but it sounds like voo-doo to those of us raised in a Western world but let me tell you, she has not had a single stomach-ache since our first visit. He works with energy, and blockages, and past traumas. Whatever. She has had four visits and not one stomach ache in two months.

At the same time that we've been seeing "Dr. Eat Pray Love" as we call him, our eldest son has been researching Buddhism. He's so interested that he got me to take him to a Buddhist temple last week.

I was jiggy wid dat. I was raised Christian (Methodist) but I'm not convinced that the religion of one's childhood is the only way to go. We went, we observed, we enjoyed. The message is a bit different. There is, of course, no talk of Jesus but talk of the Buddha (enlightened one) within us. The goal is to connect to that divine self and the divine in all other people for we are as one. There is more talk of wisdom and self-knowledge than of loving your neighbor. I was good with all of that. There's also an awesome hanging drum they bang on as a call to worship and that has a lot more drama than ringing the church bells.

When we got home, Jeff was anxious to hear about it. "So what does that mean to find the Buddha within? Is that like God within you?" he asked.

"No, Dad," Atticus said with some non-Buddhist impatience, "I think they mean there's a little gold statue of a fat man in your liver."


Atticus has declared he has found his spiritual home. It's in a temple in Wrigleyville (about a half hour from here). I guess that's better than at an ashram in Nepal. As for myself, I'm not sure I'm ready to give up on the Methodists and their potluck suppers and welcoming handshakes.

Wish us well on our spiritual journey. I send divine love from the Buddha in me to the Buddha in you.


Friday, May 09, 2008


A Buddhist, Grace, and my confirmand Amanda

Last weekend my Atticus (14) and Grace (12) were confirmed at our church. Also, I had been a mentor to another confirmand, Amanda, so I was involved as both a parent and a volunteer. The event, as big events often do, served as a microcosm of all that is good and bad about my skills in both areas. Mostly what is bad come to think of it.

I like to hang loose, not over-plan, not over-do things. I like to fly by the seat of my pants and not sweat the details. All of which make for a good surf bum but a fairly inadequate parent and church volunteer. I was actually fired from Sunday School duty a few years back. Well, not fired, but not asked back which is the same thing.

The confirmation process is designed to educate the youth of our church so that they can accept their faith freely. This is a bunch of hooey of course. What 12-year-old has the life experience to accept one religion over another? Still, we push forward with this tradition and accept that on occasion the plan backfires. As it did with my son who announced a week before confirmation that he was having serious doubts about his faith. In fact, he decided he might want to be a Buddhist.

Umm, errr, well yes, it's all well and good to seek God wherever he or she may be for you but we just don't want you to do that in the eighth grade. What the hell kind of message is that? The kind I gave him. After much talking about it he agreed to go forward with the process as a sort of family tradition and I hope was able to do this in fairly good conscience.

The night before confirmation there was a banquet for the confirmands, their parents, and the mentors. I was there as both a parent and a mentor. I vaguely remembered reading an email that said we would be called upon to speak about our confirmand. No sweat, I thought, I can say a few words about Amanda. So imagine my surprise, when upon finishing dinner a microphone was produced and all the mentors pulled out lengthy speeches they'd written about their confirmands. "Umm, did we know we were supposed to do this?" I asked Grace's mentor who was sitting next to me going over her notes, "Actually, yes we did," she said, unwilling to give me a pass.

Okay, well, I'm pretty good on my feet I thought, I can pull this off. Then the first person gave a speech. This speech was just slightly more poetic than the Gettysburg Address and nearly as inspiring as the "I Have A Dream" speech. But with more Bible verses. Holy crap. There was no way I was going to be able to pull this off. Jeff, who was enjoying my squirming leaned over, "Your only hope is to go now and throw yourself at the mercy of the crowd!" he hissed. "No," I said, "I'm sure I'm not the only one ill-prepared," and I waited it out sure there would be someone as irresponsible as me.

But no. I really was the only one without a thoughtful prepared speech. What did I think? You take your crowd of church people who are asked to be mentors and you've got a fairly responsible group (not sure how I got in there). When it was my turn I mumbled through it forgetting a few details like saying anything nice about my confirmand or the whole process, then sat down and looked around the room to see if the torture was over. No. It was not. Because now all the mentors began to produce small wrapped packages to give to their confirmands. All except me (I did have a card) and Grace's mentor who said, "I have a gift for you. I'll bring it tomorrow." Oh sure, I thought. She has to figure out what to get still, just like me.

That's how I happened to be at Target last Saturday night buying the last cross necklace in the jewelry case.

Anyhoo, on Sunday morning when I presented the necklace to Amanda I was feeling pretty smug. A lot of the confirmands got the same thing so I was pretty sure I'd pulled it all out of the tailspin. I was curious to see what Grace's mentor had scrounged up the night before. I hadn't seen her at Target. Maybe she had to get beef jerky from 7-11, ha, ha!

Grace opened her gift. There was a small silver jewelry box with a Bible verse engraved on the lid. Inside the box was a silver cross with her name engraved.

Lilly leaned over and whispered, "I don't think she got that at Target last night, Mom."

Well, I'm happy to report that the rest of the day went smoothly. We got Grace and her Buddhist brother confirmed, for better or for worse and I was able to pull off my final duties as a mentor (stand up when they confirmed Amanda) without screwing it up too badly (my shirt was half tucked into the back of my pants).

I think, however, I will not be asked to mentor again so I can add to my list of dubious distinctions having been fired as both a Sunday School teacher and a Confirmation Mentor at the Methodist church.

Maybe the Buddhists would take me.