Interfaith

What My Mom Said When I Told Her I’m a Jewish Buddhist

Vintage Green Phone on a Wooden Background

The same day my “I’m a Jewish Buddhist” blog was posted here at Kveller, I thought, “OK, I need to tell my mom,” and I felt really anxious. I was basically going to share my new identity with my mom who thought of me a certain way my whole life: as Jewish and nothing different.

My mom is old-school. She is a Polish/Ukrainian immigrant by way of Israel. She had a life plan set out for me in utero. It was a life plan I did not exactly follow. The fact I am not a doctor is still a point of contention (20 years after the fact). To say she has strong opinions is like saying the Titanic was a dinghy.

And I’d received some online responses which made me feel ill at ease. Nothing was hurtful or upsetting, but I could feel myself getting triggered. I had purposely put myself “out there” to share something really important and personal, my faith and spirituality. I did not denounce Judaism, but something I said in my post prompted others (complete strangers as well some folks in my local Jewish community) to comment with the aim of guiding me towards Judaism as they know it.

As I mulled over the social media comments, a thought floated into my head. It is something one of my favorite yoginis shared years ago, “What someone else thinks of me is none of my business.” I felt peace in my heart, because I realized I do not need to defend myself. This is exactly what meditation has brought to my life and why I feel so secure in my Jewish religion and Buddhist spirituality. If someone is trying to change me, it’s a reflection on them and their discomfort, not me.

But mothers, mothers are different from online commenters, aren’t they? So as I dialed her number, I could feel the nerves building up like a wave swelling. Deep breaths.

The phone call:

“Hi Mom, I have some cool news. I have a piece I wrote on Kveller. It’s a really great Jewish parent blog.”

“That’s wonderful Honey! Great news!”

“I want to tell you what it’s about. I wrote about being a Jubu, a Jewish Buddhist. It’s a real thing.”

(I’m not doing great sounding eloquent here, but this part was the wave crashing down.)

“Jewish Buddhist?! Buddhist?! You’re not becoming a Buddhist now, are you?!”

“No, no, no Mom. I mean, I’m still Jewish too, I just identify spiritually with Buddhism. It’s about meditation, yoga and finding inner peace. You’ve tried meditation before, remember?”

“You know, I’ve decorated my living room with so many Buddha statues, people will think I’m Buddhist when they walk into the house. Yes, meditation is about being calm and peaceful. I don’t know where my peace went. I think I used to have it, but I can’t find it. I worry too much. I can never calm down.”

“Mom, that’s not good. You shouldn’t worry all the time. That’s what I’m trying to avoid with meditation.”

“That’s really good. It’s good to have peace and calm. My peace has gone somewhere. If I’m not worrying, I’m not alive.”

And the conversation moved on. My mom didn’t disown me; I spoke from my heart and she actually heard me. By the end of the phone call, I felt relief and lightness. Also, I came to the conclusion, no matter how old I get and how much meditation helps me find peace—a part of me still craves my mother’s approval.

Some things will never change.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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