This book answered three questions for me:
1 – How can I, an ex-fundamentalist-turned-atheist, embrace any aspect of Buddhism, which is, at its root, religious?
Spike’s off-the-cuff laid-back approach to this helped me to get over my brain’s attempt to force everything into neat categories. Many people say “take what works, leave the rest” but I have been unable to do this. It’s all-or-nothing for me. I appreciate how she didn’t just stop at a flippant treatment of this, but dug deep to a solid conclusion. I like her idea of being a Philosophical Buddhist, where the entirety of the practice boils down to ‘be mindful.’ As she says: “Swimming laps underwater doesn’t make you baptized — breathing doesn’t make you Buddhist.”
2 – I have ADHD – how can I stop all my crazy rapid-fire brain activity long enough to actually meditate?
I’m not sure why I’m surprised that this is, evidently, a common excuse for not meditating. Evidently those of us who struggle with this have been doing it wrong all along! Evidently you’re not supposed to banish and repress thoughts while concentrating on not having thoughts. Spike’s advice is simple to follow. Acknowledge the thought, then dismiss it. “Hello thought. Goodbye thought.” Really, it’s that easy? Seems so. It’s been working for me.
3 – Who is this Spike person, and why should I listen to her on this topic?
While this is not an origin story, the memoir portions of the book reference her relationships with family and her father. The rest is her struggle with depression, the people and methods she uses to cope with it, and specifically the role meditation played in all of it. Like any good novel, our protagonist goes on a journey and progresses. She is changed, transformed. It’s not quite as dramatic as a ‘hero’s journey’ tale, but at least by the end of the book you are left with a sense of hope. Hope for Spike. Hope for yourself.
Meditation: If Spike can do it, maybe I can too.