You might have seen these books: If the Buddha Dated, If the Buddha Married? I loved the section in If the Buddha Dated on writing a dating profile that might attract an appropriate mate. Author Charlotte Kasl takes the reader through the various versions that you might write, starting with one that’s basically a laundry list of all the qualities you are seeking in your would-be partner. As she continues, the profiles get a little more “enlightened” and more and more interesting, and you start realizing that perhaps describing your values, and asking questions, might be more effective than presenting an impossible checklist of criteria and scenarios that might not ultimately lead to a mutually-fulfilling relationship, anyway.
The final sample profile simply reads,
Who are you? Who am I?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this because it’s now been exactly 27 days since I was asked to write a bio for the Order members of my Buddhist community, or sangha, as Buddhist communities are known.
Now I am nothing if not a writer, and I have no problem writing bios; I’ve written gobs of them. Bios for online dating profiles (at least four different ones I am sure about, and probably more, all partially inspired by Charlotte Kasl, if decidedly more verbose). Bios for speaking gig programs. Bios for job applications, for teaching yoga, for the inside of my book, for websites, for fellowship directories, for high school and grad school alumni journals. 20 word bios. 120 word bios. 250 word bios, one-pagers. The list goes on and on.
So why is this one stumping me?!
The thought process goes something like this: “I’d better do this one properly. Wait, no, I’d better make it seem like I wasn’t worried about it at all, that’s more ‘spiritual.’ OK clearly I’m thinking too hard about this whole thing, trying WAY too hard… keep it simple. But what are you supposed to include in a bio for a spiritual community, anyway? A list of all the neuroses that brought be in the door? A list of spiritual accomplishments… whatever those might be? A list of milestones and watershed moments along the path thus far? Maybe I’ll list the reasons why I chose this particular spiritual community, vs any of the other ones… Can I write simply, “I am,” as my father did for a UC Berkeley essay once, with a long footnote for each of those short words? But won’t that contradict the whole Buddhist ‘no self’ thing? What if I added a question mark, ‘I am?’ Can I just send them this video and call it good?”
Though I can’t find it at the moment, I think it was Sarah Fontaine over at Existing Together who wrote something brilliant about exploring what it would feel like to put something out there, and to leave it there, unedited, even after realizing it doesn’t accurately represent what you were trying to convey. This has been a really interesting practice for me, because the second I hit “publish” on a post or video is the second I realize what I left out, or what I misconstrued. I’ve been trying to leave things there, to think of them as snapshots of where I was at the time, not perfect pieces meant to withstand the tests of time. It’s (mostly) been a huge relief. Often I can’t resist going back and making little changes.
I’d like to complete my bio for the Buddhists today, not because I’d like to stop thinking about it and get back to work, but because clearly this IS my work… or at least part of it. I’ll think of it as snapshot of where I am standing in the stream, right now, at this moment. And then I’ll add it to my growing collection of bios, so that later I can look back and wonder at who I was, and who I am becoming.