Let me start by stating that this post is DANGEROUS. It is so because I am taking three things k.d. said during the Soundstrue Pema Chodron and k.d. lang event and drawing a conclusion that is probably not mine to infer. But, she did go out in public and make these three statements. So I want to qualify this entire post by saying that I am not an expert on k.d. or Buddhism, or what k.d. may or may not have really meant. So readers, take this post for what it is…just Kath yammering on.
During her time on stage, I felt, overall, that all references to her own Buddhist practice were self-deprecating. These were
(1) I thought I was a Buddhist (but I really wasn’t, or I was not a good one?)
(2) the zen in the toilet story*
(3) I am not a good meditater
It is a good thing to be humble on the Buddhist view. And maybe all of this was just k.d. being humble (and of course, there is the entertainment value. k.d. is an entertainer, after all) But what really made these three statements stand out was to hold them up against what Pema Chodron said about understanding that each of us, all of us, no matter what we may think, is enough. Think of the simplicity of that…each of us is enough. Just as we are, however we are. We are lovable and full. So, then, to hear k.d. make these claims made me think about how easy it is to fall prey to the Western habit of feeling like we are not good enough as we are; the constant “Western noise” we have running through our heads all the time. No matter the reason why k.d. chose to say these things of all the things she could have said, they can be used to underscore the Westerner’s plight with ego and feeling like we are less than worthy.
I want to comment on each of these statements.
(1) Here, it may be that k.d. was saying that Buddhism is a very complex world view and there is a lot to learn, and many skills to master. But even given this, living a Buddhist life is something that is a process. Perfecting it usually means one has reached enlightenment and no longer reincarnates as a human, or they are nearly enlightened and they come back as Tulkus (a reborn Tibetan master) to teach and guide others. My point, even the simplest application of Buddhist tenets makes one a Buddhist. Of course, one learns and grows, but they are a Buddhist.
(2) This story certainly made the audience laugh and perhaps that was k.d’s intent here. But she also recounted it with a bit of self loathing (I thought). Making fun of her attempts to apply Buddhist beliefs and participate in Buddhist practices. Of course, I laughed as much as the next gal. But I also wanted to stand up, rush the stage and shout, “Didn’t you hear Ani Pema? You are enough. The fact that your zen fell in the toilet is not unique to you k.d. It happens to ALL OF US”. (for real, it does. Especially while you are learning to wrap it correctly. If you do it right, it stays put. But it’s a skill that takes time to master).
(3) Here…I am not sure what on earth k.d meant by this. Did she mean she has discursive thoughts (we all do), that she gets distracted by the leaf blower (we all do), that her legs hurt sitting on the cushion (it’s a fact for most of us). Was she complaining that she does not have moments of a true “gap”; a disconnect from daily life? We’ll never know. But my response do this is: meditation is unique for each of us. There is no “good” or “bad” per se. You are enough, as you are, k.d.
So, these were my thoughts on what k.d said, and what Ani Pema said. And I just felt like k.d. was so down on her spirituality that I wanted to say, “You are enough”.
* I will paraphrase the story as best I can remember..”I was all in my zen with a mala around my wrist and like I’m a Buddhist practitioner, oh yeah, I’m all that. So then, we had a bathroom break, and while I was there, my zen just slipped of right into the toilet. Yep, just fell right in”. (k.d kinda let the conclusion be drawn by the audience. But it seemed to me she was saying she was not all that).