Mindfulness Meets Maria, A Modern Blend Of Buddhism And Christianity
Martín Reynoso WORLDCRUNCH 2017-07-25
Like many in Argentina, psychiatrist Martín Reynoso was raised Catholic. But as time went on, his approach to the modern world began to involve meditation and mindfulness.
BUENOS AIRES — I am a Buddho-Christian — thoroughly, and literally. I've kept my family's basic Christian casing, but found I needed more than that in this contemporary world. Thus, like so many people today, I embraced certain Buddhist principles. And I must say, I find them enormously helpful and enriching. This is why I say I have a Buddho-Christian mind. It has a powerful Christian base, but with certain secular principles of Buddhism that I embraced, little by little, in an effort to simply feel better.
My basic Christian framework is fairly robust. My father was a seminarian who nearly became a priest (and luckily did not), had three nun sisters and a very devout dad who practiced the Catholic rites. Though both my father and mother, who was also very Catholic, I assimilated the Roman Apostolic religion in all its purity but without the rigidity or severity I noticed in some families in our neighborhood.
The progression toward the Catholic sacraments and rituals were a leitmotiv of my childhood and youth, though I was fortunate not to be trapped in a hermetic or self-sufficient system that distanced me from friends and neighbors. Our neighborhood was a space where strict or dogmatic beliefs regularly lost ground to drinking, free speech and youthful irreverence in all its manifestations. Life gushed forth in so many forms and colors beyond anything the scriptures would stipulate as right or commendable. At times I even found this a little disturbing.
I learned a lot from my friends, neighbors and immediate environment as I wound my way through the streets without strict hours or parental discipline. All this constituted the first blow to the structure of my Christian foundations. I had to negotiate between ethical values and the malleable rules of adaptation; between spotless good deeds for others and fierce competition between the generations; and between repressing the sexual impulse and seducing even more brazenly on the street. I understood that I must, slowly, soften my hard religious nucleus to be happy.
I began saying as a young man what I had criticized in others as a teenager, namely that, "I believe in God but do not practice regularly." Mass on Sunday and habitual celebrations began to fade as I became a more rational, scientific man. That was the second step.
Science and secularization
Gradually science came to permeate all my life. As I took my distance from the Catholic religion (in the general context of secularization), I moved closer — and with some fervor — to the principles of the scientific vision of the world. Objectivity, and the need to explain and duly contrast everything, became a central component of my thinking.
I grew more skeptical, not to mention more rigid. People can adopt certain airs of superiority when they begin expressing the scientific vision as nothing short of reality, without realizing that it is just one way of seeing and explaining. Causality was the main rule of my life at the time, and everything had to be explained on the basis of the most direct and rational vision of phenomena.
It helped me begin a fuller life.
At our psychology department, the dilemma was between physics, the scientific model, and psychological science. We spent much time trying to establish a more flexible conceptual framework with new methods and approximations in studying the complex "human creature." But then, a health problem led me to the next phase.
Mindfulness and its principles
I came to know mindfulness when I fell ill. While their use in science is detached from their ideological and religious origins, the principles of Buddhism shine through like a background that clarifies the vision we gradually build.
Practicing meditation helped me start connecting with my body and fully live through it, cleanse it of tensions, and recognize those rigid thoughts of mine (some of Christian origin) and the dualist morality that generated guilt and sometimes pain in me. It helped me begin a fuller life.
Concepts like impermanence, the illusions of the mind (which work like filters we do not perceive), the source of suffering and the compassionate way to work with that, and especially reeducating our mind with a simple but impeccable system, came to profoundly affect me, and I continue to try and integrate these with my original conception of the world and its events.
I feel happy with this choice, though I still feel I have a long way to go before I adjust my life to these principles. Which is why I say I have a Buddho-Christian mind, like so many other people seeking their own wellbeing today. I do not so much see this as hybridization as an overriding integration of principles to attain the main objective of any human being: to be happy.