Thursday, December 3, 2015

Buddha and the haircut

A friend of mine is going to Chang Mai to get her hair cut.

OK.  She’s going for bigger better reasons than that.  She already went once all by herself, to study Buddhism.  For a year!  By.  Her.  Self.


I’m working hard to think of anything I have ever done in my lifetime that can be held up alongside that.  I got nuttin’.

Oh, once I went to Cuernavaca for a two week language immersion school.  By myself. 

All my fair weather language learner wannabe friends punked out on me as the trip got closer.  One by one they fizzled on our red hot idea to submerge ourselves in the culture and come out fluent. As each one became wan and apologetic I held my head up knowing that the next one would go.

Until finally, I had to actually go – by myself.  I had to do what I’d talked so big about – or shut up and slink away, credibility tattered.  Never talk about it again.  And let’s face it, shutting up is not in my nature.

So I signed up for classes and booked a flight.

But I was terrified.  I stood on the curb at San Francisco International Airport and cried after my husband dropped me off.

At the other end of the flight, I got in a shiny red car with the smiling man who held a placard with my name on it and had visions of his being a kidnapper who would spirit me away into the labyrinth of Mexico City instead of delivering me to the doorstep of the family who did everything for me except run my bath. 

And I was so homesick my stomach hurt! 

Then, when it came time to come home, I cried again for leaving such lovely people.  Muchas gracias por todo mis amigos. 

Now we’re Facebook friends.  

So I suppose I can claim to be a person of conviction.  I don’t spout off about a value-driven life and then go on about my merry business without a value-driven bone. 

But dang.

How’d I get to be her friend anyway?  She has that Buddhist patience thing you hear so much about.  She doesn’t butt in when you talk or anything. 

I hope I don’t prattle on.  She looks serene no matter.

This trip must be a refresher course.  Five weeks.  A touch up you might call it.  Maybe Buddhism’s like a haircut – gets a little shaggy after so much growth.  Needs to be shaped up.  Add some highlights.  Cover up the roots.

So it makes sense she will get her hair cut while she’s there.  She said she is looking forward with happy anticipation to sitting down again with Vera, the stylist who managed her minimalist coif when she was there before.  Vera, she says, understands Western hair.

Wow.  That’s deep.

I wish I understood Western hair.  And Buddhism, for that matter.  

My training in the Southern Baptist tradition did not take, much to my grandma’s dismay.  I let go of all that hell’s fire back before I cut my own hair from sit-on-it to shoulder length.  Truthfully, it was harder to give up my hair than it was to turn away from all that judgmental-ism. 

I love to sing those hymns, though. 

Do Buddhists sing?  Oh I know they chant.  And hum.  You know – resonate – with the Om.  But that is not the same as a good old Bette Midler belt.   Cathartic!

But I digress.      

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          When a person finds a hairdresser who understands her hair, who can make her hair perform – her hair whisperer – well, desire for worldly things falls away.  It’s a Buddhist thing – like the 3rd Noble Truth. 

A person will go to extremes – even to Chang Mai – to be in the presence of such a Master.  Because after all, a bad hair day creates anguish for the wearer which may be projected outward onto the unfortunate world she encounters. 

And, it follows, the converse is also true:  Good hair = good thoughts.  A noble path to true happiness.

It’s a Buddhist thing.

If you have the courage of your convictions, you get on the plane and go.