I'm Not Religious, But I am a Little Buddhist
In this article, Annie Battles shares her experience of growing up with a Buddhist father. Though she didn't practice Buddhism, she found that her father's faith permeated into her life from an early age.
I found this piece helpful in explaining how practicing Buddhism doesn't mean you have to live in a monastery or give up your social life. Ideally, Buddhism will enhance your current life. Daily meditation can organize your thoughts, remind you what you value in life, and teach you how to react to whatever life throws at you.
Here is an excerpt that I found particularly valuable.
"My father's Zen ways of thinking softly permeated his parenting techniques. He would remind me to breathe deeply and to focus on my breath for ten seconds when I began to get upset. While this answer still infuriates me, understanding the statement through a Buddhist perspective gives it a more tangible meaning. At thirteen years old, shaking with rage after realizing my sister just stole my only pair of stockings for a week long trip, I was in no mood to think about breathing.
However, once my father would tell me to breathe, I wasn't allowed to talk again for ten seconds. I always resented this forced silence, but ten seconds was an irritatingly perfect amount of time for me to realize I needed to cool my shit. One of his most common pieces of advice to me growing up was, "they don't make you feel that way, you make you feel that way," and it was true. I would work myself up, and then feel the physical effects of my own anger. Nobody else was experiencing these negative feelings but myself. Slow, deep breathing slowed my heart rate and brought my blood pressure down, alleviating my insatiable rage. In this way, my father just shoved some Zen Buddhist wisdom into my brain before I could see what hit me.
Practicing aspects of Zen Buddhism isn't signing your life away to a monastery, and doesn't necessitate any prior knowledge of Zen as a religion. The all-encompassing nature of Zen practice, as well as the variation in practice and intensity, is what attracted my father to Buddhism in the first place, and it is what keeps me interested in the study of Buddhism and the utilization of Zen beliefs and practices in my daily life. After all, don't we all need to remind ourselves to breathe sometimes? Or just stare for an hour or so at things that remind you of people you love and things that make you laugh?"