Precious Metal Article Swap: Bringing you some Nate

2010 September 1

I was happy to hear that Nate DeMontigny from the blog – Precious Metal came up with another project to further engage the Buddhablogging community in that he asked for bloggers to interview each other as a means for us (and you) to find out more about our lives, practice and all things in between.

Multiply my happiness tenfold when the magic hat that Nate selected partners from paired us up together. I’ve been a big fan of Nate’s blog for some time and appreciate that he enjoys his music more on the Yngwie side of things rather than that of Yanni. *no offense to Yanni lovers out there.

Now to the interview….

1. How did you discover Buddhism? How did you get involved? What group(s), book(s), teachers(s) did you first encounter when starting out on the path?

I had just turned 30 and was starting to feel like something was missing in my life. Although I had a full and satisfying life at the time (I am married to a wonderful woman and I have great kids) I still felt like there was a void that needed to be filled. Religion/ spirituality was the last thing I thought it could be but after spending some time online I began reading more and more about Buddhism. Oddly, upon reading about it, it started answering questions I had about life and stuff, the void did not feel as empty while reading and studying. So I kept testing the waters out, I went out and bought some books. The first I read was Thubten Chodron’s “Buddhism For Beginners” and it was great. The book is written in more of a question and answer format and the answers she gave to the questions made more sense than a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Where I was at the time, Knoxville, Tennessee, there was not much for groups and teachers around, at least not that I knew of. We moved back home to Cape Cod after realizing we wanted to be back at home. There are some groups here, but none of them really seemed to “fit”. After reading Noah Levine’s “Dharma Punx” and “Against The Stream”, some people I knew who were into Buddhism, but lived a more “frays of society” lifestyle, got together every two weeks for some community chit chat and group meditation. This was great for a while but we took a hiatus as the “membership” was down for a bit.

Here and there teachers have come to the Cape for classes and empowerments, and I’ve tried to get to as many as possible. Recently I went up to Boston where there is obviously a diverse Buddhist culture (spread out all over the city) and took in a session at Drikung Meditation Center. I’m going back up in September when the head of their lineage will be in the states giving empowerments and transmissions. I’ve found, after extensive studying, that so far the Tibetan Buddhist path is right for me, at least for now!  🙂

2. Describe your progression or regression on the path. What are your sore spots in study/practice? Are you hard on yourself sometimes?

I read somewhere that as we become more aware and mindful of things, some of them can be more difficult to deal with. I can answer all three of these questions with one word, anger. I’ve never been an angry guy, and am not really now, but seeing the anger for me is the hard part. I know it’s there, I can feel it building at times when irritation is present, but for some reason, it’s harder to deal with now. And yes, because of this, I am extremely hard on myself. I’m not an angry guy but when it gets a hold of me I get even angrier with myself for letting it get to me. I guess it’s what I need to work on most in practice, and I am truly working on it. I SAID I’M WORKING ON IT, OK?

3. What motivates you to practice/ study / sit/ blog?

My motivation is small at this point, to make the lives of those around me better. We always here about people’s motivation for practice to benefit all sentient beings, and that’s a fantastic goal, someday I hope I can make that the motivation for my practice. I believe though that we can’t work on our neighbors’ yard until our own yard is clean and tidy you know? Once my shit is clean and stench free, than I can work on the ultimate goal and change the world. I think we all hope that, but sometimes we bite off way more than we can chew.

As for the blog, I’ve found it to be a great tool for progression along the path. I use it to look back and see where I was at the beginning. I post a lot of my opinions on practice and have received quite a bit of feedback from other practitioners, that helps a ton especially when the person commenting has more experience and I can learn something from them.

4. What advice would you give to n00bs?

Being a “n00b” myself I’m not sure how valid what I have to say is but, never give up would be the best advice I can give. I know I have hit walls in my practice, and will continue to do so, but the key is to not allow these walls to hold you back. There are always ways around them, or better yet, to push through them. There is a reason they call this a practice, because we have to keep trying it out, to eventually get it right. Many monks and great teachers still consider what they do as a practice.

5. What would you say are the benefits to being a Buddhist Daddy? How does being a Buddhist enhance or conversely detract from your role as a father?

So far, no benefits yet. Well, maybe that’s not true. Since my children see me studying and reading a lot, they have become avid readers. They are also very inquisitive, which is fantastic because knowing they are able to question me, I know they will have no problems in life questioning other things they are curious about. My 6 year old has asked me to teach him meditation, and I’ve tried. But, rather than pushing it, I wait until he asks me to do a session. It usually only last a few minutes, the attention span of a 6 year old is that of a gnat. My daughter, when she was younger, was curious also and asked me to take her to a couple dharma for kids classes. Again, I didn’t push it, but after a while she lost interest. Religion is not something I will push on the kids, if and when they are ready, they can ask me and I will assist in any way. My parents raised me the same way and I’m glad I was given a choice.

6. How do you reconcile the passion, aggression and speed encountered in heavy metal with the Buddhist way?

The music is just music to me. But, at the same time, I did partially leave my old band because of my practice. It got to a point where I felt like the lyrics I was singing (barking) were not conducive to the lifestyle I was trying to lead. Vocalizing stories about murder and mayhem did not put my mind in the right place, you know? When I was with the band, we started to write new music, and I tried writing songs with a more Buddhist flare. I used the Angulimala Sutta as the idea behind a song, since Angulimala was such a powerful being before and after his transformation. But, the guys in the band didn’t know this was why I wrote the song and I felt like I was being untruthful to them as they were not Buddhists and I didn’t think they would agree with where I wanted to go lyric wise. So I had to call it a day.

Metal, though, is a very tight knit community. When you are at a show, in the mosh pit, for the most part no one is there to inflict harm on another. If a guy, or gal, goes down people will quickly help out to get them back on their feet. People automatically assume that because the music is so loud and aggressive that the fans are as well. I can’t say shit doesn’t happen, cause it does, anywhere people that are drinking alcohol something is bound to happen when one guy has to much and decides to act up. But, for the most part, it’s a community that is there for one another.

7. You had experimented a bit with sitting meditation in Second Life and are currently part of the Online Meditation Crew Twitter group. What benefit have you received from participating in the digital sangha? Do you see this as different from ‘meatspace’ (aka In Real Life) sangha?

Both Second Life and the #OMC have their places. The folks that participate, very much like the metal scene, are just trying to be part of a community. Some of us don’t have real life places to practice, and some do, but this is a great way to bring people together internationally, to sit together and create merit on a larger scale. There is definitely a difference than a real life sangha, but it fills a void and is very beneficial for all those involved. I am excited to be part of both!

8. Are there any areas of Buddhism that you find hard to accept or seem a bit too “out there” for you to relate to?

At first, yes I had some issues. While finding my way here, I never understood the idea of deities, especially in the Tibetan Buddhists traditions. But, maybe my understanding is still off, I accept it now after coming to terms with the fact most are used as visualizations. I hear lots of folks have a hard time with rebirth, this for me wasn’t as difficult. I have always felt like I “have been here before”, and while I didn’t understand why I had that feeling, it never creeped me out enough to not believe it couldn’t be possible. It makes sense you know, when we die that energy has to go somewhere.

9. In your next life, describe your ideal rebirth. Form. Location. Lifestyle. Anything that comes to mind.

Ideally, I’d love to come back as someone who has the capability to spread the dharma out farther. Whether that be a monk, or a lay teacher, just to come back and truly understand this path enough to help others navigate it. But, if I had to choose another form, it would probably be a humpback whale. Growing up on Cape Cod I’ve learned quite a bit about these majestic mammals. I’ve been on many whale watches and really envy the “loose” lifestyle they lead. Minus the Japanese whalers in the southern oceans, they don’t have much to worry about and can just live

10. Thanks for all that you do to bring the digital sangha together and for adding an honest and truthful voice to the mix. The mic’s yours so it’s your turn to add anything that you’d like to wrap up this interview.

Not much else to add except a thank to you as well Tanya. When I first came onto the Buddhist blogging scene you were always nice and helpful, I appreciate that! To all the others out there, thanks for what you bring to the table as well, please keep sharing your stories!

3 Responses
  1. September 8, 2010

    “Thanks for all that you do to bring the digital sangha together and for adding an honest and truthful voice to the mix.”

    I second (and triple?) that! Nice work you two…

    • TMcG permalink*
      September 11, 2010

      Hey Adam. Thanks for commenting on the interview with Nate. Maybe next time I’ll get to ask you all the hard questions 🙂

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