Mountain Buddha and the Buddha-ballers

What’s a Buddha-baller?  I answer that fully in my post “Mountain Buddha: the Origin Story“.  This page provides readers with an abridged version of that that longer essay.

I’m also an addict—currently in recovery—and that’s part of why I started this blog; writing has become a sort of outlet, a way to channel that negative energy into something positive, therapeutic.  However, this is not a piece about my battle with addiction.  Maybe someday I’ll write that; but I’m not ready to do it today.  This piece, as the title suggests, outlines the evolution of the Mountain Buddha project and attempts to discover what Mountain Buddha stands for and what it means to be a Buddha-baller.  In a way, I hope that the writing of this essay will provide me and my readers with a better understanding of what it all means.

When I posted my first piece in August of 2017 the blog was called “The First Step”.  At that time the blog did not have a real identity; it was merely an outlet for me to share my story, about which I was very hesitant.  I had just entered recovery and was literally– as I hiked my way toward wherever it was that I was going—taking the first steps toward wellness.  I hadn’t been sober in probably twenty-five years and I was uncertain of what sobriety was supposed to look like or if I was doing it right; that sounds silly, I know, but if you’ve battled addiction or know someone who has it will make sense.  I also knew then, as I know now, that “the road is long, with many a winding turn”.  I therefore wanted the theme or main idea of the blog to revolve around wellness being a journey rather than a goal or destination.  Lao Tzu’s quote about a journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step resonated with me and I chose as the web address to reflect this.  Thus, the website address and the blog title worked together: even a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first (single) step.  Over time the thinking on this project evolved.  I came to feel the that the blog title, “The First Step”, was too prescriptive and I hoped to avoid a “you have to do it like this” tone.  Like, I didn’t want readers to feel as if I was sending the message that the road to wellness begins here, in this manner, or in this particular way.  If readers were going to identify with my writing and my experience it had to be on their terms, not mine.

On the blog I call followers “Buddha-ballers”.  This works on a number of levels.  On one level, it sounds like butter-ball, which, in New England we pronounce “buttah”, so audibly it’s closer to Buddha than to the stuff you spread on toast or put in coffee.  As to the second part, a baller is a bad-ass motherfucker who knows how to run shit.  And Buddha-ballers be ruh-nin’ shit.  A Buddha-baller knows what they want out of life and generally has a plan to get there.  It should be noted that this plan more likely includes climbing rocks or mountains than the corporate ladder.  In terms of goals, making money appeals to a baller only insofar as it is a means to an end; after all, we all need food, clothing, shelter and warmth, and world travel and adventure can be expensive, so money and work are necessary evils.

Buddha-ballers are bad-ass hustlers and boss bitches with rebel attitudes.  We don’t conform to the standards set by society.  For instance, we recognize ideas such as beauty and gender as socially constructed ideals enforced by mainstream society and the media: skinny or tall or blonde or feminine or masculine are standards because that’s what we see on TV, in magazines and social media and we call BULL!  SHIT!  We do not worship at the altar of the neon screen on Sundays in the Fall.  And we certainly don’t sacrifice before gods that seek to limit our freedoms and gag our first amendment rights.  Our Cathedrals are mountains, canyons, forests, deserts, oceans and prairies: in a word, wildness.  “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn” (John Muir).  We pursue a vision of what we perceive our best selves to be.  In many ways Patagonia’s mission statement (the brand, not the destination) applies to buddha-ballers: “Build the best product, do no harm”.  We are the product.

I do not mean to imply that ballers lack imperfections.  On the contrary, in addition to providing an essential element of happiness to individuals, nature makes us better people because it encourages self-reflection.  In contemplating the magnitude of nature, we cannot help but realize the triviality of our place in it.  Therefore, we strive to make meaning out of our existence; and existence only has meaning in a community of individuals.  Rather than focusing on material goods or superficial imperfections, Buddha-ballers worry about other more meaningful issues.  Was I kind to someone today?  Was I patient?  Do people around me feel appreciated?  Did I take the time to try and understand where someone with a different point of view is coming from?  Was I a decent fucking hooman?!  The imperfections we seek to do away with are those concerned with character, not appearance.  Buddha-ballers realize the struggle is real and that sometimes being decent is damn difficult.

Members of the Mountain Buddha community may or may not be spiritual; members may or may not be vegans or vegetarians; and we may or may not drive vehicles that get fifty miles to the gallon; I mean, it’s tough to get into the back country or continent-hop in a Prius.  Buddha-ballers do, in general, have a reverence of and healthy respect for the environment; because in addition to understanding our capacity to do amazing things, we know that we, as a species, also destroy.  Not everyone has the financial means to purchase organic, locally-sourced produce or meat (that is for the privileged); not everyone has the means to buy clothes sourced only from natural renewable materials.  But, as an optimist, I like to believe that we all do at least what we can: reduce, reuse, recycle: take public transportation whenever possible or carpool: and “waste not, want not”.  I write a little about this last point in another piece for this blog.  We do what we can, and strive to do a little more every day.  Over time, it adds up.

If you missed the link at the top of the page, you can read the full article here: