Tuesday, January 28, 2014
I'm a Buddhist.
I practice Nichiren Buddhism with Soka Gakki International (SGI). At every monthly discussion meeting, we share an experience of faith. I shared mine on Saturday. I wanted to share it with you here today too.
I was first introduced to Nichiren Buddhism and SGI by a fellow student in a writing workshop. My mom had been diagnosed with lung cancer and I was feeling desperate to help her. My classmate compassionately suggested I chant and invited me to her house to show me how to do it.
We met one morning and chanted Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo side by side. I chanted that I wanted my mom to have a successful surgery and to be healthy and happy. I threw in that I wanted the owner of the shop I worked at, to hire me to organize her office. I’d just started a cleaning & organizing service and the chaos of her office had been driving me crazy for years.
When I got to work later that day, the shop ower told me she wanted to support my business and asked me to organize her office. My mom had her surgery in a couple of weeks. They removed ⅔ of her left lung and she recovered quickly. She hasn’t had any problems with her lungs since. Within a few months of her surgery, she also got treated for a thyroid condition. Her disposition switched from being negative, depressed, and anxious to positive, happy, and hopeful. I hadn’t known my mom to be this way in at least 17 years.
Despite the evidence of the power of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo I didn’t practice for long and not with much regularity. I felt I was too busy for meetings and didn’t take the time to learn about it. A year or so later, my boyfriend Richard and I moved to Providence from NYC. I’d never moved before and I had a hard time adjusting. I’d gone from having my own thriving business to working part time at a low paying retail job. I was so bored and lonely at work that often when I was riding my bike to the store I would fantasize about getting hit by a car so I wouldn’t have to go in.
When I wasn’t at work, things weren’t much better. I missed all my friends, neighbors, and clients. In NYC, I had at least five social engagements every week. Here, if I had more than two coffee dates in a month it was a miracle.
What I missed most about NYC was the feeling that anything could happen, that opportunity was waiting around every corner. In Providence I felt hopeless. I would wake up and be alive, but I didn’t understand why I was waking up. I didn’t have any purpose. I was getting tired of just eating, pooping, cooking, cleaning, watching Netflix, then going to sleep just to repeat it again the next day. I was worried that my whole life was going to be this way, but I didn’t know how to stop it.
I was introduced to SGI again in May 2013 by Ursula, who was then just a friendly stranger, when we’d been living here for a year.
When I began chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo again, I didn’t do it regularly. I felt silly because I didn’t have a gohonzon or an altar and I was alone. But I came to the June discussion meeting and Jim, the local Men's division leader, suggested I tape the Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo card to my wall. That made all the difference.
I started reciting gonyo and chanting twice everyday. I chanted for everything! I had a laundry list of wishes and one of them had already come true because I looked forward to waking up so I could chant and I was always excited to chant before dinner. I felt truly happy and hopeful while I chanted.
I grew up believing I had to prove myself worthy of love and safety. I believed I had to be careful because that love and safety could be taken away if I wasn’t good enough. And what was good enough seemed to be constantly moving from my gasp.
I was especially encouraged by the Lotus Sutra because it teaches that we are all already Buddhas and possess unshakable happiness now. It was liberating to learn that everything I want is not only here waiting for me, but it is naturally part of me. I don’t have to be “good enough,” I just have to have the faith and courage to reach for it and embrace it.
I realized I was wrongfully blaming our move to Providence for the stagnancy that I was experiencing. Truth is, I had made a lot of choices that put me in my current position and many of them had been made before we even moved.
Studying with the support of fellow SGI members, practicing daily at home, participating in SGI activities, and reading President Ikeda’s daily encouragement empowered me and enabled me to take control of my life.
In July, I enrolled in an online program to train for a new career as a health coach. I already have one paying client and am co-facilitating an online health and creativity support group, and I’m still a student! I took control of my own health by stopping taking unnecessary medication that was making me depressed and moody. I wrote, self-published, and am actually earning money from a short ebook I’d been trying to write for years. Best news: my boyfriend finally proposed to me on December 31st!
I quit my job retail job in September but promised to come back for the holidays. I decided I wanted to enjoy my time there. I chanted to stop speaking and thinking about it negatively. I began chanting for the store to beat all previous year’s sales each month. (We’ve been doing so since August!) I also began chanting for the happiness of each of the owners, my co-workers, and their families. I was much happier at work this winter.
This is my experience. This is my small victory. My life is not perfect but it is hopeful and I’m grateful to this practice for that.
For more info about SGI and Nichiren Buddhism, contact me or visit sgi.org.
Have you ever heard of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo before? Do you have a spiritual practice? How has it affected your life?
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