Yesterday was the first day of me reminding myself to approve of myself, over and over again and silently chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. It was a wonderful day in a long time, not because of what happened but how I felt. Of course, that also meant that positve things manifested. I could get a lot of work done, cope with the intensity that my current health condition of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome cannot always keep up with. I could accept other people’s kindness with more ease and less fear. My desk moved out of dungeons into a location having a window and more natural light.
However, I couldn’t make time to come back and write my daily blog post yesterday. Today I can see how it is not as simple as picking up where I left off yesterday. It seems as though not doing what helps your inner journey is different from pausing on a walking trail and resuming again later; It is more like taking out the garbage. If you don’t take rubbish out on a day, perhaps it starts smelling, rotting then fermenting before leading to coackroaches… you get the drift.
Still I am determined and I approve of myself. If I hadn’t missing doing this yesterday, I would not have learned why it is important for me. The next Friday evening I would perhaps prioritise over seeing my friends or try harder to fit both in!
Not writing also leaves my stories untold and I’ve learned over the years that I miss how joyful words are for me.
Which brings me to my story for the (yester)day, a key challenge in the last few weeks and months has been ‘letting go’.
Last year, I was in a short relationship with Mike who I thought was going to be my life partner. I knew it in my gut. It started off well and went south and ended quite quickly. Among many other emotional complexities, there was the matter of my course notes. Stay with me, as I explain.
You see in 2016, I was awarded a scholarship to attend a prestigious professional course by a renowned professional expert from overseas. It was an amazing experience but also personally challenging and significant. It was the first time I travelled to another city while being on my strict rotation diet to manage food allergies, taking home cooked meals in a flight and to the hotel and asking someone to reheat my food as I networked with people in a polite conversation. During the course, I took really good notes, was around my friends in another city. Every time I felt stuck at work, or I was preparing for an interview, I would flip through my notes for some guidance, inspiration or understanding. However, more than this, the notes were a proof of my personal triumph and perseverance in the face of situations I found extremely difficult and untenable.
In the early days of my fascination with the ex, he’d asked me for my course notes and I found them for him. He took them from my desk, without a heads up (Yes, I’d met him at work.) While we were still seeing each other I asked him for my notes, I had again gotten stuck in a project and needed to refer to something. I hadn’t quite prepared on a back-up plan of how to problem solve this situation of not having access to my reference material. First he claimed to have returned them to me, then he said they would be around somewhere and he would find them.
That was 8-9 months ago. Since then, Mike dumped me, got fired, found another gig, travelled overseas a couple of times to see his family … you know lived his life, but didn’t return my notes. I reminded him gently, forcefully, repeatedly or not at all. None of which worked.
You see the values I was raised with in this scenario were very black and white. What is not yours must be returned to its rightful owner. I’ve experienced many times how others don’t quite care about this. I suppose in this case I was completely blindsided. I didn’t think I would fall for someone who didn’t have what I thought was basic courtesy. I assumed Mike to be someone who does the right thing. It is a good way to live life – have a big heart and trust people, until something goes wrong and I can’t back it up with strength of character within myself.
I see now – it is my choice and my wish to live my life trusting people and giving to others. When it starts to become an expectation from others or the environment though, I know that I’ve started looking for the Gohonzon outside of myself.
For the last few months, I’ve constantly struggled with my fundamental darkness – wanting to not care about my notes, trying not to be fearful that losing these notes would hinder my career, struggling to believe that my sense of security comes from my faith in the Gohonzon, i.e. absolute belief in my greatest potential. I was filled with resentment at not being given what I deserved, I’d earned, was mine and didn’t belong with Mike.
The thing with values is, they are deeply personal. You can determine how you want to live, set your values and make every effort to live by them. However, you can be very disappointed when you start to apply your value standards to others. You can gauge other people’s behaviours and see where it resonates and doesn’t but as soon as values turn into value judgements, you’ve lost the opportunity to be open, curious and to learn. You’ve switched from a wide lens to a narrow zoomed in view, missing out on the sunshine and chasing after a firefly with narrow focus.
A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Wellbeing Begins with You by Yuan Tze, he says:
Unsound values give rise to problematic patterns, and they themselves can be seen as problematic patterns, holding us back from being true human beings. Therefore, examining the value system and the standards that are used to apply it is essential when trying to identify and make changes to these patterns. (Location 5906)
And the more strongly held our flawed values are, the more stuck we become in our patterns and the less able we are to identify and follow the laws of health and life.” (Location 6096)
Problematic patterns give us a twisted or narrow view of everything we see so that we are not able to get a holistic view and see the total reality. Then we base our decisions and responses on this partial and twisted view. (Location 5028)
Even reading this and understanding it intellectually did not take away my resentment or take away my expectation or disappointment in Mike. A few weeks ago, I called him and told him to never contact me again and that he ought to return my notes because they are mine and I am not expecting them in a giant gesture of care. He explained he has been busy and is not trying to make an excuse, even though that is exactly what it is. In his life and view, he hasn’t got capacity to be fair or do the right thing, to return what is mine. What is it, if not an excuse? He asked me to check in a couple of weeks, which I did and he didn’t respond to. A string of failing to do the right thing yet again.
I can continuously see the flaw in this thinking and yet be unable to change my values to let go of it.
Finally, President Ikeda and his kind, simple and wise words come to the rescue again. I found this guidance in the Jan 2018 issue of Indigo Magazine. From page 29, the wisdom for creating happiness and peace:
“Sometimes, the behaviour of others may really annoy or upset us. But such things make the golden mountain of our lives shine.
If everyone in our lives was perfect, we would never grow. Working together with people we may not get along well with is a way to polish our “golden mountain”.
Quite frankly, we ourselves may not always behave as admirably as we’d like, so how can we expect others to behave just as we want them to? Getting upset at each little incident doesn’t improve anything, nor does it change the other person. Sometimes you just have to sigh and think, “Well, that’s the way he is” and accept the other person with compassion”
“If we reject and avoid people we don’t like, we can’t develop a self that is as vast and expansive as the ocean.
T’ien-t’ai also says that the more logs we add to a fire, the more briskly it burns.
The logs of unhappiness fuel the flames of happiness. Because we experience hardships, we can know joy. Buddhism teaches that the sufferings of earthly desires lead to enlightenment. Problems enable us to grow. That’s why there is no such thing as unalloyed or unremitting happiness.
The Daishonin even says that Hei no Saemon-no-jo and others who had persecuted him are his “foremost good friends” and “best allies” (cf. WND1p770).
Those who give us the hardest time are those who, more than anyone else, help us attain Buddhahood.“
PS – Writing this post made me realise why notes were such a big deal. They were the equivalent of an Olympic Gold Medal for an athlete or one year sobriety chip for an addict, for me in my struggle against my sickness. Funny how I didn’t know that before. This explains why I suffered so much. Now that I understand myself, next time either I will look for something else to represent the medal or I’ll be more protective about what’s so dear and significant to me and me alone.