Buddhism mirrored in Foodie terms

I am a self-confessed foodie, former picky eater, former vegetarian, former vegan. A few years ago, I started having trouble with food. I developed various digestive health issues and food sensitivities. I had to change my diet and lifestyle to manage my forever-changing health condition. I had to learn to cook and eat meat and fish in a span of days. I had to learn to do a very regimented rotation diet.

However, throughout all of this, I could lean on my love for food. Not once did I say that, hey this is so hard, I will just starve myself instead. I love my appetite for food and sometimes it gets mirrored in my appetite for life. “Eat, Pray, Love” at its best, eh? 😀

This morning as I was chanting, my mind started to craft this post. Lately I struggle to communicate the different elements of my Nichiren Buddhist practice as a Soka Gakkai member to new people, to be able to explain how the different elements work in tandem and to see profound change in one’s life they are all important. I started to think about how I might describe these from my foodie’s perspective who has had some challenges in the food and digestion area.

Here’s my attempt, I think it’s hilarious, by the way (no kidding!):

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Healing Trauma via Buddhism – Part 2

Continuing on from my post here, writing further about what I learned at the workshop “Trauma, Neuroscience and the Evolving Therapy of Traumatised Children and Adults” by Dr Bessel van der Kolk earlier this week and referring to his book The Body Keeps the Score.

The most important job of the brain is to ensure our survival, even under the most miserable conditions.

– The Body Keeps the Score pg 55

Amygdala is the smoke detector in the brain that detects danger. In a traumatised person’s brain, the amygdala becomes hypersensitive, very involved. It goes off all the time. This also translates into low serotonin production. Boosting serotonin can help quieten the smoke detector too.

Using the Buddhist practice in the present moment, I can rely on my prayer for survival. This action focused on bringing out my greatest potential enables me to bypass the in-built brain circuits that were formed in the past. I am gently nudging myself to not fall back to old ways, but let in new possibilities. SGI activities, visiting members, connecting to others, going to meetings gives me a sense of belonging that helps to boost my serotonin levels to calm the smoke detector.

When I sought guidance from the general director earlier this year, I was told that “Until the time, I am stuck in the mode of why is my life this way, why is this happening to me, I am still looking for the Gohonzon outside of myself. Instead when I chant to embrace my situation and I determine to engage with others, no matter what, I will find creative ways to solve my current situation”.

Continue reading “Healing Trauma via Buddhism – Part 2”

Rescuing vs Supporting

As I was reading this post on the difference between rescuing and supporting this morning, I began to reflect on my journey to learning this valuable distinction.

When I first I got exposed to this concept, I took it to an extreme interpretation. I took it to mean that I must look after myself before I do anything for others. Or by helping them in a way they haven’t asked for, I’m rescuing them and taking away their opportunity to grow while spreading myself too thin.

Through my Buddhist practice embedded with life challenges over the last few years, I’ve learnt that this learning is a lifelong journey of the eternal truth of life. It is about how I always learn to find the “Middle Way”.

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Healing Complex PTSD via Buddhism – Part 1

Today I went to attend a conference called “Trauma, Neuroscience and the Evolving Therapy of Traumatised Children and Adults” by Dr Bessel van der Kolk.

In 2017, when I had left my job and was unemployed and suffering from what felt like PTSD from my last job, I wandered into a book store and picked up his book called The Body Keeps the Score. The mystic law works mystically indeed.

Over the next month, when I was on a detox in India. I read this book, almost studied it. It was as though someone captured my life experience and told me what was happening to me in my brain and body. I could let go of any guilt and shame of my life and take control of my life. I could assert my needs and ask for what I needed. I could stop blaming me for everything I did or did not do. I gave myself permission to look after myself.

I would describe it as a pivotal turning point in my whole life. In Mar’18, my doctor mentioned, his wife a yoga teacher attended Dr Kolk’s conference in Sydney. I felt like I missed an opportunity. I wanted to attend it. When the registrations opened in Oct 2018, I jumped at the opportunity.

It is truly my good fortune that I live in Australia and even have access to these opportunities. It is clearly meant for mental health professionals, but anyone can sign up and go to it. Could you imagine that kind of equality mirrored in society anywhere else? After my citizenship test study, it is particularly telling how equality manifests in many ways in Australia.

Last week, I started chanting with the determination to somehow be able to have a dialogue with Dr Kolk and tell him about my practice and how it has provided so many elements to healing that his research has uncovered. I also started chanting to expand kosen rufu and somehow connect the people present to the Buddhist practice and for their happiness.

Today was a fabulous day in this endeavour. I woke up early in the morning and chanted for an hour, dressed in a bright green, picked up breakfast and got to the conference. I further cemented my understanding of the content, my whole day full of “aha!” moments and notes of how my practice helps overcome c-PTSD.

In addition, I gathered the courage to talk to the person sitting next to me, a young psychologist who helps children and old people in the community deal with difficult circumstances and trauma. I gave her an old Indigo magazine I happened to be carrying with me, a print of The Winning Life that I managed to get from Officeworks next door in the lunch time.

I walked up to Dr Kolk twice, thanked him for his work and talked about how my Buddhist practice helps me. I gave him a print-out of The Winning Life too. He humbly accepted my material and promised to read it. He recognised that his work does not even begin to talk about how to deal with this problem when you’re not living the privileged life in Sydney for example but instead are in a village in India.

He is a brilliant man and a wonderful human being. He even recognised my accent as being from the state I come from in India. Nifty tricks up his sleeve, nobody has ever been able to tell that before! 😀

I still continue to fight my negativity. I berate myself that I should not have taken up too much of his time when he reminded me that he has a long queue and I wrapped up my conversation. I continue to battle my self-loathing and self-hatred. I realised that voice may not be going away for a while but I can create value in whatever way right now. I did my best based on prayer today and will do so again tomorrow.

Rinse and repeat.

After the conference, I met with a professional acquaintance who had been curious about the Buddhist practice. I was talking to her about work and struggling to talk about the practice. Suddenly out of nowhere, a Buddhist leader appeared and said hi to me. The same person who gave me guidance in January. I hugged him and my friend asked me who it was. I started to explain he was the leader from my Buddhist practice and how he helped me and went into my struggles for the last few years. This changed the tone of the whole conversation and led to me giving her a printed copy of The Winning Life too and inviting her to the meeting next month.

I feel like today I won in Kosen Rufu and in life.

The fight continues, and there is more and more joy everyday!

Here are some key learnings from the conference for me – warning, this is long, and I will write further sequels to these notes for reference!

Background
PTSD patients say this, "I have become a monster. I blow up all the time." PTSD was earlier thought to be a memory diagnosis. However, Trauma changed my brain in a way that I could not be alive in the present moment. It is very hard for me to feel alive, engaged and connected in the present moment. Conventional psychotherapy and treatments is "stupid", people just get treated on the basis of beliefs rather than outcomes, it just does not work. The USA DSM put down diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses which were essentially clusters of symptoms grouped together into "conditions". It was put together for the purposes of figuring out which drugs to prescribe for what, with the caveat to never use it for forensic or insurance purposes. Of course, this was forgotten. Professionals became terrible diagnosticians, diagnosing based on how they would get paid.

Currently psychiatrists are not even allowed to use "Complex PTSD" in their terminology or diagnosis or they can't get the insurance claims or prescribe medications when needed. This is the limitation of the public health system in Australia and insurance system in the US.

In Nov 2018, the largest ever PTSD study costing $4 million found that the best drug performed the same as placebo. Nobody got better. It found that "PTSD is untreatable". What this means - do things that are not drugs, and are not talking on a couch
Continue reading “Healing Complex PTSD via Buddhism – Part 1”

Victorious Day!

Today has turned out to be a fabulous day. I want to chronicle it here and in my memory for the next time I doubt or question the infinite potential of my Buddha nature and my practice’s ability to bring it forth within my life.

I woke up at 5.30 am, while it was still dark.

Usually this is a herculean and impossible task for me, I even avoid catching morning flights for this reason. In the past, if I had a morning flight, I would even find it hard to function through the day. I got some training to do this last year amidst my frequent work travel.

I showered and sat to chant at 6.30 am.

Usually this is another impossible task. I can’t get myself going unless I chant, I would also find hundred reasons to neither shower nor chant. Not today though.

I chanted for one hour.

Initially I felt very sleepy and tired. I judged how I was chanting. At about the half hour mark, I felt only one daimoku carrying me through to the next. It was chanting in the state of Flow. Then my leader joined me in chanting and the alliance kept me going. At some point I realised I need to start heating my breakfast while chanting if I want to make my train, so I did that without judgement. This is really working to quiet down the voice of my inner devil/negativity/fundamental darkness – whatever you want to call it.

I was 7 minutes early to catch my train. My train got delayed by over 10 minutes and I started chanting in my heart in the train. Any delays could’ve been catastrophic to my tight schedule. I made it to the doctor’s right at 9 am. I was calm and relaxed.

This is not my usual state when I am delayed. I almost went out of the wrong exit from the train station but had the good sense to correct myself quickly as I realised which I direction I was meant to go in. Usually this kind of events would make me a wreck.

When I saw the doctor, and recounted my story of how I got the appointment within 24 hours, she said that strangely nobody wanted this appointment slot – not even anybody on their appointment cancellation waiting list. It was as though the appointment was meant for me.

In my life, I have not been at the receiving end of such syncronicity often before starting the practice. I was the person who if on the road, whether driving or going as a passenger would meet all red signals. This is a 360 degree turnaround brought forth by the mystic law.

The doctor’s appointment was really good. In the morning, I chanted for the doctor to know what to ask me and not rely on my poor recollection of things. Mystically, the doctor was focussed on getting useful information in the hour. She would cut me off or navigate the information to extract what she needed to know and defer the other details to later. At the end of my appointment, she arrived at the answer I thought was the right one. When she made an incorrect conclusion, I was able to assert for myself and advocate for myself rather than think that she knows better.

Usually my doctor’s appointments can be long winded where nothing useful comes out of them. This is a refreshing change. I also could change my usual view of thinking that the doctor knows best or not being able to know what to say and how to assert myself.

At the end of the appointment, the doctor recommended a path which has long been my belief is the right path. She asked to see me for a follow-up before she prescribes any treatment. She promised to get me in soon in the next few weeks as soon as someone cancels.

I did not hesitate in declaring that I will be available for whatever time slot that becomes free. That I will make the time. Usually I would go in fear mode, would want to check with my manager or my calendar. Today I just said, these are the dates I am away, other than that I will make everything else work.

This afternoon I got a call from them already and have a follow-up appointment next Wednesday. I blocked my calendar on top of a client meeting, emailed my manager and my team informing and explaining honestly.

Usually I would be knotted up in anxiety thinking, only I won’t ever get the follow-up on time. In this case, I was confident I will get the follow-up asap. I was confident in how I presented what I needed to my team and offered all the assistance in working around it.

I respected the dignity of my life. Fearlessly.

Such a refreshing change from thinking and behaving as though I don’t deserve to have space to look after myself that my work would do me a favour if they let me see the doctor and from believing I don’t deserve to exist.

I have changed my karma today.

Life is responding back.

And I passed the Citizenship test as the cherry on the cake!

Fighting is starting to turn into victory…

Now to continue fighting for the victory of my friend who has similar health struggles but hasn’t found the right answer for her. I trust in her Buddha nature to lead her to the right answer for her. I am determined that she will recover too somehow.

We will win together!

As Sensei says:

“When your determination changes, everything will begin to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fiber in your being will immediately orient itself toward your success.

https://www.ikedaquotes.org/attitude/attitude104?quotes_start=14

Also:

“The commitment to the happiness of all people is at the heart of Buddhism. But it is through the relationship of mentor and disciple, through life-to-life connections, one person’s aspiration igniting another’s, that this ideal is brought out of the realm of abstract theory and made a reality in people’s lives.”

https://www.sgi.org/about-us/buddhist-concepts/the-oneness-of-mentor-and-disciple.htm

The commitment to the happiness of all people is at the heart of Buddhism. But it is through the relationship of mentor and disciple, through life-to-life connections, one person’s aspiration igniting another’s, that this ideal is brought out of the realm of abstract theory and made a reality in people’s lives.

https://www.sgi.org/about-us/buddhist-concepts/the-oneness-of-mentor-and-disciple.html

Time to live and embody the spirit of my mentor.

Thank you Sensei.

Health Journey

Shakyamuni using similes and parables inspired me this morning to try to describe my symptoms in this way. Over the last few years of seeing Chinese Medicine Doctors who always focus on my symptoms to treat me and inevitably go down the wrong path often, prompted me to think about how I can explain to them what is happening to me that perhaps makes it easier to understand or imagine.

Here’s what I wrote:

This is me a week after my period – Imagine that I am flying an aeroplane over the mountains. My mind is the aeroplane engine. The aeroplane is out of fuel and the engine keeps stopping. I use my will power to somehow use gravity to navigate to avoid crashing into the mountains right underneath the plane

Continue reading “Health Journey”

Hope for Health

Yesterday I went to a Buddhist training course. The training courses usually have a format where you break into small groups and discuss based on study or some questions. It ends up being quite an organic discussion process. When I started practising, I used to find this format quite unnerving. I enjoyed lectures more and it wasn’t my style to share my life with people. In my view, I was there to learn, I didn’t see how that should relate to me sharing about my struggles.

Over time and with chanting and study, I realised that this stemmed from a deep sense of unworthiness about my own life. Inherently I felt that, I did not deserve to occupy space. That nobody wanted to hear what I have to say and that my words were not worthy and my experiences did not matter. In the last training course, I met a member who has now become a dear friend. Speaking to her made me realise the significance of my struggle. All my life suddenly seemed to make sense, that I was preparing and training to accumulate life experience to be able to encourage her through my continued struggle to win over my negativity.

Yesterday, I was the first one to jump up to share my view of the study when they asked for volunteers. So unusual for me. Usually I am a reluctant or fugitive ‘voluntold’ rather than an enthusiastic volunteer. I still fought through my negative mind mocking me for wanting attention or limelight.

Anyway, I digress. In my group study and discussion, I talked briefly about my continued struggle with health problems and how sometimes it becomes a masochistic practice where I feel my practice is significant because I am struggling. Another member mentioned how he had digestive problems for ten years but continued to pray with determination to overcome it. After ten year he found a doctor who fixed his problems. I asked for his doctor’s details. He advised me that she is very good and usually very busy that when I call her, I could expect a 3 month wait and can get on the appointment cancellation waiting list.

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Writer’s block

I don’t know what to write on here. Too much has been happening.

And I find myself doing things and getting things done. I feel good about that.

Other than that, I feel joy in my practice, in the friendship and heart-to-heart dialogue. Everything else seems to be going on in the background.

Life seems to be the playground for kosen rufu.

Let me savour it while it feels this way.

Next week life might be a battleground for kosen rufu instead, with the day long workshops, work travel et al. Subtle but significant shift. 😃

Handing out relationship advice

One would think that given I’m by myself and have been for the better part of the last decade, I won’t have much to offer in terms of relationship advice. I guess I don’t.

Today I had a friend reach out to me to help work through relationship struggles. I was skeptical about offering a guy relationship advice, because evidently I haven’t found a suitable one yet.

However, last year’s failed relationship with Mike has been quite a learning experience. I wish I had been chanting regularly then. I wish I’d been more open, loving, and given him more freedom. It still may not have worked but I wouldn’t have regrets. I do know with my prayer that what happened was for the best and I can see it in my life.

Ultimately, it is about creating supreme happiness in my life that isn’t driven by external circumstances. Inline with that perhaps one day I won’t care about how happy chocolate brownies make me. 😝

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Connection Disability

I’ve often said that the thing I want most in my life is more hugs. And yet this point is stuck in a deeper paradox.

Even though human touch and affection is one of the key things I want in my life, staying attuned to it is a big challenge. As a defence mechanism, I learnt to disconnect from feeling in my body so I won’t feel anything. This existed along side a phobia of touch. I would avoid hugging close friends, let alone casual acquaintances as is often the case in the Western culture. My best friend Ash who now lives in Europe, I first hugged him after five years of being friends with him. He hadn’t even realised it. He didn’t initiate a hug with a woman, he merely responded if the woman initiated.

Similarly one of my work colleagues that I became friends with five years ago complained then about this awkwardness when saying bye to me because he couldn’t hugged me. Then, I was trapped in my phobia, especially if hugging men.

Over the years, I have worked through it and now I don’t think much of it. I’ve even hugged strangers and people I have just met e.g. last year when I made a renewed determination of having more hugs in my life, I even hugged the old man who came to dry clean my couch. He was pleasantly surprised.

Still I have a part of me that’s stuck in fear and closes up if I’m extremely present and vigilant. This part of me kicks in when I’ve decided to hug someone. It just goes snap and cuts off all feeling. It turns into a thing my body is doing but my feeling brain has checked out. If I’m tired or rushed, I tend to cut off in a hug. If it’s too anticipated then I anticipate it and cut off before I have a chance to bring myself to the present moment.

This tendency keeps me stuck in the feeling of isolation. Either I have zero hugs or I feel zero hugs.

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