What If We Set Incorrect Goals to Pray For?

Since I started practising in 2013, I have often struggled with anxiety plus analysis-paralysis of what if I’ve set the incorrect goal or incorrect prayer. Last year I developed some insight into how to have lofty prayer. As promised in this post, here’s my take on it!

First, have a goal that inspires us to chant

“Whatever takes you in front of the Gohonzon is a benefit.”

– Daisaku Ikeda

If we don’t have goals then it becomes a drag to chant everyday. It becomes mechanical. Or at times we might not chant consistently because we don’t have a spirit of challenge. We are simply going through the motions of life. So the important thing is to pick a goal, any goal, that motivates us to chant.

Second, make the goal tangible, perceivable

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How to Set Goals to Pray for?

Following on from my previous post about prayer without goals, I have been reflecting on how to set goals to pray for. I have been also reflecting my own journey and the various kinds of guidance I received over the years through study and personal guidance.

Some of my key learnings are below.

Pray for What You Want…

I used to often start from what I want to change or manifest in my life. E.g. I pray to have absolute victory over my health problems so that I can freely contribute to the happiness of others. In this frame of mind, I found that I started practising diligently only when I was deeply suffering and wanting to change something. However, when this didn’t happen, it used to cause me deeper suffering and discourage me from practising.

But Don’t Chase After it

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Aligning to my mission

After yesterday’s friendship and joy, I found myself better able to connect to my purpose today. It was much easier to chant for an hour this morning. I invited one of my Buddhist group members to chant at the same time from her home. I thought of it as a chore for her because she must have been living a good enjoyable life with her husband.

However, things aren’t as always they seem to be. Even when I think I’m struggling and nobody else is in a soup like me, someone is still struggling in their own way.

When we finished chanting she said that she hadn’t chanted like this for a while and thanked me for inviting her. She said that she needed to redetermine and strengthen her resolve to align with her vow for kosen-rufu.

I was amazed how my new prayers based on President Ikeda’s guidance and persevering in creating causes led to this moment.

This fuelled me to talk to my state leader and reach out to many other young women. I want to strive to create so many causes and accumulate so much good fortune that when PMS and it’s accompanying deep depression and fatigue come around, my good fortune is enough to carry me over, that somehow my life force is so strong that I don’t suffer and am able to keep continuing the cycle of contributing to society and kosen-rufu.

I’m grateful for this challenge that leads me to strive. Thanks to my friend in Melbourne for giving me so much encouragement to focus on my determination.

My most favorite thing from that conversation was – everything I do is ok. If today I can only text one person and chant for five minutes, that’s ok. If I can do more, that’s ok too. As long as I’m somehow doing my best, whatever that turns out to be is enough and ok and will lead me to accumulate limitless good fortune.

This took so much anxiety away. Further that I can only focus on my causes. And if I text someone and they don’t respond, I don’t need to fixate on that, I can go ahead and connect to others who while continuing to chant for those who are not able to step forward yet.

So much to do and strive for. Exciting times!

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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Rising from the Ashes

In some sense I live the life of the mythical Phoenix. In my severe menstrual issues, I’m one person for a couple of weeks of the cycle and someone else for the rest. Then there’s the exhaustion and pain in the first half so you could say I get about ten good days in every cycle. Plus the length of each cycle could vary because the hormonal issues make it unpredictable too.

From ovulation until my period, I feel like I’m slowly sinking and then drowning. I’ve always had this. I can’t remember a time since I started having a period that this didn’t happen. Oh wait, right there was the time I was on the pill and while I suffered from wild side effects, I realised for the first time that I’m not an angry person. For that, I am grateful. At least I got to see a glimpse of an alternate me that was still me. Unfortunately, that didn’t last, the pill contributed to too many problems. It’s so strange they don’t tell you how badly it can alter your gut and actually make things so much worse when you go off it.

On Saturday I did everything right, I got enough sleep the night before, I went for a walk, I socialised, ate well. I struggled. I had trouble processing questions, stringing words together. I met with a friend – that’s brave of me- I have many a broken friendships attributed to my severe premenstrual symptoms. PMDD as it’s called.

Turns out one of the big causes is low serotonin, that’s made in the gut and regulates the gut too. The other cause is weak oxytocin receptors. Literally these mean, I’m trapped in not feeling love and joy. The thread tying these together is traumatic childhood experiences that lead to dysfunctional development of the neurobiology causing lifelong problems.

I can’t change my childhood or anything in the past. I can only make a determination in the present moment and keep renewing in each moment. And then from the phenomena of 3000 realms of a single moment of life, this starts to transform my life and reality.

This determination and redetermination is a constant struggle. Battle against how things are inside of me and developing a deep conviction for my life and the purpose of my existence.

In the Gosho study lecture I went to today, the leader said (and I paraphrase)

Karma is misunderstood. It is usually described as the description of your current reality. However, in our practice, Karma is our tendency.

When we have changed our tendency, we have changed our karma. And this manifests in a change in our reality in our life.

So simple and so profound. It is so hard to change my tendencies. It is so hard to know what’s to keep, what’s to change. It’s so hard to solve this problem using my brain, impossible when I’m underwater in the dark ocean struggling to breathe.

When I realised the difficulty, complexity and impossibility of this challenge today, I went into despair. Realising yesterday’s depression caused despair today. Realising the struggle of the last 3 weeks, caused fear of the future, of my next cycle. Sometimes I want to undergo a hysterectomy but then I worry what if I come out stuck in my depressed state not my happy state. Who knows which one is the real me.

I was deadlocked.

Then I messaged my best friend in the practice, who I know has more than an inkling of what it feels like. Her care, while traveling overseas with a small baby to see her in-laws started to shift my life. Her simple words of, yes, this is so unbelievably hard, remind me to acknowledge the depth of my struggle. Reminding myself of the depth, I realise that this is not a struggle that is forever sinking. The fact that I deadlocked and hit rock bottom today means I’ve reached the turning point.

That turning point is my determination. For me to appreciate and contribute no matter what. For me to respect my life no matter what. For now, I will do my citizenship test next week and then if I need to take time off, I will. My friend reminded me to not strategize. I have the Gohonzon, the wish granting jewel. I don’t need to give up one thing in life to get the other. That’s the bit President Ikeda said about having a lofty prayer.

This led me to chanting which further led to this determination.

The fight continues.

Faith is the basis of everything

I found this in my study today:

Faith in the Mystic Law is the basis for victory. Those who continue to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo through all are admirable and strong without compare. When we resolutely bring forth the power of faith and practice, we can manifest the boundless power of the Buddha and the Law in our lives.

No matter what the situation, first chant. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the ultimate driving force that enables us to break through all obstacles, undefeated by any problem or suffering.

– Living the Gosho, location 403

I read Louise Hay’s ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ years ago but could never put it into practice. Affirmations are not quite my thing.

Today I had the bright idea to write them as my prayers and apply the strategy of the Lotus Sutra to change my consciousness patterns that haven’t been able to release my illness yet. For the first time, I know what to do about my knowledge of patterns. Funny how it didn’t occur to me before.

In other news, a massive victory today. This afternoon I learned that my uncle was very angry and explosive with his suffering, abusing my aunty as usual. I became very stressed and asked my friends for their daimoku. He has a lifetime of suffering and just venting it in front of who’s in front of him. I kept thinking what my prayer should be and how to change his behavior, strategizing with my brain and feeling helpless and inadequate.

All this while my friends chanted for him. A few hours later I learned that the doctor talked to him and explained the whole situation and what he had been through and how he got a new life almost. The word is, since then his panic has calmed down and he’s more reconciled with the reality of the situation.

It still amazes me how daimoku works every single time!!!!!

No matter what the situation, first chant.

As much as I know it, so hard to do. Learning to be better!!!!