Moving Mountains

Today was a gigantic mammoth magnificent milestone in my practice. I got up on the stage and shared my experience with 400 people. I shared about my abuse and almost open sourced this information. It is no longer privileged and secret information. I can no longer keep track of or control who knows about it. This information has been set free in the wild and in turn I’ve set myself free.

When I was asked to share my experience, I was going to share the same experience as what I sent to the Indigo magazine. However, my leader nudged me slightly and when I chanted I realised I was missing a huge opportunity. How many times in my life would I have the opportunity to share two unique experiences within a span of a month! Usually the experiences from the meeting are published in the magazine, not the other way around.

As I started to chant to write this experience, I realised it has to be very powerful and courageous. More so than the experience I had already shared. My leaders advised me of the differences between written and spoken experiences, how having too much detail is hard for people to follow in 10 minutes. I still didn’t know what the content would be, just that it would be about my work.

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Hypersensitivity to Rejection

This morning I went to see my psychologist for my weekly Neurofeedback appointment. Last week I had requested her for receipts on my email which she had sent to me. However, today she printed one out. When I asked her for an electronic one, she said she couldn’t as she is working late today. It turned out sending it electronically was too hard for her and she wasn’t good at saying no.

As I understood this, I bid her farewell with the usual pleasantries and she did the same.

However, for hours afterwards, I just could not put this incident out of my mind. I kept replaying and analysing this exchange in my mind. I beat myself up for not seeing the obvious that she did not want to do electronic receipts. I blamed her for not being upfront about her constraints and being a bit snarky and terse.

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Loneliness and Hugs

Since I came back from India two and a half weeks ago, I’ve been struggling to adapt to life here in some ways. The thing I miss the most is the abundance of people to hug safely.

First I don’t have that many people to hug in Australia but second and more importantly, my connection disability means that I’m unable to connect to a hug or register the dopamine it would normally bring into a healthy person’s being.

If I’m hugging people regularly I become attuned to it and don’t suppress my emotions as much. Also, the people around me in India are my family that I have deeper bonds with and have over time become better at letting in. While here, when I hug one person a week maybe, my brain switches off the hugging receptor. It’s too overwhelming for my emotional brain to let in this hug, then not be able to process what’s going on because it’s a bit out of practice. But also the other more overwhelming aspect is, it doesn’t want to let in this hug and then crave and not have it tomorrow.

My brain has gone into the mode of protecting myself.

Writing this makes me realize that perhaps I need to chant to have a life where my brain doesn’t have to protect me, where I feel able to cope with whatever is in front of me – joy as well as sorrow.

Regardless, I’ll continue to strive in my practice and go out and engage with others for the sake of their happiness. I refuse to give up and be in my bubble. Sometimes chanting with others feels like a hug, expect that to happen plenty of times over the next week.

✌🏽

Looking forward to it.

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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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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Rise and Fall

Yesterday was an exhilarating day filled with connection, joy and accomplishment of seeing others triumph, all through my connection with others. Today feels like a dark abyss.

Yesterday I felt like I can show growth in my life and support others. Today I feel like I am worthless and weak and why anyone would want my support.

This is not my true self. It is my self-loathing, self-sabotaging self rearing its ugly head again.

When this starts to happen, I tend to go in overdrive analysis and diagnosis mode, asking myself what I did to trigger it – did I not eat write, sleep enough, gave myself too to others and did not look after myself etc etc. Then I pull myself back and isolate myself because in a sense I feel that I violated my own boundary and that is why I must be on my own to reconnect again. My isolating myself then leads me to feel further disconnected and depressed and I loathe myself because I am not able to connect with myself and others – which is my true self and what I really strive for and enjoy.

In the past I have put the Western mindset to it, saying that there is a distinction between self and others and if I don’t look after myself first, I can’t connect to others. This has NOT worked for me. And I have this realisation for the first time now as I write this post.

The Western philosophy talks about how I first think about me, look after me and focus on me so I can connect with others in a healthy way.

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Creating Hope and Light for Myself

Reading my friend’s post today got me to study and reflect on my conviction and what it means to be the light and create hope in my life and in the life of those around me.

President Ikeda says,

“There may be times when, confronted by cruel reality, we verge on losing all hope. If we cannot feel hope, it is time to create some. We can do this by digging deeper within, searching for even a small glimmer of light, for the possibility of a way to begin to break through the impasse before us.”

and

“I believe the ultimate tragedy in life is not physical death. Rather it is the spiritual death of losing hope, giving up our own possibilities for growth.”

– Hope is a Decision, Pages 5-6

Intellectually, I can understand this. In some of my darkest times, I know this is what I need to do. Before I started chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, I had never known this light of hope inside of me. But even now, it doesn’t come about by default. It is far more natural for me to fall into despair than rise into hope.

I question then, how much I create hope for myself? What is the method that continuously works and that I can repeatedly trust and rely on? Is there a winning formula for me to create hope that works by default when I am deadlocked and paralysed with fear and anxiety?

The last few months have helped me unpack some of the variables that go into a winning formula for my life.

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Creativity fueled by determination

Yesterday morning, my friend chanted with me in alliance from Melbourne. I felt so exhausted that I was 40 minutes late to the one hour long session. Without begrudging or berating me, she chanted and I could feel her daimoku lifting me out and bringing me in front of the Gohonzon to chant. I feel deep gratitude for her support and daimoku. Her kind gesture reminded me that I could extend this same kindness to others.

First I started with looking for other members I could chant in the morning with. People were ok to chant, but I felt something was lacking. I reached out to my cousin Diya in Florida that I introduced to the practice a few years ago, who has been undergoing deep struggle and hasn’t been able to really get into chanting. With time zones offering a short common time slot, I offered her to chant with her in alliance. Meanwhile I also realised I had another person I could ask in California, my sister’s close friend – Swarn.

This morning I chanted while Swarn was on the other end of a phone call for half an hour. She probably listened to Gongyo for the first time. She was so open and embracing. Chanting with her was a real joy.

Diya couldn’t join in until much later and I missed her message. I continued to send her my daimoku and gratitude and I hope we can break through it tomorrow!

I realised that I wasn’t supporting them by asking to chant with them. They were supporting me. It was the only reason for me to get out of bed at 6.30 am! For the last few weeks, I had a prayer to be able to chant with another member everyday and now I find a creative way to accomplish this feat! Yay!!!

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Choosing what I want for my life

About six months ago, I read the Gosho and it’s study lecture – “Happiness in This World”, available freely here.

It took many times of reading it on hopeless days when I was suffering so much and in tears, not knowing how to transform my situation – alone, injured, in love with a man who didn’t have courage to be with me, living with a flatmate who wouldn’t even say hello or make eye contact with me, working in an office space having no natural light, feeling cut off from light, literally. There would be days I would go to the office and read the print of this page a few times before I could even get myself to do any work or be around people.

This morning while chanting in alliance with my friend in Melbourne brought me closer to the truth of this teaching.

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What’s your word?

When I went to see my kinesiologist on 8 Dec 2018, she told me that I needed to let Mike go. Having him in my mind and life and holding onto him was holding me back. She said to me, “Prove to me your Buddhist practice and chanting works. Use your practice and let him go.”

I set about on that journey, taking action and focusing on my life and chanting to be able to let him go and show actual proof of my practice in my life. I pushed him away from my mind, my focus was on never calling him again, never reaching out, learning to live without the possibility of him ever existing in it. You know, it is a helpful lesson but is almost the inside out way of doing things.

As they describe it in Nichiren Buddhism, karma is thoughts, words and actions. I started by changing my actions and trying to reverse engineer my thoughts and words and keep rechecking my actions. Asking people how they behaved in such situations and trying to emulate it. I needed to fast track my letting go so I could prove that my practice works. The last time it took me 7 years and the guy marrying someone else, definitely not my top life skill, clearly!

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