Recognising and Overcoming Fear

Yesterday, I shared some of my sensitive life experience in public, including my history of long term childhood abuse. Afterwards, I shared the video or text of my experience with a few friends in faith in other cities. They read or watched the experience and were very inspired.

They asked me if it was ok for them to share the experience with others. I said no. When I was chanting this morning, I realised that I had put limitations on myself again. For my mind, sharing the experience in a big meeting was meaningful and enough. Outside that perceived safe space, my mind told me I didn’t need to open myself up. I realised I was again acting upon my fear and deep-rooted shame.

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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”

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.

Recognizing systemic panic

Today I recognized how my body resists things that would help relieve its suffering. Instead it tends to hold onto stress and what keeps creating that stress. This happens especially during PMS. E.g. I would be curiously dehydrated. I’ll try to reach for water but my body instead wants different textures like chocolate (creamy), chips (crisp), polenta (soft) and so on, gulping those down on auto pilot, while shutting down my attempts to drink water.

The dehydration and PMS and this kind of eating would lead to bloating, lack of sleep, sore eyes and severe shoulder pain. Then my body starts to store stress it’s not able to detox.

Usually this kind of realisation would send me into panic and a frenzy of trying to find the health professional who would be able to help me because clearly the current one can’t catch it. That would create more stress and make things worse and I’d feel helpless, useless, weak and begrudge my life.

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Allowing myself to live

Two weeks ago, I got handed a “crazy” diet plan to work around my food allergies, sensitivities and tendency to develop new sensitivities.

Broadly, I have a narrow set of foods to choose from and I can only eat each of them only 1 or 2 times a week. It’s been rough to manage. Two weeks ago, I sought guidance from SGIA General Director and really my focus has been learning to embrace and accept my physical constraints.  This is what is need to do to look after my physical self so I can contribute to kosen rufu, my larger purpose, so I can accumulate treasures of the heart i.e. strength of character to cultivate a state of absolute happiness in my life.

I was told, while I am wishing for the situation to be different from what it is, I am looking for the Mystic law outside of myself and that is not the correct practice. On the contrary, when I fully embrace myself and my situation, I will start to find wisdom to best deal with it so I can still contribute to kosen rufu and to happiness for myself and others.

When I started writing this post, I had to actually check the calendar to really believe that it has been only two weeks of this crazy regime. In a way it feels like forever. Last week was full of sleepless nights, with me needing time to wind down, do my health appointments and cook and clean-up each day. My good friend in Sydney suggested I find domestic help again and helped me post an ad on Gumtree. She prayed for me too.

Miraculously, I got only one response.

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Starting the drama of my human revolution

Today I started writing my own “New Human Revolution” inspired by my mentor Dr Daisaku Ikeda’s writing.

This morning when I couldn’t get out of bed due to continued lack of sleep and exhaustion, lying in bed, I pondered on why I do this to myself… why I couldn’t treat myself better, why I couldn’t get my daily cooking finished in time to sleep in a timely fashion, why I overate so late the night before, why I had no control over myself, why I am still alone and still so bad at it.

I decided to allow myself to slow down and work from home in the morning. I started reading my conversation with Jai from June’18. I needed to be reminded of what I tend to do when I am shrouded by negativity, how it manifests itself and his advice on what do do about it, how this cycle of negativity continually feeds into my life and keeps me stuck in a vicious circle.

Jai was the love of my life who first made me aware at a visceral level that I am lovable. At 27 years old, I had never felt it before in a way that connected me to myself. It was an addictive feeling and I became more and more dependent on it. I had no idea then whether I could have that within me, not having someone else to keep facilitating my connection with myself. I probably still don’t have that answer but I am several thousand steps further along on that journey.

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