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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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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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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Strength – constant struggle

Much too tired to write for the last couple of days. But I wanted to share this from my study today:

My life hinging on every word.

<3

Update an hour later-

I found myself at unease and unrest after doing this study. Almost as though reading this made me weak just as I read it.

An hour later I could step away from it and realise how it was devilish functions at work again. My negative voice telling me that “oh you’re never going to be strong. You are never going to win. You’re so weak, unhappy and such a failure.”

It’s amazing how Nichiren reminds us again and again how devilish functions will come in confusing forms, sometimes subtly and sometimes with force. You have to have strong life force and high life state to recognize them for what they are.

I’m glad I could see it and now I can use my faith to walk past my negativity and show it the door.

Also realised how my uncle has endured a deep struggle throughout his life. It would break most. In his case it turned to anger but I’m kind of intrigued and inspired that it didn’t apparently manifest as self deprecation. And how he could continue to love and respect many when his own life would have been so testing.

Strength doesn’t have only one form. It isn’t binary. It is not a river you cross and reach the other side. It is a constant battle with varying demons. Even if you win over some of them, you are strong. Each win is the springboard for the next. Keep adding to your strength my lovelies!

<3 again!

Supporting family from afar

Today was a testing day. My beloved uncle is in the hospital in India. He underwent a triple bypass open heart surgery last night after having a massive cardiac event.

This day has shown me how the practice works for me. Earlier with losing my friends and classmates, I’ve been distraught and out of whack and crying for weeks.

Today I woke up at 5.30 am and saw my sister’s message asking me to chant for my uncle with a brief about what happened. First of all it’s so mystic how I even woke up that early. On Wednesday night I was dead to the world at 8.30 pm, it is not a frequent occurrence. It’s almost as though everything was setup so I could send daimoku to my uncle while he was in surgery.

I saw the message and kind of jolted awake. Took me thirty minutes to open my eyes enough to start chanting. By the time I went to work I had calmly chanted 40 minutes and I chanted another 20 minutes on the train. Usually I don’t chant on the train, it’s mostly study time but today I couldn’t keep myself from chanting. I also asked my friends for support to chant for my uncle, I’m truly blessed to have such a close network to lean on for support. Thereafter it was a usual day at work.

During lunch time I called home, my brother in law said my uncle was still in surgery. It was early morning there. It suddenly sank in that open heart surgery is long, no wonder it was still going. My heart sank a bit. I hung up and sat by the wharf to chant more daimoku quietly.

It was revealing in the sense of where I still harbored doubts about whether my daimoku was helpful. Today helped me investigate and close the holes in my conviction. Thanks to my uncle.

His surgery went well and he is in intensive Care on ventilator. The next 48-72 hours are crucial. I’m going to continue to chant for his absolute protection and full recovery for me to really see the power of this practice so I can use my practice to show great proof in my life and my health too.

Later in the evening I spent 2-3 hours talking to my friends in faith, not lamenting about my life and problems but encouraging them and being fully present and listening to them. Usually I would be a wreck and think that my problem is the biggest and how can someone talk about their “mundane” problems when my uncle is battling life and death.

My calmness and determination today showed me the actual proof of my practice.

As it says in the Gosho lecture on “On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime”,

Practicing Nichiren Buddhism means not being swayed this way and that way; it means constructing a self that is solid and resolute like towering Mount Fuji. 

Also:

Our daily realities are filled with an endless succession of problems. But with the firm belief that our lives are Myoho-renge-kyo, we should strive to boldly challenge everything with the unwavering conviction that we can overcome all hardships and become happy without fail. When we maintain deep faith based on the foundation that “I am Myoho-renge-kyo,” we can take on any problem with courage. The key to victory in life lies in whether we can bring forth courage. Not a shrinking timidity but a challenging courage— this is what we need to have!

And also:

Nichiren Buddhism starts from the realization that the supreme lifecondition of Buddhahood exists in each of us. It is a teaching that makes it possible for us to achieve the profoundest inner transformation—a transformation of our fundamental attitude or mindset. That’s why Nichiren emphasizes the importance of our minds, of what’s in our hearts.

My determination for kosen rufu and my conviction in the power of mystic law enabled me to win over my weakness today.

And tomorrow, I redetermine and restart all over again. Chant for my uncle. Rinse and repeat.

Weak vs Delicate

On Sunday afternoon, I met with a woman from a pole fitness class for coffee. I’d struck up a conversation with her after the first class and after the second class we exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet for coffee. I expressed how it was lonely and isolated and I was looking to make friends in the area. She told me that I can message her anytime.

She texted me later to organise to meet on Sunday.

It was my most profound dialogue in a long long time. It was so enriching and interesting to meet someone else trying to live true to their convictions and live life based on strong faith.

We talked about our faith-based practices and daily challenges in how our respective trauma can be so hard to get past. It is almost like, when you’ve undergone trauma, your mind and body doesn’t know that you are drowning and how taking a breath of air would feel and to try to swim towards it. It is only our faith that continues to give us the push and courage to seek it.

My friend Saiyad is coming out of a domestic violence situation. Her mother tries to control her and her husband controlled her so much that he wouldn’t even let her pray. Yet, she had the courage to leave all of that to find herself. She said that her psychologist asked her if she was suicidal and she said, “No way, that it is prohibited in my religion. I am a woman of strong faith. This life belongs to Allah and I have no right to take it away.”

I spoke to her about how a broken relationship, a relationship before which I didn’t know I was lovable, left me broken. It snapped my connection with myself and then my health suffered and I am still learning how to connect with myself and Daimoku is the only way I have found to do that.

She nodded and said, there are words in Quran that say, a woman is delicate.

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Finding Freedom

Since last year one of my prayers has been to be able to live a life of true freedom. The last few years of my life have been very shackled because of my health condition. It has been like walking a tightrope – making sure I have food to eat according to the diet and I’m managing everything within the limited energy constraints. There’s been the stress management aspect where I get so stressed that I eat the wrong things or binge eat on the right things, either way it’s been really harmful. Also, not being able to accept the reality of my dietary restrictions, the fatigue I could accept eventually primarily because I didn’t even have energy to fight it but also because I just ate to cope with it.

There was a time of my life wherein I ate a big bag of sweet potato chips every single day, sometimes two. I never kept them at home, because I wanted to be stronger. Instead I would walk across the street, even in rainy and freezing whether, sometime before the supermarket closed at 10 pm to get my fix. Every day I would try to get by without them and every day I couldn’t. They were my only trusted reliable companion.

When I look back at that, I’ve come a long way. Even having one day without the chips would be called progress I think.

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Getting past self-pity when struggling with health issues

Turns out, it’s not always an easy exercise to find what inside of me needs releasing today and has crystallised enough to find way into reasonably coherent words here, and I use “reasonably” loosely. (Wonder how to add emoji to posts, do any of of you know how?)

I had a fairly busy day, still catching up on meal prep, laundry and work. It is a great blessing to work from home once a week these days. Hope I find a reasonable rhythm before things change.

The last couple of years of knee and foot injuries and accidents have left me with very weak legs that are also out of balance. My right leg is significantly weaker than the left. Lately I have been trying to do some exercise prescribed by my osteopath but that’s causing pain in the arch of my foot and very tight and sore achiles tendon. Blah blah blah.

As I write this post, I have Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban playing in the background. Those movies are therapeutic for me, I can tune in and tune out, it facilitates my writing. Believe me I tried many other TV shows and movies but there is none I am so deeply familiar that I can tune in and out and relax into my creativity.

Dementors are the embodiment of fundamental darkness or the devil king of sixth heaven. They represent how something can suck all joy and life and purpose out of our lives and only very strong positive light and force from within us can defeat it. Brilliant representation, isn’t it?

Anyhow, I digress. Over the last many years of seeing several medical professionals has provided me with this ability to observe and describe my symptoms. At first, when I used to see my TCM doctor every week for acupuncture, I did not know what to say. I was so disconnected with the experience in my body that I did not know what was happening to me and how to describe it. Slowly I developed this awareness of myself. This by all means is a good thing. Connection is better than disconnection.

The next stage to this is though, trusting that what is out of balance can find balance on its own and helping that process along. For the most part, I haven’t found this within my being and my consciousness yet. Some days I have it but when I am struggling with pain or physical discomfort, it becomes harder to think positive thoughts and send healing messages to my body.

And in this difficulty and pain, I find myself questioning – why me, why is this happening to me, when would it stop. I find it hard to discern and balance the line between self-pity and self-compassion.

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