I met a man today as I was picking up my belongings to leave physical therapy. He was on one of the bike type machines. Stationary bikes are boring. I had just finished fifteen minutes myself, determined to get my strength back, healing from an injury.
It looked like the effort of the exercise was causing him discomfort so I told him, “Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine I’m climbing a mountain.” I didn’t quite hear his answer but it didn’t look as though climbing a mountain seemed very appealing to him so I said next, “How about running down a beach and listening to the waves?”
His eyes welled up with tears and he looked about to cry. “No, I never want to go to another beach.” He then poured out his pain of what happened to him and the memories he had of the beach, and how through that his life fell apart. He had moved some time ago within a half hour of a beach with his wife and children. His wife had never been to a beach and she became obsessed with it. Every day she had to go to the beach, even on Christmas. He really wanted to have Christmas at home. She was never home. She was always at the beach. Eventually she left him – for a woman.
Later he met another woman. He fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. She did. They were happy for awhile. He didn’t know she had an old boyfriend in prison. When he got out she left him to to go back to this man. He said, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I have nothing to live for.”
I asked him,”Have you ever heard the words nam myoho renge kyo?” He had been looking down. When I said those words his eyes snapped up to mine in immediate attention. Startled. It was an unusually strong emotion for someone who had never heard the words before. But even though we don’t understand the song of birds, the birds do. Something inside him recognized what I said, even if he wasn’t conscious of it. “No, What is it?” he managed to say.
I repeated the phrase three times and he tried to say it with me without my asking him, which is unusual, especially when someone doesn’t know what it is. Why would they try to say it?
“This is the law of cause and effect,” I gave him the translation. “It doesn’t have to be like this. You are misunderstanding what happiness is. It isn’t something that completes you, that can be taken away by . Goes away. Happiness caused by things outside yourself is fleeting. That is relative happiness. What you wasn’t is absolute happiness, indestructible happiness.” With this he looked at me as though a small part of himself had found relief.
“Do you want to know more?” I gently asked him, not wanting to press too hard and scare him off. It was painful watching someone so desperately unhappy and not understanding how to change it. It takes more than wanting it or it would have been changed already. It only took the smallest kindness and a little time to show him he wasn’t invisible. I believe he felt very alone. I told him we could talk again if he wanted. He looked me in the eye and said, “I’d like that.”
Only when we experience the crushing, painful depths of suffering can we begin to understand the true meaning of life. Precisely because we have experienced great suffering, it is imperative that we go on living. If each of you uses your sadness as a source of growth, you will become a person of great depth. This is the harvest of your pain and suffering.
Daisaku Ikeda SGI
Everyone experiences pain and suffering. When we don’t understand it we tend to blame others or we think what happens isn’t our fault. We don’t want our unhappiness to be our fault. But when we don’t accept that we have made the causes for our life to be the way it is, because of causes we made in the past, then we don’t learn and grow and most likely repeat the same mistakes over and over.
Some of want to think a higher life form wants us to have the problems we have and this being wants to test us. It would be so easy to do that, but it also keeps us from growing as we wait for something else to change our problems so we can become happy. If you look deeply at your life to see if indeed you are happy, and find that your problems really haven’t changed it might give you cause to wonder why.
Your faith, whatever it is, should make you happy. It should enable you to change the things about yourself that make you unhappy. It’s not about what happens when you die – it’s about your life while you live. When I see people hurting each other, passing judgment on people not like themselves and exuding so much hate; while telling the world how much faith they have. I have to wonder, faith in what? What kind of faith is it that says it is okay to be so hateful?
I read posters that say, “God is love” and other wonderful platitudes, but I don’t see love in this country where people try to insist they live in a Christian nation. Really? Look at the political headlines on any given day and read about our Christian leaders and say, “This is love?” I don’t think so.
If we meekly go through life with a begging mentality, asking whatever we think is “up there” to fix whatever problem we have, we never tap into the strength we have to change it with our own focus and determination. If we meekly accept that our problem wasn’t fixed because it was the will of some entity then you have missed the chance to learn, through your own wisdom and determination, to change something that causes you unhappiness. Having faith is not about having a wonderful place to go after you die – it is about having a wonderful life while you are alive! Have appreciation for being alive and having determination to succeed. Faith is about having the tools to change the part of your human nature that causes you to do and say the things that cause you unhappiness, so we can stop making the same causes over and over. Cause and effect – or reap what you sow is the same for everyone.
I read an article on a Christian website the other day where a supposedly religious scholar wrote that it really wasn’t important to pay attention to the phrase, “you real what you sow”, even though it is mentioned numerous times, because Jesus died for your sins. WHAT??? You don’t have to worry about the negative causes you make??? But these are the very things that bring unhappiness into your life that lead you to need to pray to have an outside source fix them, after you caused it to happen to your life through your actions. I will end today with this daily encouragement from Daisaku Ikeda:
“The daimoku (nam myoho renge kyo) we chant is not a weak imploring plea for something. It is a lions roar that reverberates with all of our being, and is powered by making a personal vow, setting our minds on realizing it and aligning our lives with the fundamental law of the universe. There is no force stronger or more sublime.”
“Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is like the roar of a lion. Therefore what illness can be an obstacle”
Don’t beg or plead or make promises if only your prayers could be answered. That is the prayer of a coward. Summon inside yourself “no doubt – at all” that your goal will be realized, regardless of the faith you believe to be true.
This lifetime will never come again; it is precious and irreplaceable. To live without regret, it is crucial for us to have a concrete purpose and continually set goals and challenges for ourselves. It is equally important that we keep moving forward toward specific targets steadily and tenaciously, one step at a time.
I’ve had a pretty rough three months that has given me a close relationship again with my bed. It nearly succeeded in making me immobile and once again I am pulling myself up by the bootstraps. I haven’t posted often on this blog during this time. I’ve been trying sporadically to keep up my other blog on my Nook http://mynameisjamie.net. Sitting up has been nauseating. But there is light at the end of the tunnel! For that I know I am fortunate, for I know those who aren’t so lucky and are on rougher rides.
I know how damned hard it is to deal with a debilitating chronic illness that never leaves you pain free for long, but occasionally there are times you have a good enough day you are encouraged to believe you are beating it and you have the mental energy to convince yourself that you’re winning. I feel an obligation to the people close to me to prove to them I’m okay so they don’t worry. I get so very tired of the question, “How are you doing today?” Out of concern for me, I know, but how many ways can you answer that question? But now I know I really am winning. I feel like I can leap over tall buildings in a single bound! ( That translates into being able to go to the grocery store and staying on my feet long enough to make it to the checkout line.)
Because of my determination I suck it up and force myself to push on. But it is because of this very determination, and because the mind is a very powerful part of who we are – I’m still here. I shouldn’t be. When you believe you will win your mind will find a way to do so. You are more powerful than you give yourself credit.
I have seen hopelessness in people. I’ve watched them give up finding meaning in their life even if it is just old age, with old age deterioration, often because of neglect of their health. No more dreams. No new “projects” to start. Waiting to die. No reaching out to help someone else because they are too busy complaining about their problems. They are lonely. They don’t make new friends. They bitch and moan and wait to die. The last years of your life determine your success with life. Die mentally miserable means you blew it. What a waste. It’s easy to fall into that trap and it’s very hard to pull yourself out of it – especially if you’re waiting for something “out there” to fix your life for you.
What has given me the strength, and therefore the knowledge, to survive and continue to push myself to develop my life takes more energy than I have sometimes. My confidence is in my practice of Nichiren Buddhism. http://sgi-usa.org. That is why I have the courage and confidence in myself that what I’m going through has a reason. I absolutely DO NOT BELIEVE in the fiction of an emotional, angry, loving supreme alien being in the sky who loves me and gives me benefits if I catch him on a good day, ignores me other times, and allows so many to suffer because…because…just because I was taught that as a kid. One woman told me that when things get bad enough he’ll step in and help. I choked on that statement. God always has an out for not doing anything. I just have trouble believing in anything that relies on blind faith and no proof. He ranks up there with the tooth fairy.
After 40 years of hep C and all the pain and variety of illnesses and suffering it caused, I started on the new hep C drug, Harvoni, 2 1/2 months ago – and it’s gone! Totally. …Gone. The virus is undetectable!! Wow! That did a number on my head. Holy shit! Gone. Now, the deal is, I have to take the meds until mid Feb and it has to still be gone 6 months after that before I can say, next August that I’m cured and throw a party, but wow! Just simply wow 🙂
I had surgery early August on my spine – because damage hep C and cirrhosis did to my bones. People know it can kill your liver but nobody really talks about the other destruction it does – the surgery, or rather the implant that was put in, hurt the intercostal muscles between my left ribs. The implant was inserted up my spine and when turned on generates electricity that overrides pain signals before it gets to the brain. At first it really helped. But now I can’t turn it on because it causes pain instead of taking it away. Healing time is 6-12 months and even then turning it on may re-damage it. That’s my lousy karma. What can go wrong usually does. I started the Hep C treatment right after the surgery and that made me very sick curled up on my bed for 2 months until the stopped one of the meds. It’s not as bad as interferon but it brought my life to a halt. I couldn’t do anything – didn’t want to do anything. I was a slug. I lived on anti-nausea meds.
This treatment won’t undo the damage already done, but as long as my body doesn’t reject my liver transplant I’M GOING TO LIVE LONGER! It will stop more damage. I’m happy!! I chanted nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the determination to show proof in my life of the power each person has to change his karma – caused by the things we think, do and say. I did this to myself. I am responsible for my life and it is my responsibility to change it. Happiness isn’t given to us. We need to find the absolute happiness that is in our life. Not the happiness we get from things or events, but indestructible happiness no one can shake. We can’t pray to an outside source for it. We have to create it. Then we have to share it and encourage others they can too.
Word of advice -you already know this and are probably ignoring it – if you are doing something destructive to your life and have a variety of stupid excuses why you are doing it – you know the excuses – trust me – YOU DO NOT WANT TO LIVE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES NO MATTER WHAT YOU TELL YOURSELF. It’s not worth it, and you are going to care a lot when you are faced with the consequences. You are going to be sorry. You aren’t special. It will get you.
The major desire I have in my life is to help others – I want my life to make a difference. It’s why I write – letters, my blogs, the book I’m writing, my music, poetry. My illnesses taught me so much I wouldn’t have understood otherwise. It is my benefit. It brought me home, near my mother. If I wasn’t sick I would have missed these years. But how can I encourage others if I don’t show proof in my own life of what a single person can do. That powerful God-like-nature is in all of us, it’s not “out there” getting jealous if it isn’t worshipped.
Who could have ever known being so sick would have the power to make me so happy. Who can see the positive side of their adversity? It has taken a long time to understand this with a long way to go. It’s up to me to change it. Whatever happens from here I know this karma is changed. I won’t be repeating it.
So to my sick friends reading this – you know who you are – you understand. And to everyone else who battles a hardship of any kind. Relationship, job, environment – You know how hard it is. Can you list the ways your adversity has made you a better person? Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. Sometimes there are things we need to learn first. But for me – finally – this week has been a giant win and I am enjoying it!
I recorded a new piece of music on my new piano. (First gift to myself in a long time, with the help of my son, and the support of my old hippie) It is the most recent post on my other blog.