"Real happiness is found in the struggles we undergo to realise our goals, in our efforts to move forward." Daisaku Ikeda
It has been almost two years since I dedicated myself to daily entries here. Not for lack of things to write….but perhaps I lost my way – and have been writing in other places.
I thought about saying goodbye, and officially putting an end to this blog but there are so many gems of wisdom and reflection of my growth as a human being. As a Buddha that travels these lands…I have been growing immensely.
I have decided to keep this space open, and pray that anyone who comes across it will read with an open heart, open mind and with understanding. It is coming time to be more vocal and visible with what I have to share. I no longer feel like I have to hide, and I am working really hard to be present and share my learning as I go.
What inspired me to come back today?
Yesterday I presented an experience at the Buddhist Centre. It was the first time I have shared an experience so publicly before – aside from the one time I shared about good friends in faith at a local meeting. This was different – and much more challenging. Equally it was deeply rewarding and so here I am, wanting to share that experience with you. It is significant because I felt like I left nothing to hide behind – in true ME style I bared all and left my heart out for all to see.
I am finally finding my true voice.
Experience 2016 – Turning Life into Mission and Dialogue that Transcends
I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for six years now and have never shared an experience publicly before. Not for lack of victory, but rather…. unsure of how and what to share.
What is interesting in acknowledging that I have never shared an experience before, is that I have had to face the fact that I have not been very good at recognising the victories in my life. I believe that over time I have been so transfixed on climbing the next impossible mountain and doing what needs to be done in order to transform that I forget to stop and look around. And maybe you do too? The gift of being able to share my experience today is that I get to look closely at where I have come from and take time to honor it.
My experience today is not about one specific goal, but rather a cumulative experience of my life, a snapshot of my life as a member of the SGI and as a global citizen who wants to make a difference.
As a child I grew up in an abusive home and walked away from sexual and emotional abuse when I left home at 16. Abuse and trauma are not easy things to talk about – and for many years I have never spoken about it. Not even many of you who are my friends here in the SGI know the path that I have walked. So thank you for the opportunity to share today.
I have come to realise that this Buddhist practice came back into my life for two of many reasons.
Firstly; as a tool to find and strengthen my voice and second to teach me to love myself enough in order to love, respect and see the Buddha nature in all people regardless of their actions towards me. Transforming less than ideal relationships requires transformation of the self. Embracing the teaching that we are Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and to always see my own unlimited potential has been a challenge for me. I have spent many years fighting depression, and a variety of mental health distresses – and as a result learnt to hate myself and at times never felt significant enough to make a difference. Up until setting my determination.
This experience is a reminder to always begin with a strong determination. To be convicted in your heart and to fight for a life worth living.
In 2012 an event occurred that changed me. It stirred up old memories and past trauma and I could no longer ignore the pain. I had to do something about it. I wanted change in my life and I was determined to transform myself. I made the decision to apply for a specialized sexual abuse therapist who could help me overcome it all. The waiting lists are long but I was determined to get an appointment as soon as possible and to find a therapist who would work alongside me with an open mind, an open heart and embrace my Buddhist practice as essential for healing.
In October 2012 I determined to have an appointment by December.
At the end of the year I was asked to help produce a show called iChoose. I was without a job, my relationship was in ruins and I felt totally self-critical and disgusted by my life trajectory. iChoose in short is about ending physical violence and passive violence in our lives by shining a light on the tough stuff, talking about it and determining to choose differently in every moment.
With guidance from my friends in faith I determined to use the opportunity I had with iChoose to transform fundamental darkness in my life at the deepest level. My determination was to transform all passive violence in my life into true self value. Passive violence to me takes the form of insulting myself, being overly critical, not valuing my life, resisting the love or help from others and sometimes self-harm. I determined at this point to be my own best friend by letting go of critical self judgement. I determined to always address it every time it turned up and to greet self-hatred with forgiveness. I determined to live a life of dignity, trust, wisdom to take action, self-love and to live a life of truth and Compassion for self and others. I also really wanted to turn my life experiences into mission.
Although December had come and gone I stayed firm in my faith and kept chanting to get the right psychotherapist. And on the first day of our school’s tour in February I got a phone call inviting me to meet with one. Astonished and in shock with gratitude I said yes and have been seeing her for three years now.
It was the beginning of a long journey but one that I will never regret.
If one things important here it is realising that this practice teaches me to face myself, to turn up and step into whatever gives me the opportunity to grow and learn. I encourage myself to constantly be looking within and continue polishing the mirror of my life so that I can turn my darkest fears into sources of strength and transform my deepest desires into possibilities!
Since determining to face this path with an attitude of victory, I have had many opportunities to turn my life experiences into mission. Shortly after iChoose finished I was invited to join a Youth Advisory Group for a mental health organisation that wants to hear what young people have to say about the health services they use in order to make them better! I also started working at the same mental health organization as a youth coordinator to bring my own voice and the voice of others to decision making tables in order to make our communities a better place for those experiencing mental illness. We work on projects that address Youth Homelessness, Youth Suicide, and innovative ways of looking at well-being.
I am the only young person in New Zealand invited to join the Prime Minister’s Expert Advisory Panel to review and guide nationwide policies that affect young people’s access to quality mental health services.
At the moment I am currently running two major projects. I am Project managing a youth well-being event that inspires honest conversations and well-being around alcohol and other drugs and I also co-designed a mentoring programme that encourages young people to submit creative ideas that challenge social messages of stigma, discrimination and social exclusion due to mental illness.
And although on some days this feels like hard work, I know that it has been my strong determination, chanting and support from good friends that has enabled me to turn my life experience into something I can give back. Most importantly, I actually LOVE what I do and thrive by living out my passions everyday.
Sensei Daisaku Ikeda says “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”
It is scary to realise that the most harrowing traumatic experiences in my life have been used to create change. And it’s a slow but rewarding process turning life experiences into mission. But it is possible! This Is an experience that continues to unfold.
What I have learnt along this path is; how important it is to honor each and every victory no matter how big or small and to keep faith. Even on the days that you dance to a different tune.
The theme that underpins this experience is the power of words and the power of the heart. I find immense value in speaking up and praying to create empowering dialogue. Whether it is honest discussions or tears with myself in front of gohonzon, or with friends in faith, even those who you work with or work for – know that every word matters. It’s about being brave enough to say something and trusting that if you are sincere in your heart that the mystic law will guide and protect you.
Sensei Ikeda also says “The age when silence is considered an indication of wisdom is over. This is an age of the people, an age of dialogue, a time when people must share their opinions and thoroughly discuss things. To withdraw into an isolated world of quiet contemplation leads to defeat in life.”
It is so important to me that we never allow silence to cover up the things that matter to us most.
After three years of therapy I made the decision to speak up and as part of my healing process the relationship with my parents is now my main focus. Our practice teaches us to respect and look after our parents who brought us into this world. As much as I struggle from time to time with our differences and the various emotions that come from my childhood it was important to me that as I healed and became stronger that my parents had the opportunity to use this as a chance to grow and heal too. Or at least hear me and know that no matter what has happened between us, I want peaceful dialogue and harmony in our hearts. I never want suffering to divide us.
To conclude, I would love to share my recent determinations as I continue this evolving experience!
As part of the restorative justice path I have determined to no longer be silent.
I determine to Invite both of my parents through a series of meetings to share and hear each other so we can move forward into our lives.
I have been chanting to feel supported and loved.
I am chanting for the health and peaceful hearts of both of my parents.
I continue praying to always do work that inspires me, challenges me and gives back to our communities.
I determine at every moment possible to treat myself with the kindness, love, forgiveness and compassion that I give to my best friends and those I love – and do my best to continue seeing the Buddha nature in all who cross my path.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my heart with you today, I would like to finish with one of my favourite quotes from Sensei Daisaku Ikeda “My mentor would often tell me, “So much about a person can be learned from their voice.” Treasure your voice. It is a powerful force that can give courage and comfort to others. That is why we should strengthen and refine the inner core of our lives from which our voice emanates.”
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