Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't Let the Struggles of Life, Dictate Your Life

Just over one year ago, I became a practicing Buddhist. I joined SGI-USA because I wanted to be a part of a movement that I truly believed in. One of SGI’s primary beliefs is in peace, in fact, President Ikeda wrote his 30th Peace Proposal for the United Nations this year. That’s pretty spectacular in my view. But, that’s not the only reason I became a practicing Buddhist, it was because I was struggling in life and wanted change.

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I struggled with my weight as I entered the new year (2011), I struggled last summer when I lost Lara (my first dog), I struggled in September when my husband lost his close cousin, I’ve struggled in my relationship for various reasons (not needed to be publicized on the Internet), I’ve struggled with my self-esteem (although there’s always been a struggle there), I’ve struggled to be a good parent, I’ve struggled at work … I’ve struggled at just about everything – come to think of it.

So with all the struggling, I’ve made it a point to make as many strides for perseverance and happiness, even when there was inevitable heartache…

I can hear the cynics “Did Buddhism fix all that was wrong? So what good has Buddhism brought you?”

Well, first off, if you seek out religion to solve your problems - you are a fool because praying to any God or cause will never make you happy. You are just fooling yourself.
So did Buddhism fix all of my problems... Nope. Did I expect it to? Nope. Am I still struggling? Absolutely, but that’s ok!

So what good did it do me by becoming a practicing Buddhist? Perspective, Strength, Hope, Love, Life Cause, Human Revolution and an Understanding that Change is Unavoidable (whether it’s good or bad). By studying Buddhism, I am becoming a better person, not just for me – but for my family, friends and everyone I meet that has some role in my life. Sure, I still have bad days, everyone does. But the moral to the story is: having somewhere in your life you can go feeling terrible, and come out feeling like everything’s going to be ok – now that’s something worthwhile.

"The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just." ~Abraham Lincoln

Making a cause in your life is key. Giving yourself a reason to wake up in the morning, learning to appreciate the things you have, rather than the things you don’t. Making strides to becoming a better person… Identifying your strengths and using them, and inversely, identifying your weaknesses and working on them.

All these takeaways are much more valuable than to focus on all the struggles of the world. Thinking with the perspective, maybe that door closed because there’s another one down the hallway that just opened and its better. I know I sound like I have a purpose and I am fulfilled, but I still struggle everyday – and that’s ok.

"Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence." ~Buddha

I also realize I have many more struggles ahead of me, but with perspective and the perseverance to strive on; I believe I will face everything I may encounter with newfound spirit, perspective and even in death, I will not be lost.

"Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely." ~Buddha

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer."

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." ~Walt Disney
I turned thirty this past year and for some reason that number terrified me. It wasn’t that I haven’t achieved my goals up until this point; actually it is quite the inverse. I believe I have become a better person and recognize my successes in academia and work with great pride.

Growing up, I never fit in (many of you know this, if you have read my blog before) – I also struggled a great deal with having positive self-esteem. It wasn’t that I had a “can’t do” attitude - inversely I tried everything I could, and did the best I could because I was always up for a challenge.

I joined SGI last year in February 2011 and becoming a practicing Buddhist felt so right. I can’t remember the time when I haven’t had this perspective on things and I feel like my entire life I have been Buddhist all along.

In the last year, I have learned so much about myself and gained something I thought I had long since lost courage. Considering I had a very low self-esteem for many years of my life and the turning of thirty, I realized I needed to start applying myself and doing things I have always loved which included going back to my roots so to speak.

I have always loved dance and though it has never been my forte – my daughter has all of the rhythm I never possessed. When I was in high school, I was in musical theater and was required to learn to dance and jazz. I was never the best one and I don’t remember ever being perfect but I enjoyed the challenge and dancing always brought a smile to my face, whether it was laughing at how terrible I was or laughing because we were all enjoying ourselves – the laughter was always there.

When my daughter and I watched the dancers on New Year’s Day at the Phoenix Convention Center, we were sold that we both wanted to dance in the group because it looked like so much fun. I will admit for every ounce of excitement my daughter had to join the group, I had the same amount of fear that I would never be able to do it. I don’t know if it was because I thought I was too old or if I lacked the courage to pursue something that would be a serious physical challenge.

It’s funny really, I have never afraid to step up to a challenge when it comes to academics, but when it comes to something moderately athletic, I shudder with fear. But this time, I wasn’t going to let fear, my lack of coordination, dancing ability or skill set stop me. I wanted to dance and I was making it a mission to be able to learn it because I could do it. (I will do it.)

I’ve been chanting much more regularly, not only for myself but for everyone in the dance group. But I’ll admit, a lot of my chanting was me saying “please don’t let me be the awkward person who obviously lacks dance talent.”

I have been dancing with the group for five weeks now and for the first time this past weekend, we videoed the group dance. We chose to do this, so that later we can make a montage of the SGI Phoenix dancers. We videoed about 30 minutes of our practice and since I brought the equipment, I had the video of the dance with me all weekend. I could have easily hooked up the video camera to my TV and watched it but, I decided to wait until I had time to watch it after my friend removed the video from the disc… but before I uploaded it to YouTube for everyone else in the group to watch.

Here comes the surprise… (at least for me)… I focused on watching myself, watched my moves and for five weeks, I’m astonished – I really don’t look that bad. In fact, I want to practice more now than ever because I think I could definitely learn this dance sooner than later.

All weekend my fear was, I was going to watch this video and see how terrible I looked and decide to quit dancing… but exactly the opposite happened – I want to be in dancing more and work with Nina more on dancing and perfecting the moves. It’s become more of a dream for me now, to dance with Nina and for both of us to be good at it.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars – to change the world.” ~Harriet Tubman

I hear a lot of SGI Buddhists describe their own human revolutions and I have always felt I have the perspective to see when a revolution has happened – but this time, my revolution was more than just spiritual, it was physical too.