Free Your Mind Friday

Freedom Friday, Personal Narrative

“Why oh why must it be this way
Before you can read me you gotta
Learn how to see me, I said
Free your mind and the rest will follow”

This song is on repeat in my brain.

I can’t point to a reason why, but I’ve found myself thinking, saying and writing free your mind all this week. Maybe it’s because I’m reading Assata. Or because I’m being more intentional about nurturing my passion. Perhaps it’s a divine message requiring meditation and integration because I’ve spend too much time thinking inside the box.

Sometimes think boxes are okay. They’re predictable. Comfortable. You know the boundaries. You understand the rules. But I’ve always been a tad bit claustrophobic, and if we’re being honest, comfort doesn’t alway suit me. Thinking through new ideas, adopting new ways of being – these things are energizing and inspiring.

Freeing.

I’m releasing or refining habits and practices I’ve outgrown and adopting new ones. I’m continuing my daily writing through journals and morning pages, and trying out a new approach to storytelling. I abandoned plyometrics for the winter and tried a new combination of yoga and Pilates to challenge my body in new ways. These and other things I’m doing in an effort to truly build my temple, evolve, and be free.

My Whiskey, Wine & Moonshine co-hosts and I had an interesting conversation about self-checks and the power of habit. As we enter week 2 of 2015, what are some projects you’re embracing? What are you discarding? How do you know when it’s time to release and refresh?

Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

The Drum at the Gate of Thunder and other gosho to women

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

One of my projects-in-progress is a review of Nichiren Daishonin’s gosho to women. Nichiren was a Buddhist monk who came of age in 13th century Japan, and a gosho is an honorable writing (go is an honorific prefix and sho means writings).

Nichiren wrote many letters and treatises in his lifetime, and the extant among them were translated and published with background about the recipient when it was known. English versions of his writings are in two volumes published by the Soka Gakkai International: Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol 1 and Vol 2.

lotus-150693_640Over the course of several years, I read all of the writings in volume 1 in chronological order. I thought it would be an interesting project to reread them in a new way, through a different lens. For instance, I know some people who have undertaken the study of all writings to Shijo Kingo, a samurai and physician, and arguably one of Nichiren’s greatest disciples.

What can you learn about the practice of Buddhism and finding happiness in this world viewed through Nichiren’s encouragement to this one man? He received quite a few letters, and through them we learn about mastering your anger (Kingo has a famous temper); doing your best at work, even when your co-workers gossip about you (Kingo served Lord Ema and almost lost his estate due to this very thing); the importance of perseverance, and other timeless lessons.

A woman who embraces the lion king of the Lotus Sutra never fears any of the beasts of hell or of the realms of hungry spirits and animals.  ~Nichiren, The Drum at the Gate of Thunder

At a time and place when women were considered inferior to men, and indeed, were sometimes thought incapable of attaining enlightenment at all without first being reborn as men, Nichiren was decidedly more feminist. Basing his teachings on the Lotus Sutra, which celebrates the limitless potential inherent in all living beings, Nichiren praised women for their steadfast faith, and encouraged them with the same life-affirming wisdom he shared with men of the time.

All of the offenses committed by a woman in her lifetime are like dry grass, and the single character myo of the Lotus Sutra is like a small spark. When a small spark is set to a large expanse of grass, not only the grass but also the big trees and large stones will all be consumed. Such is the power of fire of wisdom in the single character myo. Not only will all offenses vanish but they will become sources of benefit. ~Nichiren, The Drum at the Gate of Thunder

Today I read The Drum at the Gate of Thunder, written to the lay nun Sennichi. This gosho is one of 46 written to women included in volume 1. Some women received multiple letters – Sennichi received five as did Shijo Kingo’s wife, Nichigen-nyo. I may share some of my notes as I work through the gosho.

Someday let us meet at Eagle Peak, where Shakyamuni Buddha dwells. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. With my deep respect, Nichiren. ~Nichiren, The Drum at the Gate of Thunder

 

Probability, Possibility and Change

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April, Love

I believe in the potential for change. Change is, after all, one of the few constants in life. Even at the cellular level, there is always change. Birth, aging, sickness, death. Rebirth. Change.

I’m speaking about it in grand terms, but what I’m really talking about is the potential for individuals to evolve. To shift in attitudes, ways of thinking, and behaviors. To learn new things and be affected by them.

Ultimately, I believe in the potential of humans to be human.

…humans are always evolving (Freire). Not in the sense that humans are some how deficient, but rather that they, like plants, continue to seed and bloom and remake themselves. To live is to grow. Stagnation is, in effect, death. 
~Nicole D. Collier, In Defense of Inquiry

Earlier today someone mentioned in an offhand manner that grown people don’t change. Moreover, an attitude a man held five or six years ago would still be his attitude now.

You could make the case this is likely true. But as someone committed to developing my potential and helping others realize and develop theirs, I’m not so stuck on probability. I invite you to embrace possibility.

If we all stuck to what was probable, inventions we take for granted today would never have been birthed. If we dismissed things based merely on probability, who would ever take risks? What would be the purpose of ever dreaming beyond the present moment? There would be no bucket lists. No Nobel Prizes. No late blooming ballerinas. No manned missions to space. What use would anyone ever have for toiling or exploration?

When we are quick to write off the very possibility of human change, it becomes easy to write off those who have made poor choices in the past. Because they’ll “never amount to anything,” we expel kids from school without a second thought. Because “they’re worthless,” we allow people to die slow deaths in cages. And those who get out alive can scarcely live because, “they’re criminals anyway,” so they’ve proven they can’t handle voting, making an honest living, or {insert thing “good” people can do}.

I’m not arguing that we should ignore current evidence of ideas and attitudes people hold. After all, it’s sage advice to believe people when they show you who they are. But they’re showing you who they are at a given moment. Not who they were at birth. Not who they’ll be at death. Life shaped us to be who we are right now. Are you satisfied that this is the final version of you the world will ever see?

Human revolution cannot be pinned down to one specific thing. It is any action that leads to positive change or improvement in the inner realm of a person’s life. It is an ongoing process. The important question to ask yourself is whether you are on a path of continuous personal growth. ~Daisaku Ikeda

If we’ve not bothered to investigate – to engage another in a conversation, to see if evidence warrants new opinions, we’ve denied another human being the chance to be human.

Transformative learning occurs when one makes meaning of her life experiences. It often happens after a disorienting event. Something knocks you off balance and you are thrown into emotional vertigo.

Someone you love dies unexpectedly and you question the meaning of life. You travel abroad and confront culture in previously unimagined ways. You experience a profound betrayal. You read a book or watch a movie that elucidates a deeply resonant truth.

Whatever the event, you’re suddenly off-kilter and you must fight to reorient your life. Sometimes this reorientation means revisiting images of the past and reframing them. Or discarding them completely.

But the point is, you change. Your perspective changes. You release long-held beliefs. You alter your behavior. You’re different. You do what humans have the capacity to do. You learn and grow. You evolve.

It can happen at any point to any one of us. Even you…

We mustn’t discard possibility.

On living, aging and growing old.

Personal Narrative, Spirituality

It is important to remember that aging and growing old are not necessarily the same. ~Daisaku Ikeda 

I cringe whenever my peers claim they’re getting old. Of course years pass and we physically age, but a lot of what they are claiming is more about mindset than time.

A friend argued that maybe those people are beaten down by life – they’re getting weary, not getting old. Perhaps.

My favorite models in life are my aunts and uncles. Three of them are active on social media and in real life. Here’s a picture:

Uncle Grisby, Auntie Jessie, Cousin Big Sis, Me, Uncle Arnsel. 2011.
Uncle Grisby, Auntie Jessie, Cousin Big Sis, Me, Uncle Arnsel. 2011.

Auntie Jessie, who will be 85 this year, called to wish me a happy birthday Wednesday. When we spoke around 9:30 p.m., she was just getting home after a full day, that started, of course, with yoga in the morning.

I’ve actually never heard her say I’m getting old. Years ago, she told me she knew she’d be around because longevity runs in our family. This was despite the fact that some of her siblings died at or near retirement age. She simply keeps living life to the fullest each day.

I logged into Facebook recently and noticed a conversation between two of my uncles. Live the life of your dreams starting now, wrote Uncle Grisby, age 78. Let the past be the past. Uncle Arnsel, 71, agreed, writing: I wouldn’t tamper with my life. I don’t want to miss out on what I have NOW! 

I agree. There are many past choices I would not make today, but I chose them based on everything I knew about myself and life at that moment. Those choices were also my teachers, and the decisions I make today incorporate the learning of the past. To erase the lessons may erase the past hurts, but doing so would also erase the wisdom that comes in healing.

But what if you’re still suffering from past choices? What if getting old really just means your dreams are slipping away?

If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present. ~Nichiren

Nichiren implies here that not only are the lessons from the past contained in the present moment, but the power to change the present and create a new future are here as well. Youth does not spend its time looking backward, constantly lamenting what if? Youth looks forward, on to the next dream, a new goal, a different adventure.

What is youth? It is the inner strength not to stagnate or grow resistant to change but to stay open to new possibilities. It is the power of the spirit that refuses to succumb to complacency and strives ever forward. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Uncle Grisby was born on leap day, and yesterday he celebrated his 78th birthday. He shared this advice along with the following photo:

Start every day with a smile!!!

laugh every day

Here’s to growing older, while maintaining the spirit of youth.

xoxo

Quote of the day

Text Talk

You must never slacken in your efforts to build new lives for yourselves. Creativeness means pushing open the heavy door to life. This is not an easy struggle. Indeed, it may be the hardest task in the world. For opening the door to your own life is more difficult than opening the doors
to the mysteries of the universe.
~Daisaku Ikeda

Plot Twist!

Spirituality, Temple Building

In My Dear Friends in America, Daisaku Ikeda wrote:

“You are the playwright of your own victory.  You are also the play’s hero.  Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players” (As You like It, act II, scene vii, line 139).

Buddhism teaches us that the individual writes and performs the script for his or her own life.  Neither chance nor a divine being writes the script for us.  We write it, and we are the actors who play it.

Despite the fact that we can take responsibility for our lives and plot out the life we’d like to live, there’s no getting around the fact that some things are simply out of our control. Even in a real stage play, props fail, actors forget their lines, and any number of things happen that could disrupt the beauty of a carefully crafted script.

Then what?

It’s a cliché to say attitude is everything, but it certainly does count for quite a bit.

When acting out the drama of your life, sometimes you have to improvise until the story gets back on track.

What are you creating?

Productivity, Text Talk

I’ve come across a lot of things worth sharing as of late. Long ago I used this space, not only for musing, but also for sharing news articles or other things of interest. Sometimes a video catches my eye. Other times, it could be a picture. Today, it’s a word. Something to ponder:

There is no one lonelier or more unhappy than a person who does not know the pure joy of creating a life for himself or herself. To be human is not merely to stand erect and manifest intelligence or knowledge. To be human in the full sense of the word is to lead a creative life. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Dancing Buddha

30 Day Blog Challenge

I’m a salsera. Specifically, a casinera. I’ve been dancing casino-style salsa off and on for maybe 7 years. In the past couple of years, mostly off, but yesterday, I rejoined my fellow casineros!

Dance, like running, is a great teacher. When I take lessons, I often learn much more than the turns being taught. Yesterday I learned about being swayed by self-doubt.

dancing buddha
Jorge and I getting down!

Casino salsa reminds of square dancing in a circle. There’s a caller, and everyone does the called move in sync. Afterwards, we’re told to switch partners and complete another move.

Sidebar on partner dance: if you’re a good follower, you needn’t know the move by heart, but you should still be able to execute it well, provided a good leader is partnering you. I’m a good follower, but I came to the circle with a healthy amount of humility. It was an advanced class and I hadn’t danced in a while. I assumed I’d be a little rusty while the rhythms awakened in my body.

The first move we did together? Disaster. I wasn’t able to follow what was going on very well, and wondered if I shouldn’t switch to the intermediate class despite the fact I’d been advanced for years. We changed partners. Still disastrous. Embarrassed, I apologized to the leader. Surely this was somehow all my fault – I was throwing them off rhythm, anticipating moves instead of following – something. But as we continued to switch partners and I danced with stronger leaders, I was able to execute the moves with no problems.

The instructor, who switched between following and leading, eventually danced with all of the leaders. He realized, with just a couple of exceptions, they were doing a poor job. “I was lost doing that turn. I didn’t know what came next. I wasn’t sure what to do or when to do it.” That was exactly the way I felt! He retaught the move, being strict about pressure, torque and musicality. It helped a great deal, and I was able to dance much better with better leadership. This continued move after move until the weaker leaders began asking me for feedback on how to improve their leading for a given turn.

Now this doesn’t mean I was perfect. I made my standard mistakes (traveling too far from my partner, for instance). But I realized I was still a good dancer, despite my rustiness. I also realized I had allowed my confidence to be shaken. I thought I had a good attitude coming into the circle, but in truth, it wasn’t humility I brought but self-doubt. Our environment is happy to be our mirror, and each partner mirrored my beliefs in my ability. I felt I couldn’t do it, and my environment allowed me to prove myself right.

As soon as it hit me, I chuckled and relaxed into the dancing. Sure, I have room for improvement, but I can approach it with a smile, rather than doubtful heart.

When in doubt…

30 Day Blog Challenge

In 2010, I wrote a long letter of encouragement to a friend in faith who was mired in self-doubt at the time. I subsequently shared it with a mutual friend Tia, who graciously reminded me of it today. Perhaps I’ll do some revising and share it more fully. For now, here are a few excerpts:

With regards to cause and effect, you must remember that every single thought, word and action is a cause. All the minutes and seconds you spend in worry and doubt are causes for failure. Every single moment. Whatever is in your heart becomes your prayer and that is what becomes manifest. You must guard your heart and really challenge yourself to stop that negative thinking when it appears. It’s going to appear (you’re human), but how you react when it appears is a function of your faith…

How difficult you find something to be is always in direct proportion to your capacity to respond to it – or in proportion to your thoughts about your ability. So basically, we only think things are hard if we don’t think we are strong enough or smart enough or good enough to tackle them.

No matter what is going on, it always goes back to the fundamental darkness that we are not worthy, or smart enough or good enough. But the truth is, you have everything you need in order to be successful. Your challenge is simply to make use of the tools in your environment.

In love,

Nicole, the LadyBuddha

What did you give today?

30 Day Blog Challenge

Lots of things going on today, but I still want to contribute to the blogosphere.

Enjoy!

If a person is hungry, we should give them bread. When there is no bread, we can at least give words that nourish. To a person who looks ill or is physically frail, we can turn the conversation to some subject that will lift their spirits and fill them with the hope and determination to get better. Let us give something to each person we meet: joy, courage, hope, assurance, philosophy, wisdom, a vision for the future. Let us always give something. ~Daisaku Ikeda