Tag Archives: Soka Gakkai International

Why I Chant

23 Apr

A little over 6 years ago I was introduced to the Nichiren Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai International and chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. When I lived in New Orleans I was first invited to come to a meeting by a member of my Reiki community. After attending a meeting, I wasn’t exactly sure what to think… but I walked away feeling the powerful presence of the chanting practice.

Not long after I attended an SGI New Years Day meeting and celebration in New Orleans.  It was here that a trusted friend shared that they had a major breakthrough in their life after becoming an SGI member and chanting.  As I was in the midst of some of my own challenges and had been moving through some thick life issues for some time, I wanted that too… so I took a leap and decided to become a member.

That was over 6 years ago and through the course of that time and living in many countries abroad, my practice and my life have continued to develop and grow.

Why do I chant?  Well, I imagine it’s an accumulation of many small and large reasons and experiences.  Here are some of them.

  1.  When I chant for something, sometimes things that seem “miraculous” happen.  I have a list of many small and large things that have worked out in amazing ways from chanting.  When I first started to chant I was selling shiitake mushrooms at the local farmers market.  The friend who introduced me to the practice suggested that I chant for my mushroom sales.  I did and without doing anything else differently, my mushroom sales doubled. When I was preparing for the first step of my international journey, going to Germany, I had purchased a ticket at a great price from US to London. It was important to me to have a place to stay in London for a day or two before flying on to Germany to give my mind and body a little time to rest and adjust before continuing.  As I was taking this journey with a great leap of faith but little money, it was necessary that I had a free or nearly free place to stay in London as hotels are quite expensive.  So I chanted fervently for a free place to stay in London. Amazingly, a few weeks before my departure I was at a local group I attend which had an out-of-town visitor. A friend who knew my London agenda said to me regarding our out-of-town guest “You know, his mom lives in London and sometimes she hosts guests.” She then proceeded to introduce the idea to him and after working out a few details, I had a free place to stay in London!
    This list goes on and on.  Often it’s simple things. For instance not long ago I was chanting for help voting in the past presidential election.  I had newly arrived in North Carolina, was not registered to vote in the state, had been out of the country for five years and wasn’t sure what I needed to do.  I chanted about it and shortly after I noticed a sign in a field near where I would go hiking that said “Do you need help voting?”  I laughed and thought… yes, as a matter of fact I do!  I called the number, the man was very helpful and with his recommendation I was able to register for early voting and easily voted in the last election.
  2. Chanting feels good.  This is pretty simple, I feel better when I chant.  Just the experience of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is a positive thing for me and I walk away in a better space than when I started.  I remember one time when I was in South Korea, I met some SGI members at one of the SGI centers in Seoul.  We chanted together for hours.  When I left, everything looked shiny. Everything – the buildings, the cement, the trees.  It was like I was looking at life through a lighter, sparkly lens.
  3. Chanting with others and attending SGI meetings often shifts my mood and experience.  On more than one occasion, I have gone to a meeting in a certain place… maybe I feel anxious or overwhelmed or sad.  Often when I leave it’s like my plate has been polished and I just feel different in relationship to my life and life circumstances.  For example, not long ago I went to a meeting and I felt like I was in a “bad place.”  I had just started a new job and felt stressed out and overworked.  Plus the night before I had a “bad evening” and had gotten virtually no sleep.  So I showed up at the meeting stressed out and a bit freaked out from no sleep.  Plus I still had about four hours of work to do that day, a Sunday.  At the meeting I chanted to have the patience, ease and clarity to complete my work without struggle.  Amazingly, that afternoon I was able to stay in a good place and easily get all my work done feeling clear and alert.  A major shift for me and honestly a bit of a miracle as I am someone who easily gets overwhelmed and doesn’t do well without sleep.
  4. SGI is a great way to connect with others.  As much as I’ve traveled around and moved, SGI has been a great way to meet and connect with others. And not just any “others,” but people who are working to overcome their own obstacles and support “not giving up” and “anything is possible.” This is a good space to be in! And it’s helped me a lot in making new, positive and supportive connections out and about in the world and at home.

If you are curious about changing Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, SGI has some simple, helpful videos and are a great place to start exploring chanting.

Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.  This is a short video that shows you how to chant and teaches chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

Chanting excerpts from the Lotus Sutra.  Part of the daily practice of SGI is chanting excerpts from the Lotus Sutra.  This practice is called Gongyo.  This video is “karaoke-style” and takes you slowly through the practice.

Typically, SGI members do Gongyo and chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo in the morning and evening.  There is no right or wrong way to try it.  If you like, you can experiment with chanting 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening.

If you are curious about SGI or want to know more, feel free to reach out.  It’s really been a positive, growth supportive practice for me.  It supports me overcoming obstacles and not giving up in my life and often brings unexpected benefits and solutions to my life.  I am glad to have this practice in my spiritual tool box as I go along for this ride of life.

 

 

Unleashing Happiness in the New Year

17 Jan

UNLEASHING-HAPPINESSIt’s a New Year, and like many I am doing the checks and balances of my life — tending to new things and seeking to sustain, grow and develop myself and my life.  Recently on Facebook a friend posted a book that inspired him, What Happy People Know. Impressed by his testimony, I took a leap and ordered the book for myself. A friend and mentor suggested to him that he write his own book on happiness.  I thought that was good advice and I spent some time considering the lessons I have learned in the world of happiness.

I have had my share of blessings and challenges on the sometimes rocky road of happiness.  As I step back and take a moment to consider, these are the lessons and ideas foremost on my mind in the New Year as I continue to forge my way.

1.  The Happiness Exercise.  Recently I reviewed a course that I initially took several years ago offered by the organization The Art of Living. They had us do a simple exercise… write down the answer to this statement: I would be happy if only________. You fill in the blank. Of course I had my own list of answers. Then they invited us to consider, what was on this list 3 months ago? 6 months ago?  And once/if you got those things, were you then happy or was there something ELSE to put on the list as a condition for your happiness?

I couldn’t help but take note of some specific things that I was wanting in order to be happy in my life.  Some of these things have been fulfilled in the past couple of years.  And the truth is, without much thought or effort, a new set of criteria has sneakily made its way on the list.

The lesson for me is to continue to explore having access to happiness without a set of criteria.  That happiness is our nature. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals and dreams and pursue and develop them… but I am exploring the well of happiness that is available independent of all that.

2.  Life has times that are enduring and times to be endured.  This again is wisdom from the Art of Living organization.  It was a quote read recently at a regular gathering I attend.  We had just completed the Sudarshan Kriya, their cornerstone spiritual practice.  I thought it was wise advice and have kept the notion with me to usher in a greater flow of happiness.  Rather than being frustrated with hard times or expecting it should be different, I am practicing simply noticing it… and letting it be what it is… not expecting all times to be enduring, and allowing for times that are to be endured.  And also practicing detaching a bit from it all, bringing a little more grace to the whole ride.

3.  Everyone is doing the best they can.  And everyone makes mistakes.  This is one of my key lessons for the New Year.  I became clear recently just how little space I had for other people (and myself) to make mistakes and that I was carrying a big pile of shoulds around with me (he should do this, she should know that…).  I got clear how these shoulds are not serving me at all and it serves me much better to consider instead that everyone is doing the best they can and that everyone makes mistakes.  I am practicing in the face of this lesson responding with something like, “Oh, a mistake…” instead of anger.  I am getting clear that the shoulds and the anger are hurting me most of all and don’t do anything to foster relationships in my life.  In truth this is a big lesson for me and definitely a solid block in the foundation of my happiness.

4.  What sustains you when all falls away?  This question was asked of me during a particularly challenging time.  For me, the answer was simple — taking walks and feeling the sun on my face. I was encouraged to lean on this whenever I needed it… and truly to allow the simple good of it to be enough.  I have walked myself through the most challenging of times from losing all my personal belongings and my city being destroyed by hurricane Katrina, to dealing with at times unescapable anxiety. Discovering the answer to this for me gave me a place to gently lean.  And in leaning on that, it actually provided a space for all that I no longer needed to continue to fall away.

5.  The Gifts of Spiritual Practice.  I love spiritual practice.  For me, it is like having a home here on earth that allows me connect with myself and who I fully am… and to visit that on a regular business. There are many spiritual practices that are a regular part of my life.  Chanting with the Soka Gakkai International, practicing Sudharsan Kriya with The Art of Living, Reiki, Yoga. How wonderful that I can take these practices with me no matter where I am in the world and feel at home. When visited regularly, spiritual practice feels to me like building a foundation of unshakable strength.

Just the other day after chanting for a bit, I felt a distinct feeling in my gut, in my belly.  I checked in to see what that feeling was … and there it was, it was happiness.  I was there in my simple room with not much happening.  That feeling was the fruit of spiritual practice, independent of what was or wasn’t happening in my life.

6.  It’s important to feel good emotionally/physically and to take the time to tend to those things.  With traveling and frequent change in my life, it is easy to disregard or let important things go a little to the way side.  In the New Year, I am renewing my effort to care for myself in ways that support my physical and emotional happiness.  It doesn’t take much effort, but it does take my intention and action.  For me, this can include taking hot baths, getting a massage, regularly going to a yoga class, finding and connecting with friends.  These things are important… but also require my attention in order to happen.  They are not things to be disregarded or put on that back burner.  What are they for you?  How do you tend to your health and well-being?

Those are my top 6 thoughts on happiness for the New Year, a tiny dent in my book of happiness.  I am sure there is an infinite list, but those are the ideas that most have my attention at this time.

What about you?  What is in your book of happiness?  Please share, it’s always great to hear from you!

Don’t Worry About a Thing!

10 Feb

It’s a bright Monday morning at English Village, the second day of my weekend. There is a pleasing blanket of snow on the ground and sunny blue skies with a cool crisp air. I have to confess, at nearly mid-day… I am still in my pajamas.

The Making of White Bean Vegetable Extravaganza!

It is a typical day in many ways.  I began the morning with chanting, the foundation of my SGI Buddhist practice.  The morning has easily drifted into noon and I am enjoying some homemade soup for lunch.  It is delicious and just what the doctor ordered.  It was inspired by a recent Pinterest pin, Tuscan Vegetable Soup. But as I have been grocery-challenged lately, it really should be called “whatever I had left in the refrigerator” soup… or as I continued to add random this and that, “White Bean and Vegetable Extravaganza!”… you know how it goes.

Mmm!  Hot Steamy Soup!

Mmm! Hot Steamy Soup!

I have had some bad grocery mojo over the last three weeks.  With the Lunar New Year holiday, I forgot to order my weekly dose of organic veggies, dairy and poultry from veggiehill.com. Coupled with that is the mysterious closing of two major stores that I count on for groceries, Home Plus and Costco.  I am sure it isn’t as mysterious as it appears to me…but twice now I have made shopping attempts, once the Sunday before the lunar holiday and once yesterday. Both times, the stores and their surroundings were eerily quiet. It seems that everyone knew the stores were closed…. except for me. One of the challenges of being an expat in Korea – finding myself “out of the loop” about such things…

Yesterday was a great day for me.  I began the day early as I needed to make my way to Seoul for an 11am SGI World Peace Meeting.  This is a regular monthly meeting of my English-speaking chapter in Korea of the international buddhist organization.  At each meeting a member shares their experience of how chanting and SGI has benefitted their life and this month I was invited to share. It was a great exercise to revisit my journey in SGI over the past three years paralleled with my gypsy adventure and just take note of how amazing it has all been. Writing the story of the fulfillment of so many large and small unexpected gifts almost felt like telling a story seen in a movie or read in a book. I had to remind myself, no really, it all happened.  And it happened to me!

The basic understanding of SGI Buddhism is that we are operating within a world of cause and effect.  That is a cause (word, action, thought) creates the effects in our lives.  This is Karma.  And so truly, we are not victims in our lives but instead living out the effects of our past causes.  With this in mind, SGI Buddhism offers the opportunity for liberation from past causes through chanting “”Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” which, as identified by the 13th-century Japanese priest Nichiren, is the key to developing the Buddha nature.  As it says on the SGI website, “chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables people to unleash their hidden potential and unlock the courage and compassion to transform their lives and create positive value in their family, community and society.” I think of chanting like putting the most powerful pristine cause into creating a new effect in my life.  Or, in other words, changing my Karma.

I have only been practicing for three years now, but I have to acknowledge the very specific things I have chanted for on my journey that have found their way into my life in distinct and unpredictable ways.  I see my chanting practice as a tool for opening the door of the impossible and letting the possible in.

Sharing my experience to the group was really great for me.  It felt good to say out loud what I had accomplished and to take note of the many ways that chanting and SGI have been a pivotal part of my journey.  Additionally, it is said in the practice that any time you participate in an SGI activity or share your experience, it is another way of creating a powerful cause in your life (which brings a positive effect).  And I noticed that after sharing my experience to the group I felt transformed.  I spent the rest of the day feeling like I was in a sweet little slot of life.  It was as if my being just bypassed all the negative trappings of daily living and stayed for a bit in a crisp cool place.

And so, I continue the simplicity of my day.  As I find the considerations about “what’s next for me?” beginning to dance in my head, I will leave you with the message channeling through my mac speakers courtesy of Pandora.com… “Don’t worry about a thing.  Cause every little thing is gonna be alright!”  Have a great day!  And don’t forget to write, it’s always good to hear from you!

Image above, the  snowy greeting outside my front door on a wintery Sunday morning.

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