Motivation For A Rainy Day

By Vinoth Chandar (Flickr: on a rainy day…) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Here is one awesome “quick fix” for your day especially if, like me on this rainy afternoon, setting yourself in a productive motion proves to be quite tricky.  On a day like today, for example, I find myself asking, “How can I best manage my time?”  In my research of time management and goal setting, here is what I learned.

All you can really do is your best to use the time you have and make the most of it.  Focus on being effective with the time given rather than practicing busyness.  Being busy does not necessarily  mean that effectiveness is your experience.  Proper planning may be required.  Start by identifying your goal.  Then, manage your tasks by labeling them either high priority or low priority.  Spend your time and attention taking care of those high priority items rather than busying yourself with those low on your list.  When deciding if an item or activity is worth doing, ask yourself, “Is this necessary, and will doing this move me closer to my goal?”  If your answer is no, then it may be in your best interest to release that low priority item.  Simply let it go.  If it’s not all that important, why waste your time doing it?  Freed up time could be better used doing something you enjoy!

And remember….

“YOUR ENVIRONMENT DOES NOT MATTER.

Everything starts with YOU.

You must FORGE yourself through your own efforts.

CREATE something,

START something,

and MAKE A SUCCESS of something.

That is the ESSENCE of human existence, the CHALLENGE of youth.

Herein lies a WONDERFUL WAY OF LIFE always aiming for the future.”

-Daisaku Ikeda in From Today & Tomorrow

Lives Like Gems

Different Cultures

Different Cultures (Photo credit: Bill Gracey)

Our lives are like gems.

Delighted to learn.

Possessing traditions,

and cultural treasures.

Forces for good.

Deserving of peace.

We are all human.

Comrades.

Confronting the universe.

United in the same experience

of birth, aging, sickness, and death.

(Inspired by the words of Daisaku Ikeda, World Tribune, October 18, 2013)

The Key to Creating Value

Everything begins with the resolve to take the...

Everything begins with the resolve to take the first step. From that action, wisdom arises and change begins. Without action, nothing changes. -Daisaku Ikeda (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

Last evening I sifted through the pages of my World Tribune in search for much needed encouragement.  The World Tribune is a weekly newspaper devoted to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism, the SGI organization, and world peace.  I love this newspaper because I get to read all about the amazing accomplishments my fellow Buddhist members are conducting around the United States.  Daisaku Ikeda, President of the SGI, also provides guidance and support for leading happy lives with no regrets.  In this week’s World Tribune, I came across bundles of wonderful wisdom from President Ikeda that really brightened my day about how to create value in our lives.  I’m not going to share all of it, but I will share my favorite parts that I highlighted.  By the way, what you are about to read is taken from The New Human Revolution which is a series of novels that President Ikeda has written about SGI and the kosen-rufu movement to share this practice with others for the sake of world peace.

Daisaku Ikeda writes…

“It’s important to be optimistic and to look on the bright side, constantly moving forward.  There are times when, even though you’ve been chanting [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] for something, the situation doesn’t go as you wish.  But remember, there’s always a reason.  In the end, you will genuinely feel that things worked out for the best.”

“Buddhism is a teaching of value creation, and value creation begins with having the wisdom to appreciate every situation we face and transform it into joy, hope, and victory…Let’s imagine, for example, that it starts to snow.  If you react negatively, thinking about how cold and slippery it is outside, then you will have a terrible day.  But if instead you think to yourself: ‘What a rare chance it is to see such beautiful snow!  I’ll show the kids how to build a snowman and create a wonderful memory with them!–then from that moment everything will be a joy.”

“The key to value creation is to find joy and meaning in whatever happens, to courageously rise to the challenge.  To do that, we need a philosophy of life, we need wisdom, and we need life force.  In fact, that is the purpose of our faith.”

“Our personal philosophy determines how we look at things.  Whether we see events from a pessimistic or optimistic point of view, whether we take things positively or negatively, makes all the difference in the world.”

[Buddhism] is…”a philosophy of transforming the negative into the positive.  As long as we base ourselves on such a forward looking approach, we will never be deadlocked.”

“How we perceive events is also intimately related to the strength of our life force.  When we are weak-spirited and apathetic, we end up falling into a negative mindset in spite of our best efforts to remain positive.  Our mental attitude is inseparable from our state of life.  Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the source of powerful unflagging vitality.”

This guidance is absolutely amazing.  I love it, and in my own personal experience I find that it really is true.  When it comes to how we interact with others and experience the world, if our mind is set in darkness, if we look at the world through a negative lens then what we experience will most definitely be negative.  If that negativity is taken a step further, and one reacts out of anger then we harm not only our relationships, but ourselves as well.  After all, anger is poison and it is the gateway to hatred.  It can cause you to lose control of your ability to think and act in a rational way.  The good news is that poison can be changed into medicine.  That is the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!  Tapping into the power of our lives or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo provides a way to channel anger into something positive thereby creating value in society.  For example, someone who has been the victim of violence can channel their anger and energy into fighting for justice and world peace.  It really all comes down to one’s mindset.  Every human being is capable of greatness, of contributing to the world, society, and the community in a positive way.

Try it out! Pay close attention to the experience you have today and remember if the mind is shrouded in negativity then negativity becomes part of your daily life.  It becomes your experience.  However, if the mind is positive then you are able to look on the bright side and experience the joy life brings!

Be Yourself

Fifth Grade

Fifth Grade (Photo credit: Bunches and Bits {Karina})

Yesterday, I became overwhelmed with excitement after receiving an e-mail from an assistant principal at a charter school in the bay area.  A 4th and 5th grade math and science position was opening up at the school and they were looking for a teacher with experience in those two subject areas.  I taught 6th grade math and science for two years.  I couldn’t help but feel that this could be a “shoe-in” opportunity knocking at my door.  The e-mail asked me to forward my resume and three letters of recommendation as soon as possible.  We would go from there.  Following the request, I reviewed and updated my resume.  I responded to her e-mail and attached the necessary documents.  Then, about ten minutes later I received another e-mail from her.  She wanted to know if I had experience in technology and engineering?  I admit I was somewhat shocked that engineering would be required for teaching 4th and 5th grade science.  Most folks I know with an engineering background or degree have an engineering career and job.  I started to rack my brain with ideas of what I could say in response that would put me in a good light and build her confidence in my abilities.  The school that I taught at last year had an afterschool engineering robotics program the first year I was there, but when the new administration took over, the program fell to the wayside.  I was never trained as planned.  So, I couldn’t beef myself up using that information.  My brain performed all types of twists and turns, but continuously I came up short.  Truth be told, I really didn’t have that much experience in the two areas required.  So, I responded the only way I could….with the truth.  My message said:

Dear _______,

Unfortunately, my experience in those two areas is limited.
However, I can say with confidence that I am eager to learn and I do learn quickly.  I am hard working, great with preparations, and willing to do whatever it takes.  For example, I would be willing to pay for training out of pocket if needed.  In addition, my fiance is a mechanical engineer and able to be my resource as I learn the new material.  This may not be the answer you are looking for, but I can assure you that I am very dedicated.  I hope this helps.
Sincerely,
Heather
I never heard back from said assistant principal.  But, I was proud of my answer.  In the beginning, I did what I think many people may do.  I hammered away at myself with negative comments that most likely would be considered verbal abuse.  “You’re not good enough!”  “Great job on choosing the wrong degree!”  And so on and so forth.  You get the idea.  We all are guilty of beating ourselves up when something doesn’t seem to work out in our favor or when we feel we just don’t measure up.  Following the e-mails and disappointment, I moved on to my Buddhist practice and morning prayers.  At the end, I opened up the encouragement book I read daily.  It’s set up like a calendar, so you read the encouragement given for that particular day.  I couldn’t believe it.  The piece of advice for that particular day read as follows…
“Don’t put on airs.  Conceit and pretense don’t win people’s hearts; the facade soon crumbles.  Be yourself.  Buddhism teaches we can shine most brilliantly through natural, unaffected behavior.  Being sincere, dedicated and honest is the key.  People of integrity triumph in the end.”
For this job, I didn’t meet the requirements.  But I was able to release that part of my day with a feeling of pride in myself and a strong sense of integrity.  And that made a HUGE difference in the way I felt about me. :-)
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

The Power In You

Mahatma Gandhi with textile workers at Darwen,...Recently, I started an intensive yoga teacher training.  Regarding my decision to change careers, I decided that yoga would be the beginning of this journey.  I chose Kripalu because the focus is reconnecting with your body and spirit.  It is a spiritual journey of sorts towards cultivating a healthier body, mind, and way of being.  Rekindling one’s relationship with prana or the breath sets the stage, and from there a transformation is initiated as the body and mind begin to heal from anxieties, fears, and a separation from ourselves. Slowly, through the asanas, these emotions are replaced with confidence, a sense of strength, and reconnection.  The heart opens and expands.  The point of Kripalu is meditation in movement, awakening one’s life force, and cultivating peace within oneself.  Over time, one’s practice on the mat can become one’s practice in daily life.  As a person transforms themselves, the environment around them responds to this change and transforms as well.  In Nichiren Buddhism, this is often called a human revolution.  Many of the yoga sutras teach that when you are happy, it affects everyone in your environment.  If you are angry or are having angry thoughts, that anger is generated out into your environment as well.  In Nichiren Buddhism, a great deal of discussion surrounds the “mystic function of the mind.”  Our attitude changes everything.  This statement is used quite often.  Kids hear it all the time in school, but it can be difficult to believe or put into practice especially when you are suffering or are facing serious obstacles in life.  But the power of thought to alter reality must never be underestimated.  If you believe you can, then you will.  Regarding this topic, Nichiren said “This mind that is beyond comprehension constitutes the core teaching of the sutras and treatises.  And one who is awake to and understands this mind is called a Thus Come One.”  The Thus Come One refers to each individual’s inherent Buddha nature or one who has awakened to the powerful and mystical workings of the mind.  There is a saying that at this moment in time “You are now all that you desire to be.”  Our minds determine our future both individually and collectively as a society.  Daisaku Ikeda devotes a chapter to this idea in My Dear Friends In America.  In it he refers to Mahatma Gandhi who believed and once said that people became whoever they expected themselves to be.  Daisaku writes: “The potential of the human brain remains an unknown.  We do not know what powers it holds.  But one thing is certain: The power of belief, the power of thought, will move reality in the direction of what we believe and how we conceive it.  If you really believe you can do something, you can.  That is a fact.”  To give a simple example of how this can play out I will share with you a small thing that I experienced at the end of my first week of yoga teacher training.  In the evening of that last day, I stopped by my friend’s house to say hello.  I had not seen her in months and was excited to catch up.  When I arrived the first thing she offered me was something to drink.  I immediately responded that I would love a cup of tea.  She then asked me, “Is mint okay?”.  My first thought was that I really wanted ginger.  I felt this strongly, but I didn’t want to be a picky guest, and I figured that if she had other selections she would have offered them.  I said that mint would be lovely, and she pulled the box of mint tea out of the cabinet.  The water soon came to a boil, and I heard the clanging of cups and the tearing of a small paper package.  Within minutes, the cup of tea was set into my hands, warming my fingers, and I quickly took that first delicious sip.  To my pleasant surprise, the taste of ginger delighted my taste buds.  A little confused at first, I asked her what kind of tea she gave me.  She replied mint of course.  I responded that it couldn’t be.  There was no mint in my cup of tea.  Without a doubt, I was drinking ginger tea.  She replied, “You know, now that I think about it, I think I had some random leftover tea selections from other boxes that I put in that box of mint to consolidate.  I completely forgot about that.  I must have accidentally opened one of those.”  Some folks may say that this experience was plain old luck or just a mere coincidence.  But for me, this was a wonderful confirmation of the power we hold and the mystical workings of the mind.  Our thoughts, beliefs, and desires become our reality and lived experience.

At the end of the first day of my yoga training, I wrote in my journal: “I know peace is possible.  I know deep relaxation is possible.  I know these things because I just experienced them both.”

If what you seek is peace from the negativity in life, try out a Kripalu yoga class or tap into the Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in your life.  I highly recommend a good dose of both.  Take some time to reconnect with the mind.  Be a witness to it.  Check the patterns and quality of the thoughts that come and go.  Change the script, and create the life you want to live.  The power is within you and anything is possible.

What Love Is and What Love Is Not

Romance Stories of True Love No 50 Harvey, 1958 SA

I picked out a book today from my personal collection called Buddhism In A New Light written by Shin Yatomi.  Lately, I pick up books and begin reading on whatever page I open to.  I might open the book up in the middle or even the end. My perspective is that whatever guidance I need for the day is revealed to me in that simple moment of action.  The section I traveled upon in this particular book is a chapter called “What Love Is Not.”  Here are some golden nuggets I gleaned from that section.

What Love Is…..

1.  Love is the ability of one to act for the happiness and freedom of another person.  However, to do this we must first develop our own character and build our inner strength.

2.  True love fosters ability and self-reliance.  It does not cultivate nor encourage dependency or submissiveness.  To do so would be controlling (i.e. not loving).

3.  True love is first developed from within and not sought from without.  As the saying goes, we cannot truly love another until we love, accept, and value ourselves first.

4.  In order to love more genuinely, we must first pay attention to our own character development and the development of our inner strength.  Love, especially when we are learning to love ourselves, requires confidence which is not to be confused with arrogance.  Basing our feelings of self-worth on that of another will only lead to misery and unhappiness.

5.  Freedom from our fundamental darkness is an essential ingredient, and this happens when we awaken to our innate sense of self-worth.  In a Buddhist world, this would mean awakening to your true nature, that of Buddhahood.

“We can lose ourselves in romantic attachment, but the truth is, the euphoria is unlikely to last for long.  Indeed, the likelihood of undergoing suffering and sadness only grows over time.  As long as we remain unable to redress our own weaknesses, we will be miserable no matter where or to whom we may take flight.  We can never become truly happy unless we ourselves undergo a personal transformation.”

-Daisaku Ikeda

The True Meaning of Friendship

"Friendship"

“Friendship” (Photo credit: BroGuggs)

“It’s so important to keep the promises made to friends. This is the true meaning of friendship. To become people who can do so, however, we must first learn to keep our resolutions–the promises we have made to ourselves.” -Daisaku Ikeda from Buddhism Day By Day

What promises have you made to yourself lately?  Have you kept at least one?  Or, have you been putting it off for a while now?  Whatever that promise is that you made to yourself, either awhile back or recently, take time this week and follow through on it.  Be your own best friend, take care of you, and everything else good will follow.

Taking a Leap of Faith

English: Primary School in "open air"...

English: Primary School in “open air”, in Bucharest, around 1842. Wood engraving, 11x22cm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I found out that my request for a school site transfer was denied.  That means that if I stay in my district teaching, I will have to return to the school I’ve determined to leave behind.  Staying means that I knowingly return to an unhealthy environment.  The challenge is to find a better teaching job before June 30th which is my deadline for informing the district of my resignation.  Otherwise, I’m locked into another contractual year.  Another option is to resign either way.  This is definitely a risky choice because a new position somewhere else is not guaranteed.  And so, I spend the time I have to view my sticky situation from every angle possible, and I take time to commune with the universe of what I really want, the kind of teaching position and work environment that would make me absolutely happy.

As I view my situation with a Buddhist lens, I consider this week’s encouragement…

“Will you take a step forward,

or will you be content to stay where you

are now? Everything in your life

is determined by that.”

-Daisaku Ikeda (Determination–Buddhism For You p. 27)

 The actions we take and the choices we make determine our happiness. 

The Determination To Win

English: V for victory Does that mean I'm near...

English: V for victory Does that mean I’m near the top? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Buddhism concerns itself with winning.  When we battle a powerful enemy, either we will triumph or we will be defeated–there is no middle ground.  Battling against life’s negative functions is an indivisible part of Buddhism.  It is by being victorious in this struggle that we become Buddhas.  We have to win.  Moreover, Buddhism ensures that we can definitely do so.”  -Daisaku Ikeda (For Today & Tomorrow)

This encouragement really hit home for me this morning, and I just had to share it.  Lately, I’ve been battling with my personal demons and negativity.  This piece really gave me the strength I needed to pick up my attitude, focus on the positives, and renew my determination to win.

Happy Friday!!!

Treasures Of The Heart

“No matter how ill you are, if you put chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo first and value every moment of your life, you will be able to savor the amrita of the boundless joy of the Law and accumulate indestructible treasures of the heart.  Moreover, all the treasures of the heart that you have already accrued in your life thus far will also endure forever.  Whereas the so-called treasures of the storehouse and treasures of the body are limited to this existence, the treasures of the heart are never lost or destroyed.  They endure eternally.”  -Daisaku Ikeda

Treasures of the storehouse refers to material wealth.  Examples might include your house, expensive jewelry, bank accounts, and retirement fund.  Since treasures of the storehouse are apt to change and fluctuation, basing one’s happiness on these treasures can cause a good deal of suffering.

More valuable than the storehouse are treasures of the body which refers to one’s physical health and education, knowledge, skills, or abilities.  Treasures here might also include fame, social standing, or place in society.  Although such attributes are more stable, they too can change and cause suffering especially if one’s wish for such treasures are never satiated.  For some, the need for more and more and more is their constant companion and the world of hunger a dwelling place.

But the most valuable of all are the treasures of one’s heart.  Treasures of the heart relate to your spiritual capabilities like having self-control and developing wisdom as well as a solid sense of self.  Having a warm and welcoming personality, compassion, empathy, generosity, appreciation, family, and friendship are all considered treasures of the heart.  I see treasures of the heart as being one’s ability to develop into a good and well-rounded person who genuinely shows concern for the welfare of others.  Such treasures are at the very core of your being and less susceptible to change or want.

“Ultimately, treasures of the heart mean the strength, wisdom and good fortune not to be done in by desires and suffering. It indicates the condition of Buddhahood potential within us, which we aim to bring forth and develop through Buddhist practice. And when we become rich in treasures of the heart, on that basis we also enrich our treasures of the storehouse and treasures of the body. In fact, we gain the ability to use these other two treasures to enhance our happiness and that of others.”  -Living Buddhism, July 1999, p.5