Week Five: Recovering a Sense of Possibility
Normally when I start these blogs I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to say, the key points and references. I have no idea at the moment. This is a bit more Morning Pages-y. It’s been a remarkable week and I’m still processing it.
Through this very eventful week, my mood has fluctuated wildly. It’s been hard hearing my inner voice, the wisdom within, because there are other voices there, and I couldn’t tell how much the oppressive, unremitting grey of the sky, was the cause. (Just to be clear the voices are what I call the thoughts/feelings/desires rattling around in my head, rather than the voices perceived as external to the self found in schizophrenia.) By the sea, after an especially violent downpour the clouds dispersed, the sun came out and the air was clear and warm. I fell asleep on a bench facing the sea, lulled by the lapping waves, feeling lighter. But the journey is to create that lightness for myself, regardless of what the weather has in store.
This week Julia talks about our self-imposed limits and opening up to the idea that God/the Universe/Buddhahood has infinite potential. ‘God has lots of money. God has lots of movie ideas, novel ideas, poems, songs, paintings, acting jobs. God has a supply of loves, friends, houses that are available to us.’ p. 92. To access this plenty, though, takes action. It’s a mutual trust, rather than blind faith, the difference between ‘the Universe will take care of it so I might as well stay in bed,’ and, ‘I am going to take bold action and the Universe will back me up.’ ‘Pray to catch the bus, then run as fast as you can,’ says Julia. p. 92.
I have been looking out for synchronicity; me taking a step and the universe meeting me half way, opportunities opening up. The big fear coming up from last week was that maybe I haven’t changed anything deep in my heart over the years. And without that inner change I won’t see a dramatic change in my environment. This week, however, I have faced a number of those fears, and many tentative possibilities have begun to appear on the work and personal levels. In the space of a few days, I’ve changed a work relationship which was repeating old patterns, had a job interview, had some movement in a stuck relationship, found an opportunity to pitch a project and had a free (and much needed) weekend at the seaside. None of these things were conclusive but there are definitely doors where before there were walls; a sense of possibility is emerging.
The biggest, and most unlooked-for, event this week was that I was given a responsibility again in my Buddhist organisation. We call them Leaders here but I prefer the French word, Responsible. We don’t have a Priesthood as we are a lay organisation; each of us has a direct connection to that infinite potential in our lives. Some of us are invited to take responsibility for supporting members in our local areas. We don’t lead in that we can’t tell anyone what to do, but we take responsibility in our prayers to support the members on their journey to deep happiness. Our taking responsibility often involves encouraging the member to take full responsibility for their own lives. Going back to the old adage, we’re trying to remind people that they have a fishing rod and access to a teeming river, rather than supplying them with a limited amount of frozen fish.
I had a number of responsibilities when I lived in London. At one point I was responsible for supporting the young men in Oval Chapter, and I could walk from one end of the chapter to the other in about 30 minutes. On Tuesday I was asked to be Chapter leader up here. I asked the name of the chapter. ‘North Yorkshire.’ The membership is much less densely packed up here!
It feels significant to have come home and to receive this responsibility. I started practising this Buddhism once I’d left York for London, so practising where I grew up feels like two previously unrelated halves of my life joining up.
Every major success or break-through I have had in the last decade has coincided with getting a new responsibility or doing a big Buddhist activity. So, when I received the appointment, I understood the context of the difficulties I’d been facing last week. The Universe was confronting me with a load of unfinished business, precisely so I could finish them and move forward into this new, well, chapter.
There’s one other source of synchronicity that came up this week. I met a number of people who have changed things in their lives and they have stayed changed. One was a member who used his practice to challenge a deep relationship problem, one was a fellow director, who thanks to having done AW is able to encourage those who might otherwise represent the competition. And I met up with an old friend who has been doing a lot of work on herself (in her case therapy), having been through very similar things to me, and had similar reactions. She worked her way through these, slowly and painfully but very thoroughly. Lastly she suffered a great personal loss. It knocked her down, but she got back up. Just being around her now, you sense the solidity at the core of her life, which is new and powerful. When I was doubting that I had really grown or made real changes, here was someone demonstrating that it is possible. As she described it, you still hurt, you still feel joy, but either way, you know you’re going to cope.
It reminded me of the Buddhist phrase, ‘Suffer what there is to suffer, and enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law? Strengthen your power of faith more than ever.’
Julia talks about Creative Recovery as being the process of learning to trust your inner creativity/God/Buddhahood and as that trust grows you become less dependant on the things you used to believe brought you happiness. ‘We are learning to give up idolatry – the worshipful dependency on any person, place, or thing. Instead, we place our dependency on the source itself.’ p. 96. What I think she is talking about, and the Daishonin is saying above, is that through developing faith in our selves and our connection the wisdom of the Universe, we leave aside conditional happiness, based on fulfilling our small desires for food, love, sex, wealth, success, and avoiding troubles and loss, and basing our happiness on ourselves and the knowledge that we can over-come any challenge that we face, surmount any loss. This means that we can enjoy what there is to enjoy without being swept along with them (food, love, sex, wealth, success aren’t bad, they are just not all that.) We can also grieve a loss or be hurt by pain, but with the sense that this too, shall pass. It won’t destroy or weaken us. We don’t need to crave the positive emotions, or fear the negative, as we are stronger than enough to work through either.
I’m a long way from really feeling that in my heart. I am still needing rather than just wanting ‘what there is to enjoy’, and wanting to flee ‘what there is to suffer’. But I am making progress. As, hopefully, you will hear next week.