On Coping With Challenges

The State Of Mindfulness The challenges we meet in life are often seen as the negative side of our existence. We alone can decide how we deal with them, we can accept and tackle them head on, or shy away from them and hope they go away. Anyone who has tried the second path will know that it never works, so accepting challenges has to be the right way to go.

Accepting our challenges is not, initially, the most natural thing to do. It might seem easier to run away, to bury our heads, or just ignore the issues, but no good will ever come of taking that path. Taking responsibility and meeting challenges head on can be really hard. That doesn’t mean it has to be difficult, but it does mean we have to dig deep, stay strong and never ever give in.

So how should we approach the process? For me, it means looking at the challenge from all sides, and that involves keeping a calm mind and thinking clearly about all the aspects involved. Chanting allows me to calm my mind, to focus and to concentrate. This is the state of mindfulness and gives me control over my thoughts, words and deeds. For others it may be beneficial to meditate or to write down a list of all the facets of the challenge.

The whole process can be thrown into turmoil by our fundamental darkness. That little voice in our heads that tells us the challenge is too hard, that we cannot overcome it, and that giving up is the easy path. We must listen to that voice because it is part of us, but we must then rationalise the alternatives and be determined to take the right path, not simply the easiest path.

When you overcome a challenge, the feelings of elation are immense. When we give into a challenge, the feelings of defeat are equally immense, but terribly damaging. Gaining your first win will be the hardest. Once you know the winning feeling, you will never again want to feel defeat again.

So try different coping strategies, be that chanting, meditation, list building or whatever works for you. Be sure that overcoming challenges will make you a stronger and more confident person, and that each win will make the next challenge easier to overcome. In time, you will lose the fear of challenges, and although you may not exactly look forward to the next one, you will be more prepared to meet and overcome it when it arrives.

Get Thee Hence Dark Passenger

The Scales Don't LieAs you all know by now, I’ve been on this fitness regime since May last year, and it’s been going really well. I’m keeping my weight around 12 stone and I feel terrific, but it’s so easy to get back into bad habits and undo some of the hard work.

Saturday was a perfect example. Being vegan means giving up bacon, but substitute soya bacon for breakfast was going to be a treat, fried, with brown sauce and all. And it’s all too easy to think, ‘well I’ve had this and that, so I might as well go for it’. Really stupid and a big mistake.

Like most challenges in life, it’s far more difficult to stick to the goal than it is to ignore it and let your urges take over. Sadly the scales don’t lie, and I know it wasn’t the bacon butties that caused all the trouble. One way I have stayed on course is by not having temptations in the house. But Scully’s place is full of goodies. Wine, mayonnaise, bread, peanuts, the list is almost endless, and although they are all vegan, they aren’t necessarily all that healthy or slimming.

It’s so much easier, and in some respects more pleasant to put weight on than it is to get it off. But the worst feeling of all is to lose it, and then put it back on when you know that you let your fundamental darkness take control. Double the pain, knowing that there is a chink in your determination, and that it really wasn’t worth all the angst. So get thee hence Dark Passenger. I’m off out cycling round the New Forest tomorrow with the boys, to have a good workout and burn all those stupid calories off again.

Re: Cycling Friends

New Forest Group RideI spent much of today with a whole bunch of friends, old and new. Meeting up in Christchurch, we went off on a group ride around the New Forest, on quiet back roads, up and down some interesting hills and taking in a pit stop at the Needles Eye restaurant in Lymington.

Following the invitation from Mike, my Dark Passenger had a bit of fun with me. ‘Will you be able to keep up with them?’ ‘They’ll all be friends, maybe they won’t accept you’. Stuff like that.

In the event he couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone was very friendly, made me feel very welcome and, as you might expect, were keen to talk about anything to do with cycling.

Whilst I enjoy the time I spend cycling alone, to or from work, or out playing on the Purbecks, riding with other people is great fun and can often spur you on to greater effort and performance.

As you might expect, Daisaku Ikeda has a few wise words to say about friends and shared ideas and suffering …

There is no true joy in a life lived closed up in the little shell of the self. When you take one step to reach out to people, when you meet with others and share their thoughts and sufferings, infinite compassion and wisdom well up within your heart. Your life is transformed.

Meeting Challenges Head On

Challenges NOT ProblemsWe have discussed the difference between problems and challenges before, and we know that there is no difference, other than in our head. Problems are things we worry we cannot overcome, challenges are things we believe that we can. Having the confidence and determination to tackle things head on enables us to stay positive, to turn poison into medicine, to take on those challenges (we don’t do problems here) and ultimately to live a happy and fulfilled life. But if we let our mind magnify the challenge, our Fundamental Darkness takes control, and these obstacles grow and grow.

Overcoming Obstacles

This negative aspect is often referred to as the ‘three obstacles and four devils’ (in Japanese, sansho shima). Obstacles refer to things which appear to be outside of ourselves (but which ultimately have their origins in our lives) and the devils, or negative elements, are ‘internal’. What makes these obstacles and devils serious is that if we are influenced by them we may stop practising Buddhism. They confront us at a specific point in time – usually when we are about to grow in our lives and move forward. The fact that at a difficult moment we may think that we should stop practising is a sign that it is an attack of one of the three obstacles and four devils. From a positive point of view these hindrances enable us to see a weakness in our lives so that we can chant and become stronger in that area.

The first is the obstacle of earthly desires. Buddhism teaches that our earthly desires may be transformed into enlightenment. Second is the obstacle of karma, which includes the influence of those who are close to us such as a spouse, partner or children. Third is the obstacle of retribution, which means opposition from those with power over us, such as our superiors, parents or people in authority.

The devils come from within our own lives. We create our own negativity, our own doubt, uncertainty and confusion. The first devil arises from our earthly desires. It can include egoism, craving for personal fame and riches, laziness or being dominated by force of habit. It can also arise from the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity.

Second is the devil of weakness that can arise in our own bodies, such as an illness which will hold us back and reduce our capacity. Third is the devil which manifests as the hindrance of death. Unless we are confident that death is not ‘the end’, but rather another phase in the cycle of life and death – then another person’s death can trigger a sense of doubt and can considerably weaken our will to practise Buddhism, even though Buddhism is intended to relieve us from the sufferings of birth and death.

Finally the fourth devil is known as the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven who, in Buddhist mythology, works to obstruct Buddhist practice and drain our life force. This is the manifestation of fundamental darkness inherent in life. And because of this can be seen as the most challenging aspect of negativity to conquer. When influential people persuade or threaten us to stop practising this could be said to be the workings of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven.

Whatever form they take, the Daishonin advises us to take these obstacles and devils as confirmation that we are properly practising the true Law through which ordinary people become Buddhas. They offer us insight into aspects of our human revolution, ways to strengthen our lives and assurance that we are on the verge of achieving this, so long as we are neither influenced nor frightened by them. Human revolution includes experiencing this process and transforming some aspect of ourselves. It indicates the real experience of finding we have to confront something. It also includes our need to gain the inner conviction that we can win over the obstacle in question.

In Buddhism, the term ‘fundamental darkness’ is used to describe the ignorance and delusion inherent in human life. This is the ignorance of the fact that we all have the state of Buddhahood in our lives, at all times, latent and ready to be revealed. The aim of our great struggle for kosen-rufu, our movement of human revolution, is to transform that innate darkness into light. Our goal is to vanquish the destructive tendencies within human life that give rise to mutual distrust and hate, violence and fear. The three obstacles and four devils become an indispensable means for doing this. That is why we should rejoice when they appear.

Growing Your Determination

DeterminedDetermination grows out of adversity. To accomplish an easy or pleasant task does not require determination, it is the difficult or unpleasant task that most definitely does.

Dreams don’t come true on their own. Determination is required to achieve the things we set out to accomplish and to keep things going in the face of discouragement.

The essential purpose of Buddhism is to make people happy. True happiness is the result of consistent effort and constant growth as a human being.

Remind yourself every day, why you are pursuing your goal. Self doubt and negative thoughts are the making of your fundamental darkness. Confront your inner demons and tell them that you are going to overcome them. Take heart and strength from your Practice, chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo will raise your life-energy and help you focus on the task in hand. Remember, nobody ever felt satisfaction from giving up on their dreams.

And keep this in mind when times get tough …

When your determination increases, everything else begins to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fibre in your being immediately orient themselves toward your success.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

Two Inseparable Parts

Two Inseparable PartsBuddhism teaches that human life is endowed simultaneously with both good and evil.

The human mind is interpreted as partaking of ten different conditions, or states, including, at one end of the scale, hell, which is filled with suffering; hunger, dominated by greed; and animality, characterized by fear of the strong and contempt for the weak.

At the other end are the Bodhisattva and Buddha conditions—states of mind in which people strive to help others by eliminating suffering and imparting happiness.

Buddhism further teaches that the nature of life is for good and evil to be essentially inseparable.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

Heartfelt

HeartfeltIn his writings regarding Buddhist practice, Nichiren repeatedly emphasized the importance of the heart.

While teaching that faith and courage are the powers and functions of the heart that enable us to open the world of Buddhahood in our lives, he also cautioned us against the heart’s negative functions, such as disbelief and cowardice, which close us off to our potential for Buddhahood.

So when we say that we chant with all our heart, we must ensure that we are indeed doing just that. Our fundamental darkness lives deep in our hearts and minds and will, if left unchecked, promote disbelief and cowardice, under the disguise of self protection in some instances.

Confront your fears, examine the thoughts that your Dark Passenger will bring. Be determined to resolve the issues and with a focused mind and a strong heart, chant to increase your faith and courage, ever onward towards enlightenment.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Coping With Challenges

Instill A Quiet CalmThe challenges we meet in life are often seen as the negative side of our existence. We alone can decide how we deal with them, either we can accept them, tackle them head on, or we can shy away from them and hope they go away. Anyone who has tried the second path will know that it virtually never works, so accepting challenges has to be the right way to go.

Accepting our challenges is not, initially, the most natural thing to do. It might seem easier to run away, to bury our heads, or just ignore the issues, but no good will ever come of taking that path. Taking responsibility and meeting challenges head on can be really hard. That doesn’t mean it has to be difficult, but it does mean we have to dig deep, stay strong and never ever give in.

So how should we approach the process? For me, it means looking at the challenge from all sides, and that involves keeping a calm mind and thinking clearly about all the aspects involved. Chanting allows me to calm my mind, to focus and to concentrate. This is the state of mindfulness and gives me control over my thoughts, words and deeds. For others it may be beneficial to meditate or to write down a list of all the facets of the challenge.

The whole process can be thrown into turmoil by our fundamental darkness, that little voice in our heads, that tells us the challenge is too hard, that we cannot overcome it and that giving up is the easy path. We must listen to that voice because it is part of us, but we must then rationalise the alternatives and be determined to take the right path, not the easiest path.

When you overcome a challenge, the feelings of elation are immense. When we give into a challenge, the feelings of defeat are equally immense, but terribly damaging. Gaining your first win will be the hardest. Once you know the winning feeling, you will never again want to feel defeat again.

So try different coping strategies, be that chanting, meditation, list building or whatever works for you. Be sure that overcoming challenges will make you a stronger and more confident person and that each win will make the next challenge easier to overcome. In time, you will lose the fear of challenges, and although you may not actually look forward to the next one, you will be more prepared to meet it and overcome it when it arrives.

Shorter Days

Lighting The WayCycling to and from work is doing me a power of good, though I am beginning to wonder just how much longer I can do it before the ever darker mornings force me to change my route, or invest in some serious lights.

This morning, although sunrise was officially 5 minutes before I set off, it was still quite gloomy and there was also a light sea mist, so it was blinking lights front and rear, all the way to the office.

Whilst the current lights do a very fine job of signalling my presence to other cyclists and road users, the front light won’t provide sufficient illumination to ride safely up the Castleman Trailway, the beautiful tunnel of trees that takes me from Creekmore, all the way to the top of Gravel Hill.

Even the cycle path alongside the A31 has its fair share of interesting challenges. Tree roots, raised manhole covers, lumps, bumps and wonky kerbs all serve to keep the riders attention, even though it is a great deal safer than jousting with the traffic. In daylight, they are inconsequential, but in the deepening gloom, they could present a problem.

So do I succumb to the shortening days, put the bike away until next spring, or make the necessary purchase to allow me to continue? The Dark Passenger, my fundamental darkness, is telling me that it will soon be much colder, wetter, that the car would be so much more comfortable. He’s right, of course he is, but I am determined to stay fit and not reverse any of my hard-earned weight loss, so where’s that Wiggle website?

One Step At A Time

Nichiren DaishoninIn Nichiren Buddhism, attaining enlightenment is not about embarking on some inconceivably long journey to become a resplendent, all knowing Buddha, it is about accomplishing a transformation in the depths of one’s being, little by little.

In other words, it is not a matter of practicing in order to scale the highest summit of enlightenment at some point in the distant future. Rather it is a constant, moment to moment, inner struggle between revealing our innate Dharma nature or allowing ourselves to be ruled by our fundamental darkness and delusion.

I know which path I would prefer to take, and I’m walking slowly along it day by day.

Previous Older Entries

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: