One Hundred Per CentThe true victors in life are those who, having endured repeated challenges and setbacks, have sent the roots of their spiritual being to such a depth, that nothing can ever shake them loose.

By practicing Nichiren Buddhism, with all our heart and mind, on a daily basis, can allow us to grow our own spiritual roots to a great depth. Whilst our practice takes us along the road to enlightenment, this is a powerful side-effect that makes us able to defeat anything that life throws at us.

Stepping Through That Door

"Do you like Guinness? No, I've never had one”Sometimes we have an opportunity to do something different, something that takes us out of our comfort zone and challenges our courage. At that point we have a choice to make. Do we grasp the opportunity with both hands, jump in with both feet, or do we tell ourselves that it’s more prudent to back away and take the safe route?

Years ago, when my Dad retired, we went to the pub together, just the two of us, and one of only a handful of times we ever drank together. Now my Dad was a really good man, he stood up for his principles and he cared for his family as all good men do. He was always risk averse, never went out on a limb, always taking the prudent path.

I remember asking him that night in the pub, “Do you like Guinness Dad?” to which he replied “No, I’ve never had one”. It was funny, it was very much my Dad. He would not leave his comfort zone, even for a different beer. Now my aunt has often said that I am “Just like my father” and in some ways I am, and proud of it. But with this opportunity, I’m going to be different, I’m going to leave my comfort zone and grasp it with both hands. I’m going to use all the wisdom, courage and compassion at my disposal and make the most of the opportunity.

Poetry In Motion

PoetryBy some strange quirk of fate (not that I believe in fate), I managed to scrape into the final of Word Makers Spoken Word Slam Final.

A bit like a verbal version of Ultimate Cage Fighting, using the power of the English language instead of physical force and aggression, there were winners and losers, those who walked away smiling and those who bowed out bruised, bleeding and reduced to tears.

In very much the same manner that music can lift your heart or sadden your soul, poetry can reach the places other forms of spoken language never can.

Now it has to be said, that amongst some hugely talented poets, some of whom are fortunate enough to make a living from their work, I was carried from the cage (metaphorically speaking) battered, bruised and bleeding. But the very fact that any of my poetry was deemed to be good enough to be compared to theirs was a huge buzz and an honour.

Damien and Macca shared the prizes, both winning gigs in the Bournemouth area.

One of my efforts went like this …

Time Lapsed

The roads were quite slick in amongst all the trees
As I flew off to work on my Japanese steed
I was feeling at one, with the bike and had fun
Round the twists and turns of the morning works run

As I happened upon the Old Windsor road
This guy in his van, with his plumbing work load
Made a crazy manoeuvre right into my track
And the Fireblade squirmed as I throttled right back

I evaded the hulk of the white Hyundai guy
Got a really close look at the whites of his eyes
Picked the bike up straight with a blip on the gas
And vented my rage at this ignorant ass

Then all turned to red, as the Peugeot behind
Followed on even though he was totally blind
In an instant I found I had run out of time
And I struck it head on, without changing my line

I was launched off the bike without slowing at all
Splintering ladders on his roof rack halted my fall
Bent knees shattered the windscreen in front of his head
Whilst the on-looking drivers all assumed I was dead

I fell from the roof as a leather-clad heap
While the pain in my guts forced me, wincing, to weep
And my breath was slow coming in a stuttering gasp
As I lay there just wondering if it might be my last

Some people surrounded me, laid on the ground
And I was slowly aware of compassionate sounds
Someone bent down close, to take a hold of my arm
Protecting my twisted prone form from more harm

The stark reality of Now flooded into my brain
And connected events with this dull growing pain
I was checked by the medic who just by sheer chance
Was detained by the traffic, whilst I lay in a trance

He pronounced me unbroken, in arm, leg or neck
Though he firmly suggested my ribs should be checked
Then the ambulance came with its lights flashing blue
And again I was checked over by one of the crew

Coppers helped me to stand and they took off my lid
They asked lots of questions and wrote down what I said
Then they took me to sit on the ambulance steps
While they questioned the driver, who stood there and wept

It is said by some folks that when one nearly dies
That a montage swims by from events of our lives
But I saw, in slow motion, just a large bonnet, red
And the two huge white eyeballs in the car drivers head

Now it’s all but a memory from way in the past
And clearly that slow breath was never my last
I went on to ride bikes and none ever were wrecked
But I’ve never forgotten that time lapsed effect

Richard Blake © 2014

Sometimes we learn more from our defeats than from our victories, last night was one of those occasions.

Perfect, Just As You Are

Flowers Of HappinessYour happiness and victory in life hinge on whether you can grasp, while you are still young, the fact that happiness lies within.

That’s why there is no need for you to compare yourselves to others but instead strive powerfully and cheerfully to develop your state of life, aiming to improve yourselves each day.

From that struggle will bloom noble flowers of mission, flowers of happiness that are yours and yours alone. Shine as you are, live true to yourselves, and advance in your own unique way.

~ Daisaku Ikeda

I’m Bomb Proof

I'm Bomb ProofThe true victors in life are those who, having endured repeated challenges and setbacks, have sent the roots of their spiritual being to such a depth, that nothing can ever shake them loose.

By practicing Nichiren Buddhism, with all our heart and mind, on a daily basis, can allow us to grow our own spiritual roots to a great depth. Whilst our practice takes us along the road to enlightenment, this is a powerful side-effect that makes us able to defeat anything that life throws at us.

It’s So Easy To Let It Slide

Fundamental DarknessChallenges we set ourselves can be easy, or they can be hard. Generally speaking, the challenges that are worth setting, take us well out of our comfort zone. So what is the secret of success in such a situation?

Well speaking from my own experience, it is all about confidence and determination. My weight loss ‘regime’, if you can call it that, was set in motion through a determination to get into shape, both physically and in terms of my own self image. Now there is a further challenge, to stay that way for good.

It’s easy to put off till tomorrow, that which you should start today, and to give in today, promising that you will put things right tomorrow. Feelings like that are normal. It is our Fundamental Darkness talking us into wrong thoughts and deeds. The only weapon we have against it, and we all have those thoughts, is our determination to succeed. By imagining that our Dark Passenger,  as I prefer to call it, is actually something outside ourselves, we can mentally argue our case and, through determination, change our actions.

Success is sweet, failure is bitter and the only difference between the two is determination. Any goal, no matter how large or how small, is only unattainable if you lack the determination to go on.

No cause is lost until you decide that it is lost. So ignore, or better still defeat your Fundamental Darkness, have confidence in yourself, be determined, and never, ever give up. In that way, you will always be a winner, will achieve your goals, and be forever tasting that sweet taste of success.

Why Look Elsewhere?

HappinessYesterday evening, we went to the cinema to watch Hector and the Search for Happiness, a funny, but thought provoking film starring Simon Pegg.

Hector is a psychiatrist, working in London, his girlfriend Clara works in the marketing department of a pharmaceutical company, both are successful, but Hector isn’t happy. So he decides to take time out and conduct his own study into what makes people happy.

He travels to China, to Africa and finally to the US in search of an answer to his question, having amusing adventures along the way, only to find that his own happiness was back at home, starring him straight in the face.

As Sensei says about karma and our own happiness …

There is no need to go seeking greener fields. Dig right where you are, for there lies a seam of untold riches. Our Karma fits us like a glove, and no matter what the situation we are trying to change, we are always in exactly the right place to make the causes that will, given time, effect that change.

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.

A Wonderful New Beginning

New BeginningNever forget, that making a decision is only the beginning, and not the end of a process. In many ways starting something is the easiest part, seeing things through to their conclusion takes far more determination, effort and patience as well as wisdom, courage and compassion.

Whilst many opportunities need courage to grasp, rarely is it that courage that sees them through to the end. Sometimes it means relinquishing control into someone else’s hands which can prove to be quite a frightening prospect.

Having determination, and the patience to allow others to realise that your chosen path is the right way to proceed is never an easy thing to accomplish. But the alternative is to reverse the decision, fail in the quest, and be prepared to stomach the bitter taste of defeat. That path can only lead to more pain and heartache, be resolute and see it through.

Nobody ever received kudos for starting something, only to quit half way to their goal. So once you have started something, have the courage and determination to see it through to its satisfactory conclusion, you will feel all the better for it.

Giving It Everything

Cycling HeavenFor all I know, Daisaku Ikeda may well be a keen cyclist, but whatever his interest, these thoughts sum up exactly why we push ourselves till it hurts on an all too frequent basis …

People shouldn’t hesitate to exert their all, in a way true to themselves. How can you possibly ever know how far or fast you can go if you’ve never run all-out? To give up before you’ve even tried is actually arrogance – an affront to the wondrous power of life within you and disrespectful to yourself.

There may be times when others seem enviable. But others are others, and you are you. Rather than comparing your joys and sorrows to those of others, you should aim to surpass your limits in the situation you are in right now. Those who can do this are the true victors in life.

Now who’s up for a 75km ride tonight, that’ll put me on just over 1000km for the month of June.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

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