The Write To Market conference last month in Corte Madera was interesting. It was run by Ann Garvin and a man who sounded remarkably like Nicholas Cage. The man-who-sounded-like-Nicholas Cage suggested a new title for my memoir, “The Telepathic Buddhist.” I think this is original and upbeat – much more snappy than the lengthy “Never Give Up: Buddhism, Family & Schizophrenia” I have been using.
I practiced my two-paragraph pitch and with the help of a few other women, I gained new insight into my memoir. I realized more clearly what was (and still is) at stake. For the past fifteen years, ever since I started having “mental health”/feelings of persecution problems, my sanity was at stake, but so was my marriage, and my life. Since this is an ongoing problem (i.e. the people who have targeted me are still here), my sanity, my marriage and my life are still at stake. This has yet to be resolved – at least at the time of this writing.
Over the years, I have wondered how this nightmarish situation appears to other people. What do they perceive as the problem(s), the causes, and/or the solution? I’ve come to believe that every person has a different perspective. Much of the stories floating around simply aren’t true, and it is an extremely difficult situation to explain, especially without all of the information. Many people (including numerous U.S. government employees) are facing indictments, although I don’t know specifically who or what the charges are. I can only imagine. Bribery, perjury, obstruction of justice, impersonating a federal agent, interfering with a federal investigation, bomb making, and the list goes on. Some people are facing an international trial with the International Court of Justice, one of which, Preston Scott, was my former boss for two months in 1999-2000. Others remain here in the U.S. or have been extradited to their home countries to be held accountable.
From a Nichiren Buddhist perspective, part of our Buddhist practice includes a battle or struggle between the forces of good (the Buddha) and the forces of evil. I believe this constitutes the nature of my experience. As SGI President Daisaku Ikeda states:
This is a battle between respect and contempt for people. When practitioners of the Lotus Sutra [Nichiren Buddhism] endeavor to propagate its teachings in the real world, great opposition arises, a manifestation of the function of the devil king of the sixth heaven that resides in people’s lives…In Buddhism, “devils” or “devilish functions” are defined as “robbers of life.” In other words, they drain away the life force we need to lead positive lives…
Living Buddhism, December 2015 p. 30-33
This makes sense to me, but I have been practicing this Buddhism for over 25 years. When I thought of how other people might perceive this situation, I did not know quite how I might explain this Buddhist perspective. Obviously, this nightmare did not occur merely to prove the validity of this particular Buddhism, nor did it occur simply to cause people heartache and concern. When I read further, I found a definition of the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven that I had not read before. In Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, much of the Buddha’s teachings are metaphor, they are not meant to be interpreted literally. What I found was this:
Nichiren Daishonin says that the devil king of the sixth heaven attacks the forces of good with his “ten kinds of troops.” The ten kinds of troops are listed in The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom* as: (1) greed, (2) discouragement, (3) hunger and thirst, (4) craving, (5) sleepiness, (6) fear, (7) doubt and regret, (8) anger, (9) preoccupation with fame, fortune, and false glory, and (10) arrogance and contempt for others. All of these are devilish functions that arise within us.
Living Buddhism, December 2015 p. 30
In Buddhism, our struggles are almost always an internal battle, but sometimes there are external forces at work that might influence our faith, our judgment, and our happiness. In my experience, I have had to develop my Buddha nature so that I am not influenced by these “devilish functions” at work in my life, even though they are primarily external. There is still the internal part of me that has to be able to deal with their evil in order to survive – to preserve my sanity, my marriage and to protect my own life.
*The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom is a comprehensive commentary on the Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, traditionally attributed to Nagarjuna (c.150-250).
This weekend (and Friday) I will be at the Algonkian Write To Market Conference in Corte Madera, California. I am looking forward to a great conference, as well as the opportunity to meet many new people! Here are my responses to the conference pre-event writer assignments with regard to my memoir, Never Give Up: Buddhism, Family & Schizophrenia.
Algonkian WTM – Pre-Event Writer Assignments
First – Story Statement
In August 2011, I created a blog to chronicle my experience dealing the mental illness I was diagnosed with in 2002: schizophrenia. This diagnosis was based on the symptoms I described to psychiatrists: hearing voices, paranoia, and the belief that I was being persecuted by the mafia. In reality, I never believed that the “voices” I heard were symptoms of schizophrenia. Instead, I believed that a form of communication which has never been scientifically proven – telepathy – was what allowed me to hear the “voices” of my enemies in my head, and which also allowed my enemies to “hear” my thoughts.
These bizarre set of circumstances, combined with the demented insanity of everyone involved created a horrific set of circumstances for myself, my husband and our families. Ultimately, the situation devolved into chaos for the people and surrounding communities who were forced to become involved. I challenge my circumstances and find hope, courage and strength in my Buddhist practice. I turn to my husband and family for love and support. Writing and photography are my creative outlets and emotional therapy. I never give up in my fight. My memoir is a source of hope, inspiration, and encouragement for everyone.
Second – Antagonistic Force
There is more than one antagonistic force in this memoir. Specifically, the antagonistic force(s) are people. They are the people who began stalking, harassing and persecuting me in 2002. The people included a former roommate from Oxnard, CA in addition to a man whom I initially believed was associated with the mafia (it turns out he was former CIA). Initially, there were 3-4 people involved, but over the years, the number grew and now this group probably numbers around 40-50 people (although it could be more than this). This number includes the people [government employees/agents] who may not have necessarily been stalking me this entire time but were (and still are) nevertheless involved [by using me as a scapegoat] in an attempt to avoid their own indictment.
Third – Breakout Title
Never Give Up: Buddhism, Family & Schizophrenia
Fourth – Genre & Comparables
Genre – Memoir
Comparables – Cheryl Strayed’s Wild
Fifth – Primary Conflict
My struggle against the people (devilish functions) in my life who constantly torment, stalk, persecute, and harass me. Initially I believed I had done something wrong and that I somehow was at fault for their behavior. I eventually realized that [from a Buddhist perspective], this was my karma and I needed to be able to change it. I had certainly never done anything to warrant this type of persecution and harassment directed at me by complete strangers.
Sixth – Additional Conflicts
My inner conflict was coming to my own understanding of why this happened, using my Buddhist practice as a guide.
Trying to understand why no one ever felt comfortable enough to approach me with questions about this situation, or why no one I knew (i.e. friends, family, Buddhist friends, etc…) ever discussed this problem with me.
Seventh – Setting
The primary setting is the San Francisco Bay Area, in the cities of Sunnyvale and Gilroy. There is also one chapter that takes place in Oxnard, California.
I keep wondering when this is going to end. I still can’t figure out why the person (people) stalking me has not been arrested. I would think that by now, there would be some way of figuring this out. After all, this man (Sam?) has been stalking, harassing and threatening me for the past thirteen years. Yet, he is still out there? Nothing can be done about him? Nothing? Why is this? Does this make sense to anyone? Does it seem reasonable? No! Absolutely not. He is still accompanied by two or three others.
On Monday, I had a dentist appointment. One of the women associated with him made an appointment at approximately the same time as my appointment. She was seated in a dentist chair not far from mine, and although I didn’t hear much of what she said, she appeared to be lying about her reasons for being there at the exact same time I was.
On Wednesday, I took my dog Savannah to her vet, Pet’s Friend Animal Clinic in Sunnyvale for a nail trim. As I walked into the vet’s office, I heard sirens. The people who follow me everywhere are prone to making fake 911 calls (often claiming that I am actually the person making the call). Savannah and I walked into the vet and told the receptionist we were in for a nail trim. One of the women who stalks me was already there. She looked to be Asian or South Asian and was talking to one of the tech assistants, claiming that she was some sort of “inspector,” or perhaps that’s what she wanted me to hear.
Woman: “Well, you let me see everything and you signed the form…”
Tech: “Yes, well we’re an independent clinic. If someone wakes up in the morning and sees that their pet has a problem, they can come right in…”
more inaudible conversation
I waited for Savannah, and when her technician brought her back out to me, the Asian woman looked at Savannah as if confirming something. Then she left.
Assistant to the Tech: “Was that Animal Control?”
Nope, it wasn’t animal control. Here’s what happened later in the afternoon when I went to the Kohl’s at El Camino Real and Lawrence Expressway: I walked into the store and walked into the fitness department. I stopped to look at their workout shirts and sweatshirts. I heard a store employee by the cashiers tell someone, “No. Once you’ve gone in through there, you can’t leave.” Hmmmm. I think what happened was one of the other women (also Asian or South Asian) had followed me into Kohl’s. Then she ran into one of the dressing rooms and hid. See, the problem is there is a restraining order on every single one of these people (both the men and the women) prohibiting them from following me into stores (and people’s houses) and requiring them to maintain a certain distance. The issue is they consistently violate the restraining order on a daily basis.
I visited my parents in Colorado over Halloween, and all of these people flew to Colorado, although they had absolutely no reason to go there. They only reason they flew to Colorado was because I was visiting my parents. The majority of them were on my flight! Surprise, surprise. They all left when I left. Certainly this is extremely perplexing! So the fact that this nightmare continues to drag on astonishes me. I can’t believe there is nothing that can be done to prevent sh#$@&d (as I call him) and his minions from carrying out this type of behavior on a daily basis. He should have been taken off the streets years ago. Even President Obama could issue an Executive Order, given the circumstances. This is my firm belief.
So, while I don’t know what the holdup is, I will continue to “speak out” about this on my blog as long as it continues. I am hoping for the best possible outcome, and of course, for the justice we all deserve.
Blue lotus flower courtesy of crescentmoon on tumblr.
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything in the universe.
– John Muir, “My First Summer in the Sierra,” 1911.
The last walk I took with Savannah was along the Bay Trails off San Antonio Road in Mountain View, California. I stopped to read one of the interpretive signs on the trail and took a few pictures. The sign, titled “Inter-relationships,” reminded me of a Buddhist (also a Vedic and Hindu) concept called “Indra’s Net.” At the bottom of the sign was the above John Muir quote. At the top of the sign, directly under the title “Inter-relationships,” reads the following:
The interwoven threads of the wetlands system create a tapestry of interrelationships: every strand is connected and essential to every other one.
Alongside the atom symbol diagram reads:
Because the connections between these plants and animals are so complex, we are not always aware of what happens when one element is changed. Care must be taken to protect these sometimes fragile relationships.
Indra’s Net is a beautiful image used in Buddhism to illustrate the interconnectedness of all life, not just those of plants and animals.
Suspended above the palace of Indra, the Buddhist god who symbolizes the natural forces that protect and nurture life, is an enormous net. A brilliant jewel is attached to each of the knots of the net. Each jewel contains and reflects the image of all the other jewels in the net, which sparkles in the magnificence of its totality. Since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. When we learn to recognize what Thoreau refers to as “the infinite extent of our relations,” we can trace the strands of mutually supportive life, and discover there the glittering jewels of our global neighbors. Buddhism seeks to cultivate wisdom grounded in this kind of empathetic resonance with all forms of life.
– “Thoughts on Education for Global Citizenship”, a lecture given by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda at Columbia University on June 13, 1996.
Indra’s Net is a beautiful image that perfectly illustrates the interconnectedness of all life. We are not always able, nor do many of us have time to “trace the strands of mutually supportive life” that allows us to function in our daily lives. We buy our weekly groceries with little knowledge of where the steak and eggs came from, or who picked our head of lettuce and pint of strawberries. Yet our lives depend on the food we eat, and if someone gets sick from a diseased chicken or the price of milk goes up, we are hard pressed to do anything about it. Few of us are going to put up a chicken coop in the backyard or buy a dairy cow so we don’t have to depend on anyone for milk and eggs. The same can be said of our clothing. How many of us are aware of where our clothes come from, or the factory conditions and worker pay of the people who make our dresses, shirts, and pants?
When we think of the world in this way, using the concept of Indra’s Net, we realize that we are more than just single individuals, more than just one family or a community. We are all part of a greater whole, and no one exists in isolation.
Addressing young people, SGI President Ikeda affirms that when confronted by cruel reality, if we cannot feel hope, it is time to create some. We can do this by digging deeper within, searching for even a small glimmer of light, for the possibility of a way to begin to break through the impasse before us.
– Daisaku Ikeda, October 16, 2015, World Tribune
This is how I often feel before I get out of bed in the morning – “confronted by cruel reality.” Especially when I don’t want to get out of bed and live the day. I get tired of all the people following me around and all the screaming and yelling. I read this essay last week sometime and felt encouraged. The article and the idea of “creating hope” gave me the motivation to create a little more hope and happiness in my own life. It didn’t take too much effort, all I did was think of a few things to work on that I enjoy and help me envision a more positive future.
First, I decided to revisit the second memoir I started writing last year but hadn’t worked in eight or nine months. My second memoir is about my experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, but it’s still in the very beginning stages. When I started working on it again, I felt better. I discovered how much I remembered from the two years I spent overseas and how much I still have to write. This did involve some effort on my part. Writing, especially memoir requires me to delve into my memories and as President Ikeda says, “dig deeper.” By digging deeper, I was able to shift my thoughts away from my external environment and back towards my own life. In other words, I was able to distract myself and focus less on my own unhappiness, and more on the positive aspects of my life, even if they were in the past.
I also decided to get really creative and wrote a children’s poem in the style of Shel Silverstein. My poem made me laugh and the funny thing is, I “wrote” it while taking a shower. A few hours later, I decided to type it up and save it on the computer before I forgot all the words. I’ve also spent more time working on the SundanceKid Press website. I hired an intern to write a weekly blog for SundanceKid Press starting in November, and I’m really looking forward to working with her.
Hope is a decision.
Life is definitely looking up and I can’t wait until this is over and these people are gone from my life for good.