Praying for My Own Happiness

I’m visiting my parents in Colorado this week and so far it’s been very relaxing. It’s also been snowy and very cold! Quite a change from the sunny, 70 degree weather in California. Looking out the family room window into the backyard, the side streets, and the houses behind us, I wonder what it would be like to live year round in a climate with four seasons. It’s a big difference! With the snow and the cold it’s much easier to stay warm indoors, rather than bundle up and brave the icy cold. There doesn’t seem much point in driving to the gym when it’s only 18 degrees outside.

happiness, buddhism, prayer, memoir, women's mental health

Snow!

The voices are still here of course. They came with me to Colorado along with their screaming and yelling and whispering. I’ve mostly managed to ignore them. I’ve started chanting for my own happiness. It seemed as if I was praying for everyone else’s happiness except my own, and my own happiness is definitely very important! Just as important as everyone else’s happiness. I still chant for absolute victory and continue to work on the edits and revisions of my memoir.

My husband and I recently worked on a personal experience video that briefly shows what my daily life is like and gives a little more background information about me and my family. My husband John and my dog Savannah also participated in the video. Please feel free to watch or share.


I’m also going to run another fundraising campaign for my memoir on Pubslush. I’ve made a few revisions to my previous campaign profile and the new site is almost ready to go. If my Pubslush campaign is successful, I will publish my memoir with She Writes Press. Exciting!

Taking Action for Women’s Mental Health

I have a weekly Google Search Alert set for “women’s mental health”  and every week when the search results are emailed to me, there are only one or two websites or articles where the topic has come up. The most recent events have not even been located in the U.S., they were in the UK and Canada. I read the notice on the My Kawartha, Canada website about a free local community event specifically addressing the topic of women and mental health. This event features a well-known Canadian radio host, Shelagh Rogers, who will lead a conversation about women’s mental health based on her own experiences with depression.

I read and reread the article and even sent an email to Shelagh Rogers expressing my enthusiasm for her community event on women’s mental health. I told her, “We need events like yours in this country!” I didn’t hear back from her, but I kept wondering why there is so little attention given to women’s and young women’s mental health issues in this country. The following week I received my Google Search results and there was a link to a website sponsored by Dr. Oz called Sharecare. In December 2013, Sharecare released their Top Ten List of Social HealthMakers on Mental Health. The key words that came from this site and caused the article to show up in my search results were “women” and “mental health.” It turns out that Julie Hanks, a licensed psychotherapist from Utah, was listed as the #2 most influential mental health expert on the web.

women, young women, mental health, women's mental health, women and mental health

Wonderful! I had found an expert in the field of women’s mental health who also has a strong online presence. I mulled these findings over and over in my head for the next few days, when it suddenly occurred to me that it might be possible to organize our own women’s mental health conversation in this country! What a great idea! Shelagh Rogers’ event was local, but it would also be possible to hold online conversations with mental health experts that specifically address women’s and young women’s mental health issues. In-person events would be even better, maybe in collaboration with a local NAMI chapter.

This is my idea to start addressing issues related to women’s and young women’s mental health. If anyone out there would like to help coordinate, participate or otherwise get involved, please drop me a line. I’m definitely open to suggestions!

Thanks!

Jen

How Do We Achieve World Peace?

I’ve decided I will end my memoir with SGI President Ikeda’s quote about human revolution. In his preface to the novel The Human Revolution, President Ikeda writes, “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.” This statement may seem difficult to believe, but changing the world requires the combined efforts each individual. Even if we’re able to reach out to just one person, to help them live a happier life, then we will have succeeded. That one person may go one to help one more, and so on, as peace and happiness spreads among each individual throughout our society.

In Nichiren Buddhism, we use the term kosen-rufu and often translate it into English as ‘world peace.’ This seems appropriate for a Buddhist – to dedicate one’s life to achieving world peace. There is much more to the meaning of kosen-rufu, however, than just world peace. As SGI President Ikeda explains it: “Kosen means ‘to widely declare.’ Widely implies speaking out to the world, to an ever-greater number and ever-broader spectrum of people. Declare means ‘to proclaim one’s ideals, principles and philosophy.’ The ru of rufu means ‘a current like that of a great river.’ And fu means ‘to spread out like a roll of cloth.’ “The teaching of the Mystic Law has nothing to do with appearance, form or pride. It flows out freely to all humanity the world over. Like a cloth unfolding, it spreads out and covers all. So rufu means ‘to flow freely, to reach all.’

world peace, humanism, buddhism, religion

The term kosen-rufu also includes supporting and spreading the humanistic teachings and ideals of Nichiren Buddhism that are part of other religions and beliefs. For example, one of the most important teachings of Nichiren Buddhism is the supreme value of each and every human life. When we truly learn to appreciate and respect every person’s life, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexuality, we will be on the path toward world peace. In this way we can all set an example. By showing respect for and appreciating the lives of those around us, as well as our own, we can do our part every day to change the world.

Jen

 

Why the Violence? Moving Toward a More Peaceful Society

Last night I watched a CNN news story about a retired sheriff who killed a man in a Florida movie theater simply for texting during the previews. The Florida Pasco County Sheriff stated to Piers Morgan, “guns don’t kill people — people with guns kill people…If we could deal with the mental health and substance abuse issues, we will be much safer as a country…dealing with mental health issues is paramount to gun control.” I found this baffling. Of course guns don’t kill people. A gun is an inanimate object. People with guns kill people. Perhaps this retired sheriff did have mental health or addiction problems, but what about our tendency as a society to resolve our problems with violence? Another important point gun rights advocates fail to consider is that if a person doesn’t have a gun or doesn’t have access to a gun, he/she is much less likely to kill another person. John Lennon, serving a 28-year sentence for killing a man in Attica Correctional Facility, states in his essay “A Perspective on Guns, Murder, Suicide from Attica

“I’m sorry for taking his life, and all the life he could have had, but without a gun I would not have killed…If I didn’t have that perfect killing machine I would have had to earn the kill — like a seasoned bow hunter I’d have to hit him just right leaving no room for error. Could I have stabbed him? Strangled him? Bludgeoned him? The mantra “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” reverberates throughout our society. How about “people kill less people without guns?” 

The violence in our society is worsening. School shootings are occurring more frequently, and often the shooter is under the age of 16. A 12-year-old boy pulled a sawed-off shotgun from a bag and opened fire Tuesday morning at a New Mexico middle school gym, seriously wounding two students, before a hero teacher talked him into putting down the weapon. What is happening? Why is our country so violent? Why are our own lives treated with so little value? Nichiren Daishonin states, “Life itself is the most precious of all treasures. Even the treasures in the entire universe cannot equal the value of a single human life.” We don’t realize how precious our own lives are, much less anyone else’s. Each person’s life has infinite potential and infinite value. It’s as if shooting another person is no more out of the ordinary than having a disagreement with someone. Only instead of having a heated argument and either resolving the problem or backing down and cooling off, one person pulls out a gun and kills the other. Now, teens and pre-teens are using guns to vent their anger by murdering their classmates. I believe strongly in treatment for the mentally ill and those with substance abuse problems, but how is it that guns and access to guns aren’t part of the problem? 

Piers Morgan stated that on the average, 245 people in this country are shot by guns every day. I wonder, how often does someone use a gun to protect their family each day? Does this come anywhere near the number of people who are shot by guns? The arguments used by gun rights advocates are primarily the protection of our 2nd Amendment rights because we need guns to protect ourselves. From who? Other people in movie theaters or middle schools with guns? I believe the prevalence of guns in our society makes us less safe.

According to the Small Arms Survey, the estimated total number of guns held by U.S. civilians is 270 million – 88.9 firearms per 100 people. Joe Van Brussel states in his article on U.S. guns that the U.S. is not a uniquely violent society compared to other developed countries such as Australia, Canada and those in Western Europe. Where we stand out is our homicide rate and our death rate by firearms (homicides, suicides, accidents). The U.S. homicide rate in 2009 was 10,300, compared to 8,804 in Mexico and 12,808 in Columbia. The U.S. death rate by firearms in 2009 was 10.2 per 100,000 people. Compared to other developed countries, we are put to shame. Only Finland comes the closest with a firearms death rate of 4.47 per 100,000 people in 2008. The firearms death rate in Canada in 2009 was 2.5 per 100,000 people, and the U.K.’s rate in 2011 was 0.25 per 100,000 people. The U.S., with 4.5 percent of the world’s population, accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s civilian firearms. No wonder our homicide rate is higher than Mexico’s! Small surprise our death rate by guns is more than double any other industrialized country! How do guns make us safer? It’s exactly the opposite!

I read an email this morning from Jean Shinoda Bolen, about her perspective on the future. I really liked what she said about how this is the dawning of a new age. We have to make it so.

nonviolence, violence, peace, buddhism

Janus

Penny McManigal designed this banner for our Pomona College class — the “Janusites.”(I later transferred to UC Berkeley). With binocular and symbolic vision, I’m seeing the backward looking face as an old man, the forward looking face, as youthful and feminine. Might this symbolize the transition from patriarchy into a new egalitarian age?  We are in the “doorway.” Patriarchy resists with power and sees compromise and compassion as weakness. The old order is on the wrong side of the door and we are all in the doorway. It is here that women will make the difference, just as the twenty women United State senators (bipartisan, meet together regularly in circle) were able to prevent the second government shut down. Time magazine called them “the only grown-ups in Washington.”

Bolen states, “I’m seeing the backward looking face as an old man, the forward looking face as youthful and feminine. Might this symbolize the transition from patriarchy into a new egalitarian age? Patriarchy resists with power and sees compromise and compassion as weakness.” This is part of our society’s problem with violence. The majority, if not all of the shootings that have occurred over the past few years were committed by men or young men. Many of them did have mental health problems, but as Bolen states, “patriarchy resists with power and sees compromise and compassion as weakness.” It is this underlying behavior that prompts people to commit violent acts, including murder. Many men don’t want to appear weak or emotional. Instead they view kindness as being soft or, heaven forbid, feminine.

As we move forward in 2014 and beyond, I hope we can all make an effort to work for peace.

Absolute Victory! Challenging the Voices

I’ve been having a hard time dealing with the voices over the past few days. It seemed to start last Friday morning when I went to visit one of my new Buddhist friends a few miles away. We had set up a time to chant together with another woman at 10am that morning. Since it was the new year, I had made a determination to rid my life of the evil voices once and for all. With three of us chanting together in unison, we were a pretty powerful positive force, yet I still heard the relentless shrieking and screaming of the voices the entire time we were chanting.

With every breath I took, I focused on my prayer. Every sentence of my prayer that went through my mind while I chanted Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, I heard repeated in a screaming, shrieking male voice that sounded like it came from outside the house. It was infuriating and I became enraged. I prayed “for absolute victory, no matter what,” and the voice screamed at me, “Don’t forget no matter what!!!!” I prayed “for absolute victory, as soon as possible,” and it shrieked maniacally in unison. I worried about my Buddhist friends. What must they think? Certainly they must find the constant yelling as disturbing and frightening as I do, yet I said nothing.

victory, voices, anger, buddhism, happiness

Military Jet Moffett Field

We talked briefly after our chanting session, and when I left I was still angry. Over the weekend, I realized that I had become less tolerant of the incessant screaming and the constant whispering in my head. Instead of ignoring the voices and concentrating on something else, my writing, my Buddhist practice, or my family, I became irritated and occasionally enraged. Yesterday morning I spoke with my psychiatrist and we decided to add another anti-depressant to my 20mg Celexa prescription. I had been taking 40mg of Celexa up until about a month ago, when we reduced the dosage to 20mg. I realized that I was also feeling more irritated over the holidays in December while visiting my family. It just didn’t occur to me that the reduction in dosage might have been the cause. Now, I am taking 200mg of Wellbutrin in addition to the 20mg of Celexa. I feel confident that this will help me ignore the voices and manage them more effectively, rather than letting them get to me and overtaking my life as they did in the past.