“Through the power of inner resolve,
we can transform ourselves,
those around us and the land
in which we live.”
This morning, while performing my morning prayers, I found myself reflecting on this practice and the reasons why I chose Nichiren Buddhism over all the other forms of faith I’ve studied or tried during my lifetime. When I started practicing and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo I immediately noticed a change in myself. The most notable change I experienced right away was a greater sense of happiness. Chanting lifted my spirit and positively strengthened my sense of self. It literally felt like a boost in confidence and self-esteem. Generally being on the more quiet and private side, I sensed a blossoming effect and I began to open up and share more about myself with people in my environment. As time moved forward, I noticed other changes taking effect in my life. Relationships with family and friends improved gradually becoming healthier and more satisfying. My finances improved as well, and I found myself feeling more capable and less stressed in the personal finance department. When struggles did occur, I would chant for them to change and they would. My job, being uncertain, unstable, challenging at best, and often times hostile improved as well. During my first year practicing, I experienced teaching bliss. I fell in love with teaching and my students for the first time and communicating with parents suddenly came with ease. Whereas before, necessary phone calls home were often awkward and sometimes unfriendly. I can say with confidence that last year was the best teaching year I had experienced in all seven years of my career.
However, this year that all changed. With budgets slashed, support staff eliminated, changes in administration, and large schools consolidated into one–my bliss quickly turned into a teaching nightmare. My school came to look more and more like a prison. Students far outnumbered the adults and putting out fires became a daily occurrence. I am serious. Real fires were started by students. It was like they were trying to burn the place down. I was harassed, assaulted, and verbally abused by students I didn’t know. I felt unsafe, and this went on for months. Need I mention the student who brought a gun on campus and used it to rob another student? Then there was the incident with another teacher on the other side of the building who was punched in the face by a student for enforcing school rules when he confiscated a cell phone being used during instruction. Enforcing consequences seemed a bit of a joke. Detentions, campus clean-up, parent phone calls, suspensions….none seemed to make a difference for the extreme cases to which there were many. Expulsions were out of the question–a new district policy.
I wondered, with schools like this, what was America’s future? More disturbing yet, what was the future of the students? What were they being prepared for?
With this terrible story, I could go on. But I won’t because it is depressing, and that’s exactly what I began to suffer from–depression. With my mind ill at ease, my physical health began to follow. I started to lose weight, and night after night I couldn’t sleep making me ill-equipped to deal with the inevitable challenges the following day. Insomnia set in. Clearly, I needed to get out of this situation for my safety and well-being.
So, I chanted. I chanted for change, and I chanted for my happiness.
The change I so desperately needed came quickly and my doctor, concerned for my health no doubt, insisted that I take a leave of absence. I sent my employer the request to take leave, and it was granted. Healing time set in, and now I’m in a better place. Thank you. Thank you! My next challenge is finding a new job–one that is SAFE, healthy, HAPPY, and supportive, a place with strong leadership and better pay. So, that is exactly what I chant for everyday. It hasn’t happened yet, but I know it will because I have faith.
For these reasons and more, this is why I practice Nichiren Buddhism and why I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Through it all, my faith is my sword and source of strength. Ultimately, I practice to bring about the change I need to live my best life, and I practice because it works.