On overcoming fears and experiencing breakthroughs

Recently, I was asked to share a personal experience of what it means to be a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism. To be brutally honest, the answer changes every single day. It depends on the state of my life and how I relate to my immediate environment. When I began writing, I reflected on how much I’ve grown this past year. I’m proud of myself for manifesting the courage to do things that terrify me. As I look back, I think “Oh, that was easy! Why was I so scared?” But it took a lot of prayer (chanting) and determination to make the impossible happen.

Whenever people share their stories of overcoming adversities through prayer, I’m always encouraged to strengthen my own life. Having said that, I did my best to make sure that whatever I shared was inspiring enough for people to listen to me speak about my life for five minutes. The content has been slightly edited from what I originally shared since I want to make sure that it can be understood by non-Buddhists as well.

I have been a Nichiren Buddhist for my entire life. This year, however, I needed a change. I wanted to create tidal waves of impact for my own human revolution and contribute to kosen rufu (global peace) so I started chanting for the courage to do things that terrify me. For years, I told myself that [one] I’ll run the marathon one day, [two] figure out my career when I’m ready and that [three] having a harmonious household isn’t important. I swept those things under the rug each time I chanted because I was scared to face them.

This April, all of that changed. On my way home, I heard that my father was sent to the emergency room after suffering a stroke that left half his body paralyzed. I never had a great relationship with him so I wasn’t really shook up but I chanted for his recovery anyway. As I said, family harmony wasn’t a priority so I didn’t think too much about the outcome. Beneath all this, I truly care but because this strenuous relationship has been an issue for my entire life, I’ve developed a sense of carelessness.

His condition made me realize that my normal bodily functions that I take for granted could unexpectedly change without warning. If I waited any longer, I was afraid that my lifelong goal of running the NYC Marathon would never be accomplished. Without hesitation, I signed up for the 9+1 program with the New York Road Runners to fulfill the qualifications needed for entry into the marathon. This was my opportunity to shut up with “I’ll run the marathon one day” and change that to “I’m running it next year.” Verbalizing those words scare me because every doubt surfaces.

At this time, I was also going through a career crisis. I want to be a user experience designer and took what I thought were the best steps to make progress. I registered for online classes, obsessively read books and online articles from industry leaders and participated in workshops and events after work. But my efforts didn’t feel sufficient. I got sick of introducing myself with “I’m new to the industry and am learning as much as I can” because that got me nowhere. I lacked the necessary network to build myself up.

In order to experience earth-shattering breakthroughs in my practice, I needed to change the way I chant. I wanted my daimoku to be filled with the kind of conviction that Michael Jackson has when he performs. Every step and every note comes from his heart and I want my daimoku to emulate that commitment. Some days, I powered through with a few hours and on other days, I could only squeeze five minutes. Regardless, each “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” that I chanted came from the heart of a lion.

As of today, I’ve completed eight races, with the most recent one being a brutal half marathon. I ran 13.1 miles in Staten Island through long hills, hurricane winds, sharp rain, cold air and muddy puddles. I am one race away until I’m entered into the TCS NYC Marathon of 2017. It’s hard to imagine that six months ago, I couldn’t even run fifteen minutes without collapsing. That half marathon I mentioned a second ago – I finished it in two hours, thirteen minutes and thirty nine seconds of continuous running. No jogging and absolutely no walking. Bring it on with the 26.2 miles because I’m ready!

When it comes to my design career, I chanted for a major breakthrough by August 31st. I expected that breakthrough to be quitting my law job and starting a design boot-camp course. Instead, I received an email that I was chosen as a potential candidate for a design mentorship program founded by Google. Towards the end of September, I was accepted and assigned an incredible mentor who will help me put together projects and support my growth as a designer. In addition, through cold emailing, I got informational interviews with designers from LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, Uber and American Express. I refused to let my lack of network stop me from pursuing my desired career.

Finally, my father is quickly recovering and regaining his everyday movements. He has apologized to me, something he has never done before, for not being the father that I deserve to have and have made efforts to make up for all the years. What’s even more incredible is that our extended family in Japan, who have been long-time Buddhist skeptics, have come to embrace this practice as well. Our everyday activities are now about creating the most value that we can for each other.

I’ve reached a point in my practice where I’m comfortable chanting only when I struggle. If I have this amazing practice, however, I shouldn’t settle for chanting simply to overcome my struggles and accomplish my determinations. I needed to set out to do things that I’m not comfortable with. In the past couple of months, I learned that if I’m terrified of getting what I want in life, then I’m practicing correctly. My favorite Olympic athlete, Steve Prefontaine, once said that “Someone may beat me but they are going to have to bleed to do it.” If my fears and inner forces of fundamental darkness want to beat me, they will have to bleed to do it too.




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