There are phrases that used to crop up due to my verbal blunders. As I’ve become older my clumsy mis-steps tend to be followed by verbal silence and avoidance.
You’d think I’d learn. Well, of course I can learn. However my autistic brain comprehends language linked strongly to visual memory and with a focus on words… so communication can be complicated.
I want to tell you about how I’ve been enjoying a daily phone dial in. It’s morning buddhist study for a limited time – a five month campaign. Here’s how it works:
It starts with a 7am conference call and only lasts 5 or 6 minutes. One person hosts the call for 5 days/weekdays, whilst all the participants read the study materials. Two people volunteer each day to read out loud for the group.
It’s the second campaign. Last year, a ‘Hundred Day’ campaign challenged my habits, I enjoyed the spirit and reading out loud to the audience. I joined at the same time every day, loved all the different voices, hearing their individual struggles or efforts to read for themselves and others. It was such a personally beneficial experience! The study content and the participants’ daily encouragement lifted my spirits and I felt refreshed at the start of every day.
The first set of materials we read (for this new campaign), were slightly different, more philosophical. They carried a deeper meaning and I needed a little more time to digest the messages.
Which is where my foot comes in.
I was hosting the conference call dial-in this week. It stared off OK, I wrote my activity plan and bullet pointed reminders – so I could keep up with the week’s hosting and wouldn’t forget anything. I did my best to encourage people with an early morning welcome.
Thursday was a particularly stirring allegory – describing how the spirit and actions of a person really count at a crucial, life or death moment.
The short chapter was full of poetic and stoic references to some historical Japanese Samurai and their final battle conversation. The two levels of hearing someone tripping over the difficult and repetitive pronunciation and awareness of the seriousness of the underlying message sent me into a fit of giggles.
I just “heard” Monty Python.
Maybe that’s good sit-com. I hoped it wasn’t a blunder. I ended the conference call as best I could. And today? Well, maybe it was a Friday, 7am thing, maybe my ridiculously high sensitivity was buzzing but the dial-in seemed quieter.
I had already become anxious that my giggling could have offended some people or put them off a bit. My weak mind started me down a steep path of self-doubt and I turned to the supporting buddhist leader for help and he said with bright encouragement “never mind, every day is a new start”.
I love our buddhist philosophy. honnin-myō means ‘from this moment on’ and is one of the greatest encouragements when I feel stuck. No grudges, no self judgement, just whole-heartedly starting again.
No matter what may have happened yesterday, a new day of fresh possibility has dawned. You are not the same person today as you were yesterday! Daisaku Ikeda
The fresh start becomes my choice. There’s no need to retreat into my life.
Here’s something Nichiren wrote to a friend way back in 1725: “WHEN a tree has been transplanted, though fierce winds may blow, it will not topple if it has a firm stake to hold it up. But even a tree that has grown up in place may fall over if its roots are weak. Even a feeble person will not stumble if those supporting him are strong, but a person of considerable strength, when alone, may fall down on an uneven path.”
Life really can turn into an uneven path, it is a great help to have wise friends and a mentor. My buddhist practise polishes away the tarnish from my own self-image and reawakens me to the spiritual strength – the treasure of happiness and hope in my own life.
Whenever I become aware of this treasure in my own life, I also become aware of and recognise it in others. This spirit of starting again enables me to to move away from the fear that may have just appeared and start a ‘new day’ or a ‘new Spring season’ in my life.
With my current (and being treated) social anxiety up high, I feel so fortunate to have these three things supporting me. It might be a grey winter day outside but Spring started in my heart today!