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The Ten Worlds – or how my life went from heaven to hell in 5 minutes

Two days ago, I had what I would call a shitty day.  Not that the whole day was like that mind you, but I’m the type of person who can call it that when one thing goes wrong.  I was busy trying to organize a meeting this weekend over email with others, it was pissing cold, sleety rain outside; no school for Boo and no play date and that meant it was on me to keep him entertained.  And the dog had to be walked.   I did not want to walk the dog in sleet.   I spend about an hour reading emails, online news and filling food requests for Boo.  We had a potluck at the preschool that night and I had no idea of what I was bringing.  Should I buy something or should I make cupcakes?  No, I was on a diet.  Hubby was going to have a long day.  In truth, I was in the full grip of PMS and all I wanted was to curl up and read  a book.  With a pint of ice cream.  That has not happened in 4 years during daylight hours.   Boo wanted to play with me.   His plaintive cry that he had no one to play with got to me and I kicked a Spiderman ball with him in the hallway.   I’m fighting to be present with him, but most of the time I’m running a dialogue with myself in my head.  And feeling guilty.  So I announce we are going to the local drop in for gymnastics. That will get us out of the house.  He loves to bounce on the trampoline and I get so sit on the spongy floor and stretch my aching body.  A few hours later, it stops raining hard enough so we walk the dog and eventually get to Safeway.

I went from feeling perfectly happy to the world of hell in about 5 minutes.  All it took was a phone call. Well, technically, two.  Earlier, I had called a Buddhist friend to tell her that I had some great news and to call me back.  I had just booked a gig on a new TV series AND a small role for 3 days on a film.  I felt like the old me, the working actor me, the let’s celebrate and buy stuff me and then she called but I was just at the till and I would call her back.  She’d be so happy for me!  We went over to get a hot chocolate for Boo at the Starbucks in the store and then my agent phoned, I let it go to voicemail cause I was yet at another till and then I called the agent back.  Apparently the offer had not been firm, so sorry, casting made a mistake, and there was the issue that I was booked for another project the day before my first shooting day of the film.  You see, once you are officially booked, you essentially belong to that production and they reserve the right to change your shoot day.  So if one production changes their schedule….well, there could be a conflict it the two days are too close together.  I was once booked on a production and then they wrote my part out.  I still got paid because it was an official deal, but still I would have loved to work.  I said to my agent, oh, well, what can I do and she said she’d let me know how things went the next day.

Bam, my world was shit.  This is why I tell her not to tell me if I’m on hold or if I’m on a short list, just call me when it’s official, I’ll worry about scheduling my life when I get the part. Her job is to get me a decent trailer and good money.  I can’t tell you how many times I was on a short list and didn’t get the part and I would be disappointed.  Hey, you know that thing you love to do and make money at it?  You may get to do it, just wait a minute, no, sorry, never mind.

Boo has already consumed his hot chocolate by the time I get off the phone and is non-stop chatter all the way home.  I yell at him, snap at him, to just be quiet!!!. I’m a grumbly, bumbly bear and by the time we get home, I apologize to him and tell him that I’m upset and angry and mummy’s so sorry.  He turns those dark eyes at me and tells me that sometimes he gets angry too, it’s okay and gives me a massive hug.  Now I’m a shitty mother.

Just last week, I attended a basic study meeting in our district.  We talked about The Ten Worlds, a very important Buddhist concept.

  1. Hell
  2. Hunger
  3. Animality
  4. Anger
  5. Humanity (tranquility)
  6. Heaven (rapture)
  7. Learning
  8. Realization
  9. Bodhisattva(compassion)
  10. Buddhahood (enlightenment, absolute happiness)

For example, picture a day in a life:   getting up, having coffee, reading newspaper, ah life is good. (Humanity)

Heading out into traffic,ack!  So busy, Lions Gate traffic is bad, you’re going to be late, person cuts you off, gives you the finger, you give it back, a bit of road rage (Anger)

At work, passed over again for promotion, boss is mean to you, work is dull, snap at assistant, give them unpleasant tasks (Animality)

Go out for coffee, see people who are attractive, despair that no one will date me, feel despondent I have no one  (Hunger)

Go back to work – get fired, your car gets towed, etc. (Hell)

So you finally take the time to go back to school – get your Master’s (Learning & Realization), get a new job, feel confident and competent, realize getting fired was the best thing.

Do my best to help people without contempt or pity (Bodhisattva)

Buddhahood  –   enlightenment, employing wisdom, compassion, courage to help others attain absolute and lasting happiness

Please note that this is the Coles’ notes version.   I’d be writing this for months if I were to go into further detail.   In all the worlds, there is an up side and a down side.  There’s nothing wrong with anger, for example, if you feel anger at the injustice in this world and it motivates you to do something positive.

***Further detail on the Ten Worlds here at SGI-UK or SGI International

Now the fact that I acted this all out in the meeting in under 7 minutes makes it all the more laughable that I actually went through it a week later in spectacular style.  I called up a fellow member and proceeded to gnash my teeth and bemoan my fate because I felt completely upset and pissed off and undone.  Not that at that point it was officially booked, but in my mind it was and I was just being positive and claiming it was mine anyway.  I had just booked another part on a new TV series and was eager for more.  Even though it was a small role, it was for 3 days on a feature film which would mean I could actually afford to go to Toronto without worrying about the hotel bill or sleeping on someone’s floor with my kid.  All my insecurities flooded up, and somehow I had blown it all up into the I’m not worthy, when is it my turn, how come I don’t get the parts I want, I’m so fat that’s why, why didn’t I go on a diet last year, look I’m doing my practice and encouraging everyone else and studying so hard and now hubby is worried about his job and why don’t we have this, why don’t we have that, I just want to work and feel good about myself and it’s all so unfair and I’ve been busting my ass at these auditions, when is going to be my turn, if I can’t get the role I want how about something that will just pay my bills, ohmigod this is why I started to chant because I so sick of putting myself on an emotional rollercoaster about a crazy ass business that does not give a crap about me……you get the point. The kid is now all up in my grill, I try to go into the office and close the door so I can talk in peace and quiet and he’s banging on the door as I seek the physical space to just be upset and feel sorry for myself for a moment.  Hubby arrives unexpectedly home early and I am granted a reprieve.  And then my friend said ” It’s a test, isn’t it. The eight winds and all that.”

And then the proverbial Buddhist penny drops.  Ah, for fuck’s sakes.  It’s not about the part, it’s about my life.

Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline. The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds.

“The Eight Winds” (WND, 794)

Suddenly I’m off the ledge of doom and despair.  The whole time I was more enamored about the amount of money I COULD be making because it was more than one day for a change.  I know this business is crazy and really, the part could have been written out, the scheduling wasn’t firm yet, a hundred reasons that had NOTHING TO DO WITH ME could happen at any point.  Even hubby reminded me that it wasn’t official that I WASN’T going to get the part, but people had to make sure that I was clearly available whenever they would need me.  Here I was upset and miserable over a few lines that might never make it into the movie anyway!  (Yes, that has happened to me before as well.)

Guess what the role was….wait for it………….FRUSTRATED MOM.

So instead of watching myself on an episode of Almost Human, knowing full well I would just criticize the way I looked and the way I acted, I sit down and watch a Buddhist study video.  It was dry and boring, but it postponed the inevitable and perhaps, just perhaps I would learn something.  The next day I wake up determined to have a better attitude and after I drop Boo off to preschool and walk the dog,  I hurry over to chant with a few fellow practitioners.  I had to just chant that I would not be swayed by the eight winds.  I get a phone call about typing work.  I’m fine with that.  I set back out with my life condition just a smidgen higher.

Later that day I OFFICIALLY  book the part.  I am happy about that, but not overjoyed and all attached and crazy about it anymore.  My life is bigger than a tiny role in a movie.  I have a strong feeling that the next few weeks will be a test indeed.

 

After 15 years of Buddhist practice

Water lilies

 

 

 

 

 

(My own picture)

When you’ve been a Buddhist for 15 years, you have the opportunity to receive a special okatagi gohonzon. The gohonzon is the object of devotion for Nichiren Buddhists.  It is the scroll that contains nam myo ho renge kyo written down the centre (in Chinese and Sanscrit) along with other characters depicting important Buddhist figures and principles.   It embodies the life of the Buddha and it representative of the state of Buddhahood in each of us.  Okatagi literally means “woodblock”.  The difference between my first one and this one is merely the material it’s printed on and it’s a bit bigger. After 15 years of practice, there are many days when I feel like I don’t know jackshit about life.  Other than the fact that I’ve managed not to lose my nut.  Okay, well maybe I did a few times, but I got it back.  I think it would be difficult if not impossible to practice on my own, so I’m grateful to my fellow practitioners who have continued to give me support and encouragement all these years.  I’ve been privileged to hear some amazing experiences of lives transformed through this practice that only demands you seek the truth from within and to always question and study.  I know that without their encouragement and daimoku, I would have packed up my stuff and run away.  I have a community of people who are positive and uplifting and when you’re an actor, stay at home mum and transcribe for mind numbing hours, it sure helps.  In return, I can encourage and help others by sharing my experience with them or by chanting with them.

So many times the sound of daimoku will fill my head instead of the negative noise that my insecurity generates when I’m freaking out about shit. It’s not the sound of just empty words but a powerful key to awaken that stand alone spirit.  I know that no matter what life holds, I always have hope that I can begin again, I can get up and try again and one day I will believe that I am indeed the Treasure Tower. Someone once doubted that my practice truly worked as I had prayed diligently for a child and it seemed as if my prayers weren’t answered. In fact, it was 7 years of shitty things happening to me.  Yet I hadn’t given up, I hadn’t run away, and in the end, I brought home a son.  I thought that once that had been achieved that yes, I truly would be happy.  And I was –  for five minutes and then it was, oh my god, now what do I do?    At the end of the marital struggles, elder care, depressions, job loss, and infertility, I KNEW I had the ability to survive any MOTHERFUCKING thing.  Including myself.

This is my mission, my path.  For me, happiness is not a destination.  I’m not going to say one day, oh, I’ve got it all,  NOW I’m happy.  Cause there’s always something coming down the pike to change that one moment, isn’t there?   Sometimes I think the whole world is in a conspiracy to remind me how unworthy I am, that I’m not skinny enough, white enough, pretty enough, smart enough,  successful enough, etc.  Cause if I was, well, I’d be HAPPY.  It’s a journey of cultivating appreciation, compassion and realizing your true nature. I’m talking about unshakeable happiness, which is not defined in one moment.   It is not attained by  gaining something outside of myself.  Even if I won a million dollars (or by Vancouver standards $30 mil), I’d be thrilled…. then worried about how what I could afford and how long it was going to last and who was going to ask me for money.  And yes, I’d like a million dollars anyway.

I want to learn more, expand my capacity to do more with my life and learn to suffer what there is to suffer and enjoy what there is to enjoy. 

 

 

 

It’s a journey of cultivating gratitude and appreciation and compassion.

Moving forward

I only lost 3 lbs due to my bout with gastroenteritis.  Hubby says I should be happy with 3, but I’m not cause that means I probably gained a couple over the holidays.  He look about 12 lbs lighter I might add.  Playing soccer once a week.  If that.  Bah.  So if I don’t actually eat anything for about the next month  –  I should be down a dress size.  Seriously?!!!  I  honestly don’t understand why health experts say you better watch what you eat or you’ll gain a pound a year, I can gain a pound a week without even trying.  Must be this middle aged spread I keep hearing about.  Omigod, come to think of it –  I am middle aged.  Time for the half portion senior meals at Denny’s.  Lawdy.  Right after I finish my DQ blizzard.  Ssssh! I’m recovering.

I’m glad 2011 is behind me.  Looking forward to 2012.    I’m back beating the hell out of Bob, the training dummy, and loving it!  I’ve scheduled the Precious for 2 playtime classes and 1 music class a week.  And I will be scheduling more playdates for him. Then in the spring, he should be ready to attend class by himself and then preschool in the fall.  You can tell he’s just sick of our asses already – he really wants  interaction with kids.  Of course, I find out the registration for one preschool located at the community centre was the night I was participating in the Buddhist seminar.  I pick up a package on my way out.  What the heck is it with these parent participation places?  It’s basically like a co-op and you’re obligated to a duty or board job that requires you attend a meeting once a month and then some other junk that’s supposed to take only one or two hours  a week, but if you read what needs to be done, you know it’s going to take even more time.  And then I’ve got to clean the place, too????  When I work, it’s at night, and then I am quite active in my Buddhist community (3 – 4 mtgs a month).  I’m not thrilled, people. And then for twice a week for a 2 hour class, I’m still paying $180/month.  Sigh.  I suppose this is the difference between day care and preschool. Oh, man, this is so out of my element.

It occurs to me that my mum just had to deal with our little asses until kindergarten.

I want to go back auditioning and hopefully booking a gig.  Do you hear me, universe? I need the work! As much as my heart is opening up in motherhood, my brain is turning to mush and I want to be around adults more.

Anyways, the Buddhist seminar went great!  We only had one person registered last week and then we had 10 people show up, so our little room was actually full.  All in all, it went really well.  I felt such a surge of energy afterwards that I could barely settle down.  We all had so many obstacles to overcome, but our we were really unified and I feel so passionate about connecting with people.

2011 was overwhelming for me, so 2012 is all about making effort, staying calm and moving forward.  See what a little GI bug can do for you?

Raining

The in-laws have come and gone and as usual, I am expected to fit my life around others. I’ll spare you the long rant where the same courtesy was not extended to me.   I still had some transcribing work to do but of course, hubby insisted I sit and socialize.  I really do enjoy my in-laws, but sometimes I wish I could just check into a spa and not come out for two days.  We did enjoy a night out, dinner and a movie, but of course, DH rushes back home the instant the movie is over.  I find myself irritated and brooding.  I was reading Eden’s blog and came across this line:

You are not less than anybody else. You are not less than anybody else.

It was in her post How to Live and so I highly recommend reading it.    Sometimes the negative voices in my head come back to haunt me in the wee hours and I look for encouragement wherever I can.  And because I had a couple of religiously motivated people show up at my door this morning so that I could declare I was a Buddhist I shall also offer this (the whole article can be find here):

“Cherry, plum, peach and damson blossoms all have their own qualities, and they manifest the three properties of the life of the Buddha without changing their character”.  Simply put, each one of us contributes our own unique qualities through the role we play in society. The Daishonin uses the example of the cherry, plum, peach and damson flowers to make his point. The cherry flower is renowned for its beauty; many people enjoy seeing the cherry blossoms in the spring. The plum blooms in late winter–while other flowers usually bloom in the spring–and it, too, is known for its beauty. According to an old Chinese tradition, peaches are said to bring longevity and ward off evil. The damson flower’s appearance is different from the others, but it is associated with assiduousness and perseverance.

Attaining enlightenment does not require us to become anything other than a human being; it is recognizing our own true value and worth exactly as we are. By being true to ourselves, we can become happy. Only we know what it is that makes us happy and only we know when we are making efforts to make ourselves happy. Comparing ourselves with others only leads to a sense of inferiority or superiority. By focusing on surpassing our own limitations—without focusing on what others are doing—we will find it much easier to grow. No matter how much we try to become like someone else, we can only be ourselves.

At a time of insecurity and change (and a whole lotta rain), I’m struggling to rest easy in the knowledge that I am enough.

Honoured

When you devote your life to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. In fact nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter, always looking over your shoulder and wondering what others are saying or thinking. The key to achievement is to move forward resolutely along your chosen path.

-Daisaku Ikeda

I went to my last downtown district meeting this past Sunday.  I had been assistant women’s group leader there for the past 3 1/2 years and watched the district grow, develop and unite.  I will miss the people I had become so close to.  The changes have been significant.  I also have to say that they key was for the leaders (M, T and myself)  to do their own human revolution, overcome their obstacles and doubt so that they could fully concentrate on the members without begrudging their lives.  My own struggle of course has been well documented in this blog.  It seemed like yesterday when my close girlfriend and I both brought our tiny babies to a discussion meeting and they lay side by side on the couch.  And now they can walk and visit people’s laps.  Planning meetings were held during the day while the Precious was coddled and cooed over or while he slept.  I so looked forward to having people over during the isolated days.  They always forgave me when I would completely forget about those meetings, so distracted I was and I was out walking the baby and the dog or the times I was late hurrying down the sidewalk.  They never scolded me or implied that I wasn’t competent.

Often at our first tiny study meetings, we would discuss the material and bring in our own struggles, searching for enlightenment.  There were tears but also support and encouragement.  One young woman came and she was so depressed and distraught with her life but moved by our own struggles, she has grown into a strong youth leader who always encourages others and has made incredible strides in her personal life.  To witness someone blossom like that  and know that you played a part is an incredible privilege.

Our discussion meeting was incredible – one woman shared her experience of being able to forgive her rapist because of her practice and was no longer a victim but a survivor.  Another woman suddenly revealed that she had been a victim as well. I never reveal what goes on at our meetings, and honestly they’re never that dramatic, but this woman practically glowed.  She opened up her life so that she could inspire others.  This is the mark of the bodhisattva.  Courage and compassion.   I was the emcee and it was a challenge to move the meeting forward without breaking down in tears.   After the meeting, everyone sang that song from The Sound of Music –  So Long, Farewell – to me!  Badly.  It was hysterical.  I laughed so hard, I cried.  Then I was presented with a beautiful cake, flowers,cards even gifts.  I was stunned.  Overwhelmed.  Grateful.  Feeling the love, folks, feeling the love.

I loved it.  You know, the one thing I have always enjoyed about my Buddhist community is that whenever I feel that everyone and their dog has to go out of their way to correct me, discourage me, criticize me and make me feel that I am “not enough” (and this includes the voices in my head) – they never do.  When I am late, they thank me for making it at all, when I feel sad, they lift my spirits, when I doubt, they chant with me and lift my spirits. They accepted my “edge” and in turn, I hope I have learned to curb my tongue a little.

I am back in my old beloved district.  Kosen rufu (world peace) happens wherever you are – and I look forward to doing whatever I can to fulfill my mission.

I have more to say about the quote above, but I’ve got another mission in the other room that needs my attention.

A very productive day

Of course, somehow my cell phone was off this morning and the staff at my mum’s care home were trying to reach me because there was a CT scan cancellation at the hospital.  I was out in the park with a friend and her two little boys on a lovely crisp fall day.  It was a spontaneous event that I almost resisted because I knew it would throw off our morning schedule, but the sun was shining so I was in a good mood.   The Precious really enjoyed swinging next to his 3 yr old “cousin” and watching the other kids.  Oh, well, I don’t think I could have made it anyway.  So the next date for a CT scan is on the 17th.

I got that part.  Guess when it’s filming?  The 17th!  Yay!  Sigh.  Yay!  cause that means I’m on my way to SF.  Sigh, cause now I have to figure out who can take my mum to the hospital for a CT scan.  Hubby might be able to do it and if not, well, something will be figured out.

When we finally got home, the Precious was worn out; he only had a 20 minute power nap but of course, he wasn’t about to have go down again, even after a hearty lunch.  DH came home early and once he heard him, that was out of the question.  Luckily, DH had to go back out again and so the fun factory was unavailable to him.  I had learned my lesson though,  I didn’t force him, I just put him in his playpen and he amused himself until he got sleepy.  Then a warm bottle of milk, and off he went.  Instead of enjoying some lovely housekeeping, I did my mum’s taxes.  At some point, it fell off my to do list.  Okay, I procrastinated.  I claim my son as my number 1 reason why I don’t get around to doing unpleasant tasks – like taxes.  My tardiness has come back to bite my ass.  Her care home called the other day.  If I don’t do her taxes, her subsidized care home fees go up (not to mention late filing fees, accrued interest on whatever she owes, and the list goes on).  I go through a year’s worth of her bank statements, tally up the required information and then discover I have not received T4s for her income of pension and old age security payments.  I make the dreaded call to revenue services, certain I will be sent to telephone queue purgatory, but I actually get an agent in 2 minutes.  Wow, what’s next – world peace?

I finally got in touch with a cosmetic/skin care line lady that I’ve been playing phone tag with lately.  She came over a few weeks ago  to leave some free samples.  I think she wants me to be an independent consultant, but I made it clear I had  no interest or time to do it, but I ordered an expensive product I don’t really need anyway. I am due a cheque soon anyway, so I thought I could splurge on myself.    I’m a sucker for women who do these kinds of businesses.  Back in the day, hubby convinced me to join him in something similar  (HUGE MISTAKE, but  a learning experience) and it’s amazing how your so called friends don’t want to support you.

I made pea risotto for the Precious’ meal tomorrow (but asked DH to pick up sushi for dinner),  committed to doing a lecture on Buddhism at a community centre in the new year, an interview about A Mother’s Story this weekend and  my Buddhist buddies and I rescheduled 2 meetings without too much fuss and bother (but a lot of daimoku).

And yes, I even showered and shaved my legs today.  Today, my friends, was a good day.

Double happiness

I just had the most amazing weekend.  I took an audition workshop and I had such a great time.  Hubby had a sudden trip out of town but he came back on the red eye so I could do it.  Not only did my back get better cause I didn’t lift the kid for two days, but I just killed it in the workshop.  I did a scene from NYPD Blue and it was the about a grieving mother who comes to the squad room with the intention of killing her daughter’s killer.  We worked on it and then on my 2nd attempt, the emotion just came and I actually brought people to tears.  Wow!  Awesome!  Not that I made people cry but I just did that well.  My acting coach was so proud of me.

The weekend went a little wonky when I came home Saturday evening(after a dinner out to celebrate a friend’s birthday) and hubby told me there was something wrong with Juno.  He said she had been sleeping in the doorway and she had kicked out the doorstop in her sleep and the door had slammed. He thought her tail might have been injured somehow because she was panting very heavily and didn’t want to move and couldn’t really sit properly.  He had given her an aspirin by the time I had come home so she looked stressed but not too bad.  We went to bed and two hours later she woke us up with heaving panting and DH ended up taking to the emergency room.  Now ordinarily, I am the worry wart that would demand a trip to the animal hospital, but it was DH this time that was really worried about her.  Of course he muttered that he couldn’t  sleep through her heavy panting and went to the internet to figure out what was wrong.  I encouraged him that she needed a visit to a vet and I called the animal ER for him.   I stayed up and waited to find out what was wrong with her, but eventually I fell asleep and DH finally came home at 4am.  Apparently, the vet could find no physical damage to her tail or hind parts, but suspected it was ” cold tail” syndrome and prescribed her some pain medication.  Sampson had had that so we knew that it would get better on its own.  You know who woke up an hour later and I just gave him a big bottle of watered down milk and put him back to bed. Blessedly, I got another couple of hours of sleep before I had to get up again.  DH complained all weekend about being tired and as I know that feeling of never really getting caught on sleep, I sympathized and clucked.  Then I went out.

On Sunday,  we had a LA casting director come in and we presented our scenes as auditions.  And I killed it again!  Man, if felt so good! I had to wait awhile before it was my turn and I was so nervous.  I was also struck by the amount of talent in one room.  All these wonderful actors with so many credits but not enough work!

Sometimes I get so worn down by all the rejections and it’s just nice to deliver good work that is acknowledged by your peers.  Now if I could just get a gig, that would be nice.

We had our WG general district meeting two hours after class ended, so I hastened home to make last-minute preparations.  It was an awesome meeting!   All the women I had invited jammed on me, but there were still guests.   I told my experience about when I started practicing and my journey through infertility to parenthood.  More tears all around.  I am passionate about my craft and passionate about my Buddhist practice and it feels so rewarding to move and inspire people.  And the potluck that followed was pretty darn good too!

Juno is doing much better!  Last night she wriggled on her back in her bed in satisfaction and then we knew she was on the mend.  This morning, we went for a walk and while I’m huffing and puffing my chatty kid up the hill, I had an odd feeling.  I was happy.  It was like a warm breeze, the way it come over me.  I just felt light.  I felt gratitude.  I had basked in the positive affirmations of my talent and I had a kid who was called me mama for the first time.  I had gone in to get The Precious up for breakfast and he excitedly kicked his legs against the slats of the cribs and said “mama”.   And they had both occurred in the same weekend.

Lucky me.  Lucky me.