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After a particularly difficult fight with my mother, I left home at the age of 15. Determined to do something positive with my life, I decided to follow my heart and train as a dancer. I overcame many challenges to secure a position with a prestigious dance school in London.
For the next eight years, I excelled in my career, dancing in various well-known companies and touring all over the world. Despite times of rapturous joy, however, I remained fundamentally unhappy. I strove constantly to please others at all costs in the hope that their approval would somehow validate me.
I arrived in Yorkshire in 1999 to join an internationally known dance company. Within two years, the company disbanded, and by 2005 I found myself without a job, with low self-esteem and a career-threatening injury. It was at this time I encountered Nichiren Buddhism. I felt the benefit in my life grow through participation in various SGI activities and I also recovered from my injury.
Despite my wealth of experience, however, I could not gain permanent employment that allowed me to use my talents. I was constantly battling financial crises.
By 2011, in desperation and with the fear in my heart that I would lose everything, I took the only job I could find, working at the local multiplex cinema, cleaning and selling tickets and food. I despised the job with every sinew of my being. I felt my life had come to a grinding halt and I fell into a state of deep depression.
Around that time, an SGI member offered to chant with me. We began meeting weekly to chant and study Buddhism, and my Buddhist practice began to strengthen.
Soon after, I was asked to take responsibility for an SGI event in my local chapter. I took this on begrudgingly due to my long working hours and severe lack of funds for travel.
As I embarked on this challenge, I became less fixated on my own problems. I soon found myself chanting for the happiness of everyone in the chapter. As I continued to strengthen my Buddhist practice, I reflected deeply on my perception of the challenges I faced. I realized I had assumed that, because I chanted, I would magically get what I thought I needed for my life without making any real effort to understand the Buddha nature that already existed in my heart. I had become comfortable in believing that the suffering and negativity I experienced were caused externally and were therefore beyond my control. related article The Meaning of Work In this excerpt from "Discussions on Youth", SGI President Daisaku Ikeda discusses the meaning of work from a Buddhist perspective.
I summoned up the courage to challenge my own negative tendencies. I stopped concentrating on the things I had not achieved and chose to acknowledge and embrace the things I had achieved, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. I came to realize that the greatest benefit I have is my life and I began to feel grateful for everything I have and for each and every challenge I have faced.
I determined that I would no longer hold my life back through fear and insecurity. After this, things began to move very quickly.
A college offered me a one-year, part-time teaching post lecturing on a new dance course. Since then, I have created three dance pieces, which have been performed in the north of England, and a fourth for a children's theater company is currently on a tour of the UK. Each day presents me with further opportunities to develop my abilities as a choreographer whilst enabling the people I work with to fulfill the great potential they have in their lives.
I have remembered how to smile, laugh and embrace my life and the lives of others, and in doing so I am encouraging and inspiring others to do the same.
The change that began in my heart continues to transform the world around me.
[Courtesy July 2014 SGI Quarterly]
With Appreciation Comes Happiness
by Leonides Arpon, USA
Creating a World Where All Belong
by Sinéad Lynch, Ireland
by Nitin Upadhye, India
Embracing the Cycle of Life
by Gwen Harris, USA
The Deepest Loss
by Aiko Matsumura, Japan