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I felt no hunger, I couldn't sleep, I stopped laughing; I couldn't find any sense in anything I did, in my work, in words, in life. My mind was chained in an infinite series of negative thoughts in which everything lost its usual dimensions and happiness seemed like a mirage, completely unobtainable.
In the first three years of university I had thrown myself into life and work, enjoying everything. Was it possible that this was also me? I had fallen sick with a disease I had never experienced before, an illness of life which I did not know how to fight, known as depression.
At that time, I got in touch with my close friend Daniela. Several months before she had told me about her Buddhist practice, so I asked her, "Are you still doing that thing? If so, I'll come with you to a meeting." That was 2000, and the start of a big change for me.
In the past seven years, thanks to my regular activities in the "SGI gym," first in Italy and now Serbia, I have learned to look inside myself and see that every person needs to be understood and respected as a unique "universe"; that every one of us is a Buddha. I know that through my Buddhist practice I can embrace everyone, even people who are far away, as what matters most is the sincerity of our heart and mind. I also learned that everything in our lives can be used in a positive way. It all depends on us.
Recently, depression knocked at my door again. This time I was completely shocked, asking, "Am I right back where I was seven years ago? What's going on? This isn't possible, after all my sincere efforts for others!" However, I was then able to understand that obstacles will always face us just at the moment when we are making great progress and that our weakest points are naturally where we are most vulnerable. The negative aspects of our lives will lead us to the deluded belief that reality is only as we perceive it in such moments; small, vile and meaningless. But it is not like that. In those dark moments, when everything seems useless, it is good to remember that these thoughts and perceptions are nothing but illusions of the mind. related article Changing Poison into Medicine by Carmen Díaz Prensa Facing serious illness and partial sight loss, Carmen Díaz Prensa decided not to be defeated by her suffering and transform her situation into something positive. She returned to work and now has increased appreciation for life.
This time I was quicker to recover: I wanted to win over this, and win right now. I made efforts to help others, and sought advice and support in my faith; suddenly I understood the deeper meaning of this--that I can use it to encourage other people in the same situation. And then came the realization that, in the Buddhist scheme of things, the state of Buddhahood also exists within the world of hell, at the same time. The important thing is to be able to remember this at the crucial moment and not give up.
Now when I am suffering, the first thing I do is search out my fellow Buddhists, so we can practice together. For someone like me, who found it very difficult to say what I felt, this has been an extraordinary change. I had always felt that to look for help from others was the equivalent of capitulation, and to admit that I was feeling bad was a defeat. To be able to share both joy and suffering with others is today a great victory.
I feel deep gratitude to all those who have encouraged me, and I would like to offer a fresh breath of hope to all those who have given up, as I had before. I am determined to build a harmonious family and experience happiness in any circumstances. I feel fortunate to live in this wonderful country of Serbia together with my husband and son, and to be part of the small group of SGI members here.
[Adapted from SGI Quarterly, October 2007]
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