How to change your life

How to change your life November 8, 2017

After the cut 061212I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve changed over the past twenty years.

In some ways, I’m the same old person. I still love to read and write, and have a connection with cats. I still hate exercise. My hair is still (mostly) the same colour. I have the same laugh.

In other ways, I’m completely transformed. I was an atheist and I’m now a Buddhist priest – the photo is of when I first shaved off my long hair, just before ordination. During those twenty years I trained as a psychotherapist and I wrote 7 books. I bought two houses and lived in countless others. I left an 11 year relationship and then got married. I moved in to run a temple.

Today, I live my life from an almost completely different set of principles. I used to want fame and money and praise – and I often still want those things, but at least now I know that they won’t bring me happiness. These days I am more relaxed, less codependent, more humble (except when I’m not!), wiser, less needy and more full of faith. Am I more happy? I think I am. And I’m still transforming all the time.

How did these dramatic changes come about?

Well, I’d like to take all the credit. I’ve been in and out of therapy over the years – in fact I’m starting some work with a new one next week. I’ve spent years in 12 step programmes. I have read hundreds, maybe thousands of books. I have done countless hours of Buddhist practice. I have learnt from many teachers, Buddhist and otherwise, including a precious transmission from Dharmavidya, the head of our Order.

But how can I take the credit, when this list is completely comprised of what I’ve received from others? How much of other people’s love and wisdom I’ve absorbed over the years! I have received so much that I couldn’t even begin to express it to you. From my parents to the purring cat at my feet right now, I’ve had helping hands around me every step of the way.

I did play my part in this process. I went, trembling, to my first 12 step meeting. I turned up at the dreaded therapy session. I listened to the feedback I didn’t want to hear, and studied, and paid money to go on courses, and learnt from different workplaces, and tried really hard to improve.

The more I think about it, though, I’m not sure how much of any of this I can take credit for. My conditions made it possible for me to have the life I’ve had, and to make the choices I’ve made. Who started the 12 step movement? Not me. Who wrote the books, built the University, made the money to buy this temple, invented this computer, painted our shrine room, gave the teachings that I pass on in my Dharma talks? Not me.

“The light will works its own good work
if only we will trust it…”

from Tai Shih Chi’s prayer in the Amida Shu Nien Fo book

In my experience, the more I trust the Buddha, and allow myself to be led by the golden light, the more effectively he is able to change me.

The Buddha knows what changes to make next, and at what speed those changes need to happen. He knows better than I do. There’s no point in blasting an unripe plum with intense light and heat – it will ripen in the sun, in its own time.

What we can do is turn our faces towards the light, like flowers.This is what I do whenever I say the nembutsu. What we can do is put in the legwork – by asked trusted people what we should do, and then doing it. Beyond that, our fate is in the laps of the Buddhas. Maybe we’ll manifest a published book or children or a business or a beautiful garden. Maybe we won’t. It’s all okay, because we can trust the light.

What miracles happen. Open your mind, and you will see them.




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