Since I set out on this journey, launching this blog and telling more and more people about nam myoho renge kyo, people have often asked me how exactly this chanting practice has impacted upon my life? How does it work? What exactly does it do for you? There is no easy answer to the bigger questions; in fact, my attempts to understand the cosmic mechanisms at play will make up the main focus of this blog. But for now I’d like to answer the first question at least, by telling you the story of the very first change that manifested in my life, and in myself, after I started chanting. There are two threads to this story which will come together, so bear with me…
First, some background. Two years before I came across nam myoho renge kyo, a rift occurred within my family. I won’t name any names or go into any detail about what exactly happened – none of that matters any more or has any bearing on the eventual outcome. All that you need to know is that I, personally, was very angry with one person in particular, let’s call him John. I blamed John for the divisions within the family and the impact this rift had had on all of us. We used to be very close, but I hadn’t seen or spoken to him at all in over a year, and every time I even thought about him a dark feeling of rage and bitterness would rise within me and spoil my whole mood.
Separately to this, over the previous couple of months I had been feeling a bit down. A lot, actually. I hesitate to use the word “depression” as it was relatively mild and I don’t want to compare my experience with the extreme depths of despair suffered by so many people, including some of my own friends and family. Nevertheless, I was indeed feeling pretty bad. As time went on, the smiley face I wore felt more and more alien every day. I couldn’t do much more than collapse on the couch alone after work each day. I avoided chats and phone calls, as I didn’t have the energy for conversation after keeping it together in work all day. I really didn’t have the energy for much at all really, other than staring blankly at the TV or sometimes just the wall.
It is important to note at this point that my depression was in no way related to the John situation. That feud had been ongoing for a couple of years at this stage so it really wasn’t in the forefront of my mind at all. Rather, the glumness I was struggling with, as in all cases of mental health issues, was very much internal.
So now we’re up to mid-December 2012, in Amsterdam, where I had been living for the last couple of years. A very close friend had started hanging out with these Buddhist people and chanting this strange mantra. To be honest, it all sounded a bit weird to me, but I could see that he was happy and confident after coming through some struggles of his own, so I was glad to see that he really seemed to be improving. Despite that, however, I resisted his attempts to encourage me to try this chanting practice, even when I started sinking into my own melancholy. I chose instead to go for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to address my problems. I went for an initial assessment with a therapist, who agreed that CBT could help me, and we scheduled my first session for just after the Christmas holidays. I remember my friend protesting at the time, “Jessicaaa! Don’t waste your money on this therapy nonsense! All you need to do is start chanting, I promise!” But I was adamant that while I was happy that this weird chanting stuff was working for him, I would prefer to take the science-based therapy path, thank you very much.
On the 16th December, a Sunday, I woke up in tears. I couldn’t even tell you why. I just felt so full of inexplicable sorrow and despair. When I wasn’t crying my eyes out, I just lay there staring at the ceiling. A couple of times I tried to get out of bed but my body and soul just felt so heavy, I didn’t have the strength. I would then start crying again. This cycle went on until about 5pm when I finally managed to drag myself all the way to the couch in the next room. I was sad, desperate, full of misery I couldn’t explain or understand, and frustrated that I couldn’t seem to pick myself up and out of this funk.
Finally, I said “fuck it”. What have I got to lose? I’ll try anything to stop feeling this hopeless. So, feeling like a complete idiot, I stared at the blank wall in front of me and started repeating nam myoho renge kyo, nam myoho renge kyo, nam myoho renge kyo… It’s kinda easy to get into the rhythm of it once you start, but still you feel like a bit of a crazy-person saying these incomprehensible words out loud to a blank wall for the first time.
Nevertheless, I kept going for about 20 minutes. And nothing happened. It wasn’t like there was a bolt of lightning from the ceiling and suddenly I found myself smiling. Nope, I still felt pretty shit, although with perhaps a tiny glimmer of hope now that I was actually taking some concrete action – even if I was super-sceptical about this weirdness having any effect at all. That’s part of the beauty of this practice – you don’t have to believe it to give it a go. You can try it and just see if anything happens. Now that I had taken that first step, I decided to trust my friend and keep going for a few days.
Two days later, on 18th December, a Tuesday evening, I had chanted for a little while at home and was just sitting on the couch musing away about nothing in particular. Suddenly this thought drifted across my mind…
“maybe I should visit John while I’m home for Christmas next week”
I noticed the thought happening, and then did a bit of a double take. I tried it again, more consciously this time…
“maybe I should visit John while I’m home for Christmas next week”
Yep, there it was. In this moment, I was actually considering seeing and talking to this person I had been so angry with for so long. There was no reaction to the mere thought of him, like before. The familiar rage and bitterness didn’t rise within me. The anger I had felt towards him was, simply, gone. Dissolved. For the first time, I actually thought that it might be possible to see him, have a calm conversation without letting my emotions get the better of me, and perhaps even find a way to move forward beyond this rift we had been struggling with for so long.
This development was, without exaggeration, miraculous. This shift in my internal attitude came as a complete surprise, especially considering that this feud was not related to my current depression. It wasn’t something I had been thinking about much at all lately, so it wasn’t a conscious decision I made. I simply noticed the thought, noticed my reaction to it (or lack thereof), and was simply blown away by the growing sense of peace I was now starting to recognise within my mind.
The next week, I did visit John, we did have a calm and open conversation, and that did indeed prove to be the first step towards resolving the issues between us and amongst the wider family. There is no doubt in my mind that it was the chanting practice that brought about this profound change in my inner state and enabled this reconciliation.
I kept up the chanting practice, and noticed that, not only was my attitude towards this one person much improved, my whole mood was changing. I felt progressively lighter, happier, the smile on my face became more natural again. When I returned to Amsterdam and attended my first formal session with the CBT therapist, she was clearly surprised to see the bounce in my step and smile on my face when I arrived. I explained what I had done and we talked through how I was now feeling, and she affirmed that my issues seemed to be resolved and there was no need to proceed with further treatment.
That’s how it all started. I first started chanting nam myoho renge kyo in a desperate attempt to lift myself out of the depressive funk I had found myself in. Not only did it wholly succeed in doing this, but it unexpectedly helped me to open my heart and mind to the possibility of repairing my relationship with John, a problem I was obviously unhappy about on a subconscious level at least, even if I wasn’t consciously dwelling on it.
And that was just the beginning…
Since then, it has led to a more mindful and peaceful attitude towards life. Through the energetic mechanisms we will explore in future posts, it has also led to perfect jobs / homes / windfalls landing in my lap at the perfect moment. Most importantly, chanting nam myoho renge kyo leads to happiness. It helps you maintain a subtle but strong undercurrent of joy and tranquillity in your daily life. It strengthens your emotional and spiritual core so that nothing can knock you down. It connects you, with your inner Self, and with something… bigger.
How it works, how it brings such happiness into the lives of those who chant, is somewhat mysterious, beyond the reaches of conventional science and the limited knowledge of our human selves. Sometimes, though, a hint of the bigger picture can be glimpsed in insights and peeks through the door of inner spiritual wisdom to which we all have access. The key to that door is nam myoho renge kyo, and it is those insights and peeks I am attempting to flesh out in this new blogging vocation.
For now though, this story should at least explain to you why I started chant, and why I enthusiastically continue today as a Happy Chanter.
Do you want a bigger dose of delight in your life? Let me assure you that giving into the weirdness and doing this crazy-person chant was the best thing I ever did for myself, and I am nothing but #grateful that this practice found its way into my life. No matter how awful or awesome your life is right now, you can raise yourself up even higher and achieve, well, anything. Why not go ahead and check out the About NMRK pages and start chanting nam myoho renge kyo today. It’s at least worth a try… right?