Monday, June 30, 2008

45 Months

Look at our beautiful boy! He has such a presence. Anything that he desires will be his.

I went to a Buddhist meeting in San Francisco that was specifically geared toward men. In our Buddhist organization, the majority of men who practice are much more mature and have been connected to the philosophy for decades. It was a long bus trip from San Diego, late on a Friday night and the meeting was to be held on Saturday, the next day. The trip was hellish, endless bumps and jolts, attempting to sleep in a bus seat, snores all around, and people who I simply don't have any connection with beyond our mutual Buddhist practice.

By the time that we arrived in San Francisco early on Saturday, I wasn't very encouraged by the adventure. I called Xtina and vented a little about my predicament. She encouraged me to go into the meeting with an open heart, really embracing every aspect of the program. I took her words to heart and from the opening act to the last sansho, it seemed like everyone who spoke was saying something extremely important for me to hear.

One young man, Jesse Goins, gave an experience that really connected to the value of being a father. The most interesting part of his experience was his own problems with self-esteem that had to deal with growing up because of his relationship with a domineering father. I immediately related to what he was mentioning and began to feel like he was practically speaking directly to me.

In Buddhism there is a concept devoted to changing our karma, and one of the things that is mentioned is the idea that you can change your family's karma from seven generations in the past to seven generations in the future. For a long time, I've been practicing this form of Buddhism for almost ten years now, I couldn't really understand this idea. How was it possible to change your ancestor's karma? But, as Jesse spoke, I began to see Lucas in my mind and all of the intricate human weavings that resulted in his precious life. I realized that karma isn't this irrefutable omnipotent presence that shapes our every move but it does exist deep within our lives. It's habits, that have been shaped and formed for generations! One of the reasons that I began to practice Nichiren Buddhism with the Soka Gakkai International, is due to the idea that we are in control of our lives. I spent years involved with a philosophy where I gave up all of my power to another being, one that would guide me to happiness and righteousness, but it never happened. I wallowed in doubt and depression until I eventually rejected its tenets. I am the type of person that must be able to deal with life in a conscious way and with a logical perspective.

We have the power to change our own personal karma right now. Our personal traits and habits were developed over hundreds of years, passed down from our ancestors. They didn't simply occur because we felt like being depressed or confident or selfish or hateful. These are things that we learned from our parents who learned from their parents who learned from their parents and so on and so on. It takes tremendous effort to break that cycle and most of us don't even think about whether or not we should break it anyway. But we all have certain traits in our lives that do not provide any value, that hinder us in our relationship with our environment, that destroy our lives from the inside out. The philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism teaches us that we can change those aspects of our nature and turn them into something nurturing and beautiful, that we can break that karmic cycle in this lifetime and once we do just that, our children will also be free of that karma as well.

As a young adult Jesse had two children with two different women and neither relationship ended up working out. He then had two children who lived on the other side of the country and needed to develop some kind of healthy connection to this fundamental karmic link. It wasn't until he chanted on transforming his deep habits and developing true happiness in his own life, that he began to see change in the lives of his children. When they grew older, they didn't have any of the anxiety or anguish that plagued him as a young man. They were confident and gracious individuals, the complete opposite of who he was at that age.

Many times I have expressed my concern regarding Lucas coming of age as a young man in our society. The pitfalls and insecurities are too numerous to detail, but I don't want him to suffer through those crucial adolescent years in the same ways that I did. I already know that I am transforming my karma in this regard tremendously, just discussing it and dealing with it in some constructive manner is an incredible step along the path. It was wonderfully rewarding for me to attend this unlikely meeting hundreds of miles away from my home in order to refresh this aspect of my growth.

At the beginning of the meeting, another young man spoke of challenging ourselves to transform something important in our lives at the moment, that this meeting was a kick-off toward making that happen. As a father, I needed that reminder and that was the reason I attended that meeting in San Francisco. I've been changing so many of my habits this year and have focused a lot of my energy on writing, which has always been my true passion. It's been an absolutely rewarding experience but I also haven't made much of an effort to give up my time for my children, sometimes I neglect my fatherly duties to focus on my passion. I want Lucas and I to have a beautiful relationship and I want him to grow up confident and compassionate so that he may develop his life in his own unique way with unlimited potential. I have to work on my karma in order to make that happen. I hope to look back the way that Jesse has and find that my face is brimming with joy when I look upon my sweet boy, when I see the wonderful man that he's become.

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