Breaking Beyond My Shell to Give Love
Hi, my name is Toni and I live in Kauai. Coming here and studying the Eightfold Path at the International Retreat 2010 in Nikko Shoja, I have made revelations on my life that I could not figure out on my own even though I was already practicing it and meditating daily.
Not Knowing Spirituality
I grew up as a Catholic and attended a Catholic school through the eighth grade.
When I got to high school, I began to think that I had really conservative, boring parents so I aspired to do everything the opposite.
As a child, I was always very artsy and a bit eccentric inside. Feeling a little odd is a lot to take as a kid. I became angry and defensive. My dad could not talk with me; he would say something and I would think he was criticizing. I also always thought that I was picked on by my mom. I was angry in high school and although I was a cheerleader and popular, I was not happy.
My unhappiness and anger continued into college. Never having heard of spirituality, I tried to expand my consciousness in other ways – the fast way, instead of through meditation, which is the slow way that actually lasts.
When I was 22, I experienced depression that lasted for about 9 months. I could see a “black cloud” come and land on my head. I would take my blanket and go into the bathroom and cry every night. The feeling was that of having no control. I did not know who to ask or what to do about it.
Hitting a Plateau in My Search for Truth
Unhappy with my physical and mental health, I decided to clean up my diet, stop partying, and try to purify myself. I began seeking the Truth, exploring Hinduism and studying Ananda Yoga. I stayed at an Ashram in California for two six-month periods, and learned about positive thinking, affirmations and clearing my mind. I followed these teachings that helped me immensely. However, my spirituality hit a plateau after a few years.
I discovered about Happy Science in February 2010 through the film and book, The Rebirth of Buddha. Since then, I can’t seem to read enough of Ryuho Okawa’s books. I now realize that I had hit a stand-still because I was missing the aspect of self-reflection. Now that I have found it, it has opened a whole new door for me.
Sudden Realizations at the Retreat
From the very first day of the retreat, I started realizing patterns in myself right away. The shell that I had formed within me developed from the mean kids whom I went to school with. Previously, I always blamed my parents for not being as affectionate as I wanted them to be. However, in answering the questions about our family background as part of the self-reflection, “How were their relationship?” Great, fine. “Anything wrong?” No, nothing.
I realized that all the way through the eighth grade, I had gone home crying every day because I was picked on by the kids at school. During this retreat, we saw a testimonial by a woman with Dermatitis* I had that and I got teased for it.
* A skin condition resulting from irritation of the skin in which it becomes red, swollen and sore.
Since then, I became very good at living an independent, solitary life. Thanks to those mean kids, I isolated myself in forests and mountains, not interested in being hurt by people any longer. As I had yet to learn about changing from the inside, controlling my physical environment seemed to be the only way I knew. For 12 years, I put myself in a very serene environment, by being Ranger for the Forest Service – working in the wilderness, drinking fresh water and camping under the stars. I maintained a peaceful outside environment. Until a handful of years ago, I liked trees more than people. Now, I know why.
Essentially, I owe my parents an apology because they have been wonderful. The root cause of my shell was being constantly picked on at school. I am grateful to those mean school kids for being my “whetstones” to help shape my soul. From this retreat, I learned that I have an attachment to the idea of a soul mate; the idea that this mysterious person will come into my life, give me all the love I need, and then I will be happy. Through Happy Science I have realized that I do not need to wait for this mystery person to come in – all I have to do is to give love to receive love.
Leading by Examples of Happiness
Ryuho Okawa’s teachings are amazing in how well they work if you actually try them and put into practice. The moment we walked into this Shoja, we were “bombarded” with happiness. The momentum and energy here is incredible. You cannot force somebody to be happy but you can lead by example. I hope to be a good example for others to follow.