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I first encountered this Buddhism through my Greek Language teacher back in early 1994. I became friends with her and her husband and often used to go out drinking with them. They kept mentioning Buddhism and encouraging me to attend neetings but I had no interest at all - I mean, why would I ?
Despite this she insisted on giving me a Buddhist Magazine which I reluctantly took, largely to keep her quiet and promptly put it away in a cupboard.
At the time, I was living in a small town in Lincolnshire and whilst things weren't awful, they weren't particularly great either. I was stuck in the same job as I had been for about 17 years,my 6 year relationship had ended, most of my friends had slowly moved away, leaving my social circle as more or less, well, me!! Gradually, my mood started to dip and I felt like nothing was worth the effort really, I guess it was a mild form of depression that I struggled along with.
Around this time Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana comitted suicide. This really fascinated me despite the fact that I knew little about them. Why would someone who was rich and talented do that ? How low must you feel to be able to actually carry it out? It got me thinking that at least that was an area of life that he had control of and I suddenly understood why people do it. For a while the idea fascinated me and then I heard he had been a Buddhist (I've no idea what type) and it reminded me of the Buddhism my Greek Teacher had mentioned and I dug out the magazine and read it through. It all seemed pretty logical stuff and I think what impressed me was that all you had to do was chant .. no shaving of heads (though that wouldn't have made much difference to me) and no wearing Orange or changing lifestyle, political beliefs etc so I decided to give it a go. I chanted about 3 months on my own before going to meetings, and discovering that I was chanting it wrong !.
A while after attending meetings, the opportunity arose to apply for voluntary redundancy where I worked. Normally, this would have drifted by me, stuck in my own little rut but too scared to move out of it. But the chanting seemed to have done something to me. From almost nowhere a voice told me to go for it and trust myself, that I could do it and the world wouldn't collapse around me. So, even though the redundancies were aimed at the manual workers and not those in the office, my redundancy request was accepted. I was also asked to stay on a couple of extra months to train someone up for my job which gave me more money for my next move.
I finally managed to get out of the small town and headed to the small city - Nottingham, where I have been for the last 11 or so years, getting nice flats and after a few months of chilling out, a job at one of the most popular places in town to work at.
Whilst there, I slowly built up my own business doing web design in my spare time and after 7 years at the same place I took the plunge and left to do it full time. The aim really to have a better life style rather than earning more money.
So I suppose to sum up, for me, chanting brings out the confidence, courage and belief in myself, that I can do pretty much anything if I decide to and continually challenge myself, not giving up before I get started as I used to do.
Have I solved everything ? Hell no, there's still a lot to sort out, finances, relationships etc but instead of in the past resigning myself to a dull mediocrity, I do now believe I can achieve these - If I challenge myself to defeat my lazy negative tendencies - all this for a short period each day of chanting nam myoho renge kyo too - it has to be worth it !