Monday, December 14, 2009

An Experience I gave

This is the English language version of an experience I gave at the December 12, 2009, Spanish Language meeting for the Redwood Coast Soka Gakkai Region:

Opening my heart for Kosen Rufu

Good morning! My name is Pierrette Mimi Poinsett. I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for 21 yrs. I am a WD group leader in East Petaluma District. I am a pediatrician by training, a developing writer of poetry, prose and satire. I am also a single mom of a 12 yo son named Joshua.

For many years, one of my most favorite gosho quotes has been:

More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all. From the time you read this letter on, strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart! (WND-1, 851). Over the last year I have learned to live this Gosho quote.

In November, 2008, I attended the year end district meeting for Valley of the Moon District. We had an activity to create flags with our determinations. I selected two phrases; Love works and Open your heart.

My situation at that time was critical. My son and I had moved from Modesto to Petaluma in early 2006 after I had closed my failing pediatric solo practice. By February 2006 my son had his first psychotic break and first hospitalization for bipolar disorder, Tourette’s disorder and Absence Seizures. I was forced to resign from the job I had moved for. My Modesto home took 11 months to sell. By October 2008 I had to short sale a townhouse I had purchased in Petaluma.

By November 2008, we had been homeless for 6 weeks, finally moving into a rental townhome complex called Lakeville Resorts- the most unsafe part of Petaluma. After a series of many part time jobs in Petaluma- I had my last employment in medicine in May 2008. Desperate I took a job working as a part time Barista for Peet’s Coffee and Tea and collected partial unemployment. After a year of paperwork, I had been awarded child support from my son’s father- however he was not paying any ordered child support. My son had broken my nose in September 08- by that time having 5 psychiatric inpatient hospitalizations and was transferred to a non public school. My relationships with members and leaders in my district and chapter were difficult- I seemed to always be in some form of conflict.

With all these challenges, I resolved to show victory in my life. I was determined to expand my life and to elevate my life condition. I was determined to readily face my fundamental darkness and turn poison into medicine. I chose to meet these challenges by deepening my understanding of the oneness of mentor and disciple. I determined to daily read encouragement by President Ikeda and study the Gosho (letters written by Nichiren Daishonin to his followers). I made sure to read the newspapers and magazines as soon I received them in the mail.

I first turned to a passage from the Gosho-

Nevertheless, even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching (WND-1, 3)

Over and over, I was reminded by trusted friends and leaders in the practice, to seek the Gohonzon in myself. To actualize that my life was Myoho-renge-kyo, to have total appreciation for my life and to be ready to stand up and break through my obstacles.

I also chanted daily to not begrudge or disparage my life, my son’s life or my son’s father’s life.

With this determination, I began to see some improvement in my son. He stabilized and excelled academically in a non –public school. We were able to access 6 months of in home theraputic behavioral services, he continued to participate actively in Boys and Girls club. He even attended a few youth division activities, although he refused adamantly to chant. Our relationship at home continued to be erratic- rare moments of peace with Josh becoming increasingly defiant, being verbally abusive and episodes of violence, destroying my things and threatening to destroy my Gohonzon. I had to find times to chant when he was either asleep or away from the house as he did his best to distract me.

Money continued to be scarce. By July 09, I was fully unemployed. I had to go to food banks, borrow money from my parents as the court ordered child support continued to not come. Often we faced eviction from our townhouse. However we managed to stay in the same complex. This fall our complex was sold to a new owner- new name Enclave at Adobe Creek. Many significant improvements in the physical plant have been made. Our community is safer. We have quieter neighbors.

After many court continuances, I finally met my son’s father in court in August 09. I had not seen him in 7 yrs. I was astounded, I felt no anger towards him, no fear. I was neutral. I felt closure in our relationship after 13 yrs. At the end of August- the CA dept of child support seized his tax return and we were able to obtain 9 months of overdue child support. This made it possible to cover our expenses for three months, repair my car and pay off some bills.

Another amazing thing happened. The day after court, I received a phone call from Jose. Two years ago we had dated briefly but broke up due to his telling me he didn’t want a relationship and that my son had too many problems. I continued to send him e-mails letting him know how Josh and I were doing, we saw each other rarely at the community center barely saying hello. But I had chanted for Jose for 2 yrs since our break up. I found out later that he had been chanting for Josh and me for 2 yrs. We both had changed.

Jose asked me to come back to him. We agreed to try our relationship a day at a time. The difference this time is that we put the Gohonzon first, chanting Daimoku and doing gongyo together.

Jose’s support became priceless. I had be warned by several of Josh’s psychiatrists, his county mental health case manager I could not control my son’s violence and out of control behavior. Friends and family implored me to place my son in residential treatment. I was stubborn in thinking that only I could be his primary caregiver, that I needed to remain his Amazon Advocate. The consequences were giving up my medical career, being a hostage in my home and increasingly depressed. I continued to sustain many bruises, sprained wrists and hands. This was despite chanting abundant Daimoku- I was becoming more overwhelmed, exhausted and losing hope about my situation changing.

I deserved to be treated with respect, that no mother should be hit by her son, that I didn’t need to be fearful in my own home. He would chant with me, cook me special meals and tell me stories from his childhood about the loving relationship he had with his parents. He also shared many funny stories helping me to laugh down to my toes. I felt secure and safe with Jose.

It took many incidents with my son from August to the morning of November 16th, when Josh attacked me with a Tennis racquet, many karate kicks to my abdomen. He was having his usual temper tantrum about refusing to take his morning medication before going to school. He was due to go to an evening intake meeting with Probation for a misdemeanor assault case from attacking a child at our complex. He never made it to school or the probation meeting, because I was able to stand up to him. I called the police. Josh was arrested and taken to Juvenile Hall. The police who came out were kind, disciplined and expert in community policing. I felt he was safe being taken into custody. He has been in Juvenile Hall for 4 weeks. His case is pending as psychological and psychiatric reports are ongoing. He has a great public defender. I feel confidence in the District Attorney on the case. So Josh has been deemed unsafe to come home- he is likely to be placed in some form of residential treatment.

For the first time in 4 yrs, I have not been afraid to go to sleep at night. I don’t have to lock my bedroom door or leave the lights on to protect myself from my son. I am feel confident that my son is getting the services he needs and will have the best placement possible. He has so many Shoten Zenjin- protective functions in the many people involved with his juvenile case, mental health program and school district.

I feel confident resuming my writing and medical careers. I now see my obstacles as a means to deepen my faith, develop more compassion and empathy with others. My relationships with members and leaders in my district and chapter are now warm and friendly. I feel at home for the first time in my local SGI organization.

I am determined to continue my human revolution with Gongyo and abundant Daimoku. I look forward to my developing relationship with Jose. I have found my soulmate and Kosen Rufu partner.

These words from Guidances for Celebrating Spiritual Independence by Daisaku Ikeda continue to encourage me:

“When you yourself stand with deep and invincible faith, you will be able to overcome everything, no matter what situation you find yourself in. You can be victorious in all things when you change , grow and take on responsibility. Everything boils down to you yourself.”

“To possess both wisdom and compassion is the heart of our human revolution. If you have wisdom alone and lack compassion, it will be a cold, perverse kind of wisdom. If you have compassion alone and lack wisdom, you won’t be able to save others. You are even likely to lead them in the wrong direction. You will also be unable to achieve your own happiness.”


lactmama said...

thank you, Mimi. This puts your story all together. And thanks for putting into words some things that I feel such as treasures of the heart.
Sending you good energies and love, Evi

maya | springtree road said...

i can only imagine the stress you've been through these last 4 years. and i feel for your son as well. wishing you the best as your journey shifts yet again.

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Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely admire the way u never lost hope even in the worst of times. I got a lot of inspiration from you. Thanx for sharing ur experiences with us. I too chant nam myoho renge kyo daily. From now on I will do so with more faith and belief