The Hidden Why – podcast interview

leigh-muzzi
Leigh Martinuzzi, podcaster

A big thank you to life coach and podcaster Leigh Martinuzzi who recently promoted my book to his global audience and then interviewed me about Buddhism and personal development. I loved his warm approach to our dialogue and the searching questions he asked. Leigh is all about inspiring people to live with peace, passion and purpose, so it was an honour to take part in his latest podcast on his website, The Hidden Why.

It was meant to be a one-hour chat, but it lasted a little longer – nearly 90 minutes… Take a listen here, and if you don’t have time for the whole show, here’s a guide to the topics we discussed, with approximate timecodes:

00:00 to 19:00

Leigh gets a quick overview of my career, how I met coaching and how it is similar to Buddhism. Why too many of us live ‘on a hamster wheel’, lacking a true purpose in life. Also a big mention here of The Winning Edge, my all-time favourite personal development programme.

19:00 – 40:00

Lots here for budding authors on how to overcome self-doubt, motivate yourself, keep going to the end and find a publisher. Chanting daimoku to raise your self-esteem. And some tip-top advice from my fellow Buddhist, the actor Duncan Pow.

40:00 – 45:00

Leigh asks me who my book is for and how it’s different from other self-help & Buddhist books. We talk about a culture of enlightenment replacing a culture of entitlement to transform the spirit of the age.

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45:0053:00

Inspired by a quote from Daisaku Ikeda, Leigh and I explore different types of intelligence – intellectual (IQ), emotional (EQ) and spiritual (SQ) and why SQ is the key to world peace and to feeling one-ness with our fellow human beings.

54:00 – 70:00

A big section on Nam Myoho Renge Kyo – including some chanting and an explanation of how it works. Also actual proof, how Buddhism goes deeper and wider than personal development and why I admire Nichiren for being a rebel and revolutionary who was ahead of his time and who loved humanity. Mentions of SGI discussion meetings and of how precious life is.

70:00 – 90:00

A mixture of topics including my favourite non-Buddhist personal development books, another quote from Daisaku Ikeda, living with passion & purpose, the power of coaching and believing you’re a Buddha.

Enjoy,

Dx

A talk on the Wild side… with Hollywood actress & SGI Buddhist Cathryn de Prume

Wild H&S
(pic: Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images)

I recently spoke to Hollywood actress and SGI member Cathryn de Prume about her Buddhist practice and her career. She generously made time to do a Skype interview in between red carpet appearances promoting the launch of her new Oscar-nominated film Wild, where she appears opposite Reese Witherspoon. An SGI district leader in Los Angeles, Cathryn has been chanting for 30 years. She had her first big professional break in a role with Jodie Foster in Five Corners in 1987. But perhaps the biggest achievement of her life is introducing more than 100 people to Buddhism, including her Mum, Dad and two brothers! My thanks to all the readers who suggested questions for this interview and to Cathryn for her warm, wise and uplifting words.

 

Were you always religious?

CdeP: I was spiritual from a very young age, I would go to church on my own aged 7. And as a teenager I became a born-again Christian. After that I explored meditation. Then I was taught how to chant by a waiter in a restaurant where I worked. At first I found some of the Buddhists a bit weird 🙂 and I had a very strict leader in the early days of my practice, but I soon realised that SGI is an inspirational movement that provides an amazing support system.

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Why don’t Buddhists believe in God? (or do they…)

The easy answer to this question is that in Buddhism the concept of God simply does not appear at all. After all, the historical Buddha, Siddharta Gautama, was born 500 years before Jesus. So if you had asked him, “does God exist?” he would probably have said, “Who?” But for people brought up in Judaeo-Christian cultures over the last few decades, it is a valid question. It is one that I grappled with myself 30 years ago, on my journey towards Nichiren Buddhism and away from my devout Catholic upbringing.

God

At first sight, the two philosophies seemed poles apart. ‘God’ was ‘somewhere out there’ whereas Buddhahood was in me. Christian prayer was about asking for salvation from an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent Father. Whereas Buddhist chanting was about deciding and determining to be happy, all by yourself. Christianity had taught me that man was essentially flawed and needed forgiving, whereas Buddhism promised that we are essentially brilliant and just needed polishing (lots of polishing, as it turns out…). This all led to some overly spiky debates with sincere Christians.

With my superficial understanding of Nichiren’s teachings, Buddhism probably appealed to a more selfish and self-centred part of me. Especially as there were no concepts of sin, of guilt, or of what I saw as stifling obedience to an external power. Instead Buddhism seemed to promise freedom, individuality and self-expression.

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Winter always turns to spring – Buddhism and determination

What is the fundamental purpose of winning in our lives? Of course it is partly to achieve our own goals, overcome our limitations and become happier. But I feel that the biggest impact when we win is that we encourage others who are struggling. If we win today in our lives, if we defeat our darkness, our lesser self and our illusions, then people on the verge of victory will have a final breakthrough, people who are fighting will keep going, people who have given up will find the strength to start again and people who have never fought will discover the spark of hope. This is what happens when the Buddha in Me meets the Buddha in You.

Steve Williams OBE, determined...
Steve Williams OBE, Mr. Determination…

Of course personal development books are full of wonderful examples of determined people who never  gave up. For example, Thomas Edison’s 10,000 attempts to create a light bulb and James Dyson’s 5,127 failures before his bagless vacuum cleaner worked. And I was inspired to hear a speech by former Team GB rower Steve Williams OBE, winner of two Olympic gold medals, who quoted the words of his coach Jurgen Grobler before the Athens 2004 final: “It will get so dark and hurt so much that you will cry out for your mother and your father, but you will win on the last stroke.” (And they did, by 0.08 of a second.) I love this image and often quote these words to my clients when they feel like giving up on their goals. And when I have a setback or failure myself, the first question I ask when I look in the mirror is: “How badly did you really really want it?”

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The Secret and the Law of Attraction – good stuff but Buddhism says they’re only half the story…

A few years ago, several delegates on the personal development training courses I deliver started asking me if I had heard of the Law of Attraction.

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Many of them had read Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret or Joe Vitale’s The Key which teach that “your thoughts and your feelings create your life” and more significantly that the events (good and bad) that we attract into our lives reflect our inner reality. There was a real buzz around the LOA – it was a new way of looking at life, happiness and suffering. Or was it?

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The Buddha in the bedroom – 10 ways to create a great loving relationship

[Takes 7 mins to read]

With Valentine’s Day celebrated on 14 Feb in many countries across the world, here’s a Buddhist perspective on Love. Firstly, Nichiren Daishonin did not set any moral rules about anything in life so there are no ‘do’s and don’ts’ at all about things like sex before marriage, contraception, fidelity, sexual orientation or divorce.

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Perhaps the other big difference from the traditional romantic Western view is that real Love in Buddhism is not about walking ‘into the sunset’ with ‘The Man/Woman’ of your dreams; even though a whole advertising industry has developed over decades to make us believe that meeting ‘The One’ is the answer to all our problems.

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A beginner’s guide to choosing your religion

What makes a teaching powerful? And what holds people back from making progress in their lives? I think the most powerful teachings are the ones that cause real paradigm shifts within individuals and society. The ones that shatter our illusions, bulldoze our comfort zones and remove our subconscious excuses for being unhappy. Poems like The Invitation, books like The Alchemist, The Key and Loving What Is. Buddhist teachings such as the Lotus Sutra. I am sure you can think of many others as well. 5

By illusions I mean ‘beliefs that you think will make you happy’: things like: the familiar witty comfort of the cynic. The coping strategy that gets you through another day. Delicious but destructive addictions. Hiding away under the comfortable duvet of failure, instead of getting up and being all you can be. The belief that it is your wife or husband’s job to make you happy. Playing the angry victim. Bitching about other people (just for the temporary ‘sugar high’ it gives you.) Let’s face it, we’ve probably all done most of these things at one time or another, it’s part of being human after all.

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7 ways to make the most of your problems – Buddha style

John Delnevo cropped

22 years ago when I first went to a senior Buddhist to ask for advice, I said to him: “I have a very big problem,” and he, the late John Delnevo of SGI UK (pictured), replied with a broad smile and a twinkle in his eye: “Congratulations.” I thought he must have misheard me so I repeated that I really was struggling with something (can’t remember what but it would’ve felt massive at the time – money / job / girlfriend / studies… or possibly all four…)

Again he smiled broadly and said, “that’s great news, well done!” Seeing my perplexed face, he made seven points over the next hour’s conversation that have stayed with me ever since:

  1. Happiness is not the absence of problems
  2. Problems are a fact of life “suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy” – this is what Nichiren Daishonin taught
  3. The problem is never the problem, it’s the life state from which you approach the problem that’s the problem
  4. The lotus flower of enlightenment only grows in the muddy pond of daily life – your challenge is a sign that your life is asking to grow. So, are you going to say Yes or No?
  5. You’ve made the cause / karma for this situation (otherwise it couldn’t happen), so therefore you (and only you) have the power to change it. (This is the principle of personal responsibility behind the name ‘Thanking the Spoon’)
  6. Any problem is a gift in disguise – it might be very heavily disguised sometimes, but it’s a gift all the same
  7. When you change for the better, the world around you does too, as surely as a shadow follows a body, that’s how, one by one, we create world peace.

‘John D’, as we called him, was an incredibly wise, strict and compassionate man and it is hard in a list of 7 points to convey the warm encouragement that always shone from his life, earning the trust of people all around him. In fact it has taken me 21 years to really understand with my whole life what he said to me on that day in 1991. And some days I still forget.

The advice he gave was born of his own heartfelt personal struggles or ‘human revolution’ as we say in Buddhism, he lived what he taught, it was never about theory with John D.  And looking back I realise he treated me with the deepest appreciation, seeing past my whingeing self-centredness and talking to the person I might one day become.  I believe this is the mark of a great mentor.

So, as this wise man repeated at the end of our little chat: “You have a problem? Congratulations…”

Davidx

PS.  When I began writing this post, I didn’t intend it to become a tribute to John Delnevo, it was just going to be a list of 7 hopefully helpful points. Now I realise that it is the profound human connection that counted even more than what he actually said.   ‘John D’, you rocked. Still in my daimoku. Thank you.

How to create a truly amazing Life

I want to share with you some encouragement from Daisaku Ikeda that I first read half a lifetime ago, when I began to practise Buddhism. It was written for University students. It is about having a strong sense of purpose, battling against adversity and creating value for yourself and society. I love this article because it encourages us to dream big (“follow the rainbow in your heart”) and yet it is in no way “pink and fluffy”, in fact it is very strict, warning against indolence, indulgence and cowardice. Image

I have re-read it dozens of times since 1985 and it has kept me on a path that produces ever greater happiness in my life.

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Only the headwinds make you stronger….

This is a post about gratitude and determination, two massive themes in Nichiren Buddhism. I am currently trying to lose weight (or ‘gain slimness’ as we say in life coaching 🙂 ) and recently went out cycling around a lake in the Leicestershire countryside near my home. After 20 minutes I found myself on a really steep hill huffing and puffing against a cold strong headwind and wishing it was easier and that my legs would stop hurting. 🙁  Image

Then I saw a man walking towards me (someone I had never seen before) and he just smiled warmly and said: “Keep going mate!” Usually the people I come across on this bike route only say ‘hello’ (if they say anything at all…) so this was a lovely surprise and made me reflect on the kindness of strangers who encourage us but expect nothing in return. Continue reading “Only the headwinds make you stronger….”