Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bodhisattva of Infertility

Well, I'm back from the Women's Group Conference. It was it amazing. I'm still trying to process it all. I heard so many incredible experiences, I was often in tears or just plain speechless. After all my efforts at trying to conceive, after all the millions of daimoku, creative visualizations, blah, blah, blah, my faith was really shaken, I could use a little guidance. After all, why were my prayers not answered as I was promised? I was looking for a way to revitalize my spirit. The bus ride from the airport to the centre accentuated my feelings of frustration. Most of the conversations I overheard revolved around the women's children. I didn't have anything to add so I stared out the window and prayed the rest of the weekend's topics didn't include how to be a better mom.

It all took place at Caledon, it's like a Buddhist retreat, but it's also available for the public when it's not being used by SGI members. The 4 days are filled with chanting, lectures about Buddhist writings, planetary citizenship, experiences, entertainment, great food and of course endless chatting with women from all over Canada. I organized a forum theatre presentation based on the SGI-USA youth Victory over Violence program.

All the women had to carve time from their busy lives and families to attend this year's conference. Even though I, like the other Western region members, suffered from jet lag, I still stayed up late talking with my roommate, sharing my troubles and exchanging encouragement.

I heard an experience from a petite, musically gifted woman who overcame uterine fibroid cancer. I can't tell her whole experience but she told us how full of gratitude she was for her fellow members who chanted nonstop for her recovery. Another woman related how fellow members who through deep compassion for her, she decided that she owed it to them to fight for her own life. One woman shared shared how her chronic illness lead to to contribute to a new protocol for a metropolitan hospital patient program. Late night conversations continued into the night over cookies and coffee or in the dorm rooms in our pajamas.

I told my roommate, whom I had known while I was in the Young Women's Group a few years ago, my tale of infertility woe. She, like many of other young women I had shared so many good times, had gone on to marriage and children. The last time I had spent any time with her I had brought her first son a stuffed toy. She was so kind to me, so caring.

Senior leaders gave guidance to those who wanted it in private rooms. Now these leaders are women who have practiced for many, many years and they never tell you what to do. It's primarily guidance, inspiration and encouragement based on the writings of our mentor, Pres. Ikeda or the gosho (writings/letters from Nichiren Daishonin). What was my guidance?

I was encouraged to realize that my mission just may be to comfort those who have suffered through what I have. To find value in this mission. I can still be a mother, it just may not be in the way I expected. I may have had lots of children in another lifetime (who cares, what about this lifetime). I was encouraged to change my attitude to one of appreciation about what I do have. There was more, but basically, that was the message.

Definition of a Bodhisattva

After the rise of Mahayana, bodhisattva came to mean anyone who aspires to enlightenment and carries out altruistic practice. Mahayana practitioners used it to refer to themselves, thus expressing the conviction that they would one day attain Buddhahood. In contrast with the Hinayana ideal embodied by the voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones who direct their efforts solely toward personal salvation, Mahayana sets forth the ideal of the bodhisattva who seeks enlightenment both for self and others, even postponing one's entry into nirvana in order to lead others to that goal. The predominant characteristic of a bodhisattva is therefore compassion.

So that makes me a Bodhisattva of Infertility? Well, if that's the case,there are many bodhisattvas of infertility out there. (I'm thinking of Pamela Jeanne in particular.) In attempting to discover our own enlightenment and share it with others, we are bodhisattvas of the earth.

I also received guidance through another friend. She told me that I seem to be always
talking about walls, how every way I seem to be blocked in my life, how much I analyzed and agonized about what to do and how I should do it. My roommate chimed in she remembered something that Pres. Ikeda once wrote. If the path before me is blocked, then fly. Tears flooded my eyes. I've been so scared of not being able to control things that cannot be controlled. What if we can't get the money? What if we invite more heartache and disaster into our lives by adopting? And now I could understand that all that worrying, fretting, trying to intellectualize my way out of my hell just resulted in depression and helplessness.

If the path before me is blocked, then fly. I know what this means for me. What does it mean to you?


Wordgirl said...

I really appreciate the Buddhist perspective here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

There was an amazing experience in The World Tribune in 2006 about a woman who finally had a child when she was fifty. If you have trouble getting a hold of a copy, write to the experiences editor of the paper.
Good luck!

Shinejil said...

This post was really beautiful, and very comforting to me. Thank you so much, Madame Deathstar, for sharing your wisdom and compassion.

Jenna said...

This really inspired me. We've been trying off and on for six years to get pregnant with no success.
I keep putting off going to an actual fertility clinic and telling others we can't do it because we don't want to shell out the money (and secretly I think I'm trying to spare myself more heartache if fertility meds don't work).
I think I just need to break down those walls and start really trying for a child instead of willy nilly trying.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the post. Buddhism in general is helping me to get through this "wall" in my life, but it is so nice to read about how Buddhism has helped another woman with this specific issue. Some infertility blogs are so out of control, and that takes to to a place I am trying not to go. I wish you well, and I will revisit your blog again to see if you have any updates. I know dharma will help me a lot in the end, but I am still fragile at the moment...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I, too, have been trying to conceive and have been very discouraged. I'm in my 40s and I worry I waited too long. Now we're trying IVF for the second time. Worst of all, my job is not supportive of what I'm trying to do so I'm planning on changing offices before I quit altogether. I already practice Buddhism and have been searching for relief during this process. I see my road as blocked and will try to fly, but just have not yet figured out how. I'm lucky to have a supportive husband and a very healthy and fit body. Now, I just need to find hope, faith and the path.

Jean Candy said...

Iam 30 & been trying to concieve for a year, my biggest problem is me & my husband has been yearning for a dragon-son (to be born on 2012). We've had this wish for almost 5 years. But i didnt expect im different from other people who could get pregnant just 2 months after marriage, i am so frustated & depressed i keeps crying in front of buddha statue.