Ignore what you might read on Wikipedia or IMDB, my fellow SGI member Sabra Williams is much more than an actress and TV presenter. I first met her on a Buddhist summer course in the UK nearly 30 years ago, when she was an energetic and focused Lilac (Byakuren) Chief inspiring half a dozen other young women to care for 200 SGI members on the course. I knew that since then she’d swapped London for Hollywood, finding her professional feet with The Actors Gang, a theatre company run by Tim Robbins (of Shawshank Redemption fame). So, why the move from London to LA? “We were too comfortable,” says Sabra, referring to herself and husband Yogi, “We wanted to shake our lives up, so we sold everything and jumped on a plane!” That’s the first answer I wasn’t expecting…
So much wisdom pours from Sabra’s lips that it’s hard to know where to start. So let’s rewind to the beginning of her own Buddhist practice in 1985. “I was a crazy off the rails teenager from Notting Hill Gate, London. I felt so frustrated that I often wanted to put my fist through a wall. And although I was a talented dancer, I was doing too much cocaine. Two of my dance teachers introduced me to Buddhism. They told me I had bags of potential but would waste all of it if I carried on the same way. They just said ‘chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo‘. To be honest I thought they were taking the piss. But then I thought, what the heck, it’s free and I’ve got nothing to lose, why not give it a go?! And the first time I chanted, everything fell into place, it all just fitted. And I’ve never missed Gongyo since, not even when I was in labour!”
Five years ago, I decided to chant about the fact that I’ve always tended to wake up in a grumpy, grouchy mood. It was a fairly casual decision born of curiosity and no little guilt that my ‘low life-state’ often had a negative impact on people around me.
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.
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.
I was coaching a company director recently who was struggling to get the best from his team. In conversation he revealed that he was worried about appearing ‘too successful’, adding that there was a “very fine line between confidence and arrogance.”
But Buddhism explains that they come from completely different places. Confident leaders want other people to reveal their talents and ultimately outperform them, whereas arrogant leaders need others to continuously feel ‘inferior’ so that they can protect their own low self-esteem (fragile ego) and hide their own deep anxiety.
Consider this scenario: John and Jane are both on the same personal development course. They’re both buying into all the good stuff that says that they could fulfill more of their potential, that they deserve success, that nobody can make them feel mad, bad or sad, that limiting beliefs sometimes hold them back, that they could set more exciting goals, that some powerful affirmations could boost their self-esteem… in short that they are pretty darned amazing.
At the end, does John turn to Jane and say: “You are truly amazing?” Unlikely. He’s too busy saying affirmations into the mirror such as: “I amtruly marvellous.” (And good for him, because it’s true.) Of course Jane is just as amazing, in her own unique Jane-like way; why wouldn’t she be? But John would make a more valuable contribution to society if he realised it. And vice-versa.
Someone asked me recently if I had a simple formula for success that was easy to remember and would help them get the best from the people they led.
So I went back through notes of my client conversations, looking for a pattern. I also looked back at my own failures and the blockages I was facing in my life at the time. From this exercise sprang a simple formula which I now call my ‘ABC CDE of success’:
Ability – do I have the skills and knowledge to achieve this goal?
Belief – do I believe I can do it and do I believe I deserve it? This includes having high self-esteem
Clarity – am I definitely sure this is what I want?