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.
As I wrote in my last post, Nichiren Buddhism teaches that each of us has innate brilliance. And I often tell delegates on my training courses that we are all magnificent works in progress. When we deeply respect others, we get this point and are able to see their potential, (even though right now they may be manifesting more of their dark side than their brightness.) This approach makes for more harmonious families at home, more productive departments at work, more forgiving friendships in the pub and better football teams on a Saturday morning.
As Daisaku Ikeda explains:“We are unlimited beings. Our struggle to surmount our obstacles and sufferings and fulfil our dreams is always finally the struggle to overcome the limitations we have accepted within our own heart.”
The problem is that we’re hardwired to stereotype and label people, including ourselves. “He’s a complete jerk.” “She’s a total angel.” “They’re utter idiots.” Perhaps this sort of stereotyping served us well in our prehistoric days, when survival depended on deciding very quickly that a sabre-toothed tiger was always bad news, with no shades of grey… But in the modern age, when we use negative labels to describe people we’ve argued with, we prolong the rift and block the seeds of hope from which forgiveness and progress can bloom. (See a previous post called ‘The two words to ban from all your arguments.‘
Many experts define happiness as a ‘sense’ or ‘a feeling of wellbeing’. I also like to call happiness ‘the soundtrack of your mind’. But obviously this is only true when you’re feeling happy! The point is that you always have a soundtrack playing in your subconscious. A kind of background mood music. Stop and listen (how often do we even take the time to do that?): is it excitement, hope, love? Or anxiety, regret and frustration? Is it well-being, amusement or compassion? Impatience, cynicism or boredom? A mixture of all the above? Something else altogether? Something you could not describe in words very easily at all? When I first start coaching a new client, this ‘soundtrack’ is one of the main things I am listening out for because one of my jobs is often to help someone change their mood music before they take action to achieve a goal. Continue reading “How to change the soundtrack of your mind”→
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?