I stared at my orthomolecular1 psychiatrist in alarm.
She had just announced the result of blood tests she had me do because she suspected I had an allergy to airborne environmental pollutants. Normally the test gives a result between zero and 240. Zero means all is well. Two hundred and forty means there’s a problem. My score? The highest she had ever seen in her 50-year career: 8,720.
When I commented that I’d seen some black mould in the basement bathroom next to my bedroom, she alarmed me even more by saying the mould was probably also inside the wall. Then she bluntly added, “You’ve got to move.”
“I can’t. I can’t move.”
My apartment in a 1930s house was very nice although dark on the ground floor. However, I slept in the damp and darker basement. My basement bedroom contained the furnace and boiler room. Only drywall separated my bed from the furnace room and the dust and rubble that fell periodically from the inside of its crumbling exterior subterranean wall. I had wanted to leave for years, but I couldn’t, because I lived from pay cheque to pay cheque, and I didn’t have the money.
I felt trapped.
I recalled all the times over the years I had gone through serious problems with water in the basement. Just five months before, water poured nonstop into the furnace room for hours in the middle of a stormy rain-soaked February night, from a hole in the crumbling exterior wall.
Now that I realised mould was a serious health hazard, I summoned up the courage to go into the furnace room to check it out. I didn’t like what I saw, and for the rest of the day I felt confusion and stronger than usual brain fog, as well as tightness in my nose and forehead. This pushed me to overcome my fear of asking my landlady to do something about the situation. She and her three-generation family lived upstairs from me, and I knew she wouldn’t like the expense of fixing the problem. But I wrote a letter to explain my circumstances, and put it in her mailbox with my rent cheque.
Next day, late at night and tired, I happened to open my email inbox. I found an email from my landlady. It said: “We have decided to take over the rental unit for the fall season for our own use. … I will be submitting the notice to terminate the tenancy tomorrow into your mailbox, and as mentioned, the letter indicates 60 days notice, but I would be absolutely fine with 30 or less considering your doctor also advised you to move.”
The prospect of relocating in just 30 days seemed unthinkable to me, and so, after 10 years of living in my home, I had 60 days to leave.
I went into stress and shock.
The following day, I started looking online for new places in Toronto. I saw very quickly that I wouldn’t get anything like my current home for the same rent I’d been paying. It was Friday, and despite feeling exhausted after the work week, in desperation, I drove way too far in dreadful wet weather deep into Scarborough to look at two apartments… only to be told I couldn’t see either of them.
Thank goodness I had two SGI2 Buddhist meetings right after that, which helped me even out a bit. Even so, that night I wrote in my health journal: “Found out late last night I have to move out in 60 days. Extremely stressed, loss of appetite, depressed, despairing, weak-brained.”
I spent that August long-weekend going through my stuff to see what I could purge. At the end of the weekend, I wrote: “Depressed. Despairing. Chanted 2 hours to fight back.”
But then reality sank in even deeper. I remembered that the City had ordered my landlady to get some major work done on the house in September. The work involved rolling back the carpet in my basement bedroom and breaking up the concrete floor with jackhammers – with no guarantee of containing the concrete dust. For the sake of my already compromised health, and to protect my two cats from the terror of the ear-splitting din of jackhammers wielded by strange men, I needed to move out by the end of the month.
My stress level intensified.
In my chanting I determined to find my new home by August 15, and that it would be affordable, bright and comfortable. I also determined to move into the part of town where I served my Buddhist community as a chapter leader, instead of having to drive long distances to and from meetings all the time.
Although this was what I really wanted, I felt terrified that I wouldn’t be able to find somewhere in time, and so I looked all over the city, even at basement apartments, because they cost less to rent. But I was also terrified of having to move into a dump, and my heart told me that I couldn’t handle another basement, even it was mould-free. On my way to looking at what turned out to be a very nice, spacious apartment in a midtown high-rise building, I asked myself why I was even bothering, as I couldn’t afford it.
Then things got worse.
Due to some unhappy communication between my boyfriend and myself, and the advice of my good friend Larry3 and my sister in England, I broke up with him. So now, on top of everything else, I was grieving the end of a relationship with someone I loved very much.
Thank goodness for Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. And for SGI activities, which are rooted in the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. He taught: “Buddhism teaches that, when the Buddha nature manifests itself from within, it will receive protection from without. This is one of its fundamental principles.”
Weekdays I chanted for an hour every day, and two hours on weekends. And sure enough, I started experiencing the protection from my environment this quote talks about.
First, in my purging, I came across a big box of self-published books that I co-wrote with a friend of mine, now sadly deceased. I approached someone who had expressed interest in purchasing the books the year before. Quickly and easily, I made a thousand dollars at a time I really needed some extra money.
Then staff in Shoppers Drug Mart and the LCBO (the liquor store) went out of their way to supply me with boxes for packing.
I was carrying the last load of boxes to my car in the LCBO parking lot when the Universe sent me a message. A four-word reminder. It floated out at me from a radio or CD player as I walked past an open car window:
“We are spiritual beings.”
And then I received more support and encouragement from my friend Larry, for whom I chanted every working day since he gave me a job in his company two years before. He put me in touch with a real estate agent, so I was no longer alone in the search for a new home. And then… he offered to pay for my move! What a relief! I put in an offer through the agent on an okay apartment in a house on a lovely street. But it turned out to be far too costly in utilities.
The date was August 10.
Next day I told myself, “I must take action. Now.” I decided to fill out an application for the midtown apartment I had looked at. The application required stringent proof regarding my ability to pay the rent. I had to take a form to a bank to officially reveal my financial standing, which I knew wasn’t that great. The form asked whether my account had three, four or five figures, and whether the amount was high or low.
Again, I experienced protection. At the last minute, I spontaneously changed my mind as to which local bank branch to choose. I ended up seeing a friendly bank manager who ticked off “High” to my four-figure account – which it wasn’t. But I didn’t argue with him. I just silently chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in gratitude.
I handed in the application. The building superintendent told me I might have to wait for five days or even longer to find out if I’d been accepted. I steeled myself for the wait. And I kept chanting for my new home.
I let my VP of Operations at work know that the building’s management company would call to check out my work reference. I asked her to please return the call ASAP if she happened to miss it, because, “This situation is killing me.”
Later that week, I was back with my psychiatrist when my cell phone rang. I heard the superintendent’s voice say, “Welcome to the building,” and I fought back tears of relief. I felt so stressed that I didn’t even realize until later that the date was August 15, exactly as I had determined in my chanting.
I hired a moving company and started packing, which was especially challenging on the days I felt ill and weak. But I received more protection and support from my environment in the form of packing supplies that people gave me. I ended up with more boxes and bubble wrap than I could actually use!
Moving day came. And went very well, despite my exhaustion and stress.
My new home on the sixth floor of a solidly built, well maintained building boasted wall-to-wall windows overlooking a tree-filled ravine. Instead of waking up in the toxic environment of a damp, dark basement every morning, I woke to a beautiful wide vista of treetops and sky. And some stunning sunrises. I had a shorter distance to travel to work and to attend home visits and district meetings in my SGI chapter. And a short walk from my building I discovered a ravine nature trail with a little forest and a river.
But I chanted for an affordable home, so what about the fact that I couldn’t afford this lovely two-bedroom apartment? Well, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo came through again. In addition to paying for my move, my friend Larry gave me a pay raise, so that I could manage the higher rent.
For quite a while after I moved in, I felt like pinching myself, because the impossible had become possible. But this is the power inherent in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
So when life throws you a curveball that you think you can’t handle, employ your spiritual practice. Trust it, and have faith that you can grow your inner self big enough to not only get through the situation, but to actually benefit from it. Because we really are spiritual beings.
1 Orthomolecular psychiatry seeks to establish good mental health by finding out what important natural constituents are missing in the patient and then providing those constituents through nutritional supplements.
2 Soka Gakkai International is a worldwide lay Buddhist organisation. The Japanese name means value creation society.
3 Name changed to protect his identity.