Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lighting the Lamp of HOPE from Florida (How to be HAPPY after great loss)

My sons, Aaron and Ben

I spent the last week and a half promoting Ben's Memorial Mile. As always, every morning and evening, I chanted with deep appreciation for my life, and for everyone in it. I chanted to connect, heart-to-heart, with everyone I met, and to make this fun event a huge success with many people having fun and raising money for a good cause. 

Ben's Memorial Mile is my fundraiser/festival that raises money for Schizophrenia Research and Suicide Prevention. It will be held on June 17th, 2017 at 5:00pm at the Downers Grove North High School's Outdoor Track in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. You can register or donate at If you donate, please drop me a line at so I can thank you. All proceeds go to our 501(c)(3).

As many of you know, My sweet son passed into the non-physical world almost two years ago when he was 22. He developed a mental illness at 19, was in and out of hospitals for almost three years, and finally ended his life when he was stuck in the hospital and there was no place that would take him, no halfway place for him to go. This country's mental health system is broken. I tell his story in the hopes of making a difference in the world of mental Health. 

Right after he died, I could feel the release of his soul. I could feel the mental illness was gone. Poof. I could feel his spirit soar. And I read the translation of Gongyo in the back of the sutra book every morning. I was just drawn to it every day. And it opened the door to my constant communication with my Ben, which is natural, and easy. Anyone can communicate in this way. I can teach you. 

Here's the story:

The Lotus Sutra, our gongyo book, states on page 21 of the The Liturgy of the Soka Gakkai International (this is the translation of what we recite twice a day): 

"In order to save living beings,
as an expedient means I appear to enter nirvana
but in truth I do not pass into extinction.
I am always here, preaching the law...
At all times I think to myself:
How can I cause living beings 
to gain entry into the unsurpassed way
and quickly attain the body of a Buddha?"

It's a longer passage. You can read it yourself in the back of every sutra book. 
The meaning is clear. We are Buddhas. We live eternally. We are always here preaching the law. 
We are not just Buddhists...we are Buddhas, right here, preaching the law, showing actual proof for our "assemblies," (friends, family, everyone), and when we recite the Lotus Sutra we are Buddhas speaking the words of the Buddha. And, as these words state...our missions do not end when our life on earth ends. We are always here preaching the law. 

Ben had, and HAS a great mission...otherwise, he wouldn't have been born to me. Right now we are helping people go from grief to relief by teaching how to communicate with our loved ones-in-spirit. Is this a Nichiren Buddhist concept? President Ikeda talks about communicating with Josei Toda every day. That's the only example I know of in our writings. I know it's my thing. And my gift to teach others. 

Do you have to believe in this concept to practice and get benefit from chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo? No. I share this because it has helped me, not because it is officially part of our practice. If it doesn't appeal to you, please continue practicing, studying, doing shakubuku and getting benefit from this wonderful practice. 

So I sat down and wrote to my boy. And he wrote back through my hand, as he does every single time I write to him. 
Here is an excerpt from my book "Our Forever Ben. One Mom's Letters to her Son-in-Spirit and his Poetic Replies." (Available on

Dear Ben, 
Soaring above us all 
free and flying 
you got your way 
you ended your torturous road 
you are released 
you are released. 
And now, you will have all of us
chanting for you 
as your mission continues, 
right here, 
right now, forever. 
I will cry until I run out of tears. 
I cry in gratitude that you came to me 
that we shared these twenty-two years 
that we had all those laughs, 
and all those tears, 
and all those laughs. 
Oh Ben, 
Write through me 
laugh through me 
live your happiness all around me. 
My dear boy, I know you never meant to hurt me. Not ever. 
Ben, maybe you’re sitting right next to me on this Friday ~ 
right here by the pool. 
What do you have to say?

Your Loving Mom 
I did it. 
I meant to do it. 
~ at the time ~ 
and I knew it would make you sad, 
but somehow I still had to do it. 
I had to obey my mind, my legs, my feet, 
my incredible surge
of strength and courage. 
I could not say no. 
It had to happen. 

And this story is not yet written,
is not yet told ~ 
but will be. 

My life, and death 
HAVE meaning, 
Not HAD. 

Dearest Mom, my closest friend, 
my absolute love, don’t despair. 
I know you,  
will create a life of meaning, 
of love, 
of warmth and creativity. 
Together we will live on 
    we will always live on 
Enjoy the sun 
    Enjoy this day 
            Enjoy your life. 
                            Your Forever Ben 


Beautiful. Everyone can do this. It's natural. Easy. And, when I'm missing Ben, he's right there at the end of my pen. His words are a constant source of encouragement for me.  

All last week I spoke in front of groups of people about Ben's Memorial Mile...about Ben...about suicide prevention and mental health. My determination to turn poison into medicine is coming true at every moment. Ben's life and death HAVE meaning, not HAD! Soon I'll have an online course to teach everyone how to do this. If I can do it, so can you! Have a great day! 

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo !


Monday, May 15, 2017

The Joy of Teaching Gongyo - 10 Keys for making it fun and easy ~ please share

I'm teaching my new young friend how to do gongyo, and we are having a blast. Yes, it's challenging, but she is determined to master it, and I'm happy to help her. I am eternally grateful for the leaders who helped me when I was youth division. I made it my goal to do perfect gongyo and to chant at any speed.

Teaching Gongyo has been one of my greatest treasures. One youth member had a revelation while she was learning. I'll never forget it. She realized she wanted to switch majors from marketing to education. She just completed her degree this December! These are golden moments we shared! 

How do I do it? I'll share my tips and you can write me and let me know your tips at 

10 Keys for teaching Gongyo  ~  
Making it fun and easy!

1. Set aside at least an hour. 
2. Meet in front of the Gohonzon.
3. Chant some Daimoku Together. 
4. Read the first part of the introduction from the Sutra book together. 
5. Read about how the vowels and the consonants are supposed to sound. 
6. Discuss the beats above the words
7. Explain that breathing is okay! Just breathe and hop back in! 


8. I recite a short phrase and the they repeat it until they get it. Some phrases are trickier than others. 

9. When we get to the bottom of a page we do the whole page at least once, usually more. My new student is incredibly willing to learn. I let her decide when she feels ready to move to the next page. 

10. When I get to the end of part one, we do the whole thing together again. 

It's okay to have fun. It's okay to laugh at mistakes! Enjoy this sacred rite! 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lighting the Lamp of Hope! The Joy of Fostering Youth!

Ahhhh the brilliance of introducing youth to this practice! Some of my golden memories are of the youth I took under my wing. They are living the lives of their dreams with the ultimate tool for creating happiness and value for themselves and others...this practice!

The other day someone magical...seeking...young and vibrant came happily into my life. I was at a restaurant with  my new friend Mari Beth whom I'd just introduced to chanting. She came up to my apartment and chanted with me for the first time. 

Our server was this delightful, beautiful young woman...she looked like she couldn't possibly have a care in the world. We had some laughs with her and a great time. At the end of the dinner I said "I have something for you!" and took out my card and wrote Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on it and the connection was INSTANT. 

It was as if she had been seeking this her whole life. She said "Oh! I really need this right now, my Mom's in the hospital in pain and I'm all alone caring for her!" I asked her if she wanted to come over to chant after she got off - my apartment was right across the street and she said SURE! 

She said she'd get our by about 10:30, but she got some last minute customers and was able to come around midnight (!!!)...and I was waiting for her and so happy to see her! She told me the story of her young life (she just turned 20), and I could see what a fighter she is, against all odds. She's faced extreme challenges and is intent on fulfilling her dream of helping people with artifical limbs. She is such a Bodhisattva already. 

We sat in front of the Gohonzon. I put the bell in front of her, taught her how to chant, and told her she could ring the bell when she was finished. She chanted almost half and hour!  

Yesterday her Mom was released from the hospital! Last night she came over at 10:30 pm and we chanted and talked. She is so grateful to be embraced into this practice and my life. There is nothing better than having experience, knowledge and HOPE to give someone who is soaking it up! She is my Mother's Day gift! Last night we watched the Ben videos and she got to know and love my boy. What a wonderful life I lead! 

I am dedicated to raising her. I am dedicated to helping her achieve each of her dreams. I see her as a leader of our bright, positive movement that will attract 50,000 youth and more!  

I am grateful for all your Daimoku for the youth. We can feel the groundswell... feel them arising...and RISE to meet them! We all have determination to raise capable, happy, bright beacons of hope. And introducing her has brought ME such happiness...a new vibrancy in my step...a fresh determination to live as a brilliant beacon of hope, to overcome my sufferings and achieve my dreams. 

It is time for our youth to find relief and stop suffering. It is time for them to gain human connection...and hope. It is time to stop losing so many to despair! It is up to us to reach out and be available. And it is the greatest joy to watch them blossom like flowers! 

As Daisaku Ikeda writes in the May 2017 Living Buddhism study material on Fostering Successors, (page 44):

"The right time 
is not something one waits for; 
one creates it!"

Now is the time! We can carry cards everywhere we go. 
Introducing people who work close to where I live is now a focus for me. I live on the beach. There are countless restaurants and stores close by. If I meet someone who is receptive they can pop on over before or after they work to learn to chant! 

So happy to be sharing this journey with YOU! 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

PowerPrayer to Make Each Moment Count!

(You can now subscribe to this blog by putting your email in the box to the right)

How do we approach our lives powerfully? 
How do we make each moment count? 
How do we generate "earnest resolve"?

We KNOW that each moment contains the seed and power of the entire universe within our lives (ichinen sanzen) We KNOW THIS MOMENT is important. What do we need to harness and activate and use this knowledge with every fiber of our being? Here are some insights from the September Gosho study on the Gift of Rice:

The Gosho, the Gift of Rice states: 
"When we carefully consider what exactly "earnest resolve" refers to, it is the doctrine of observing the mind." 
(From the Gift of Rice by Nichiren Daishonin, Living Buddhism September 2015, page 29)

President Ikeda states "Everything is determined by the direction in which our "earnest resolve" orients our minds. When we focus our "earnest resolve" on our Buddhist practice, believing and practicing the Mystic Law that enables all people to attain enlightenment, our inner Buddhahood reveals itself, pervading our lives and the environment." 
LB, 9/15, page 38

How powerfully can earnest resolve work in our lives? 

Akeymi Bailey Haynie, our National SGI Leader said one day she heard her mother cry out from a nightmare, and realized that her mother had been having nightmares every night. (Her mother is a survivor of the WWII bombings in Japan). Akeymi developed a deep resolve in her heart and sat down and chanted 15 minutes of focused Daimoku that her mother would NEVER AGAIN have another nightmare. She reached that level of "now or never" or "NO WAY!" that is so powerful, and her Mom never had another nightmare. 

We all have this power in our lives. Sensei tells us this every day. When we are in front of the Gohonzon it is up to us to summon this resolve, and to focus our minds.

We all have this power! Today I offer you: 

PowerPrayer to Ignite and Focus
Our Inner Resolve
by Jamie Lee Silver from

Now it the crucial moment! 
While I am chanting I am drawing a line in the sand! 
I am changing this KARMA Forever - 
I am rooting the cause from my life now! 
This shall happen:__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
and/or THIS shall STOP happening:________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
I NOW summon all the power vested in me as a worthy votary of the Lotus Sutra. 
My life is Powerful!
I am turning my attention and focus to this powerful intention:
My daimoku is Powerful

Shoten Zenjin activate your forces NOW! 
Each Daimoku summons my power!
Each Daimoku has an effect NOW
For the sake of World Peace, I ignite my vow!
I will show actual proof -  inspire myself, inspire others, 
and change the world!