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Practising Appreciation

August 2, 2018

By Renee Cormier, Ottawa

Women’s District Leader

I’ve been practising Buddhism with the SGI for 32 years. I’ve received many great benefits from this practice and I’m so happy to share this experience with you about appreciation and positive thinking.

I am a self-employed project management consultant working contracts for the government. That means when I don’t work, I don’t get paid. On March 31, 2016 I was given half a day’s notice that my contract was not being renewed. I was totally surprised because there was plenty of work to do and I had done a good job. It’s also customary to get at least two weeks’ notice. Needless to say, I was very upset and in shock, so I cried for two days and then started my search for a new contract. Every consultant in Ottawa knows that if you’re not on a contract in May, you are out for the summer. So my “logical brain” told me to do my best to find something, but to expect to be off and enjoy the summer. My “emotional brain” was terrified.

This was the first time I was really on my own with a house and a 16-year-old son to support. I had been married for 25 years and there were gaps in work, but my husband was always there to encourage and support me. Graham died in 2013 so he wasn’t there to make me feel better. I chanted to make the best of it, but there were days when I was really depressed and scared. In total I was off work for six months. 

Determined to find the best contract and pull myself up, I started going to the centre for the Tuesday chanting sessions and had many people come and chant with me. I went to visit women’s group members, too. One woman was chanting two hours a day and got many, many benefits so I decided to do three hours. Trust me, it feels great; and although it takes up time, it really gives you a lot of space to think and reflect.   

As I was chanting, I determined to appreciate what I have, so every day I started with my list of things I am grateful, and it really made me feel better. Then as I was chanting, I started asking myself how I contributed to what happened in my former job. I found out that the project was running out of money, so they decided to let me go in order to hire two more junior resources—but there was more to it than that. I realized that I had been complaining a lot about that job; I complained to everyone. I had been very unhappy, and it wasn’t until I had gotten encouragement from a senior member to change the situation into the Buddha land that things really started to get better; but it was too late. Moreover, I realized that in general I complained a lot. And guess what happens when you only see the negatives? You get more negativity!

In addition to finding a new contract, I determined to see the positives in everything and stop complaining. Iit’s really hard to change this pattern once you’re stuck in negativity, so I started small by trying to see the positives where I could, and I stopped myself from complaining. After that it became easier until it got to the point that I could see positives in everything, I had stopped complaining, and I actually felt happy. And I’m still doing it now. Sometimes I kind of feel like a Barbie doll, as if there’s not much going on up there because I’m not complaining, like…”Gee, what a beautiful sky.” It feels kind of weird, but I am happy! Living with appreciation doesn’t mean not seeing problems for what they are, or avoiding the need to deal with them. It does mean focusing on the good points that are also part of the mix. In my previous job, I could have avoided complaining by focusing on the contribution I was making and my good colleagues rather my bad boss and poor management. Yet that appreciation would not have stopped me from trying to move on or make things better if I had decided to do so.

Besides this huge benefit of learning to appreciate, as a result of my job search I was able to connect with many recruiters, build some really good relationships, and apply for many contracts. In the end I had three offers, which presented me with a big challenge when it came to making a decision. I chose a short-term contract with some very nice people, appreciated it every day, and eventually one of my bids for a three-year contract came through. So I’m now working with a wonderful team on a great project. In looking back, losing that previous contract was a huge benefit, because if it hadn’t happened I’d still be there and it really was a toxic environment.

Another benefit is that I was never good at budgeting, so I had no idea how much it cost to run the house. Graham hated it when I tried to budget because I’d get myself all worried and uptight so we just spent until we had to stop. Being out of work really forced me to build a budget and tighten our spending (it was good for my son too). In 2014, I started saving for a cottage and this turned into my nest egg while I was off. The fund was considerably depleted and I’m slowly rebuilding it now, but the whole experience taught me how to survive a long gap between contracts and that I can do it. I also learned not to take things for granted and that I always need a backup plan. And the whole out-of-work experience was also good learning for my son, Morgan, who was great support throughout the whole six months.

Getting back to appreciation, I want to ask everyone to try to find something positive in everything: the weather, the traffic, the bus ride, your boss, your partner. Focus on the positives and more positive things will come and after a while, the only things you see will be positive.

President Ikeda says:

"No matter what the problem is, the way it is interpreted can have a positive or negative effect on one's life. By adopting a positive interpretation, one can make one’s problems a source of nourishment for personal growth."

"There is no one as strong as a person whose heart is always filled with gratitude." (ikedaquotes.org)

I suggest you try it and let everyone know how it works for you.

 (Published in December 2017 New Century)