Tuesday, August 31, 2010

San Diego Sea World

I didn't have time to take summer vacations; but yesterday was my day off and I was able to take my family to San Diego Sea World. There were many shows and we loved most of them, especially Blue Horizons, Shamu Show [Believe] and Sea Lions LIVE. This picture is the Blue Horizons which was a very unique show with dolphins, pilot whales, birds, animal trainers and acrobatic performers. My children wanted to be seated themselves on the soaked zone, but I didn't want to be wet with splash so we moved to the upper seat.

I liked Shamu Show [Believe]. It was entertaining and my family also enjoyed it.

My wife enjoyed Sea Lions LIVE most. This show was like comedy. The performance was great because of the comical moves of sea lions and their trainers. We also didn't have to understand English perfectly to enjoy the show.

After the dinner, we were heading to home. While I was driving, my youngest daughter was deeply slept in the car. (otsukare)

I am very grateful to my family who spent time with me yesterday. We enjoyed San Diego Sea World, but some environment protecting groups say that these shows are animal abuse. I don't know about it, but all I felt throughout these shows was that every trainer loves animals and seems to connect with them emotionally. I am grateful to those who produce, direct and perform the shows. Thank you very much. Thank yo Sea World staff members and their extended family members of animals.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gratitude is the key to happiness 3

In order to be grateful, we have to have time to reflect ourselves everyday. We are taught how to do this. This is Shinsokan (meditation to vizualize God). We also have place to practice our gratitude. That is our spiritual training seminars (STS). I just participated in the 50th International Spiritual Training Seminar in Seattle between August 13 and 15, 2010. The following week we had the 156th Japanese STS in Southern California.

There are different ceremonies and parctices during the seminar. When I presided the Shinsokan for Mutual Prayer at the September 2006 seminar in San Jose, one of the members, Keiko, wanted to receive divine blessings and requested divine healing. She was in a very bad accident and fractured her neck 7 months earlier of this seminar. That was February 2006. When I visited her in the hospital in February, she said she was very grateful that she had not needed to amputate anything nor had she suffered damage to her internal organs. While hearing her words of gratitude, I really thought she would be healed soon. It was because she realized how lucky she was consdering how serious the accident itself had been. To heal her neck, the doctors put in two iron rings around her head and neck which circled her head. These iron rings were connected with 4 vertical metal rods. The top iron rign also had 4 metal rods extended horizontally into her skull. In th beginning, I didn't realize that this equipment was attached directly to her skull. These precautions ensured that she couldn't move her neck. Any neck movement could cause her fractured spinal cord to touch her sensitive nerves and result in paralysis of her arms and legs. This was a serious injury. However, her positive attitude helped improve her situation, and in three months she was able to remove these iron rings and rods.

However, when Keiko came to the STS on Saturday, her face was tired and wan because she still felt pain and was not able to move her neck freely. In addition, she seemed frustrated about her job situation. She had returned to work afer spending several months home recuperating, but it was very difficult for her to catch up with her work, plus her physical condition had not returned to its state before her accident situation. Therefore, she requested divine healing during Shinsokan for Mutual Prayer. She also requested for grand harmony in her job. Before starting the prayer, Keiko spoke up again and said, "Forget about my request for divine healing of my neck injury and harmony of my workplace. Instead, I really want you to pray for my co-worker'shusband. He recently was in a hit-and-run accident. His spinal cord was fractured, an he is still in the hospital. Please pray for his healing." I was moved by her thoughts for her co-worker and her husband. When we finished prayer and finished for the day, Keiko, other members and I moved into the prayer room. While I prayed for Keiko again, other members softly massaged her neck and shoulder. The next morning, Keiko's face was more cheerful.

At noon on Sunday we closed our seminar, and everybody joined hands and sang the Holy Missioner's March. Suddenly at the end of the song, Keiko screamed and ran over to other participants. Then, the people surrounding them began to jump up and down and were crying. I immediately approached them to find out what had happened. Keiko exclaimed to everyone, "I can move my neck, and it doesn't hurt!" When she had first arrived on Saturday, she couldn't move her neck, and instead she had to move her entire body to look in other directions. If she didn't move her shoulder and chest when she moved her head, she felt extreme pain. However, without thinking she had joined her hands together with everyone and sang the song loudly while looking at everyone and smiling to the people on her righ and left. Her overwhelming joy for two days during the seminar healed her. Actually, in the world of her mind she had already been healed the night before when she declared that she only wanted to be granted the healing for her co-worker's husband. In other words, she could have positive attitude in the midst of the negative situation.

Then, why did her healing take time to appear? It was because granting healing in her mind is only the cause. She needed the chance to manifest that cause into this phenomenal world. For example, when the negative cause is combined with negative chance, misfortune, sickness, and disasters appear. However, sickness can be eliminated by eliminating either the cause or chance. In the same vein, even if we create a good cause in the world of the mind, we still need the chance to make it appear in this world. And the best chances to make the cause appear to this world are positive thoughts such as gratitude and joy. Keiko's extreme joy and gratitude made her healing manifest right away. The Divine Message of Grand Harmony states: "Be grateful to the blessings from your country. Be grateful to your parents. Be grateful to your husband or wife. Be grateful to your children. Be grateful to those who serve you. Be grateful to all people. Be grateful to everything in the universe. Within those toughts of gratitude you will find me (God) and receive my salvation." Let us be grateful unconditionally. Thank you very much.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gratitude is the key to happiness 2

In 2004, I invited my mother from Japan because of my family emergency. I told her, "You don't have to worry about anything. Grab your handbag and come." When I picked her up at the San Francisco Airport, I was surprised because she literally accepted my words and came with only a small bag. I believe she was brave woman and kind mother to her children because she didn't know how to write an immigration document and costom declaration form. She didn't understand English, so the officers in immigration and customs who faced her gave up ordering her to fill out forms and started helping her.

While she stayed with my family, my mother taught us a lot of things. Sometimes some of them were not comfortable to hear, but they were valuable suggestions. My family was very happy with her. On the contrary, the longer my mother stayed, the less comfortable she felt. One of the reasons was that she had to often stay at home alone. My mother started saying that she would suffer dementia if she continued the same life style here. However, we could not help. She came here to help our family. Day by day she gradually lost her appetite.

Six weeks later my brother visited me from Japan, and we planned to go to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon with my mother. However, the day we planned to leave, her physical condition suddenly turned very bad. We changed our flights, and I made an appointment for the doctor for her. When I asked my mother to change her clothes to visit the doctor, her condition became worse, and she could not move. I called 911 for the very first time in my life. We all cancelled our trip, and my mother ended up at the hospital for her trip. Her kidney was infected.

In the hospital my mother wanted so much to go back to Japan. I arranged a ticket for her to go back to Japan with my brother. She stayed at the hospital overnight. Then, in two days she went back to Japan. After my brther and my mother left, many debts remained to me such as the cancellation of our trip fees and ambulace and hospital fees. My mother's insurance in Japan doesn't much cover these expenses in America. Although there were some negative happenings, my family was able to learn very valuable and important lessons from my mother. The best thing I learned from her was the spirit and attitude of taking great care of things and matters in my daily life. For example, my mother didn't waste anything. When I finished eating and wiped my mouth with a paper napkin and threw it, she scolded me saying, "Don't waste it! You can still use it." I didn't know how she could use it, but she used it to clean her dishes before washing. She used it to blow her nose as well. Not only napkins but also plastic wrap after using the microwave she kept it and used it in a different way.

This reminded me of a story. When my father passed away, my mother received a very small widow's pension every three months. It was too small to live on; therefore, she asked her children to send some money for help. I send 50,000 yen (about $500) over 5 years. After 5 or 6 years later when we had started sending money, she suddenly told us that we didn't hanve to send money anymore. She said she decided to build a new house. I asked her how she could pay. She said that she had already paid. That was a real surprise for us and her 7 children were so delighted. But, how could she save? She had a small vegetable yard and grew some for hersef. She was grateful to everything what she had and took great care of them. That was the real answer.

My wife and I knew the way of not wasting things in our daily life and followed the way we knew. However, compared with my mother's life, we didn't achieve less than one fifth or one tenth of what my mother did. We were able to learn wholeheartedly from my mother how she could take great care of things and not waste even a napkin or plastic wrap.

I also learned how important it is to communicate with medical staff and firefighters when I called 911 and when in the hospital. My mother, my wife and my brother didn't speak English; therefore, medical staff and firefighters watched to find what they should do. So, they asked my mother to walk. I called the ambulance because she couldn't move. No one helped her; so my wife tried to put mom's shoes on her foot. Still my mother couldn't move. My brother got upset and tried to put her on his back. However, she was too heavy to move, and he stumbled. Suddenly the laughter bubbled up from 911 people who surrounded my mother and brother. That was not so appropriate. I heard this story both from my brother and my wife. I was in the next room to explain to one of the medcal staff to my mother's medical history. I understood that they could not communicate with my wife or brother; therefore, they had to wait until they found how my mother should be treated. At the same time, I sincerely appreciated them because they came to my home within a few minutes. They helped a person who doesn't speak English or who was just a traveler and even doesn't pay tax in the United States.

I don't have to list everything of what I have learned from these experiences; however, because of these incidents which do not have to always have positive aspects give my family members great lessons to turn our minds to the spritual side and to improve ourselves. I am sincerely greateful to these incidents. And I tell you that when my mother arrived at the Narita Airport in Japan, her condition was dramatically improved. Now, she is perfectly alright. I also tell you that the total cost of my mother's expenses was enormous. I had no idea how I or my mother could pay that amount. Fortunately, I discussed this cost with a social worker at the hospital where my mother hospitalized and finally I could settle to pay much less amount of the original cost. I am very grateful to the result that everything turned out best for me and my family. Therefore, whatever happens, gratitude surly leads us to happiness. (to be continued tomorrow)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gratitude is the key to happiness 1

One of the most important things in our lives is gratitude. In Seicho-No-Ie (SNI) we are grateful to everyone and everything in the universe. The Divine Message of Grand Harmony states, "Those who are grateful to God but cannot be grateful to their parents are against the Divine Will. To be reconciled means to be grateful to everything in the universe." So, gratitude is the key to happiness because we need harmony and peace in order to become happy.

There are many levels of gratitude. Being grateful under happy circumstances is easy, but being grateful during challenging life circumstances is difficult. However, always being grateful to everyone and everything in the universe is the secret to happiness and fulfillment. Then, do we have to be gateful to something or someone when our lives feel so bleak that we believe that we cannot muster even an ounce of gratitude? Well, I would say, "We have to find gratitude even in the midst of suffering, misfrtune, sickness or poverty." We tend to complain about negative things around us, rather than being grateful to things that we have been already blessed with in our daily lives. Our words which include our thoughts, spoken words,atttudes and expressions crate our daily lives. Therefore, if we always concentrate our minds on only positive and good things around us and try to be grateful, we will be able to create only good futures.

In order to be always grateful, we should be grateful to every blessing we have received from our parents, friends, society and nature. Then, we will be gradually able to find something that we can be grateful to even when we experience what we percive to be a negative situation. The Seicho-No-Ie Founder, Rev. Masaharu Taniguchi wrote:

"Just stop for a few moments and think of the many blessings nature gives us that are essential to our life. Think of how much all living things provide us, without which our existence cannot be sustained. Have we not heretofore been too insensitive to the innumerable gifts accorded us in various forms, both visible and invisible? Indeed, we have taken too little notice of all those blessings. Because we have taken them for granted, we have neglected to be grateful out of ignorance.

"Even though they are actually there, nothing comes into existence, so long as you do not recognize them. For example, even if there was a one-million-dollar check in your pocket, unless you are aware of it, it is as if it were not there. So it is with everything. Be it a blessing of nature, love of people, love of parents, or love of country, unless you yourself are perceptive enough to sense and acknowledge it, it is as if it did not exist...It is indeed only when we perceive and recognize all the blessings and gifts provided that they are ours." (from "365 Golden Keys To The Summit Of Fulfillment")

To appreciate gifts from nature is a way, and to express your gratitude to this country is also important. We, who currently live n the United States, receive many blessings from the country.
One day I went to one of the middle schools for a prent-teacher conference and waited in the classroom. On the wall of the room I saw a lot of beautiful words of wisdom. For example, "Stand up for what you think is right, even if you're standing alone." "Respect yourself. If you don't, nobody else will." "No one is a failure who keeps trying." These are true.

There are many similar words posted on the wall. Seeing these,I was moved and was grateful to the environment of my children's education. When I was a middle school student in Japan, no teacher taught this kind of truth. There were no words of wisdom on the wall of the classroom. Fortunatel, my parents were SNI members, and I learned these words of truth at SNI youth seminars. In this country, children are able to learn these words of truth naturally at the middle school. I thought I could see the source of the strength of this country at a glance. We have to be grateful to the country that gives our children such a wonderful education. (to be continued tomorrow)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A beautiful poem

Recently I read a Japanese book, "Five Stories That Echo In The Heart" by Hideaki Fujio. They were moving stories and easy to read, so I asked one of my daughters to translate it into English. And she did. I would like to introduce one of the stories. A 15-year old boy, Yasufumi Yamada, with severe cerebral palsy wrote the following poem. It is the only poem he worked his whole life on to leave behind.

"I'm sorry Mom.

I'm sorry Mom.

I'm sorry that I was born.

I say to the thin scruff on the back of your neck

When you carry me.

If I hadn't been born,

You wouldn't have had the gray hairs on your head,

The sadness on your face and carrying a grown-up me on your back,

And the tears you cried at the cold looks on people

When they look at me and say "That is trap child."

Wouldn't have happened if I was never born.

Thank you Mom.

Thank you Mom.

As long as you are there

I will keep living

With my cerebral palsy, I will keep living.

Kindness is significant

And sadness is beautiful.

You taught me how to live my life

Mom, as long as you are there..."

According to Mr. Fujio, Ms. Kono, a teacher from the school for disabled children, was with Yasufumi and listened to his thoughts and wrote it for him. Yasufumi couldn't speak, so it took long time to write it. She hugged him and listened to his words wholeheartedly. Mr. Fujino wrote, "If a word that Ms. Kono said was the word that Yasufumi wanted to say, he would wink at her as a 'yes' and stuck his tongue out as a 'no.' Through all the steps and hard work, this poem was born. And two months later, the boy passed away." (p. 54)

Reading Yasufumi's poem and the explanation by the author of this book, I couldn't stop tearing. The poem was sorrowful but full of gratitude toward his mother. This poem was not only the greatest joyous memory of his mother but also an encouraging poem for everyone to be grateful to one's parents. The ending part was very difficult for my daughter and even for m to translate because Mr. Fujino quoted and explained the sentences from Infinite Life Sutra of Buddhism. I cannot introduce author's thoughts, but if you are learning Japanese in high school, it would be good reading material for you.