Buddhism, Health and Time Management
By Ayako Ochi
When I was a medical student in Osaka, Japan, I became interested in Christianity after reading a novel by a Christian writer. I attended some church services and bought a Bible.
Although I liked the novel, when it came to living my life, I did not seem to gain wisdom from my new faith. When a new professor came to my medical school, I heard a rumour that she slept only four hours a night. I thought, “That’s amazing! Spending less time sleeping would be a good thing so I could get a lot more things done.” I graduated from medical school in 1992 and trained as a pediatrician. During my pediatric residency, I really regretted becoming a doctor because the work was so stressful, and the responsibility to treat sick children was too heavy. I wanted to escape from this job and I believe this was because I did not have a strong spiritual pillar at the time.
I came to Toronto in 1997 as a research fellow at SickKids hospital. Immediately, I fell in love with the City of Toronto and SickKids because of the multiculturalism, greater gender equality than in Japan, and wonderful team members in the epilepsy surgery program at the hospital. I made a lot of effort to be able to stay in Canada forever. Thanks to my wonderful supervisors at work, I got a full-time staff position as a neurophysiologist (brain wave analyzer) at SickKids, and permanent resident status in Canada in 2001.
One day, I bought airline tickets from a travel agency owned by an SGI member, Sam Takahashi. I told him I was interested in Christianity because of the novels of the Christian writer I liked. He told me he was an SGI member practising and propagating Nichiren Buddhism. When Sam took me to a discussion meeting for the first time in 2005, I was so surprised to see non-Japanese people were pronouncing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and gongyo beautifully. Sam gave me a book of introduction to Buddhism, in which I found very interesting Buddhist concepts, especially “Ten Worlds” and “Ten Factors.” The concept I was most attracted to, though, was the “oneness of body and mind.” It seemed to me that Buddhism was so reasonable and scientific, yet much more advanced than current science. Current medicine and science does not deal with the concepts of the eternity of life and the cycle of life and death because it cannot prove them. When I read about these Buddhist concepts, I instinctively felt that they were so true. I joined SGI and received the Gohonzon on November 6, 2005.
After I started this Buddhist practice, I experienced three health benefits. First, my severe shoulder pain gradually disappeared within the first couple of years. Second, my sleep quality improved. Third, I met a wonderful dentist who gave me braces to correct my open bite. It took almost four years, but now I can enjoy eating sandwiches, corn and apples.
Another benefit I noticed was the increase in my music aptitude. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo every day with deep abdominal breathing has developed my choral singing voice. Also, I was able to pass the Grade 10 piano exam in 2007 and Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto (ARCT) piano performance exam in 2016.
Thanks to my mother, who gave me a very healthy body, I had never been to a family doctor from 1997 to 2015. When someone close to me experienced a sudden serious illness, I realized I should get a checkup myself. I went to a family doctor for the first time in Canada. At that time, I had been noticing irregular bleeding outside of my period. Through this family doctor visit, I learned I had a few fibroids. The amount of bleeding was slowly increasing, and I became chronically anemic. Finally, I had microscopic surgery to take out the fibroids in January 2018. My surgery was booked quickly and performed smoothly without any pain. I had asked my fellow women’s group members to chant for the best success of my minor surgery. I deeply felt the power of this Buddhist practice as my fellow members chanted to the Gohonzon for my protection and success. At the same time, I was wondering, “How did these big fibroids come to grow in my body?” My conclusion to this question was stress and sleep deprivation. My average sleep was five to six hours per night so I could have time to pursue all my activities including four different choirs, full-time clinical work and research at SickKids hospital, the Royal Conservatory Music Piano Exam, and SGI activities as a district leader.
I had been thinking it was a virtue to get less sleep ever since my medical student days. Through this surgery, I realized that thinking this way was incorrect. I started using apps on my phone to measure the quantity and quality of sleep. From this I’ve learned we need to sleep seven to nine hours every night. My determination after this surgery was, “Slow down, wisely!” I realized that to cut down my sleep to five to six hours per night and accomplish as many tasks as I was doing during the day was almost like the “World of Hunger.” I also realized that while we are sleeping, our amazing bodies continuously work to repair our cells and immune system. I started doing body weight exercises and a cardio program regularly, because my blood test showed a risk of diabetes. I have found that regular exercise really helps in building strong life force, concentration, and good quality of work, music activity, and sleep.
Sometimes, my to-do list piles up quickly like a game of Tetris. Then I look at the list and panic. Chanting to the Gohonzon has been super-helpful in sorting out my anxious mind, to think of my priorities, and to try to do my best in each task. Instead of complaining to others in my mind, I chant for the best quality of brain wave analysis in SickKids hospital, to be able to communicate with the audience when I perform music, and to have joyful and fruitful meetings in SGI activities. I sincerely chant every day for myself and SGI members, my family and friends’ good health, long life, and freedom from accidents, injuries, disasters, and fires. I also chant to deepen my faith, and to be able to introduce this wonderful Buddhist practice to many of the people around me.
Because I was so inspired by a young women’s group member’s experience about reading The New Human Revolution every morning before she touches her phone, I started reading this novel by Daisaku Ikeda every day as well. Currently I am reading Volume 12. So I am receiving personal guidance from SGI President Ikeda every day in all aspects of my life. Chanting sincerely to the Gohonzon and reading The New Human Revolution every day gives me life force, courage, compassion and wisdom. I would like to quote from The New Human Revolution Vol. 8, in the chapter “Jeweled Sword.”
Time passes quickly when we are earnestly engaged in Soka Gakkai activities. But when we set a limit on our time, we come up with innovative ways to be more efficient and avoid doing things out of habit. We can also prevent accidents. This is how we create value. (p. 93)
I will keep advancing with Ikeda Sensei.
Published in April 2020 New Century