I have been a Nichiren Humanist Buddhist for most of my adult life. I was introduced to the practice by the musician and arranger, Anne O’Dell in September 1977 following a trip to LA together to discuss some recording work with Bryan Ferry. At this time in my life I was on the verge of becoming financially destitute after a disastrous first marriage that I was desperately trying to end, but not having the courage or knowledge to know how to do so. I was living in total fear of my husband, of the people trying to collect his debts, and of not being able to look after myself and my young daughter. I felt completely lost and alone in the world.
I went to my first Buddhist discussion meeting in October, and began chanting nam-myho-renge-kyo at home straight away. We were all living together in a small rented flat in London with only a one year lease. I had no idea what would happen after that. I did my first morning and evening gongyo in a friend’s beach house in Connecticut on Thanksgiving Day that November. Day by day my confidence in myself grew and I began to feel a tiny shaft of hope filter through into my life.
The following year I realised I wanted to commit fully to the practice of Buddhism for the rest of my life. I received my Gohonzon and joined Soka Gakkai International (Value Creating Organisation) on June 10th 1978. This proved to be the best thing I have ever done. My husband finally agreed to leave on a six month trial separation. My daughter and I were left so poor we could not afford electricity and sat in candlelight every evening and warmed ourselves around a Callor gas heater. I collected coupons, counted pennies and walked miles to shops that sold cheap food. Believe it or not this was the beginning of the happy times.
From that precarious start of losing everything I have been able to totally rebuild my entire life from the foundations up based on my daily practice and putting Buddhist principles into action. It did not happen straight away but in small continuing courageous steps. I learnt to stand up for myself, learn about finance and the law, create valuable relationships, and began to respect myself as an artist again. The process certainly was not easy but is and will continue to be really rewarding. Aspiring to live in an enlightened way is an ongoing path and every day there are fresh challenges.
Nowadays you would be hard put to give credence to that fearful, naïve young person I used to be. I am really grateful for all the mistakes and misconceptions in my early years that gave rise to my desire to understand how life really works – otherwise I would never have become a Buddhist. And I would not have such a clear subjective experience and profound objective proof of before and after that continues to deepen and fire my faith.