Conquer Overwhelming Circumstances with Buddhist Practice

When overwhelmed, too busy or in crisis, the temptation might be to chant less because of time constraints You think,”I’m so busy I don’t have time.” The net effect of this is to push the practice to the periphery of your life rather than keeping it in the center. when we do this, we’ve pulled back rather than using the practice to engage directly with our circumstances. We begin to start relying more on ourselves and less on the universal wisdom we have within. Our actions can become less effective.

The small self can feel overwhelmed by our circumstances. The universal connection, our Buddha nature, can stabilize our situation and make everything flow smoothly so that sense of overwhelm disappears. Let’s see how one woman, Jean, used her practice in a situation like this over a two-year period.

Jean’s Goal: A House Remodel

Jean had a goal to remodel her home. She hired a contractor we will call Al, to do the work. She gave Al money up front to buy supplies. Three weeks later he came back to her for more. She gave him more money and also put down a deposit for kitchen cabinets.

At this point she was doing her normal chanting practice to get things moving. She came to meetings and took care of and encouraged members. She had a strong practice both for herself and for others.

Several weeks later Al came back to her and said he didn’t have any more money. He admitted he had used it for something other than the house. He told her that if she would buy the rest of the supplies he would do the work without pay. Feeling as though she had no alternative, Jean agreed.

Soon after, the work slowed to a crawl. Al moonlighted at her house and worked at other homes during the day for money. The people he had brought to work with him weren’t getting paid either, so they stopped coming. It was clear to Jean Al wasn’t going to finish the work and what he had done was shoddy. She had given him all her money for the remodel and the work had ground down to a complete halt.

How She Handled the Crisis with Buddhist Practice

Step 1

Jean realized she had a real problem. Her home was torn apart, she had no working kitchen, the contractor couldn’t finish and she was out of money. Feeling overwhelmed by her circumstances, she didn’t cut back on her practice. Instead she doubled down, chanting for longer periods, doing more activities, attending meetings and encouraging other people. She was confident she was making good causes and according to the law of cause and effect she  expected good results. She reached out to other members for chanting support and encouragement. Jean relied on her practice to clarify the steps she should take.

The first step was to lay a claim with the contractors’ board as Al had not fulfilled his contract.The contractor’s board responded to her claim by sending an arbitrator. She and the contractor signed a new agreement, worked out through the arbitration process. Al agreed pay her $18,000 and pay for the cabinets. He had 60-90 days to follow through with the agreement. Jean waited but no money appeared.

Step 2

She decided to apply for his bond, her final recourse, to reimburse her for the money he had used up so she could complete the work. If this didn’t work she would be left with a house in chaos and no money to finish the work. There were a number of steps to this process. She entered upon a period where she would take a step and then he would have 30 or 60 days to respond. 6 months, then a year passed as the step-by-step process dragged along.

Illustration depicting a roadsign with a one step at a time concept. White background.

Jean continued to chant a lot and to do activities at the stepped up level. She had complete faith that this situation would work out, that this was a process she had to go through. At every step taken, she won, which helped her to remain positive.

Step 3

Then Al tried to get out of the arbitrated contract. This forced Jean to hire a lawyer and go to court. She won in court – the judge told the contractor the contract he had signed was binding. Jean could take the bond money.

Portrait of a cheerful african woman with hands raised pointing up


After the verdict, her lawyer pointed out that the contractor had dragged out the proceedings as far as he could, after being told early on there was no way he could win. This had cost Jean a lot of money unnecessarily. He thought the contractor should pay court costs and her attorney fees. The Judge agreed.

Summary of Steps to Handling A Crisis

1. When overwhelmed, Jean did not pull back from daily chanting but instead did more and also added to the activities she was doing to encourage and support the practice of other people.
2. She reached out to others for chanting support and listened to the experiences members, who had succeeded with their obstacles.
3. She remained positive, keeping the end goal in mind.
4. She continued her daily study to stay close to the teachings and be reminded she was a Buddha and could turn anything from poison into medicine

You Can Do It Too

Just remember these steps and, if overwhelmed,  double down rather than pull back from your practice.  Doing this you can overcome anything.

  • John Simons says:

    Thank you being there Margaret.

    i have been practicing for nearly twenty eight years now.
    I have lost everything, my home, job, car, kids live far away.
    I need a car and phone to connect with members. I live in the country. Im very isolated. At times I feel like taking my own life.
    After all these years of practice I feel like a total failure.
    I raised my kids on my own. At the age of 63 its just too late to start all over again.
    John Simons

    • Margaret Blaine says:

      I hope you are chanting for a solution. It may not happen all at once but you will start movement in the right direction. You are in a spiritual crisis. You have a choice to make. Will you give up on your practice or will you bring out your Buddhahood and move forward? Read, On Attaining Buddhahood for a discussion of this. Then get the Teachings for Victory, Volume one and study about the different types of challenges that face practitioners. I think these will help you see what you are dealing with.

  • Chantal says:

    My oh my I would tend to look at this practice with less scepticism if you at at least used as an example that was a crisis and there was no straight forward solution. The steps Jean took were common sense & didn’t require chanting. My sister had same experience with a contractor working on her house & followed same steps. She did not waste her time chanting. After reading your blog, your examples, I wonder if maybe those who chant are low functioning mentally and somewhat lacking in common sense!

    • Margaret Blaine says:

      No, not low functioning. People who practice see that their lives start moving in a progressive direction and find that they are able to successfully overcome problems. it is an experience and you should try it. Many people have tried it to prove it doesn’t work and are still practicing years later.

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