(and True Entrusting or ‘Shinjin,’ as inspired by River of Fire, River of Water by Taitetsu Unno)
Dharma Glimpse by Alison
Taitetsu Unno talks of the importance of authenticity. This is a glimpse that seeks to be authentic, so might push some readers/listeners to the boundaries of their comfort, as it did those of the writer.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on suffering. I was never interested in suffering, pain or misery, as who would be? However, I’ve found myself in relationship with it throughout my life and observed its journey of ups and downs; challenges; moments of respite and the many different ways of relating to it. This long time period has given me ample opportunities of practising different approaches to it and ways of dealing with it – some successful and some not. I’ve tried ignoring it; accepting it; fighting it; working with it; sharing it with others and keeping it to myself, alongside years of meditation retreats, hours of webinar viewings and years of training. Friends were made and lost, but most of all, I’ve deepened the relationship with myself.
Suffering can be the most isolating experience, because naturally people want friends who radiate joy, not those who spill out pain and misery. One of the most interesting things I’ve observed is how people relate to a person suffering. There are those that want to fix you, to make you feel better; who tell you to ‘cheer up’ and be more positive; who avoid you because you make them feel uncomfortable; then there are those who enjoy being with you when your days are easier and lighter, but avoid you when your days are darker. Some people seize the opportunity to (perhaps unconsciously) take advantage of you, if you let them into your vulnerable space, leading to potential abuse or toxicity. Then there are those rare kinds of people who stay put, through thick and thin, not seeking to fix you, but who just ARE, like a constant reassuring presence – such friendships are rare indeed.
I have often been perplexed at how to navigate friendships during periods when suffering was intense. Many people have a tendency to withdraw themselves during their darkest days and one reason for this is because they can’t show up authentically, as they are afraid that people won’t like what they see. When suffering and pain is too much to contain, we can not help but brim over and spill out onto someone else close. Sometimes we also want to share our pain, in order to connect and to be understood. We want to be met in the space where we are. We want to be Known and we want to be Loved. Sometimes it might be that a part of us secretly wants to share a small slice of suffering with someone else – there seems to be an unfair balance in this world – and it is only a small slice after all. We want to be seen for Who We Really Are – as our truest and most miserable authentic self. We’ve been programmed from an early age to keep the suffering in and not burden others, so naturally the longing to be Seen and Known is huge and sometimes we boldly step out from our prison, revealing our broken parts. It can be a fine balancing act, reaching out to connect, whilst trying to contain it all. I often still wonder, if being filled with so much suffering, how it’s possible to be loved at all?
I am reminded of a family friend. A friendship wasn’t possible as our mothers were best friends in childhood, so we felt too much like family. I had decided we could be the sister neither of us had had, but the expectation of becoming one of her immediate family only led to disappointments (and she already had a huge family of her own). A few years later, we finally found a happy balance and call ourselves ‘cousins,’ where she has now embraced me as part of her Extended family and through increased respect and understanding, we are now mutually supportive as cousins. Despite initial expectations and disappointments, we’ve now brought Spaciousness into our relationship, allowing room for something new to grow.
I guess the answer I am coming up with, after many hours of sitting with the Buddha, is that what’s important, when we are filled with suffering, is to allow in the light of compassion, to allow Spaciousness to enter in. Despite the pain and suffering, we need to allow enough space if we are to accommodate others and all that they bring. It is extremely hard to open ourselves up to people when we have been taught to contain our own suffering – but we must do this if we are to be able to connect with others successfully. We need to Own our suffering and not be afraid to voice it and to share it even. It is others’ responsibility to deal with their own reacting parts and we are not here to protect them. This goes for living our own Truth, whatever that might be – there is only the way of Authenticity, an acceptance of What Is. Suffering Just Is, that’s all. In Authenticity, we need to be a Voice for our pain, or a Voice for what we are and this should encourage others to do the same and to help others to understand us. How can there be good relations and peace in this world if we continually hide people from our Truth?
So, if we are fortunate enough to have found this rare being, this constant presence in human (or animal) form, then Great! If not, Mother Nature is always present for us and throughout many generations of human turmoil, the trees are still standing tall. We can also allow Amida’s light to shine in and illuminate the cracks of our broken self, softening the painful parts of us, like ice melting in water. Amida sees all of our broken parts and loves every one of them. In Parts Work, by Tom Holmes, this would be allowing more ‘Self’ into our space. Finding Spaciousness amongst the large, painful parts. Amida has infinite capacity to be present, even in times when we are spilling over. After some time we can even feel lighter and comforted. Human beings are only limited karmic beings after all – when we spill over they often lack the capacity to contain the overflow. As long as we hold the expectation that other limited karmic beings can be as safe containers for us, we will for ever be disappointed and only recycle suffering. Amida’s capacity, on the other hand, is limitless. The only True Entrusting is in Amida.
Namu Amida Butsu _/l\_