A Dharma Glimpse by Alison
Having a voice can seem like something very normal, but actually it isn’t for everyone. On returning to England it struck me that we are expected to have a voice and to share ideas, opinions, thoughts and feelings. In Asia this wasn’t particularly important, unless it was about an action plan, that would harmoniously operate together with a group of people. Growing up in England I wasn’t allowed to have ideas or opinions – I had to remain silent and obedient. In this one single respect, you could say, I’ve lived ‘a Small Life’. Coming to the temple has provided space for thoughts and ideas, without judgement. Not knowing what people think about your ideas or thoughts can be rather terrifying if you’re not used to it. I realised just how much I’ve needed to continue my small life (in this way), or when boldly stepping out, how much I’ve needed approval, especially after so much disapproval. Judgement isn’t the way here, it isn’t a Buddhist, or spiritual, practice. It can be frightening to speak out without any reassurance or disapproval – did people approve or disapprove of what I said? I’ve no idea, but I’m hoping that somehow my past conditioning will re-set at some point and it’ll no longer matter. Do people approve? Living with that unanswered question can be painful, but we are no longer children (and even children should be able to express themselves without approval!) We shouldn’t need validation, yet many of us do. I am not alone here in exclaiming how difficult it can be to not receive judgement, reassurance, disapproval or praise. And yet – I really don’t want any of those things.
The plants and trees just grow. And we know the expression, that the grass grows by itself. Ultimately, to be as a tree, to unfurl our leaves and to spread our branches, we can rise up. The trees, unafraid, greet the sun, which I like to think of as being Amida, – we can greet Amida’s embrace, just by being, by growing, by not holding back. We can’t allow self doubts or insecurities stunt our growth anymore – the trees don’t. The trees simply grow – they could be said to ‘live a Big Life’. There is only one direction to grow tall, straight and upright – we can only surrender, let go of fears and trust this natural process, no matter how painful it can be. Growth usually involves pain, but it just happens naturally, if we allow it to. We need to accept that not everyone will like us, or celebrate us and just be at peace with it all. The trees just grow tall and we can take inspiration from them, by allowing ourselves to ‘live a Big Life.’ The trees don’t force or push themselves to grow and the trees don’t hold back their growth – they just grow. This is, in a way, a test of faith, a letting go, an unfolding, a growing in faith – being unafraid to grow, to be, to exist and to say, ‘I am here.’ This unfolding can be an extremely difficult process and speaking for myself, I am painfully aware how deep I am in the mud in my karmic nature – in ‘my Small Life.’ It can take a very long time to reach up tall… to expand. Despite being in the mud, we might occasionally catch glimpses of the sun’s rays, when we can feel the warmth seeping through.
We can simply trust in the process of our own growth.
Namu Amida Butsu
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