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Becoming More Authentically Me

by Daniela Ryan
Palm Desert, Calif.  

In June 2021, between the stress of the pandemic, the end of a bad relationship and what seemed like the start of another, I was feeling emotionally dysregulated. 

Why couldn’t I get a handle on myself? This was my exasperated contribution to one memorable phone call with a friend and SGI member.  She told me to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and see what happens. When I got home later, I locked myself in the bathroom so my children couldn’t hear me, and I chanted. I didn’t chant much more than a minute, but I immediately felt calmer. I didn’t know why but decided it didn’t matter. 

Before, when I got a rush of anxiety, I felt like there was nothing I could do about it—I just had to ride it out. But now, even just chanting for a few minutes calms me. In my work as a theater director, when I feel a stressful day coming on, or I know I will be dealing with a lot of different people, I chant in the morning to have an anxiety-free day. I feel like I am in control of myself and that the outside world is not determining how I feel anymore. That makes a huge difference. 

Ikeda Sensei often says that we each have our own unique path. Through my Buddhist practice, I am starting to realize that my work in theater is my way of impacting the world—for the first time I see it as my own personal mission. Giving the audience an experience that’s cathartic or even fun can totally shift someone’s day. 

This Buddhist practice has helped me become more authentically me and not succumb to the pressures and prodding of other people. I am becoming not only the director I always wanted to be, but the person I always wanted to be. 

I enjoy and benefit from my Buddhist practice, but how can I deal with my parents’ criticism of it?

Coconino National Forest, Arizona