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Joyfully Transforming Fear Through Mission

August 18, 2022

By Dale Robinson

River Rapids District, Montreal


Buddhism teaches us that the individual writes and performs the script for his or her own life. Neither chance nor a divine being writes the script for us. We write it, and we are the actors who play it. This is an extremely positive philosophy, inherent in the teaching of 3,000 realms in a single moment of life. You are the author and the hero. (Daisaku Ikeda, Faith into Action, p.35) 

This quote from President Ikeda is one of my favourites. It reminds me that I, alone, have the power to create the script for my own life and to be the hero within it. It also reminds me that I can change course at any time, even moment to moment, to more fully align with that script. I find these ideas tremendously empowering. I have both the responsibility and the benefit that comes from accepting that responsibility. These ideas provide the framework around this experience. 

I am an HSP: a highly sensitive person. This means that I am easily, and often deeply touched by all kinds of sensory information around me. I can be stirred profoundly by music, poetry or theatre. I can be overwhelmed by loud noises, lights or even smells. I can also tap into people’s feelings and emotional states without intentionally seeking to do so. The heightened way that I experience the world can have many benefits. I experience joy often through music or poignant readings, and I am inspired by all kinds of art. This ability was a definite gift in my decade-long work as a recording engineer. I intuitively knew how to edit music though I had never learned to read it. I could feel the music from the inside out, with all the nuances that enveloped each piece. I knew how to maximize the impact of these in the creation of various kinds of video post-production projects. I absolutely loved my work as an engineer. My HSP traits have also been wonderfully beneficial to my current work as a psychologist. I find myself especially drawn to working with people’s emotions which allows me to more fully utilize my HSP capabilities. 

Having a heightened sensitivity to one’s environment can, understandably, also be a detriment. I can ingest a lot more information around me than I want to or than is good for me. Over the years I have learned that I not only need to safeguard this gift but that I also need to protect myself so as not to get over-stimulated. My Buddhist practice has been the main way that I have summoned protection for myself and buffered my sensitive nature. 

I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism by a good friend in 2004. Over lunch one day, he told me about his practice and gave me a card with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo[1] on it. I took the card home and began to diligently chant to my bare living room wall. Almost immediately, I felt a connection to the chanting and noted the calming effect that it had on me. I intuitively felt its healing capability and continued to chant daily, even if only for five or ten minutes. 

Surprisingly, things began to change in my life. The first thing I noticed was that I felt increased protection. More than any specific occurrence, I became aware of a bit more buffering between myself and my environment—a relieving effect against my potential over-stimulation. Eventually, I joined a home district in Montreal and was welcomed wholeheartedly by the members there. I received my Gohonzon[2] on June 5, 2005 and my journey into transforming my life officially began. 

As we know, chanting brings to the forefront many challenges to be worked through and transformed. And so it was that in chanting I began to experience my HSP traits as intensified anxiety, especially as rooted in my past. From the time I’d been a young girl I’d had anxiety to varying degrees. This was fuelled by the instability created when my family moved each year, necessitating that I change schools. For a young girl with HSP, this was overwhelming. Fear became my constant companion. I managed partially by developing very particular ritualized behaviours designed to create safety for myself. Now, in hindsight, I can identify these behaviours as obsessive-compulsive. 

In my early adult years, I discovered the dulling impact that alcohol had on my HSP and anxiety. For moments at a time, I could finally find a space that was peaceful, without fear. What a gift. For many years, alcohol remained, simply, a welcome respite from my fear, until it became more. At some point, my reliance on alcohol became abuse and I started down the slippery slope into addiction. Eventually, alcohol began to interfere with my sleeping, my concentration, and even my memory. The elixir that I had chosen to reduce my anxiety was now actively contributing to it. I was in great distress. 

As our Buddhist practice teaches us, I took my pain to my Gohonzon. Each day I’d chant to stop drinking, but every day I’d buy wine on the way home. I don’t know how long this continued. At some point, I had the recognition that I had to change, but I also became aware that I was seemingly unable to do so. But as we also learn in our practice, prayer and chanting are not enough—action must be taken. Though I can’t say it was a conscious effort, one day I decided not to drink just for that day. Then I did it for another, and another. Slowly, I built up a few weeks of abstinence. All through this time, I prayed and chanted. 

Eventually, through the power of the Gohonzon I was led to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) where I discovered that alcohol was but the symptom of the problem to be tackled. The real work began as I slowly unpacked all the emotions, including the debilitating anxiety underlying my drinking. I had to squarely face all the behaviours within me that facilitated my addiction.

Through my human revolution I learned that fear emanates from my smaller, ego-driven self but that chanting brings about wisdom, compassion and courage—all qualities of the Buddha that can transform fear. From a space of my higher self my personal insecurities are now morphing into mission, and kosen-rufu[3] is becoming the platform from which to contribute to others’ happiness and create change. In working from a space of mission, now I consistently find peacefulness and calm like no other, and I can tap into a power source so forceful that fear evaporates. I have no doubt that I have found my purpose and that alcohol was but a signpost to lead me there. Chanting to the Gohonzon provided the power and fuel for all of this. 

There are so many areas of my life which have been touched by my Buddhist practice and for which I am eternally grateful. I feel a tremendous privilege to do the work I do as a psychologist. To accompany people on their journeys into themselves is incredibly gratifying and humbling. Whether or not my clients realize it, my philosophy of psychological change and the ensuing work I do is inextricably linked to my Buddhist practice and my own human revolution. It can’t be otherwise. 

I have a beautiful wife, Rosa, to whom I have been married for 17 years. She lovingly provides on-going support for all my SGI activities as a district leader. We have a beautiful home on the canal in Montreal, and a Yorkie named Bailey. As a bonus, I own the car of my dreams. I am happy to report that I have just celebrated my sixth year of sobriety and I feel enormous gratitude to be part of two supportive families—my AA family and my SGI family. All these gifts are directly and indirectly due to my Buddhist practice. 

Dale with her wife Rosa

As a wise woman and friend once told me, “When you open the Gohonzon, you open your life.” This is so true. With the restrictions we live under during the current pandemic, it is all too easy to become discouraged and to atrophy. But when I open my Gohonzon, day after day, and engage in dialogue with the universe, I bring to life that part of me that is eternally youthful, hopeful and positive. From prayer and chanting, all becomes possible and I find inspiration, drive and motivation which I can then bring to fulfilling my mission. 

I am taking full responsibility for creating the script for my life and I am bringing all that comes from this to my work as a bodhisattva.[4] It’s not always easy, but it is a truly wondrous journey. To conclude, I would like to share this guidance from President Ikeda:

To lead a life in which we are inspired and can inspire others, our hearts have to be alive; they have to be filled with passion and enthusiasm....To achieve that (as President Toda also said), we need the courage “to live true to ourselves.” Rather than borrowing from or imitating others, we need the conviction to be able to think for ourselves and to take action out of our own sense of responsibility. (Daisaku Ikeda, For Today and Tomorrow, Daily Encouragement, p. 397) 

Published in July 2021 New Century   


[1] Nam-myoho-renge-kyo: The fundamental Law of the universe expounded in Nichiren Buddhism, it expresses the true aspect of life. Chanting it allows people to directly tap their enlightened nature and is the primary practice of SGI members. Although the deepest meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is revealed only through its practice, the literal meaning is: Nam (devotion), the action of practising Buddhism; myoho (Mystic Law), the essential Law of the universe and its phenomenal manifestations; renge (lotus), the simultaneity of cause and effect; kyo (Buddha’s teaching), all phenomena. 

[2] Gohonzon: The object of devotion in Nichiren Buddhism. It is the embodiment of the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, expressing the life-state of Buddhahood, which all people inherently possess. Go means “worthy of honour” and honzon means “object of fundamental respect.”

[3] Kosen-rufu: Literally, it means “to widely declare and spread [the Lotus Sutra]”; to secure lasting peace and happiness for all humankind through the propagation of Nichiren Buddhism. More broadly, kosen-rufu refers to the process of establishing the humanistic ideals of Nichiren Buddhism in society. 

[4] Bodhisattva: One who aspires to enlightenment, or Buddhahood. Bodhi means enlightenment, and sattva, a living being. A bodhisattva driven by deep compassion seeks enlightenment for oneself and others.