Expand, Express, and Grow!

chipmunk in yarrow looks like it is smilingIt takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.

 e. e. cummings

Sitting here in my front garden under the tall service berry bush and surrounded by blooming plants I marvel at the quest of nature to expand and express itself.  And there are so many expressions and forms – the variety of colors, the shape of leaves and flowers, and the shadings of green from one plant to another. Each plant is beautiful in its own expression, but put all together the expression expands vibrantly as each is connected to the others. We’re like this too and we’re on a quest to expand and express ourselves fully – at least we all have that potential and possibility.

As part of our expansion and expression we are all hard-wired for connection to others. Just like all other living things, we do not grow alone.  In this connection to others is the potential for becoming who we really are because it is in connection and relationship that we are seen and heard and accepted – the three things we scan for in every significant relationship experience – the three factors that our bodies shape themselves around as we grow into life.  These are essential factors of our growth into our fullest selves.  And we contribute to the expansion and expression of the full selves of others when we see, hear, and accept them.

I observed and appreciated the everyday weaving of being seen, heard, and accepted at a funeral recently.  It was of a woman who had spent her life creating symbols of love for others.  She was a quilter.  And over a 30 year + span she created quilts she gave to her family and friends – personal expressions of what she saw, heard, and loved in them.   Quilts made from the cloth of life like one-sies that children had outgrown, or skirts and dresses that had outworn people.  Quilts marking passages and quilts marking celebrations.  And quilts just because she loved doing it and she loved the person for whom she was making it.  She saw them, heard them and accepted what is.  And when she died, people brought their quilts back to honor her.  40 quilts lined the church pews.  40 expressions of holding people in her heart. 40 expressions of seeing, and hearing, and loving acceptance.  40 expressions of fully expressed creative delight in full bloom.

I felt deeply touched seeing this display of love in action.  The minister even commented that her love in action was evidence of the faith she had in life and God’s goodness.  I hear stories quite often from people that express doubt in their goodness, in their ability to contribute something of good and positive impact in the lives of others.  Discouragement sets in when we lose touch with our essential goodness and authentic power.  When that happens we need to take action and soon we discover that there is so much we can do.  Here’s some ideas to get you started.

Let yourself consider what you want to expand, express, and grow within you right now.

  • Have you been thinking you’d like to take a painting class or some other creative outlet?
  • Do you want to re-do something in your house that would express you more fully?  Even changing something simple like moving some furniture or a plant brings out some expression of who you are.
  • Is there some aspect of your health that you want to attend to?

Consider your close relationship(s).  Choose an action that shows you see, hear, and accept them. For example,

  •  When your partner is speaking, stop what you are doing and look at them so that they know you are listening to them.
  • Set aside time to spend with someone then ask for a date so they know you want to be with them.
  • Send a message that you like someone just for who they are.

Creating the kind of connections that make a big difference in our own lives and the lives of others can be really simple acts.  Don’t underestimate your power to contribute to your well-being and the well-being of others every day.   Like the plant beings that the earth produces in profusion one movement, one inch at a time, we can expand, express, and grow to be who we really are and make a significant contribution to others.

About the author

Suzanne Kilkus

Suzanne Kilkus is a Soto Zen meditation practitioner and teacher and has practiced as a therapist and counselor for over three decades. She is dedicated to assisting people in expanding their capacity for giving and receiving love, and for recognizing and expressing their basic goodness in everyday life. Her path to live with wholehearted compassion and care is an invitation to everyone. She is a teacher with Open Door Zen Community in Madison, WI.