A little late to the party, I am diving into the world of what I hope to be mindful marketing as well as recommitting to writing my blog. What I mean by the word mindful is that this cyber world, where we rarely meet face to face with another being, acts as a conversation among people who have accepted technology and its benefits, but who are also deeply concerned about the inner life. I now join in the world of virtual reality and search engine optimization in my spare moments. This is a new Universe opening up for me and I feel much like a young orphaned child on her 1st day of school. If only Robert Fulghum were right when he wrote, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”
I recently read that Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, liken parenting to an 18-year retreat. This idea contains and inspires me. I’m interested in any experience that bridges these worlds of mine so that my parenting is not something “other” from my work or Spiritual life. Now that summer is upon us, and I am with my young daughter so much of the time, mindful parenting seems to be what calls my attention. Tomorrow I will go to a day-long meditation. For today, though it seems, I am 6 years, 10 months into my retreat!
I have danced in and away from meditation again and again for the last 30 years. I first started practicing when I was 18 years old, having picked up a Buddhist bible in a hotel room in Hawaii, but it lasted only a brief time. My relationship to practice shifted when I was 30 years old and I became involved with a lovely man who headed a Tibetan temple and who has devoted his life to the Dharma. For the first time, I met people who were following an inner calling to seek something more than the psychology of their life.
My interest in meditation continued to grow once I found myself at my first retreat and, for the first time, felt a spaciousness so immense that I was hooked – at least for awhile. The retreat had a life altering effect. It gave me a direct experience which I yearned for rather than just reading about the possibilities and benefits of practice. For a while, meditation became a refuge from the dramatic and chaotic waters of my inner life. The teachings on the inevitability of suffering that I had continued to read about could finally be applied to my own circumstances.
The traditional teachings of meditation say much about suffering and how to work with it, but I find it still leaves a gap between my practice and daily life. How do we apply what we have learned in our practice to parenting? How does the solo adventure of sitting on a cushion and studying spiritual text translate into the endless activity of parenting? Meditation teaches us to watch our thoughts cross our minds, like clouds floating across a blue sky, without holding on. Much like the varied colors of expression in a child, I now see.
My daughter can be demanding and angry in the inhale of her breath and adoring and joyous by the exhale. She reminds me of the vibrant sun that remains steady, indifferent to the clouds drifting across the sky, as she is still living in the present with little or no residue from one moment to the next. I marvel at the intensity with which she can leap rapidly from discontent to jubilation. She is my little Spiritual teacher! How I want to let go with the ease and grace that she mirrors for me! She, too, is trying to understand her own 6 year-old version of the meaning of life.
I look at my daughter now with awe as her emotions flow through and leave just as quickly. My own personal guru right before me! She is complete in her expression and just as present in her letting go. My heart aches at the idea that this level of connection to her purist emotional states may be temporary. But, alas, impermanence! For now, she is fully expressive and can access the entire rainbow of her emotional life.
My work is to stand witness with her through it all, not abandoning her in her anger or curtailing her joy, but letting it all in. I can hear her now playing with her girlfriend, shapeshifting into her many imaginary worlds of family, trapeze artist, and rock star. I have been toying with the idea of her voice as my meditation bell, my call to practice. And as I write this, she calls out for me, interrupting me with her rigorous need that I enter into her virtual reality. The bell’s reminder that I am well into my 18-year retreat.