Sunday, June 6, 2010

Surrendering to the present moment

Our life is completely full even though we might be completely bored. Boredom creates aloneness and sadness, which are also beautiful. Beauty in this sense is the total experience of things as they are. It is very realistic. - Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

I feel that life is constantly offering us the opportunity to either open ourselves to what is, or to close the gates of our heart and mind tight against the present moment. My children are constantly pushing me to open wide to the world and the present moment, much wider maybe than I had ever planned on doing. I can either fight with the present moment, or I can relax into it, and find the beauty described by Chogyam Trungpa above. It can be so nuanced, the way we close ourselves off to what is actually going on, how much we can resist what is, because we are so afraid of ...of what exactly? Of space, and of boredom, which is what we seem to project onto our experience of simply being present. Whether in meditation or in our daily lives, we can become so afraid of boredom that we forget it is full of beauty.

For many months I have been eagerly awaiting the opening of a new library branch a mere three blocks from where we live, hoping that the librarian would offer a regular storytime for children. It was finally completed, and I trekked down one day with my two boys to check it out. The library was not yet open to the public but the kind librarian invited us in and gave us a tour of the facilities, which includes a lovely children's area. She was wonderful with my toddler, and he seemed excited to play with the toys and the books. And she informed me that yes, a weekly storytime for toddlers would be offered. I was thrilled, and left that day with much excitement and many promises to my toddler (who didn't want to leave) that we would return the following week for our first storytime.

The day and hour come, and we trek over once again, my toddler very excited. We enter the building and immediately, excitement turns into reluctance. I have to repeatedly coax him just to stay inside. We approach the story circle very slowly, very hesitantly. He backs off, and sits in the middle of the book aisle, refusing to budge. He is on the verge of tears. I continue to coax him, trying to entice him into the circle with the other children, who are happily interacting with one another and the librarian. He instead turns to the puzzle shelf, pulls out a puzzle and begins to point to it insistently, wanting to play with it. Story time begins, with the librarian singing with the children. I continue to try and push him verbally away from the puzzle, and into the cozy happy circle that I want to be in with him. I am beginning to feel the rising energy of frustration and the familiar tiredness that accompanies it. I begin to weave a mental storyline about my young son, about how cautious he is, and what a challenge it can be. How it worries me. How it must be bad, right?? And then I realize . . .that's just it, isn't it? I want to be in that circle. My son doesn't. Why isn't that ok with me? Why can't I just accept him for who he is in this moment? Why can't I accept what he wants to do? And so, I drop it. I drop my storyline, my frustration, my "but I want him to . . ." I stop trying to persuade him to join the others. I unzip the puzzle bag and take out the pieces, and hold my newborn as my eldest happily begins to play with the lovely new puzzle full of trains, trucks and airplanes - his favorite things! My energy returns and I can enjoy him, his baby brother, the sound of the other children singing, responding to the lovely story the librarian is reading. We are outside of the circle, but in our own cozy space.

Not that we must always surrender to our children's wishes - my son doesn't like to go to the doctor either, but obviously, he must do so, and I bring him to her willingly or no. But so often, we seem to hesitate or resist our children because we have a particular agenda for them that blinds us to what they actually need in that moment. When we are busy pursuing our agenda rather than just being with our children, friction occurs and drains us of energy. There is so much we would like to do, to busy ourselves with! And they would prefer to just sit there and read the same story a thousand times or watch that ant crawl up the leaf or do the same puzzle over and over again. We feel the subtle pull away from them, ignoring the incredible richness right there in front of us, that they continue to point out to us again and again. There is so much joy in surrendering to that fullness! Just as in meditation practice, the more we can relax into just being there, whether with our own minds or with our children, the more pure delight begins to inform our experience.

I continue to bring my son to story time, and he continues to prefer to play off to the side with a puzzle. Sometimes he will approach the circle and listen in, but for now he is happier outside of it. And I continue to accept that and delight in his individual exploration of the library. Eventually he will join the circle - or maybe he won't. As long as I continue to surrender to who he is and what he needs, it is all perfect.

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