Monday, August 30, 2010

gentleness and making mistakes

There seems to be no end to doing things wrong, messing things up all the time.We are sort of trapped in that kind of negative “oy vey” situation. On the other hand, very interestingly, there is lots of room to make mistakes. That’s true, absolutely true. But such room for mistakes cannot be created unless there is surrendering, giving, some kind of opening. If we can give away our aggression or attempt to give it away, if we attempt to open up and to strip away our territoriality and possessiveness—then there is lots of room for making mistakes. - Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

It seems to me that gentleness is the parenting tool that when cultivated, yields the most rewards for us and our children. But it can be so hard sometimes to be gentle, and so easy to be aggressive, especially if we didn't grow up with gentle parenting ourselves, or when we doubt our own goodness. My toddler is rapidly approaching the age of two, and the challenging period of meltdowns that this particular period is fertile with seems already upon us. It can be very challenging to maintain my patience with him at times, especially if my infant is in need of my immediate attention. My toddler is having a hard time sharing me lately, and this leads to some difficult situations during our days, where I begin to wish there were two of me to better manage! I have been having moments of feeling I am making mistake after mistake after mistake in my role as mama.

It can be hard to act with gentleness consistently towards our children when we cannot be gentle towards ourselves. Mistakes will be made in our parenting, often on a daily basis. We have to accept that. We will often act out of habitual pattern, and we have to accept that too. But if we manage to stay aware, to recognize when we are acting habitually, unmindfully, with aggression, impatience, and so on, then we can let go. As Chogyam Trungpa says, we can let go of our aggression, our neurosis, and surrender to the present moment. Surrendering to the present moment may mean that we really feel that knot in our stomach as our child screams at us. Or the tightness in our throats as we touch our anger. Maybe we will see that our anger is not about our child and their actions but about something else - the fight we had with our partner that morning, our lack of sleep, our wish to have some quiet- often a thousand other things. Perhaps our child touched a button, long buried in us, that we no longer remembered even existed. And somehow, in that moment of their own frustration and difficulty, they managed to find it! We can bow to our children in that moment for being our wisest teacher. That act of bowing, of surrendering our button, our ground, creates a huge space for us, or opening to use Trungpa Rinpoche's word. A huge opening where gentleness can occur. Where we can touch our tenderness, see the tenderness in our children, and start again. Fresh start.

Chogyam Trungpa taught often on the idea of "fresh start". Basic goodness does not go away. Buddha nature does not leave the room even though we are yelling like a tyrant or feeling stuck. It just gets obscured. Like clouds that pass in front of the sun. Mindfulness is the gentle breeze that blows those clouds away so our true nature can shine out. That breeze creates the fresh start. It's like an automatic reset button. We find we are lost in the past or the future, in a story line, a pattern, overtaken by the energy of anger, despair, and so on and seeing that, we touch it, let it go and... fresh start. Here we are again. In this room, in this body. How do our feet feel on the floor? The air against our skin? That tear on our child's face - we can see it now. Maybe we can touch into their frustration as well as our own. We can breathe into our own pain, whatever it may be, and breathe gentleness to ourselves and to our children. Fresh start. We wipe away the tear, get down to their level, and work it out sanely. Fresh start. New moment. We touch our basic goodness and can begin to act out of that, rather than our stuckness.

We are going to make mistakes continually as parents and as human beings. What matters is how we relate to those mistakes and to all the other moments that surround them. Mistakes do not mean we are bad parents or bad people. They just mean we are learning. And our children will learn from us as they see how we relate with gentleness towards our own errors and move forward. That is a powerful gift to them. I wish us all gentleness and confidence in our own goodness this week, and truly, always.

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