Sunday, November 7, 2010

birthdays and their lessons

"If we don’t understand impermanence, we don’t have a sense of immediacy. Without a sense of immediacy, we remain under the influence of the protracted illusion that we are eternal. In other words, we become very comfortable in our habits."
- Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

"They grow up so fast", people say. "It goes so quickly", kind strangers murmur at me in grocery stores, on the street, at the museum. "Before you know it, they'll be all grown up and you'll wonder when they will visit", this one from a middle aged man who passes us on a cold, autumn walk. "Appreciate it while you can." He adds, and sighs.

My eldest turned two this week. What more piercing example of impermanence than to see our children grow before our eyes? To change from this:

to this:

in lightning speed. How can you even pretend this living, changing thing is permanent and fixed?? What these strangers are really saying is "things change - be present." "Be present" they implore me. "Don't miss your life. Don't miss their lives." So I try to be present. To pay attention. To pay attention to them, and to the moment by moment unfolding of their little lives. "Appreciate your life", say the buddhas.

So, to my little big boy, thank you for teaching me the truth of impermanence. For giving me a definite reason for immediacy when I get too settled in my old habits. For making me appreciate my life. Here are some things I appreciate about the unique expression of buddhahood which you are:

The way you are so proud to have picked apples off the tree I lifted you up to, so proud that you then ate the entire half bushel in one week. How apple then became one of your first and most oft repeated words.

Your unexpected love of Halloween decorations, even the ghoulish ones. This has led me to enjoy a holiday I previously chose to ignore.

Your love of the wind, an element that I always associated with discomfort, but that I now associate with excitement and wild joy.

Our walks together, which are full of pauses and explorations of the sidewalk, pinecones, squirrels, birds, flowers, leaves, dirt mounds, rocks, cars, people. Because of your unbridled curiosity, I need to allow at least 30 minutes to travel three blocks, but our neighborhood now seems like a very large, friendly world.

The way you smell flowers so deeply, so passionately, and with such enthusiastic "Hmmm!" and "YuMM!" as though their colors and scents were nourishing the deepest parts of you.

Your love of trains and trucks and cars and all kinds of vehicles I previously knew nothing about. I have become an expert in all things vehicular due to your tutelage.

So many things, but most of all, the opportunity to wake up, again and again, no matter how many times I forget to just be here with you and your brother and your unfettered basic goodness. You have taught me more in the past two years than all my years of practice.


  1. Great post! So glad you had a nice celebration

  2. Thanks Amy! It was a lovely day, very simple and quiet. Phew!