Becoming a bodhisattva is a matter of opening our hearts, and that can be as simple as opening our eyes.
-Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
I have been practicing opening my eyes lately. It is so easy to keep them closed, or at least downcast. Even when with our children and closest loved ones. So easy to close our hearts up and just hide. It can seem easier, because other people, especially those who make the most demands on us, can seem so draining, so threatening even. So we close our eyes. And we suffer, and the world around us suffers too.
I have been sick again, and my children too. The temptation to just shut everyone out has been strong. When my children wake up again and again, demanding to be nursed when I am still sick- let's just say gentle surrender is not always my first response. And the daytime has been challenging as well, because I have lacked the energy to relate to them, so we have fallen into some not so great habits, like video watching, just to keep everyone relatively contained and allow mama to rest a bit. The challenge with these habits for me is once I am better, like today, the children still want to cling to them, no matter what distractions I offer or what boundaries I try and set. As always, I am finding gentleness to be the best tool, but sometimes it takes me a few attempts at manipulation or frustrated struggle to finally turn to it. Aggression is such a challenging habitual pattern to transform. Its roots are so deep, and have been cultivated so long. So I have to acknowledge that it is there, and cradle that anger, or just that frustration with things as they are, with great loving kindness. I continue to find that I need to be gentle with myself if I wish to be consistently gentle with my children and others.
My eldest was so frustrated today. He has been cooped up inside a bit too much due to illness, and the house is in chaos. He had several epic meltdowns. Finally, when it was dinner time, he insisted that he wanted to go outside, right that minute ("right now!" is currently his favorite phrase), to splash in the puddles in the rain. I was exhausted, trying to get dinner on the table, dealing with my younger son who has been feverish, and just at my limit. I noticed I was getting upset, getting impatient with him. I noticed that what I was saying to him and the way I was saying it was not working. It wasn't helping. And I noticed that I had my eyes closed. Literally. When I was responding to him, I was closing my eyes in frustration, placing plates on the table. So I stopped. I stopped what I was doing, and I opened my eyes. I looked at him.
He was standing at the door, crying, trying to open it. My heart opened. I remembered that he is small. I remembered that he has had a tough week. That he hasn't felt very well. That he has so many limitations due to his age and size, so many things he can't do, can't express, can't control. I didn't need to be so rigid. I told him that once he ate his dinner, quickly, we would go out in the rain before the sun went down, to splash in the puddles.
And we did. We ate dinner very quickly, and while daddy took my youngest, my eldest and I went for a fairly long walk in the rain, with much puddle splashing. It was cold and sleety as well as rainy out. But it was lovely. It made him so happy. We got to see the street lights go on - he pointed the first one out to me with great excitement, and together we made some wishes. He wished to meet Thomas the Tank Engine, and I wished for a baby sister for him and his brother (a mama can dream, no?!). We were able to rescue a worm from a deep puddle, and we splashed for blocks. We got to pass the firehouse and say goodnight to the engines, to the dark library, to the elderly man who we always see walking his dog in the morning. We were both quiet during the last part of our walk, just holding hands, walking and splashing together. Ordinary magic. All because I just opened my eyes, for a moment.
If we can open our eyes and our hearts to our children, our family and friends, then we can begin to practice opening them to the larger world as well. We can see where we don't have to be so rigid, that perhaps what we think we have to protect ourselves from isn't really threatening, and that maybe our "selves" don't exist in quite the way we think they do - so there isn't really anything to protect anyway. We don't need to be so afraid. We can help. We can help our children, and we can help others as well, outside of our family, our neighborhood, our community, our country. We can open our eyes, and really look at beings. What do they need? Why do they suffer? How can we help?