"Whatever our level of practice, there will always be obstacles. The Tibetan word for obstacle, parche, means “what cuts our progress.” In fact, sometimes the more we are engaged in practice, the greater the obstacles become. If we understand that obstacles are part of the spiritual path, we can learn from them. Obstacles can be messages. We need to wake up and look at what is going on. On a deeper, more profound level, we can include obstacles in our journey. This is a more challenging approach."
- Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
I apologize for falling silent here for a bit - I have been offline for a few weeks now, working with many obstacles. Spring has always been a charged time for me - a time of great blooming of karma. This spring has been no exception - so many challenges have been arising that I simply had to take a break and try to put things in order in the evenings when I would normally be blogging.
My children have been having major sleep disturbances, in that they are going through a period where they are refusing to sleep. They are going to sleep late, they are waking up at an ungodly hour, and are often refusing to nap - or napping with great difficulty and for very brief periods. I have tried to investigate the reasons for all this, and have finally thrown my hands up and told myself "this too shall pass." That is the good news about impermanence - the good things pass away, but so does the really crappy stuff. But I have definitely had some very dark moments in the last few weeks, when being completely sleep deprived, I have had to catch brief snatches of sleep whenever and wherever, and when that doesn't work, have resorted to yelling at my babies to "go to SLEEP!!!" Funny, but that didn't work.
Within all this sleep drama is also the fact that my mother is dying, and this has made my heart ache in ways that the lack of sleep seems to exacerbate. A hard time. And I have gotten very stuck. VERY stuck indeed. I have found myself in certain moments caught in an intense paranoia, believing my thoughts that this situation is very solid, very permanent, and not changing at all. This of course, has brought out my fear and aggression, and my babes had to deal with a very cranky, not nice mama at times. My patience flew out the window, and I felt totally unresourceful and isolated, very lonely and almost in despair.
So, what to do in these kinds of moments? Just breathe. Hah! But it's true. Find your breath. Touch your heart. Feel the tenderness, the fear. Breathe it in. Breathe out relief, breathe out space, breathe out comfort. Hold yourself in loving kindness. This has helped tremendously. Admitting to myself that I feel so stuck, so in despair, so at times, desperate for things to be different. Which of course, leads to aggression. But the acknowledging of it does the opposite - it creates space and gentleness.
Then what? Then go outside. Seriously. Get physical spacious sky over your heads. I did this, even though it has literally been pouring rain for the past TWO WEEKS. I took my little ones outside in their rain coats and boots and we stomped in puddles and splashed each other and played in the mud and rolled in the huge wet holes opening in the damp earth. We played in a sopping wet, empty playground, ending up covered in mud and exhilarated by the physical connection with earth and sky and water. It was great. It ventilated a claustrophobic household situation and helped us appreciate each other again. Or I should say, it helped me appreciate them again.
And there was of course, ice cream. Lots of ice cream for mama. And some for the little ones as well. It was that kind of a week.
What else? Remembering impermanence. That they will eventually sleep again. That I could relax a bit and let things go. I could surrender to them and their sleep pattern. When I was able to do that and not fight it like a crazy banshee, it changed, miraculously. It didn't get perfect, or even significantly better, but they have been sleeping ever so slightly more deeply, and napping ever so much better, and I have just accepted that my house and life are going to be in chaos while I nap whenever they do in order that I don't yell at everyone every minute of the day. Ahem.
There is an image in the Shambhala buddhist teachings of the Perky Snow Lion, bounding joyfully through the mountain highlands. The Snow Lion is joyful because it has complete confidence - he or she takes complete delight in the discipline of mindfulness, and has compassion for all beings - so much compassion, that the thought of others fills it with joy. The Snow Lion has a great sense of humor and curiosity. There is no stuckness - just big, bounding leaps and delight in things as they are. No doubt. I have been holding the image of the Snow Lion in my mind, and letting it guide me. No doubt. Confidence, humor, compassion, joy, mindfulness, discipline - these are the tools that are helping me through the day.
I have been falling on my face a lot lately, unlike the Snow Lion. But I keep picking myself back up and trying another leap. This is why it is called a path, and not an "accomplishment" or "wow, you did it!" It takes constant cultivation, and nurturing of our willingness to open. So, that's where I have been. Where I am. Trying to jump into openness instead of hunkering down in my stuckness, which, believe me, is no fun for me or my children.