"Pay attention to your life. What environmental influences are you encouraging?" - Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
Sakyong Mipham is my teacher. As with all great teachers, whenever I read a teaching by him or hear him speak, it is like what he is saying is meant just for me. It always seems to be exactly what I need to hear, or something that has been crawling around in my brain trying to articulate itself into being, a vague unease scratching around, and then POW - he puts it into words for me to hear.
So it was when the above quote appeared on his Facebook page the other day (yes, all the Rinpoches seem to have their own Facebook pages, and to be honest, it is awesome. I LOVE seeing the profound, true dharma mixed up with all the status updates about children and partners and parties and so on. Very vajrayana, very tantric - the dharma is about this daily living stuff, not to be sequestered away in some untouchable place). Anyway, I saw this and it connected right to my heart. I have been vaguely anxious about the day to day environment I am providing for my family. About the influences that have crept in, or that I have been, perhaps, unable to discard from my previous life. Mental influences, physical influences. What we are spending time each day doing, what I am bringing into our physical space, or neglecting to take out of it. I had been forgetting to ask myself "is this helpful?" and even worse, I had forgotten to stop and listen to the answer. Ahem.
Screen-free week was a wonderful opportunity to step back and begin to unwind the tangled web of media that can, at times, dominate our home life to the detriment of our children. But it is useful to go deeper. To pay attention, as Rinpoche says. What are we encouraging in our home? What habits of mind, of speech, of relating? We have to look at ourselves. What seeds are we watering in our own minds and hearts, our own daily habits, that our children see and learn from?
What can we do to sow seeds of nurturing and goodness in our home? Seeds that when they blossom, will help our children have confidence in their basic goodness? What books? What food? What speech? What kind of play? What daily habits, both individual and familial? These are useful questions to ask ourselves. I have been trying to pause throughout the day when a particular habit makes itself known - is this working? Does this encourage sanity or does it create anxiety? Does this create compassion or aggression? Togetherness or separateness? Dignity or chaos?
I have some changes I need to make to our physical home and to our daily habits, some little, and some pretty big. This is not an excuse to beat myself up or make myself wrong about my parenting - it is an opportunity to rediscover the basic ground again, the ground of goodness, and look for ways to keep connecting to that. Always with gentleness. It can actually be a relief to say out loud "this isn't working!". That is a big, important first step. Then we can take the necessary, gentle steps to bring things back into alignment.
That is the work that lies before me right now. Weeding out the things that do not serve our wholeness, and creating fertile ground for sanity. What environmental influences are you encouraging? Pay attention to your life. That's all there is to do, really.