So. It's been two years since I announced "hey, I'm back to writing this little blog again." And then, nothing else emerged. A bit ridiculous, and funny, and well, if truth be told, a bit like the practice of waking up itself. If you practice any spiritual path really deeply for long enough, you have more than one moment of walking to the edge of a big "something" - call it the abyss, the big aha, the edge of really, finally starting - peering down, feeling perhaps a fresh breeze push ever so slightly against your skin, and then walking yourself right on back. This path of parenting is challenging. Add to that challenge the death of one's mother, the main source of those lineages of enlightenment and neurosis I have written about in the past, and at times many things begin to seem rather insurmountable and overwhelming. Writing about parenting when my mind was constantly shadowed with the loss of my own mom was an obstacle I didn't quite know how to overcome.
Pema Chodron writes in one of her more recent books, "When things fall apart and we can’t get the pieces back together, when we lose something dear to us, when the whole thing is just not working and we don’t know what to do, this is the time when the natural warmth of tenderness, the warmth of empathy and kindness, are just waiting to be uncovered, just waiting to be embraced. This is our chance to come out of our self-protecting bubble and to realize that we are never alone. This is our chance to finally understand that wherever we go, everyone we meet is essentially just like us. Our own suffering, if we turn toward it, can open us to a loving relationship with the world." I am not sure how well I have done with this teaching, but I am trying. My mother's passing, while casting darkness over my world, has indeed made me softer. In other ways, I think it has made me harder, as I struggle with a tendency to solidify around the grief, rather than allowing it to continue to work on my heart. Not dissimilar at all to the path of parenting, or waking up in general. So many times in our daily life, with our children or without, we are given profound opportunities to open or to close, to gather our ego tighter around ourselves, or slowly unwind its grasping fingers.
Since my mother died, I have come back, again and again, to a memory I have of her. It is one of my earliest. I am snuggled against her chest, her arm around me, as she reads a book to me on the old, threadbare couch of my childhood home. A shaft of sunlight warms us. I smell her perfume, and hear her voice reverberating slightly through her rib cage, my ear pressed against it. This memory often comes to me at the end of hard days with my boys, days when I have not walked this path skillfully, but have been impatient, unkind, ungenerous with them. I think of the hard days my mom had with her own children, and the many ways she failed. But my ultimate memory of her is this - warmth, sweet scent, love, cloth, sun and breathing bone. This gives me confidence that the many times I fail on this path will hopefully be transformed into those moments of compassion, love, generosity and space that my children deserve from me.
I think if we hope our children to be generous in their memories of us, we also need to be generous not only to them, but to ourselves. This takes bravery. So I am back, trying to be brave, inching up again to the edge of becoming, or as this is a Buddhist blog, to the edge of unbecoming. Here is the first step.