One more thing I can live without

June 4th, 2009


My daughter comes to me after watching TV.

“Mom, I know what I want to save my money for. A laptop or a cell phone.”

She’s nine years old, and the money she’s talking about is her weekly allowance. As long as I’m her mother, she won’t be fulfilling either desire any time soon, but that doesn’t resolve the problem for me. I perceive it as something far bigger, more menacing and upsetting. Something not right.

Those insidious commercials! Our consumer-driven culture! Our insatiable kids! Those inexhaustible desires! How I want to put an end to them! Specifically, how I want to put an end to hers!

Or so we chant in the Four Bodhisattva Vows:

Desires are inexhaustible
I vow to put an end to them

What exactly do we mean by that? Have no desires? Want nothing? Is that what we really want? After all, it is desire that brings us to the Dharma, desire for truth, and desire that brings us back to practice again and again.

Maezumi Roshi once responded to a student who professed to having no desires.

“Your practice is wrong!” Maezumi replied.

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18 Comments »

  1. I am so glad to hear that another child desires a cell phone. My 10 year old daughter has been begging to buy a cell phone for 6 months. The real kicker is that cell phones do not even work in our neighborhood!

    Comment by Anonymous — June 4, 2009 @ 3:21 pm

  2. Of course! Because it's not about the phone, it's about the want.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — June 4, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

  3. My teens had to earn their phones in Junior high 8th grade, both of them – earned or not with grades on report cards. Kind of like payment for going to work and doing well I suppose.

    Now I see it more of my own comfort, for knowing where they are, at most times and that they can call and I am here, because they just grow to fast these days.

    Comment by Cat — June 4, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

  4. We are definitely a "children with no phones" household but it is a never ending challenge not keeping up with the Joneses.

    As for the laptops … I wish my children each had one so they'd leave mine alone. Can I live without it? Of course. Do I want to? No.

    Clearly I'm still very much a work in progress. ;o)

    Comment by Shalet — June 4, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

  5. Turning off the TV has helped us a lot. Giving away so many toys has helped too. As if the less we have, the less we want … is that a true formula? Right now, what my kids want most, more then cell phones and laptops, is my attention.

    And so I must be off now. 🙂

    Comment by Mrs. B. Roth — June 4, 2009 @ 5:41 pm

  6. the want. the want is hard for me and even more so when i see the children wanting. your right, it is not about the phone, for me its the inexplicable desire to have (blank) and to think you are not fulfilled without it. for my kids it may be an ipod, a laptop or a cell phone. for me it may be a better home, better vacation or more beautiful body.

    Comment by Bridge — June 4, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

  7. Bridge, I'm so glad to have you back!

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — June 4, 2009 @ 9:53 pm

  8. I liked the line from the longer article: There is no right way to parent; only a right now way.

    I sooooo need to remember that. I spend far too much time wondering what you or Jena or someone else might do as a mother. No, Gail. Mother these children in this house at this moment. Just. be. here. now.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Comment by GailNHB — June 4, 2009 @ 11:53 pm

  9. And for that chorus, Karen & Gail, I thank you. "Mother these children in this house at this moment." I love this line. Gail, it is very funny to me to imagine you wondering what I would do – if only you could see me some nights when I'm hopelessly falling off the wagon of being
    mindful and patient with my girls. And Karen, I appreciate your gently pointing to the question of whether "under-parenting" or whatever you call it is simply a different manifestation of "overparenting." Indeed, the energy can be the same if the goal is to "fix." For me, this week, this day at least, I'm intent on being a good enough mama. Good enough.

    Comment by jena strong — June 5, 2009 @ 1:19 am

  10. Great post. What is the answer for the insatiability of children in a consumer driven culture. Great question!

    Comment by Molly — June 5, 2009 @ 2:25 am

  11. Friends, don't be afraid to leave a comment on the longer post at Shambhala. Buddhists don't bite (well, not all) and it's how I keep going.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — June 5, 2009 @ 3:37 am

  12. buddhists bite, but always at the right moment. glad to be back. XO

    Comment by Bridge — June 5, 2009 @ 4:17 am

  13. “Don’t pick it up if you can’t put it down.”

    I understand/experience the truth of this most deeply in relation to my desire to mother, to be a mother, to raise, love and care for a child – that desire is not bad, but if I can't put it down I'm in trouble. So I practice putting it down.

    (I left the same comment over at SunSpace – so glad to have one of my favorite bloggers blogging at another of my favorite blogs)

    Comment by Marianne — June 5, 2009 @ 9:03 am

  14. I am sure they would tunnel their way in somehow, but man is it ever nice to live without a TV!

    Comment by uprisingseeds — June 6, 2009 @ 4:56 am

  15. Love this topic. I'm heading over there now to read the rest.

    Comment by Mary (MPJ) — June 6, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

  16. This story reminds me of the profound wisdom available in Zen koans. Stop thinking is timless advice.

    Comment by Liara Covert — June 7, 2009 @ 3:14 am

  17. karent – i think about this very moment OFTEN. it makes me crazy. it also happens to be a huge motivator for us to get out of the city.

    you cannot escape the constant suggestion of NEED for THINGS here. i hate it.

    Comment by Stella — June 8, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  18. just getting caught up here….perfect timing – here in austin we are hosting a screening of the film "consuming kids: the commercialization of childhood" – it's very thought-provoking.

    here's a link to the trailer:
    http://tinyurl.com/krl4su

    and a link to the amazing folks – a great group – campaign for a commercial-free childhood:
    http://www.commercialexploitation.org/

    Comment by wensalome — June 12, 2009 @ 5:47 am

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