Six of one, half dozen of the other

angel-wing_galI am Thankful
By Georgia

I am thankful for, My family.
I am also thankful for my dog, Molly
I am thankful for my life.
If I had no life I would be an angal.

No quibble from me, sweetie. No quibble.

 

Instead: Or what I did all day


I wanted to sleep past dawn, but instead
I know making breakfast isn’t worth the effort, but instead
I hounded my daughter to make her bed, but instead
I’ve given up hounding my husband, so instead
I tried for a quick drop-off at school, but instead
I hoped the garden weeds wouldn’t spread, but instead
I prayed the dog poop in the yard would disappear, but instead
I wished a pet like ours didn’t need walking, but instead
I aimed to go exercise, but instead
I could have let the laundry mount, but instead
I contemplated a sumptuous lunch, but instead
I wanted to cancel the teleconference, but instead
I would gladly let someone else chauffeur the kids, but instead
I thought we could go one more day without groceries, but instead
I could have picked up dinner, but instead
I might have nixed my daughter’s bath and hair wash, but instead
I wish I’d written something more than this, but instead
I long for another response to Marta’s question, but instead
This is my life and there is no instead.
How could it be any other way?

Attention readers, bloggers and opinionators: if you would like a review copy of the new paperback edition of Momma Zen, my publisher will provide! Just contact me via the email on my profile page.

Separated at birth

This week Momma Zen debuts in paperback. I feel a bit like a mother who sees her child after a short absence. There’s that half-step back on first sight: recognition commingled with no recognition. So much has changed! That fuller face. Those longer legs. That confident step. Where did the baby go?

As a dutiful mother, I’m holding this baby up to the world again. Perhaps you know this blog but you don’t yet know the book. I invite you to peek inside and nose around. Knock on my door so we can meet face to face. Pull up a chair and listen. Get to know the neighbors. We’re all in this together.

Nothing would make me happier. It could do the trick for you, too.

Visit my website to download audio excerpts in my own voice and a video interview in my own backyard.

We haven’t met but I’d know you anywhere.

Don’t tell Daddy

Mommy, promise me you won’t tell Daddy.

She had been a little squirmy on the way home from school. Preoccupied.

What is it?

Well, Mandy, she . . . promise me you won’t get mad?

Tell me, honey.

Mandy said not to tell you. She gave me this to keep and bring to school so we can play with it and she told me not to tell you. Promise me you won’t tell Daddy?

She was petrified, tormented as she reached inside her backpack. I had never seen anything like it, not that there aren’t plenty of things like it, a little toy, one piece of a two-way text messaging set that must be the walkie-talkie of these degenerate times. It was harmless, really, but Georgia had heard enough about how cell phones and iPods and mp3 players and every handheld electronic thingy orbiting her world was not a toy and not for her and Mandy had encrypted it all in a secret and Georgia was now trembling, crumbling with the weight of this second-grade conspiracy.

We didn’t tell Daddy. I told Georgia to give the toy back to Mandy the next day. I said I could see that having it made her scared and uncomfortable so she couldn’t keep it. I didn’t tell her how good she was or how bad she was. I didn’t scold her, and thereby add insult to her self-inflicted injury. And I didn’t tell her how happy she made me. Happy not because she trusted me. Not because she couldn’t keep a secret. Not because she couldn’t tell a lie. But because she couldn’t tell a lie to herself.

She’ll be OK, this little one. And Daddy (right, Daddy?) will be OK too.

I’ve about had it with the Truth. We’re off for a long weekend in Seattle to meet the mysteries that turned up one day in the mailbox.

Nice haircut

I guess the last post was too much to swallow in one gulp, when all we’re really talking about is how to know for sure that we’re teaching our kids to do the right thing.

Buddha left us a nifty eight-step program for that called The Eightfold Path that tells us how to live an enlightened life. It tells us eight ways to do the right thing: eight ways that cover just about the entire scope of human activity. It goes: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

That’s a lot of right. But this right doesn’t mean from wrong. This right means without a perception of a self.

Whaaaat?

Specifically, when it comes to speaking, it means that honesty is not always the best policy if someone has just gotten a bad haircut.

It means that in my interaction with my child, if I am motivated by: my shame, my anger, my fear, my worry, my desire to have my way, my pride, my fervent hope that I can teach her to be smarter, more charming, more clever, more grown up, more successful, more like me, less like me or more or less of anything or any way that constitutes my personal agenda, that’s not right. And I will inevitably cause her harm.

It means that in my interaction with anyone else, if I am motivated by: my shame, my anger, my fear, my worry, my pride, my desire to have my way, my need to be understood, my need for you to hear me out, my need for you to validate, concur, accept or agree to my point of view or do anything else that accords solely with my personal agenda, that’s not right. And I will inevitably cause you harm.

How can we put this into practice? Each time you get ready to speak, take a look at what you’re carrying. If you’ve got a pair of scissors in your hand, ready to cut, snip, shape or otherwise improve someone else’s head to your liking, set the scissors down!

Turns out not very much needs to be said. And in the event that you slip, hair grows back in no time at all. That’s the truth!

Chopping away at the truth


All well and good, you say. Who wouldn’t agree that children tell a charming version of the truth? But what about when a lie is really a lie? What about right from wrong? How do I teach my children to know that? Isn’t that the task before us? To raise good children to do good things?

Yes, it is our task and it is deceptively difficult. Not because of them, but because of us.

It is not as easy as counting to 10. Not just about hewing closely to a list of things to do, or a list of things to not do. Don’t hit your brother! Don’t cheat! Don’t lie! There is a place for those kinds of lists, they appear in all religious traditions, and they can be useful, especially as a starting point. But they do not really get to the pit of the cherry, so to speak, because human beings are quite clever with themselves. We nibble around the edges. We lie all the time, especially when we say we don’t. Rare are the offenders who can’t completely convince themselves of innocence. Or at least of extenuating circumstances!

In Buddhism, we have what we call the precepts. Formalizing your commitment to a Buddhist practice involves “taking the precepts,” which is a public promise to do what you say you will. The precepts sound like this: “Refrain from killing. Refrain from stealing. Refrain from lying.” They sound deceptively like another list of prohibitions with which most of us are familiar. And in that way, sometimes Buddhists seem to be replacing one set of ethical prohibitions with another. That’s as far as some folks get: still mired in a moralistic view of good and bad, right and wrong, believing sincerely that they are on the righter side of right, and on the gooder side of good. I’ve written before about how anytime we are judging either/or, right/wrong, good/bad, using our egocentric picking and choosing mind, we are hanging ourselves from a very strong and enduring tree, but hanging ourselves nonetheless.

(With lip-smacking self- satisfaction, I assure you that I’m better than those other half-baked Buddhists!)

No, just thinking you are doing the right thing isn’t doing the right thing at all. To get it really right, you have to chop down the tree. You have to chop away at self-satisfaction, self-righteousness, self-interest, self-absorption and self-service. You have to chop down your precious self – all its menacing branches and creeping vines. You have to forget yourself altogether. Then you really cannot tell a lie. But you can still eat the cherries or make a heckuva pie.

I’m off to destroy the incriminating evidence. Less of everything but truth tomorrow. (Or something that tastes a lot like it.)

Truth, as told by



The following post is based on the truth.

Things my daughter has said when I’ve been attentive enough to hear:

At the amusement park:
Sometimes the noisiest places are the most peaceful.
Looking at the sky:
The moon follows us wherever we go.
After a nightmare:
My brain is mixed up.
Asked to subtract 2 from 32:
I’ll know that in high school.
On setting the alarm:
My eyes have timers in them so I know when to wake up.
On her religious persuasion:
I’m half Jewish, half Buddhist and half Christian.
Hearing that what she wants costs $139.
I’ll ask Santa and it won’t cost anything.

I could take exception to any or all of these statements. I could see these as teachable moments. I could subtly nudge, correct, expand, or explain. I could interject scientific, biological, psychological or theological concepts of my choosing. I might note, for example, that the moon is not following her, per se, but that through Einstein’s Theory of Relativity we know that the interplay between mass and curvature causes the gravitational and centripetal forces that hold the moon in its position relative to Earth. Would that be more true?

Children’s views on the life around them are at once literal, lyrical and magical. They are simultaneously very small and simplistic, and very large and profound. They are always true; we just may not judge them to be right.

When my daughter speaks, I listen for a teachable moment. That is, a moment that teaches me. And I stifle the impulse to limit the possibilities of her universe. Her life will do that for her. She will inevitably acquire knowledge, cultivate reason and encounter her own doubts and dark nights. She will ask me difficult questions and I will respond as best as I can. I save her nothing by shortcutting her journey to what I believe to be right or rational, provable or true. I play along, because these are the days for play.

Right now and for the briefest flicker of time, she stands before a wide open window, inviting me to come see. It is a breathtaking view, and I want it to last far longer than I know it will.

When it ends, I’ll still be standing by her.

Unscrabbling the answers

Our week of truth-telling begins by revealing the winner of last week’s giveaway of the first copy of the new paperback edition of Momma Zen. Drumroll, please.

What began as a Friday morning afterthought ended up as an onslaught of 66 entrants, nearly all ensnared in a 24-hour period. Wait a minute. Astute readers might have noticed that sometime between the time I posted the giveaway and the time the winner was chosen, I changed the terms of the contest. What I first presented as a weeklong, below-the-radar offer turned into a high-speed photo finish on the final day of the Internet’s largest giveaway promotion. How did that happen? Easy. I changed my mind, and when I changed my mind, I changed the truth.

Those of you who entered early saw one deadline in the post; those in the thundering pack unleashed from giveaway central saw another. Whether you are an early and loyal reader on this Road or just a drive-by viewer tossing rocks in my dryer, consider this: Was my offer deceiving to some and not to others? Was it fair and honest? Every time my post was viewed, it was accurate, but perhaps not to your point of view.

It is difficult to extract one’s personal point of view from truth, but we must if we want to answer our own uncertainties about what is true and right for our children. But more about that tomorrow.

I do not know what silent force of attraction compelled my daughter to scroll through a list of 66 names and choose one, but she did. Her choice was proof again that children usually arrive at the most apparent answer, because after scanning all 66 she chose the very first name! I trust her choice to be as true and right as any other, and it carries my cheery salute to our first winner.


Kathryn has been busy lately losing her mind and heart to a two-month-old, but things are looking better every day. Stop by and give her a grin.

Astute readers might notice that I said first winner. This whole escapade addles and rattles one’s flimsy sense of truthiness, doesn’t it? Feeling uncomfortably as though my own personal agenda might not have been met by my daughter’s predilection for the obvious, I changed my mind again and turned to the scientific sanctity of an automated integer generator to name our second winner:


By her own words, this lucky mom of nine-month-old twins really NEEDS THIS BOOK. Why not visit and give her a high-five?

Trusting that the first two paperback copies of Momma Zen are headed in the right direction, and hoping that everyone carries through on their exclamatory promises to share and share alike, we call it a very good night.

Tomorrow, more stumbling forward on the march to Truth!

The giveaway that keeps giving away


All week long I’ve been teasing you with the claim that this was Grab Bag week at the Cheerio Road, promising that at the end of my interminable rambling there would be a goodie at the bottom of the bag.

This morning I reached into the bag and came up with a prize . . . for me.

The Original Perfect Post Awards - Oct

Shawn awarded me A Perfect Post Award for that little list of trust I posted last week. Only Shawn knows how perfect this turn of events really is; how the universe delivers what you need courtesy of a sensitive, soulful mom working hard and long in the wee hours of Somewhere, Pennsylvania. This is one gift that really gives, since it corralled a herd of unsuspecting readers to this dinky one-lane road yesterday. I’m so grateful I could blog on that for 30 days, but I won’t, I’ll get back to the subject at hand.

At the verrrry bottom of the bag is the giveaway I have in mind to give away, and it’s not nearly so generous, since I bet I’ve already given something very much like it to nearly all of you. The brand new paperback edition of Momma Zen has arrived and honestly it makes me and my mother and her mother and my daughter and her daughter proud all over again. It’s right pretty. I will send this gleaming white prize, inscribed by the famous author of same, to one of you who wants it and tells me so in the comments section of this post by 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, Nov. 4. Now here’s the deal. If you get it and already have a copy of the book, promise me pretty please that you will give away the other copy to someone else who least expects it, because that’s how the Cheerio rolls and rolls and rolls and rolls back to you like it does to me. All the time.

An upstanding girl of 8 will choose the winner from all entries. She is trustworthy and honest and, unlike her mother, has never told a lie. But more about that next week when we talk about Truth with a capital T.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Self-deceptively delicious

Mom, what’s your favorite holiday?

Crinkle. Chomp. Swallow.

New Year’s.

And hey! Speaking of lying to yourself, what’s the deal with this mega-deception anyway? 1.2 million copies in print? And who needs help hiding squash in macaroni and cheese? Burying chickpeas in chocolate? What kind of help is that? We need help getting the squash out into the open as it is! Chickpeas, rise up and reveal your true (lack of) colors! Good food tastes good by itself. But let’s be honest. You can do all that without a book, and your children just might begin to trust you more if you stop trying to pull one over on them at dinner, no matter how adept you are at fooling some of the people some of the time.

Oh look at that, my buddhism went all to hell with this post. I’ll try to patch up my self-image next time. Maybe I should get a little counsel from a world-class expert in the art of fooling no one. Turns out that, as of today, Karen P. Hughes, trusted counselor to the President, is available for another tricky assignment with truth, and I only hope she doesn’t write a cookbook.

Interview with a vampire

Did somebody say to write about control? Did somebody ask about fear? I’m afraid so. Who better to pontificate on the point than today’s guest, the phantom of fear himself, Count Effluvium Ginormus Overtopster.

May I call you ego for short?

I prefer that I forever be known as I, me, myself, the Big Kahuna, Top Dog, Numero Uno, the Commander in Chief or the Decider. I’m sure you won’t mind. In fact, you’ll come to love me as none other than yourself.

Are you big and bad?

Of course not, I simply have a neverending job to do.

Which is?

To protect you.

From?

Lions, tigers and bears.

But I don’t see any wild animals.

Boo!

Seriously, there’s nothing dangerous going on.

What’s that sound? Who’s hiding in the closet? What’s around the corner? What if? What then? What next?

Are you trying to change the subject?

All the time! See my sleights of hand? Judgment, control, planning, defense, intellect, memory. Hey! Remember that time you walked home in the dark and that stranger came close and . . . Remember when you were six and the dog barked and . . . Look before you leap! Better safe than sorry!

You’re trying to scare me.

I like to stay busy! And look at all the nifty defense mechanisms I brought with me: denial, displacement, intellectualization, fantasy, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression, sublimation, blah, blah, blah. I can’t wait to use one after the other. I never go anywhere unless I’m armed to the teeth.

You never go anywhere?

I prefer to stay in control right where I am. In fact, why don’t you go upstairs into that dusty attic surrounded by all those old, familiar things and I’ll lock you in where you are safe and secure.

Secure from what?

The outside, you silly! Didn’t you notice it’s getting dark? Didn’t you notice it’s getting light? Didn’t you notice all those ominous changes? The threatening signs? Didn’t you notice that those people over there are looking at you? Didn’t you notice everyone is talking about you? Better get up there and not move an inch. Entrust me with your life!

But it’s my house and there’s no one else here and you’re the only one talking.

Yes, and I wish you’d straighten up and set some standards! Fresh towels would be nice.

Why don’t you shut up?

Why don’t you try to make me?

This is my Halloween prank, but for a real scare, see what happens when ego rules the so-called free world.

In a variation on trick-or-treat, this is Grab Bag week at Cheerio Road. I’ll let your comments ignite the topic I take up each day. If there isn’t a gust from you – a question, a comment, a change in direction – we’ll just have to sit through the wait. At the end of the week, there’ll be a goodie at the bottom of the bag.

The stew in lieu (of a post)

1. Wake up.
2. Realize it is Monday.
3. Realize the phone is ringing; answer it and agree to teach yoga this morning.
4. Realize that by teaching this morning I can be home this evening instead of taking a class.
5. Realize that I need to check my calendar to be sure.
6. Realize it is October 29.
7. Realize that today is my 12th wedding anniversary.
8. Realize I need to buy a card.
9. Realize I need to buy a gift.
10. Realize the gift should be something my husband really wants.
11. Realize that would be a 90-minute massage at the health club.
12. Realize I could make a nice dinner.
13. Realize it could be something my husband really likes.
14. Take daughter to and from school, walk the dog, answer email, teach yoga, pick up dog poop, go to market, get card and gift certificate, talk on phone, chop veggies, make pot roast, receive magnificent floral delivery, help daughter with homework, clear table, bring in mail, vacuum, empty dishwasher, take out trash and chill champagne.
15. Realize that I can stop pondering the imponderabilities of today’s potential profundity
16. Because whenever I wake up and realize that my life as it is is perfectly OK it answers Karen Beth’s question from yesterday about my practice.
17. And thus comprises my post as promised.

In a variation on trick-or-treat, this is Grab Bag week at Cheerio Road. I’ll let your comments ignite the topic I take up each day. If there isn’t a gust from you – a question, a comment, a change in direction – we’ll just have to sit through the wait. At the end of the week, there’ll be a goodie at the bottom of the bag.

Putting out the fire


Practice the Way as though saving your head from fire. –Nagarjuna

We ended the week by quite nearly putting out the fires. We also ended the week by quite nearly coming around to practice. Are they one or are they two?

Here in Southern California, each round of wildfires reminds us of the last, only worse. It can appear to others that we are ignorantly dismissive or resigned. People rail against the shortage of plans and preventions, the inadequacy of resources, the greed of land developers and the (mostly) wealthy homeowners who build and buy in the fire zone. All of those are reasonable questions. But at this time of year, this long into the eternal drought, this far into Earth’s desperate disequilibrium, none of those questions puts out the fire. When the scorching desert wind blows from the East and starts or spreads the fire, there is nothing that can stop it. As long as the gusts are blowing from the Mojave furnace, the fire always wins. There is no fighting it. There is only the ravaging wait.

When conditions change, the fire always goes out. When the wind changes directions and the moist, cool air once again flows inland from the Pacific, the fires die back, and the fighters prevail.

So it is with practice. So it is with meditation, mindfulness and Zen. Only the fire is on your head. More precisely, it is in your head. It is your chattering, egocentric, picking and choosing mind that is aflame with fear, anxiety, worry, doubt, agitation, or just plain restlessness. None of those things is a problem unless it causes you a problem, unless the flames are too close for comfort. Maybe you can’t sleep. Maybe you can’t smile. Maybe none of the tried-and-true fixes will fix you up again. And that is the siren call for practice.

Just as with the other kind of fire control, we practice by changing the conditions. We settle our bodies into one spot, we minimize sensory distractions, we bring the full force of our mental powers away from the conflagration in our mind and toward the breath – the wind – to squelch the flames and cool the inferno.

Honestly, a life of practice isn’t the life we go looking for. It isn’t easy. It isn’t familiar. It isn’t a mansion in the hills. It is a life that starts out hard and ends up sweet; starts out hot and ends up cool. But it’s the only kind of sweet that ever satisfies. It’s the only kind of cool you urgently want and need. When it’s time, you know it, and you know what to do.

In a variation on trick-or-treat, this is Grab Bag week at Cheerio Road. I’ll let your comments ignite the topic I take up each day. If there isn’t a gust from you – a question, a comment, a change in direction – we’ll just have to sit through the wait. At the end of the week, there’ll be a goodie at the bottom of the bag.

Pages: Prev 1 2 3 ... 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 Next

archives by month

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.