imparting wisdom to children

October 27th, 2013

I94_North_Dakota_March_2005__soul-ampWhat have you imparted to your daughter?

This question came near the end of our one-day retreat together, when our hearts were open and full. After we’d done zazen and chanting, walking and bowing. It’s the kind of question we find underneath it all, when we’ve emptied all the silly stuff out of the top of our heads in the weary stillness of practice. We might still be looking for evidence that we’re doing something worthwhile.


That was my answer. I have imparted nothing to my daughter. At least not successfully. In hindsight, it seems to me that she has been waiting for me to stop imparting to her. To stop imposing on her, to stop judging, coercing, undermining, and second-guessing her, as if she were the proof of my able foresight and good intentions.

“You’re not me.” She tells me this with the blunt force of her 14 years, and I am stunned that she can see so clearly through the dark cloud of my crazy fears. “You don’t know what my reality is like.” And since I can’t identify the point at which she gained this unassailable insight, I can only assume she has possessed it all along.

Yes, yes, that’s it: each of us possesses this illumination (although we might only catch a glimpse in the rear-view mirror). The certainty that we can only be ourselves, at the center of our own reality, encountering the unknown road, and doing the best we can. So we can be kind to one another, offer the space to rest and refresh, without hurry, without doubt. We can be generous. We can let things be. And although this insight belongs to me, it is sharpened in the shadowless cast of her shine.

What has your daughter imparted to you?


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  1. Wonderful!
    I tried so hard to hold on to my two sons–still do–but they continually surprise me with what they find in their worlds and can show to me I’ve wanted them to reflect me–be their father’s son–but they have wisely stepped aside to help show me myself. Letting go is always so painful, but it seems to get better as I go along.

    Comment by daniel — October 27, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

  2. Simply wonderful.

    Comment by Wendy — October 28, 2013 @ 4:04 am

  3. First it was shock, (my ego), was it me who raised these two wild rebels??? Now, it is awe, I’m in awe of the way they live their lives, find their way, draw their lines and show me time and time again their valour and resilience. I am so proud of those two women!!!!!

    Comment by Daisy Marshall — October 29, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

  4. After a rough couple of weeks … you know when you catch yourself thinking “Things have been so smooth, so effortless and enjoyable and loving” and then the next day the bottom drops out? I could see myself tangled in my web of expectations, my daughter clearly declaring she wasn’t playing my game! I turned to Hand Wash Cold and the chapter on the sun and the garden gave me so much comfort and direction. Just to be present, attentive and to appreciate and marvel at the growth that happens in spite of my forgetfulness. And now this post … bowing in response. Thank you.

    Comment by Lisa — October 30, 2013 @ 6:10 am

  5. Oh, my. How many times have I heard, “I didn’t come to you for advice, just to tell you stuff that’s happening”. I was always trying to be Momma Fixit. Still am. But deep inside I know the truth, that if I died this very moment, nothing I could say or do for my girls would have any affect. It has all been said. I watch their amazing lives unfold before me and I am in awe of their capability, their determination. Maybe that is all we can show them, our own truth, our own determination. What they do with their own precious lives is, ultimately, their own business. So, I have to learn to mind mine!
    Thanks for the reminder, once more, Maezen.

    Comment by Jude Smith — October 31, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

  6. When I think of imparted wisdom, I think of a hand on the knee. I learn, and then relearn, and learn again that a hand on the knee, a hug, a kiss, these are the gifts that last. Sniff. This was soo beautiful. As always. Much love.

    Comment by Sarah Stanton — November 1, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

  7. Yes Sarah. You are clear.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — November 3, 2013 @ 7:03 am

  8. Relationships are extremely important because it is how the Tathagata is revealed through the endless mindstream of self. Relationships, like life itself, are the endless manifestation of the authentic essence of reality. The parenting relationship is particularly important; fathers are important; mothers are important; children are important to fathers and mothers. I think we are drawn to the relationships we have in this life for a purpose. It is the necessary playing out of certain habit seeds of energy and to go it alone, so to speak, only goes so far. We learn from our relationships, but more than this we create from them, we manifest the noble wisdom of mindful practice through this unconditioned love of parent for child. Children, who are born to this, know this but do not know it until they themselves have children (or by simply discovering true mature and selfless love) and feel perpetually estranged from the adult world until they enter and transcend it, just as we enter and transcend this life with all its mysteries. There are many lifetimes within a single life. When my child pushes us away it is because of this process of realization; it does not mean that we as parents do not understand. I think we do. But the child does not yet recognize how deeply we understand. By loving them, unconditionally, even through such moments of rebellion and self-discovery that any teenager will embark upon, we maintain that link to suchness which gave rise to their manifestation. And ours.

    Can we learn to love the universe in all its entirety as we love our children? Can we accept the unconditioned love of the universe in all its entirety as its children?

    Comment by red shift — November 16, 2013 @ 6:19 am

  9. Everyone needs his or her own adolescence.

    Comment by Barbara — April 4, 2014 @ 6:28 pm

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