Wednesday, February 22, 2006


My dharma teacher (hereafter known as DT) admonishes "Read a little, practice a lot". I recognize the wisdom of that advice as I am someone who can easily think that the more books I read the better prepared I am. For what I'm not sure but I think it has to do with my ever present wish to get a firm hold on the essentially slippery nature of life. Sort of brings to mind the image of Don Quixote tilting at windmills, doesn't it? Get a grip indeed...

I spent a few years being treated for infertility and by the time I was actually pregnant I knew I needed to avoid information overload and resisted buying an entire shelf of pregnancy books. I decided not to even read too far ahead. Cosmic daughter was 6 weeks premature and I wasn't "ready", hadn't even finished childbirth classes! As a result, my husband and I dealt with the labor and delivery as it came and to this day, I cannot remember a more mindful, present event...the best ever. I can recall telling one of my friends that, even though I was a few years into meditation, until then I hadn't had the experience of single-mindedness, of concentration. What a gift. Sometimes life gives you one, not to mention a beautiful baby.

Right now though I'm wandering in the realm of difficult relationships and want to travel in a way I haven't before, a path that doesn't increase suffering for myself or anyone else. I am grateful for my DT's advice and her teaching regarding transforming suffering and healing ourselves. Kim talked so clearly in her blog the other day about her awareness of the ball of stress she feels in her stomach and it reminded me of my teachers advice to be mindful of what it is we are carrying around. She quotes Thay as saying, "What we don't heal, we transmit", a truth which, I imagine every parent has experienced.

Her teaching for me on our very first session described a practice called healing the past in the present moment, but I think it could be subtitled "healing the present too". The idea is to invite difficult feelings in rather than pushing them away, holding them like a mother holds her crying baby. With mindful breathing and attention the feeling is calmed and released. I practiced for many years stopping at this point, taking my unwanted feelings to meditation and sitting with them until eventually they just dissipated. But it seems there is more we can do which is called deep listening: sitting with the feeling, looking at its nature, paying attention to the memories that surface, and sending compassion to oneself at that time or place. Sometimes the causes of suffering will come clearly into view and we can see the beliefs that are at the root of these feelings. In this way our relationship with the feeling can be understood and transformed, the way I have heard Thay say that garbage becomes compost in which flowers grow.

If it's any consolation my DT concedes that it's rigorous practice because our habit energy is so ingrained but my experience has been that the gentleness of the practice, the way it is approached with complete acceptance and compassion for oneself makes it a whole lot easier to begin.

So I guess that my blog can become what I had intended...a chronicle of the path, my path at least, aspiring to be Zenmom, aspiring to the Order of Interbeing, aspiring to transform suffering in myself and being able to share the practice with others. I am grateful for this particular dharma door and I am off to practice now.

If I use my imagination I can almost smell the flowers.

Authentic Kindness of the Heart


Blogger Beth said...

zenmom: i like this quote of yours:

The idea is to invite difficult feelings in rather than pushing them away, holding them like a mother holds her crying baby. With mindful breathing and attention the feeling is calmed and released.

i believe that in continually doing this for ourselves, we can do this for others more easily. it is a good practice.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Zenmom, aspiring said...

Hi Kim,

Yes especially good for at home with the family...but as you say in your bog today, not so easy!!

My dh and I are really in a difficult's really helpful to have your example of staying with yourself so to speak.

I'm going to try to get to the family retreat at Green mountain Dharma center this's cheap, I hear the kids love it. Have you ever been there? How far are you from Vermont? I see you mention Thich Nhat Hanh from time to time...Just FYI, don't feel you have to respond!

bowing to you

12:58 AM  
Blogger Nacho said...

Zenmom, Oh, the practice is indeed rigorous. : ) Especially that of inviting those feelings and sitting with them. I always want to run out and do something to drive my mind away from such... like overeating. But it does pay off. I've learned to look much more deeply and to recognize how those feelings shape my thinking, my attitudes, my disposition.

It is indeed a good statement that what we don't heal we transmit. We tend to repeat these habit energies. I recently heard of a person I know who hit one of his kids. To me that is just so wrong, and such a perfect example of how we transmit that suffering and pain we have to others and teach them to transmit it to others through violent means. Such is Karma.

Thanks Zenmom. I hope you make it to Green Mountain Dharma Center. I hope the difficult situation improves.



5:39 PM  

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