Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Singing Poplar

I have a confession to make. Zenmom sends her child to a Catholic School.

It's the best decision her Dad and I ever made, for a lot of reasons. First, uniforms are the best thing that could ever happen to the mother of a girl in terms of quality of life, (shallow of me, I know.) And yes, the academics are rigorous: National Honor Society is a good thing I guess. Still, what value most about my daughter's school is the way kindness is expected and pretty consistently modeled by the teachers and staff. The kids really seem to get it. From all appearances and despite endless grumbling about homework, they seem pretty happy for anguished young teens. Recently I questioned my daughter about leaving her ipod on the bus during a field trip. She said "Mom, no one would ever steal my ipod. Things don't get stolen at my school." Ahhh... I didn't know that.

Today she is off on another field trip, this one a religious retreat. She responded to my enthusiasm with a shrug and "Boring." "Really, how?" "I don't like to have to talk about God or pray according to a schedule." (How shocking. She doesn't like to clean her room or practice piano on any kind of regular basis never mind schedule either, but I didn't say that.)

Funny because I remember taking her to Thich Nhat Hanh's retreat at Stonehill College in 2002. She didn't have much initial enthusiasm for that either but by the last day she was hiking her little 9 year old self across the campus at 530 am to take the children's equivalent of the 5 Mindfulness Tranings, the 2 Promises, bowing to the floor to the great big bell and receiving the dharma name, Singing Poplar of the Heart.

As she approaches 13, she is a little more private about her spiritual practices and the conversations tend to be short. She doesn't join me in my evening meditation time as she used to and inviting the bell to ring, well, I guess that's passe. So I was secretly delighted when she had to write an essay for english class that illustrated a lesson that had been learned. She wrote about that first retreat and how she had dreaded going, prejudging the whole thing based on photographs of solemn monks and nuns she had seen. But she concluded:

"They were the most amazing people....completely devoted to their self-chosen spiritual path. I would've thought that someone with no checkbook, no cell phone, no fax, and no hair, would be the most miserable person in the world, but in fact they are the most joyous people i have ever been able to spend time with. I learned many lessons from them, how to stay peaceful in the present moment, that a lot of money and things aren't necessary to be happy, that there are many paths to God, and that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover or a nun by her robes"

Ahhh....more I didn't know.

84,000 dharma doors....what a relief! I'm sure she'll find a couple without my having to know a thing.

Authentic Kindness of the Heart


Blogger Beth said...

this was beautiful. how great that she went on that retreat and learned those lessons.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Johnny Newt said...

A great post mom. It seems the apple doesn't fall far from tree.

12:30 PM  
Blogger jwkoncape said...

Beautiful blog! Keep up the good work. You have inspired me to make mine more spiritual.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Sujatin said...

That's really touching. And you live up to your Buddhist name

5:21 PM  
Blogger hiker said...

One of my favorite parts of the practice of mothering is to walk that uncertain line between knowing and not knowing.

10:08 AM  

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