I don't know what it is about the way my brain works, but I have a really hard time accepting things I learn. I am trained and inclined to question everything (to a fault, sometimes), chew on an idea, play devil's advocate and then eventually discern whether I accept or reject a concept. I don't like vague or superfluous language. I embrace an idea with much more vigour and enthusiasm when I come around to it on my own.
When Summer was born and my life was as chaotic as it had ever been (living in my mom's basement, belongings in storage, Abby starting school, adjusting to a fourth baby), I opened a book that turned things around for me. During sleepless nights, desperate circumstances and fluctuating hormones, Karen Maezen Miller's Momma Zen guided me through difficulties with just the right combination of grace, empathy, hope, realism and wisdom. It was based on Zen Buddhism (Miller is a Buddhist priest and wrote the book as a mother to a baby girl), and gave me some concrete tools to get through tough circumstances.
Nearly three years later, life is less chaotic because we have a stable home and no plans to uproot, but more chaotic because each of my girls keep growing into increasingly complex beings who operate independently from my way of doing things. I am, daily, going through things that challenge my sense of self, my ego, my expectations and sense of control. Honestly, it is really unnerving to a type-A over-thinker like myself. I have found great help and hope in teachings across the spiritual landscape, but lately, something is changing the way I am choosing to live.
I have returned, again and again, to my Momma Zen book, and other helpful articles I've saved about incorporating Buddhist teachings into my relationships, most notably motherhood. I've chewed on them, weighed their merit, looked critically at their tenets and still, I find great value in some of these teachings. I recently splurged on a compendium of three books written about incorporating Buddhist teachings into various stages of motherhood, Sarah Napthali's The Complete Buddhism for Mothers. Napthali is not ordained, nor does she have an extensive list of spiritual training titles. She is just a mum (she self-describes) who has done a lot of research and interviews about using Buddhism to become the best version of herself as she navigates the tricky waters of motherhood. I have begin to read it, and I feel like I am coming home.
It's a long book, at over 700 pages, and one I expect I'll be slowly chewing my way through for months or years to come. Already, it is helping me feeling like I am waking up. There is no room for guilt, or negative self-talk, or reliance on social media or popular news to raise my children and find myself. Instead, it is really helping me find that I already have everything I need. It's more a matter of accessing this guidance, and that is a big-time practise (for me).
It is not a new venture with a new religion; I am not worshipping at a new altar. I think mothering young children has just left me ripe to accept a new way of seeing my surroundings. If I don't actively pursue some kind of spiritual practice, the drudgery and human condition of this very demanding, relentless job could get me down. My analytical nature would likely drive me to find more fault and blame than joy. Probably, if I were not a mother, this would eventually be the case.
|A new teapot for us after the other broke|
I promise not to become preachy, or pushy, or flaky or distant. I am definitely not interested in high horses, or divisive dogma. But I hope that as I work along here at improving my own experience, it might make a difference. I hope that my girls will feel more seen, heard and understood. I hope that I will feel more richness in my days and patience through challenging moments (many may they be). I hope that I will have more finely-tuned tools to help me respond with grace, the way I want to. I hope those around me will feel more connected, because we are.