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Buddhadharma : Spring 2017
22 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 1 7 Iwouldgosofarastosaythatyou should be cautious about any teaching that discourages you from having feel- ings—those feelings can be an appro- priate response to what is happening in your life. Having experienced this wish for your kids’ safety and well-being, you could begin extending that to other people in recognition that they are also connected to you. You could begin to think about ways that you benefit from others’ well-being and consciously begin to include their well-being in your plans and activities. This is the bodhisattva path, turning your personal interests to work for the benefit of all. ari GoldField: I am very familiar with the feeling of struggle you describe. It is so easy for me to feel anxious about my three-year-old son Oliver’s present and (especially) future well-being and safety. When I feel that kind of worry welling up within me, there is one simple medi- tation I do that invariably has a pro- found effect on me—I remind myself, “My child is going to die.” Recalling this most basic, clear, unavoidable truth immediately connects parents with what Chögyam Trungpa called “the genuine heart of sadness” in possibly a more powerful way than any other imaginable. Anxiety dissolves into groundedness and the sweetest mix- ture of sorrow, longing, and love. The unbearable painfulness of the thought of our children’s death compels us to go much deeper into our psyche than the superficial appearances of our chil- dren’s existence and nonexistence, of their presence or their absence. We drop down into the space of our ultimate con- nection with our children, which tran- scends the appearances of meeting and parting and is therefore invulnerable to whatever appearances may manifest. In Buddhism, there are actually dif- ferent kinds of nonattachment. Hav- ing children is a wonderful invitation to explore some of them—for exam- ple, nonattachment to freedom from intense emotional experiences. As my own teacher, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, often says, “Just as surfers prefer big waves, yogis and yoginis prefer big kleshas (disturbing emotions)!” As we know, having a child is a guarantee of emotional experiences the likes of which we have never had before. But as the Prajnaparamita Sutras teach, the kleshas are perfectly pure. How can we real- ize this truth if we resist the kleshas? If instead we practice opening to them and inviting them to be accepted within an expanse of loving awareness, we can actually experience our emotions’ underlying purity. We are also invited to abandon our attachment to what it means to be a meditator. When Oliver was an infant, I was often frustrated by my sleep depriva- tion and the frequent loss of my morning meditation time when I had to attend to him instead. A wise friend gave me excel- lent counsel: she suggested I meditate by simply feeling into the sensation of my feet touching the earth every time I had to go to Oliver’s room when he cried. This taught me how important it was to savor the tiny moments of peace—the flashes of relaxing into simplicity in the shower, on the bus, wherever I could find them. Finally, for us parents who are not the birth mother, during at least the first two years of a child’s life, we are com- pelled to give up our attachment to hav- ing the attention and love of our spouse and even to feeling included within the family unit. The mother-child dyad is just that close, that strong. We love our spouse and child and long to participate in the amazing intimacy we see occur- ring before us, and yet we are so often excluded from it by both parties! This is unintentional on their part; it hap- pens for completely normal and natural reasons. But even so, we are often left feeling so painfully on our own. I cannot imagine any practitioner in an isolated cave feeling more lonely. What a power- ful call to us to meditate on self-love and self-acceptance and to seek out and con- nect with the unfindable, inexpressible, inconceivable true nature of our lonely mind—our most intimate partner of all. A Buddhist Retreat in Assisi, Italy September 10 – 17, 2017 This weeklong retreat for meditators is based on the life examples of Shantideva and St. Francis of Assisi. The schedule includes meditation, contemplations, and presentations on the two bodhisattvas. The fee covers hotel accommodation, two meals a day, and excursions to the city of Assisi and other pilgrimage sites. For more information: www.footstepsretreats.com firstname.lastname@example.org