As we both know, the chatterings of monkey mind do not comprise the whole story.
I have been working with my mind for decades now in one form or another. For the past four years, my practice has been focused on Tibetan Buddhist teachings, breathing and mindfulness. Detachment. Being here now. Observing the mind. Freeing myself from the suffering that comes with identifying with and taking seriously the content of that endless stream of thought.
The practice of taming one’s mind pays off after a while, and I felt I was doing pretty well. There are many moments through the day when I am able to observe the thoughts. I am able to smile at them.
I am sometimes able just to be, just to surf on the foam of naked reality. Sit with the uncomfortable knowledge that there’s nothing to hang on to. To look around me and laugh. To laugh with joy at the unbelievable miracle of being. Laugh at the silliness of my human propensity to want safety. Laugh at small mind’s indefatigable attempts at creating something for me to hang onto.
When I remember that everything I hang onto is illusion, I vacillate between pangs of terror and lungfuls of bliss.
Yes, I thought I was doing pretty well and felt confident that this visit with my mother would be different. Better.
What I realized about halfway into the first full day of my visit is that much of my success at being calm and letting things go stems from the fact that I have constructed for myself a life relatively free of antagonists. Jack Kornfield is quick to point out that many of us can get our minds to behave well on a retreat; the real test comes opon re-entry to the real world with its grouchy spouses, whining children, nosy in-laws, traffic jams and micromanaging bosses.
For my visit with my mother, I had to remind myself again and again (about every five minutes, in fact) of the various teachings that have got me this far. I reminded myself of things like what Olivia and Suki and others have said in response to earlier posts on the topic of giving unsolicited advice.
I reminded myself that my mind was making judgments, but there was no absolute reality behind those judgments whatsoever.
I reminded myself that just being on earth in this moment, alive for now and able to reach out and touch my mother’s hand was a miracle to stop and breathe in and savour.
When a remark started to rise to my lips and I knew its origin was a judgment, I reminded myself that I did not fly 1000 miles to make my loved one feel bad, to hurt her feelings, to tell her how to keep house, to admonish, to nag, to be my old obnoxious self.
I reminded myself that I flew those 1000 miles just to be with her. To bask in her presence and let her drink up mine. To hold her hand while crossing the street. To sit next to her for hours in the back room whose bay of windows looks out onto the deep backyard and birdbath while stringing colourful glass beads on wire. Look, Mom, what do you think of this one? Are you about ready for some supper?
At first I was doing nothing more impressive than biting my tongue. The judgmental thoughts were there; I simply wasn’t giving them voice. After a day or two of observing these thoughts without acting on them, however, they began to rise with less seductive pull and less frequency.
A new energy danced between us, and it gave rise to something that had never happened for us before.