Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reposting: Motherhood as Spiritual Practice

I rarely like to do this, but this time I'm making an exception: I'm re-posting here something I've written on my "personal" blog. For finally I was able to translate into words and images some of the things I have been experiencing as my practice has made the transition from "temple" to "home". The hardest part of this, of course, has been to accept that this practice is indeed "real" and "worthy", just as real and worthy as a more focused sangha-in-a-Buddhist-setting practice.

I have read too many times that one's dedication and determination cannot be as true as what is the norm in temple practice. Indeed, in some circles there is much chatter about the superiority of Zen Temple practice. And I have looked at this scant little blog of mine, and felt much guilt about my lack of sangha, my inability to "get thee to a nunnery", or somesuch of a hot-bed of focused, intense practice.

Slowly, slowly I am learning otherwise, through wonderful books (like Grace Schireson's and Perle Besserman's) that opens the can of worms that is a woman's domestic practice (among other types, of course), and through my own experience.

I have been surprised at my inability to continue my Boston Dharma Center exploration with any regularity, and I suspect now there is a reason for that: the Teacher that is pointing to right here, right now. There really is no other option, is there?


The morning after my ordination (Tokudo), I had an interesting vision: a wide field opened before me. Anything felt possible. I could not see into the future; it was as if my friend foresight just breathed out all chance, and the grass-grains bent in unison as an invitation to come. experience. In those days, I took it as some sort of sign that my mind had opened somehow. Not that my mind was enlightened, but more receptive.

Or, something like receptive.

A year and a month and six days after my Tokudo, I found myself at the edge of a well-worn waterway. The ancient redwoods and grandfather oaks bore witness to the child I bore in my belly, and the ring I took- and gave- to another human being. More vows, more joy; more open possibility, more open to chance. My heart felt more open, more receptive.

Or something like receptive.

Because the truth of motherhood revealed to me that I was still very much closed; still very much embroiled in all my old patterns of desire, of anger, of complete and utter cluelessness. Anything I thought I understood quickly washed away ( a baby with the bathwater?), and everything I reached for dissolved ( taking candy from a baby).

Slowly, so slowly, I am finding now. That now includes what I think, however misguided. That now includes all I could ever hope for, as well as what I already have. The meanness, the gorgeousness: nothing is lacking.

I am grateful for this constant shifting, this ebb and flow they call "motherhood", this Universe folding and unfolding upon itself like a shining, terrifying Mandelbrot, this constant moonlight. It is a spotlight, the most honest critique that I can't possibly evade, and ever I am brought to my knees and humbled, again and again. I said I was leaving home, and home indeed was taken away; but that wasn't the point. The home was the coziness of my own opinion. I took one step out that door, and ironically enough I found a child in my arms, a husband in my heart and a new hearth to warm my bones by.

So for this zen mother, a koan of irony: the practice of learning to embrace totality, the grace of living in its reciprocal embrace... and the gift of it, sensing that renunciation might actually look something more like reception.

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