It’d never really occurred to me that I might be a bit Buddhist. And I’m sure a full blown Buddhist would laugh (mindfully and with loving kindness) and my version of Buddhism, but having stumbled upon Sarah Napthali’s book Buddhism for Mothers, I realise that I’m pretty much on board with Buddhism, or have Buddhist leanings, or frankly, am just drawn to anything that offers perspective on the muddle that is life, and most definitely on the unrelenting chaos of parenting.
I’m only on page 55 but I am already saying “yes” out loud a lot, and nodding away to myself with a wry smile because it’s all making rather a lot of sense, and saying lots of things I need to hear. A lot. From a number of different sources. Especially the apparently Buddhist emphasis on the impermanence of – well, everything – but in particular, the impermanence of our emotions.
Take today. I woke up this morning with adrenaline coursing round my veins. I don’t know why. I can only imagine I was dealing something stressful in my dreams. It’s a fairly safe bet. Since becoming a mother, I have had periods of night time tooth grinding, and muscle clenching – both surprisingly painful, unconscious afflictions. I felt a bit out of sorts, but having read some more of Buddhism for Mothers with my herbal tea I felt kind of zen. And I got all mindful when, as my husband slept upstairs, my kids all lost the plot with me (and each other) for a very intense, very loud, but abundantly impermanent 10 minutes. I breathed through one sibling’s threat to strangle another. I bravely dropped the “no computer time today” bomb on them, and remained silent why they all ‘processed their feelings’ (by gnashing their teeth, and pounding impotent fists on sofa cushions) rather than hurling more consequences their way in anger. And I started feeling pretty good about the new enlightened me.
But unfortunately, that too was impermanent. Because it all crumbled again, in a far from enlightened way, as my frustrations mounted trying to get them dressed and out the door on time, and all the breathing wasn’t quite cutting it any more, and I was observing my own emotional state less, and their utter lack of cooperation more. But again, that passed, and my sense of perspective returned as we walked to school, and I was as zen as a mother can be walking with un-tethered, fast and unwieldy kids by a main road. And then they all disappeared into the welcoming arms of their school. And I was suddenly free. And I realised that in an unusual turn of events, there was nothing but nothing ahead to shape my day. And before I knew it, I was riddled with scratchy feelings of purposelessness and unworthiness. Because everyone else was bustling off somewhere, with something purposeful to do – in contrast to formless, shapeless old me.
And guess what? – that didn’t last either. Because I drank some coffee in the sun and read my book, and got reminded again that all the feelings are impermanent. Really they are. Because it was only 9.30 and I’d already run the entire gamut of emotions – and no doubt, there would be more to come. However awesome (and enlightened) some of them were, and however uncomfortable and unwelcome others were, none of them stuck around for long. They were indeed impermanent. And when I think back to times of great fear, great joy, or great struggle, none of those feelings were permanent either. They come and they go. They ebb and they flow. What preoccupied me a year ago does not preoccupy me now. Its all terribly and wonderfully transient. And that’s a perspective that I can get alongside. Especially in the unpredictable maelstrom of parenting on a school morning when you have no way of knowing what you’re going to wake up to, and what’s going to come at you next.
So as it turns out, it pays to be a bit Buddhist. If, like me, you need a little (or a lot of) perspective, I’d recommend checking the book out.