Walking Through a Beautiful Forest
May you know the joy of looking at your child with a non-judging mind!
*I am on retreat this week. Posts will be short, and I'll answer questions, comments, and emails when I return. Best wishes.
The Most Precious Gift. . .
Can you make the space today to give a child the gift of your attention? We can offer children, spouses, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, all sorts of people this most precious gift. Most of all, when we pay attention to ourselves in the small moments of our lives, we have more attention and presence to give others.
*I am on retreat this week. I will answer questions, comments, and emails when I return. Wishing you joy!
Can you sense the conditions of happiness that are available to you right now?
*This week, I am on retreat. Posts will be short, and I will answer questions, comments, and emails next week when I return. Wishing you happiness.
Is it Real?
Right now, is there anything you are reacting to that isn't real? Anything that isn't as urgent as it seems? Can you breathe into this moment, show up fully here, and let go of drama?
*This week I am on retreat. Posts will be short, and I won't be able to respond to questions, comments, and emails until next week. May you be well!
Making a Choice
In each moment, we can choose to build a connection with our children. Make a plan, how do you want to handle your most intense moment today? Can you bring patience, love, and honesty into it?
*This week I am on retreat. Posts will be short, and I will be offline. I'll respond to questions, comments, and emails next week.
Being Weird and Not-So-Weird
There are times, as a parent of older kids, to be weird and wonderful, and other times to just stop being weird. The trick is to know which is which!
Sometimes when I'm with one of my kids and some of their friends, it's clear that they're embarrassed enough just to HAVE a mom, it's not the time to talk much. Other times I feel moved to speak, asking a question or telling a little story. It may be a little awkward, but that's a part of life, right?
I hope my kids will keep learning that it's okay to be kind of weird, to say things that are true and real sometimes, even if they're unfamiliar or a little uncomfortable. I hope they'll see that you can be sensitive to someone's feelings and responsive, and still be your own self in goofy ways.
I hope I'll keep learning how to be my own real self even when someone doesn't appreciate it! And I hope that I keep learning how to back off and stop being weird when necessary.
I've been writing a lot about judgment over the past few days. After yesterday's post about letting our kids see how much we admire them, I started thinking about myself. There have been times when my kids have let me see how they admire me. Not every day, definitely. And there's lots of eye-rolling and cracking on how weird I am in between times. But once in a while, one of them just sees me and let's me know.
Sometimes they mean to do it, maybe it's something they've been thinking about. Other times it just slips out, maybe they assume I already know and just refer to it casually.
Sometimes I minimize or deflect the compliment, something like 'Yeah, it's good I do okay with somethings, I'm usually such a mess.' But I'm learning to savor their good opinion. Learning to know there are lots of things about my parenting that are fabulous, and that my kids actually get and see some of those things. Learning to appreciate the parent-child relationship from another angle.
Do you know how your kids admire you (whether they say it or not)? Take some time to think about it and savor it. If you're really brave, ask them about it.
Yesterday's post, Kids See Themselves as We See Them, reflected on how our judgments can burden our kids, even those unintentional judgments we don't think they recognize. Today, let's consider the positive ways we see them.
My kids are sensitive to even small criticism, but they're less quick to perceive my wonder about them. I have to be more intentional about sharing it.
I'm not talking about sharing compliments that are vaguely masked critiques ("Thanks honey, I really appreciate it when you pick up your towel."), but the bigger and more heart-centered stuff (a heartfelt "Wow, I never thought of it that way," when they blow my mind in a philosophical discussion). Regular expressions of wonder at their way of being go a long way to helping them realize how we see them. I also talk with them during bigger conversations, specifically giving feedback about things that I admire--their courage to speak up, generosity with a friend, wisdom to walk away from a pointless argument that I can't seem to walk away from, ability to rearrange a room in their head before moving anything--the list goes on and on.
How about your kids? Do they know that you admire them? Not because they do what's expected, but because of how their nature shines through? Join me, let's make sure we're letting them know today, tomorrow, this week, and every week.
Kids See Themselves as We See Them
Children, teens, young adults, even fully grown adults are incredibly perceptive about what their parents think of them. When we're little, we think our parents are all-knowing and all-powerful, so their opinion of us shapes our own beliefs about ourselves. We live up to their expectations or down to their judgments in many ways.
When children hear us talk about them in judging ways, it is especially devastating, but even when they never hear us name specific judgments they sense them. Partly, they sense them through that amazing kid-radar that is so attuned to us that they read our emotions and thoughts more clearly than we read ourselves. And partly they sense them because even when we don't name judgments explicitly, we imply them in our words and actions.
Are you skeptical that this really happens with your child? Consider if there's something about you that disappointed or worried your mom or dad. Can you think of something, either in childhood or adolescence? If so, how do you know? I remember my mom clucking her tongue about how I dressed or had my hair cut. She didn't directly tell me that she wanted me to get it together and look nicer, but it was clear. It was a small thing, but had an impact. We all probably carry deeper and more personal feelings baggage related to our parents' judgment or disappointment in us.
Remembering old stuff from our parents can help us to excavate the stuff we may be sending our kids. Are there things that bug or worry you about your child? Ways you're afraid for them or wish they handled things differently? Of course there are, right? We all have some of these things. How do you think your child interprets the things you say or do that relate to them? What might their story be about how you feel and what you think? Is there a way to send them a message that's more consistent with what you want them to learn from you?
Working with Judgment
Writing about This Moment Without Judgment yesterday, I was thinking of the practice of letting go of judgment. Back when I started practicing mindfulness, the first thing I noticed was that my mind is swamped with judgment, much of it directed at myself. Recognizing this inner self-judgment was excruciatingly uncomfortable, like sitting with the most awkward and insecure person at a party and listening to them talk non-stop. Yuck.
Sitting with my own thoughts and judgments was hard, but also freeing. As I saw the inner talk, I also began to see how it affected me. I could feel my shoulders tense in response to self-critical thoughts, could feel the heaviness in my chest. I began to see how the judgment could move around, sometimes focusing on me and sometimes on other people, sometimes in the present and other times in the past or future.
Showing up in this moment without judgment means (to me) seeing the judgment that is actually happening and not being owned by it. It's not aspiring to be some wonderful person who doesn't judge anymore. Instead, it's accepting and showing up for myself as I am.
This judging mind is with me. That's actually okay! If I don't recognize it, though, I get confused and think it's me. With recognition, the judging mind is just the crazy person at the party. I hear her, but I don't need to believe what she says.
This Moment Without Judgment
Yesterday it hit. The mid-summer slump. The feeling of wanting to run away from home for a while, to be in a quiet place all by myself where I can work without interruption, express an opinion without argument, use the washing machine without moving someone else's wet laundry out of it, and be at the top of my own list.
This happens every summer. I wish it didn't happen because it's no fun, but I'm remembering to just show up in this moment without judgment. Yep, I'm kind of fed up. I feel cranky. 'My dear friend, crankiness, I welcome you.'
Right now I'm not acting very cranky (although it could start happening anytime). I'm patient although I'm speaking up about what I want.
I am remembering to welcome the feelings, to make space for them instead of wishing them away. To be gentle with them. And even to notice and accept the part of me that wants to push the feelings away. To feel them without taking them out on the rest of my family, without blaming, lecturing, or making a stink. And to feel them without covering them up by being too nice, without pretending I'm not fed up. Maybe that's enough.
How's your summer going? Are you feeling the mid-summer parent fatigue? How are you handling it?
Imagine a Boulder. . .
As I've shared so often, I've spent a lot of my parenting in power struggles with my boys. Quick and controlling reactions are still a bit of a habit, although it's become a much milder habit over the years as I've practiced mindfulness.
When I'm battling with one of my sons, or with anybody really, it helps me to imagine a boulder. Am I pushing it toward them, ready to crush them with it if I 'win'? Or are we on the same side?
In a power struggle, we are on opposite sides of that boulder. If anyone gets more power, the other one will be hurt. We both feel like we're fighting for our survival,and there can only be one winner. This comes out of fear--fear of being wrong, of losing, of feeling crushed, of being 'less than.'
I practice lots of practical mindfulness, being aware of how I feel in the midst of parenting moments. When I'm in a power struggle, I sometimes get tunnel vision and tightness in my jaw, shoulders, and shoulder blades. As soon as I notice this, I get an opportunity to shift, imagining how I can get on the same side of the boulder.
I know in my heart that there's only one side. I know if I open my perspective I can find a way of understanding every situation with compassion, love, and respect. And I know that my most important disciplines in this practice are awareness (of the feeling of a power struggle), understanding (that we're on the same side), and creative thinking (to reframe this issue for myself in a way that helps me see us as on the same side of the boulder, pushing together).
Showing Up in This Moment
Being a parent is completely different than thinking about being a parent. Pregnancy didn't really prepare me for childbirth or having a newborn. I read, imagined, did prenatal yoga, and took childbirth classes, but coming home with a baby was completely different than everything that had come before.
In the same way, having a baby didn't prepare me to parent a toddler and having one child didn't prepare me for the next. Each new experience is the same and different. With each transition I feel like I've been thrown into the deep end of a pool where I flail around feeling overwhelmed and confused and then eventually I realize/remember that I can swim. Then I go into the next deep end!
Although I continue to be confused by how to handle each new transition, I have learned something useful--to stay in the present moment. Basic, right? And important!
When I'm worried about what's about to happen, imagining scenarios where things go badly wrong, I'm in the future. When I'm beating myself up about all of the things I should have done differently, I'm in the past. Noticing the past or future focus, I can remind myself to stop and be right here in this moment. It works amazingly well. Try it!
Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson's The Whole Brain Child is a great book! If you haven't read it yet, check it out. This book offers a helpful approach based on really understanding our children and why they behave as they do. As we understand, we can work with them rather than against them.
Some favorite quotes:
“One reason big feelings can be so uncomfortable for small children is that they don’t view those emotions as temporary.”
“When a child is upset, logic often won’t work until we have responded to the right brain’s emotional needs. We call this emotional connection “attunement,” which is how we connect deeply with another person and allow them to “feel felt.” When parent and child are tuned in to each other, they experience a sense of joining together.”
“Sometimes parents avoid talking about upsetting experiences, thinking that doing so will reinforce their children’s pain or make things worse. Actually, telling the story is often exactly what children need, both to make sense of the event and to move on to a place where they can feel better about what happened.”
I love the 'refrigerator sheets' included in this book, cheat sheets that you can glance at for help in the midst of confusing parenting issues!
I love my family and treasure the time talking with them; listening to their take on politics, current events, music, or whatever; and just being together. And at the same time, I sometimes just need some peace and quiet! When my kids were young it was nearly impossible to find a quiet space, but even now those quiet moments can be hard to carve out.
Today, I am remembering that it is important for me to find moments of peace whether my day is full of classes and clients, mom errands and paperwork, or just the chaos of my own mind. I'm sure you need peace, too!
So join me for a short practice. One minute is enough. Close your eyes and just feel your breath for one minute. Be curious about the breath, feel it in your chest and belly and enjoy it. I just did it, feeling the pleasure in the sensation of breathing and the restfulness of centering awareness on each breath. Aware of it coming and going, I took 8 breaths in one minute. I actually set a timer so I wouldn't be distracted by the clock.
When the time the chimer sounded to end my minute, I was feeling rested and centered, relaxed and more content. I already wanted to do it again. I'm going to plan to take a mindful minute 3 or 4 times a day this week. I'm curious about whether I'll always feel rested and calm. I'm also interested to find out how the number of breaths per minute may change. Want to do it with me this week?
Trust doesn't mean a child will handle everything perfectly. Last week in 'Trust What They Know' I wrote about trusting something deep in each human being that guides them in the direction of their true interest and needs. Today I want to add to that.
One way we can trust our kids is by allowing them to make mistakes. I started to practice this a long time ago with cookies! When we had treats, the kids were allowed to have one serving size. I started to feel a little strange, teaching them to consult a box and me about what to eat. So I tried something different, suggesting they feel how much felt right.
Without trust, it's kind of crazy to put kids in charge of dessert, but I knew that I wanted to help them listen to the wisdom of their own bodies rather than something purely external when choosing how to eat.
I encouraged them to have one or two, then wait a bit to see if that seemed like the right amount. Unsurprisingly, one of my sons ate more cookies than usual. A little later, he came and sat with me, saying "Mom, I think I ate too many, I feel a little yucky." He recognized the feeling and knew how to make a different choice the next time.
For my son to learn this, I had to let go of control. I had to let him feel a little uncomfortable. I had to risk that he would make a mistake. As small as it was, it felt like a big deal. It even feels strange to write about it, like moms everywhere will judge me. But the truth is, this created a big shift in our family toward kids being aware of their own limits. I think this self-awareness has had a positive impact for years, and I think it will continue to pay off as they get to know their limits with alcohol and whatever else may come up for them.
If you read yesterday's post, When You Look at Your Child, What Do You See? and found a focus on what they should or could be rather than what they ARE, it's time to lighten up. I know, there are things that need our parental attention, that we need to help our kids with. But our most important role (and I know, I'm like a broken record on this) is to see their true selves.
This means looking, intentionally, purposefully, for their fire, their love, their joy, their mastery, their smile or concentration or sensitivity. It means seeing the being behind the child or adolescent body/emotions/thoughts.
Today, will you spend some time looking at your child this way? What do you see? Make a list of 5 expressions of their inner beauty.
Do you know what your parents see when they really look at you (or when they did)? A beautiful, successful, radiant soul shining? Or someone who needs to lose weight, exercise, get a better job, relax, get a haircut, wear nicer clothes, speak up, quiet down . . ?
What do you see when you look at your child? Of course you love them, but when you gaze at them, what are you thinking about?
A mess about to happen?
A project or chore they haven't done yet?
A habit that needs to change?
A worry about how they will end up?
Someone who's headed for trouble?
A bad mood?
Or do you see a radiant soul?
When a baby is born we can see the soul so easily, but as life goes on we sometimes begin to see a child through the lens of our mistakes, our conditioning, and our challenging experiences. And children (and adults) can sense that, even if they don't say anything. They can see the disappointment, criticism, and worry in our eyes, just as they can see the admiration, love, and pride.
It is possible to begin seeing the radiant being in everyone with practice. To begin, we have to notice what is already happening. Today, will you join me noticing what you see? Take ten minutes to sit and write about what you notice in yourself when you look at your child. Let yourself consider whether they notice and how that may feel to them.
What happens in our families is deeply and intimately connected with our communities and the world.
To be sure, it does have an enormous affect our own family over time. Unresolved power struggles that we have with a toddler will come back around during adolescence to either be resolved or go underground. Unless we resolve these power struggles with our children in healthy ways, they will continue to live in our relationship.
There will be chance after chance to resolve things, and these chances are not a punishment, they are grace. I know, I'm getting another shot at so many issues as my own kids move through their teen years, and in lots of cases (but now all), I'm handling them better.
But the power issues we have in our families travel far beyond our walls.
They live on in our child's relationship with other people and the world. A child raised with power struggles will act them out in one way or another until there is a way to resolve them. Ongoing relationships with parents and siblings, spouse and children, boss and colleagues, a therapist, or even with themselves may be the field in which they get worked out.
Many people, all with unresolved power issues, combine to form a culture in which power is routinely abused, in which people tend to identify as victims or aggressors, and in which justice and equity are not the norm. Sound familiar to you? It does to me.
As I've been writing about power this week, I've been struck by how much the social issues around gun violence, racism, and the abuse of police power are related to issues happening in so many of our families. If you, like me, want to end gun violence, join me and reflect on your own use of power as a way to control other people, including your children. By practicing peaceful, heart-centered parenting we can change life in our own families AND we can change the world!
Becoming a parent puts us in a power relationship with a vulnerable being, and for most of us that power relationship brings us big questions about how to use power responsibly. This is obviously an important issue in our families as well as our culture!
As people in power, we may use power over other people, thinking we know and understand what people should do and using control, rewards and punishment, even violence to make them do it. The power comes from our position rather than our relationship, so we rely on the tools of the position to enforce it. As parents we may use treats, new toys, electronics, and more subtle things like approval and love as tools.
Sometimes we avoid using power, leaving it with our children, spouses, our own parents, the school, a doctor, or somebody else. We may perceive what our child needs but feel helpless to do it. Think of the parent who knows a school is not a good fit for her child but doesn't make a change because her parents or husband won't approve. Or the parent who senses that their child needs emotional support but follows a teacher or doctor's advice about medicating the child's ADD or anxiety instead of getting family support.
The ideal use of power is a balance of respect for the child's own power and healthy use of our power. Imagine a train and its track. A child is like a train--they have their own innate power but don't yet know how to channel it. Parents are the tracks. It is not our job to be the engine, but it is our job to give it reasonable parameters about where it can go. In this power relationship, parents attune closely to a child, understanding their energy, direction, and development. We also see the bigger patterns in life.
For example, and this is one that made such a positive difference in my life when I started to get it, we can consider sleep. We aren't in charge of when and for how long our children sleep. Just sit with that if you're still in this stage and soak it in--you can not control your child's sleep. That's their own train. What we can do is set up good conditions for sleep and respond to a child's own sleep patterns and cycles. So when kids are young we read their cues about sleepiness and respond to them. We create routines that help them to sleep when they're tired. We teach them to feel what it is to be sleepy. We help them to feel safe going to sleep, reminding them that we're looking forward to seeing them in the morning. We don't turn on the tv to amuse them if they can't go to sleep, instead helping them to know that it's okay to just lay in bed and rest or think or breathe until sleep comes. All of these things are like train tracks.
This analogy works for many things in the parent-child power relationship. If you're trying to be the engine, you're not in your own power. If you're paying attention to the train and giving it 'just right' tracks, you're probably using your own power in balance with their own.
Sensing the Force of Peace
There is this force that I can sense when I get quiet in myself--it's a feeling of connection, a knowing that I'm not alone and that I'm not even separate, a palpable sense of connection with the air, the trees, the sounds around me. It's more subtle than the news, the angry voices, my own fears and distractions, but it never wavers. And the more I attune to it, the more I sense it.
I can feel it easily when I'm outside under the stars at night, this vast feeling of love and interconnection. I can feel it when I'm in my vegetable garden, watching the dragonflies and butterflies and blue jays and other birds coming and going.
And I can feel it with my family. When I'm sitting with one of my kids and feeling annoyed or worried, there's a lot of surface 'noise' in my consciousness. A little quietness takes me under that 'noise' to this sense of something bigger and peaceful. It connects me, not just with my child but with a big field of loving presence, making it so much easier to be quiet and listen, to allow them the space they often need from my advice or chatter.
It's sometimes harder to sense into this with a group of people because the surface 'noise' is louder, but if I feel into my body and the moment, the sense of connection is always right there.
Do you know this force? If so, please join me in attuning to it on purpose. The more we feel it, the more we feel it. And the more we feel it, the more the people around us are going to feel it. And the more we all feel it, the more the world responds to it! Along with daily meditation and mindfulness, we can strengthen this sense by paying attention, on purpose, to things that we appreciate. Beginning and ending every day simply noting three things we are grateful for will expand this sense of loving connection enormously!
Today, waking up, I am grateful for the beautiful morning and the sound of birds. Today, I am grateful that I woke to my whole family home, safe, and healthy. Today, I am grateful that there was just enough milk left to put in my coffee.
How about you?
Peace or Fear?
To create peace in the world, we have to be peace. Right now, as we are reeling from the events of the world this week and month and year, we get to choose. Will we be a force of peace and love or a force of fear, chaos, and separation?
We can see how important a choice this is by reflecting on non-peaceful moments in our own families. If your children are fighting and you join in with yelling, things get worse, right? But if your children are fighting and you stay calm and steady, they begin to settle. If you listen so well that you really understand them, even the things they don't yet understand themselves, it's easier to create a peaceful resolution because each person's true needs are met.
In the world, in our families, and in every part of our lives, we have this choice. We can add our energy to truth and love or to fear and hatred.
It takes honesty and clarity to serve peace. As a classroom teacher, I couldn't trust that my intention to be fair to kids regardless or gender or race or background was enough. I had to investigate my teaching practice and uncover bias so that I could change it. I needed to listen deeply to children and families to see all that was not peace and respond to it in a loving and clear way.
As a mom I have to be willing to look at myself honestly, discovering the roots of power struggles, judgment, fear, and injustice. By sitting with what is not peaceful in my family, I am learning to listen and respond to it.
In your work, in your parenting, with your own family or friends, in all of your communications, are you identified with peace and love? Or are you reacting to your own children or the news or a colleague with fear and hatred? Please, join me in bringing both the intent and the practice of loving and peaceful presence into your life. Our kids need us, and the world needs us.
Keeping My Eyes Wide Open
Yesterday, I wrote about what I see, living here in this moment, in this country, on this Earth. The racial discrimination, the injustice, the violence. There is so much going on that is heartbreaking and just wrong. At the same time, and it scares me to write about this as much as it scared me to write yesterday's post, I can see much that is going well.
I see people every day who blame the victims, minimize racial problems, bury their heads in the sand, and I also see many people who are waking up and caring and confronting the racism in their own hearts and choices and world. I believe that as a world, as a culture, as a country, our hearts are opening. Not everyone's, I know, Not quickly, I know. But the conversations and movements happening now are powerful and hopeful and even inspiring.
It's the same in my family. I see things that have gone badly wrong in myself as a mom, in my husband, in our kids, in our bigger families, our house, our finances, our decisions--there's an endless list of things I see that have gone wrong (maybe that's my Virgo rising!). Nothing as absolutely horrific as the racism and violence in our culture, or environmental destruction in our natural world, or the economic inequity that underlies so much injustice, but plenty that resonates with those huge horrors.
In my family I can see that I'm a lousy mom and a wonderful mom. I can see how I've overreacted, tried to control, criticized, and missed things I wish I had seen. I can see also how I've come back again and again to love. I can see how I've accepted the true nature of my boys even as I've struggled with my own conditioning and habits. I can see how much I've learned and how I've been able to let truth and love crack me open again and again.
I don't want to narrow my perception so that I only see the 'good' or 'bad' in myself or my kids or the world. I want to keep my eyes wide open and see things as they truly are with an open, non-judging heart. Focusing only on the negative in the world, my family, and my own self throws me into disempowered despair. Ignoring the darkness leaves me uninformed, smug, disconnected and therefore less able to grow and change. Seeing things as they are--as much as I can-- and with acceptance, I can be a force of loving presence and constructive change.
Living in this moment, in this country, on this Earth, I recognize that things have gone badly wrong.
In our culture, I see and acknowledge that black and brown people--men, women, and children, are under attack. Every black man, ranging from our president to a man selling CD's or one who is a school cafeteria manager, is consistently and relentlessly attacked by an unjust, violent, judgmental, and racist system every single day. Every child, ranging from one of our 'first daughters' choosing to go to Harvard and take a gap year to the littlest preschooler is at risk for suspensions and punishment in their school system and judgment and scorn in the media in a way their white classmates are not. Black and brown women, so palpably my sisters in motherhood and womanhood, walk the same kind of life that I walk but in incredibly different circumstances. Every single day, in the face of cons they have to discern what to say and how to say it in the face of a culture that is both ravaging their families and pretending that nothing is wrong.
I am angry and sad, heartbroken, grief-stricken, sickened by this violence and horror.
I feel the pull to fall into the horror, to let it define me, to become it, which is what happens when I can't stand steady as a conscious being in the midst of this violence. This can look like being emotionally reactive, making it about me and my anger or sadness, becoming violent, attacking fellow human beings with words. The dark forces win if I fall in. They also win if I ignore or deny it, if I respond with silence, with argument, or with pretending that this has nothing to do with me or isn't important.
This is a line I must walk. Seeing with my eyes wide open, feeling with my broken heart. And knowing that what I AM, what WE ARE, is the field of presence holding this horror, the loving presence witnessing, listening deeply, caring, speaking, acting, allowing this to break us open and change us.
Because just as I must stay steady in the face of my child's stormy emotions so that I can be the loving presence that helps him remember who he truly is, right now I must hold that same presence for my country. The presence that sees and cares and loves. That speaks for justice without identifying with hatred. That is willing to shine a light on all that is ugly and unresolved in myself and let it be transformed by these absolutely horrific events. That is willing to speak truth to power in my small part of the world. And that is willing to direct my energy for change not at one or two or a hundred individuals, but at the unjust culture that has shaped them.
Together, let us be the presence. We see what is happening. We open our hearts to the suffering of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and to their loved ones. And to all who have have suffered and are suffering. We name the injustice. We allow the light of clear perception and openness to burn away and transform the darkness, within us and in the world.
'The Door of Compassion'
This poem speaks to me again and again during hard times. The news yesterday and today about more young black men killed by police officers, along with the weeks of horrifically violent news, brings me back to this and to the question, where does this violence, intolerance, fear, and pain live in me? And how can I be a force of love, peace, and acceptance within myself, my community, and the world?
Please Call Me By My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Don't say that I will depart tomorrow-
even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.
I am a mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
I am a frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin a bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.
My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up
and the door of my heart
could be left open,
the door of compassion.
I'm a person on a messy journey--healing, learning, discovering and rediscovering. Sharing, writing, talking, and teaching help me to understand myself and the world more clearly. I hope it can help make your journey a easier, too.