Everyday Blessings

The 1997 book Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn is insightful, fascinating, and fun. Much of it applies not just to raising kids but throughout life. Many suggestions, in fact, work amazingly well if the word "child" is simply changed to "spouse", or "friend", or "parent". Some parts of the discussion are slow, anecdotal, and loosely written, but even those have sporadic sparkles and doubtless speak to some readers at certain times.

Among the difficult balancing-acts that Everyday Blessings wrestles with is the paradoxical challenge of combining deep love with non-attachment. The Prologue section by Jon Kabat-Zinn offers a beautiful image (from Rainer Marie Rilke) of seeing a silhouette "whole against the sky":

To me, it feels like the work is all in the attending, in the quality of the attention I bring to each moment, and in my commitment to live and to parent as consciously as possible. We know that unconsciousness in one or both parents, especially when it manifests in rigid and unwavering opinions, self-centeredness, and lack of presence and attention, invariably leads to sorrow in the children. These traits are often symptoms of underlying sorrow in parents as well, although they may never be seen as such without a deep experience of awakening.

Maybe each one of us, in our own unique ways, might honor Rilke's insight that there are always infinite distances between even the closest human beings. If we truly understand and accept that, terrifying as it sometimes feels, perhaps we can choose to live in such a way that we can experience in its fullness the "wonderful living side by side" that can grow up if we use and love the distance that lets us see the other whole against the sky.

I see this as our work as parents. To do it, we need to nurture, protect, and guide our children and bring them along until they are ready to walk their own paths. We also have to be whole ourselves, each his or her own person, with a life of our own, so that when they look at us, they will be able to see our wholeness against the sky.

It's all about awareness, attention, awakening ...

(cf. SkyLights (2003-05-25), Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Work of a Lifetime (2009-02-01), No Method (2010-01-21), ...) - ^z - 2014-06-06