Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Warm wishes for a wonderful holiday celebration, and peace on earth, good will to ALL!

the author's

the author’s

parenting as practice, or, mother as social justice warrior

via google

via google

As a child, I watched the monks come to the house each morning, as the sun rose in the sky. Sometimes the clouds were the same saffron color as the monks’ robes. The monks would pass their wooden begging bowls through the iron bars of the villa gate, and the cook would place rice, some vegetables, sometimes a bit of egg, in each one.

It was a satisfying transaction, both necessary (how else would monks eat?) and beautiful: the highly polished wooden bowls, the young monks in their yellow-orange robes. The cook with her hands together like a temple’s spires, and me watching. Learning.

This is Buddhist practice — feeding the hungry. Not only monks, but all the hungry. It’s part of what makes me an engaged Buddhist, trying to actively use my beliefs to better the world around me. Speaking out against injustice, on both the local and global levels.

Recently I heard a term I loved from the first moment: social justice warrior. It was a throw-away, disdainful construct from some neo-con talker, meant to dismiss those of us who insist on pointing out the elephant in the room (systemic racial inequality), the naked emperor (classism in American politics) and other elements of white privilege. It was meant derisively, w/ mockery if not contempt.

And I’m claiming it. Because every mother should be a social justice warrior, since every victim of injustice is someone’s child. The homeless man who’s been criminalized because some business doesn’t want to look at him? Some mother’s son. The young black boy shot for brandishing the toy gun that white boys carry into WalMart? Some mother’s son. The young woman raped by athletes and ostracized at a university? Some mother’s daughter. The children who go hungry, the elderly who lack medical assistance…. All were once some mother’s child.

via homeless child welfare.org

via homeless child welfare.org

I remember asking my grandmother what it was like to grow old. And how only now do I really understand her answer: I look in the mirror and wonder — who’s that old lady?? What happened to that young girl?? These days, I see the child inside the aging mask of almost everyone. It’s become almost reflexive: I find myself smiling at the homeless black guy by the apartments, knowing that most of his days, being ignored is the best he can hope for. So I smile, trying to convince him at least one person who sees him remembers he’s a mother’s child.

I reach out to pat the cashier who’s having a loooong day, knowing she’s exhausted. I ask her about her own children, and what she’s bought them for Christmas. Grateful, she looks up with quick animation. Another mother’s child.

I try to be patient w/ the driver who cuts me off. The young couple w/ multiple tattoos & piercings are far easier than the terrified police who make such very bad decisions. And yet, I remember my own two sons making bad decisions. It’s hard, but I do try to remember.

I can’t mother the entire world. But I can try. And if that makes me a social justice warrior, I’m happy. It’s little enough in a world where there seems to be a war on. Parenting has taught me many things, but this is possibly the most important: ALL children — whatever age they are — need love & understanding. Otherwise? They are victims of this undeclared war. So count me in on social justice, and fighting the good fight. It’s the just the next stage of mothering as Buddhist practice…

taking joy in others’ joy (or, how did you escape acrophobia??)

brandtk via deviantart

brandtk via deviantart

Our younger son phoned home! Since he’s halfway around the world (literally — 14 hours ahead of us here), this reassures his mother, who — as he notes) worries…

Please understand that understand how pointless it is to worry about an intelligent, grown man. I’ve written before about learning to let go of the worries that mothers (and fathers, too) have for their adult offspring. But when your son shares exuberant recounts of canyoning some remote Philippine island, w/out benefit of helmet, rope, or even his SHOES…? How can you keep from worrying?? Who even knew what ‘canyoning’ was?

Note: he also shared that he’s fine, although his legs got quite the workout. The only casualty of his adventure was a shoe. Resulting in the shoe’s mate being cast into the abyss as well. Or perhaps thrown off one of the 14 metre cliffs he jumped into the ocean from…!

Motherhood is NOT for the faint-hearted. I was much calmer listening to his other recent adventure, snorkeling w/ 6 & 7 metre whale sharks, off the shoreline. F2F, as it were — just a couple of inches from my face! 

Actually, once I caught my breath, I’m ecstatic for him. These are the memories he hoped to build when he left Portland for points east. Far east, as it turns out. So the trip is doing just what he wanted: letting him try new things. And it’s doing things even parents approve of: he has to budget his limited income to do these things, for instance. The reason for no helmet or rope was that he & new friends went w/ locals instead of a tour group. Hence the sore (and I would bet pretty scraped up!) legs: doing the canyon w/ a tour group (and equipment) would have cost him at least twice as much

This is what I work to focus on: the joy & self-sufficiency attendant upon young men throwing themselves into watery abysses….

No, it’s not MY idea of a good time. But you know what? It’s his. And when you love someone dearly, you’re happy when they’re happy. You rejoice in their bliss, even if it sends chills up your spine (I’m more than a little acrophobic; heights TERRIFY me!). Of course, it helps if they phone home and tell you all about it. Pictures would be nice, too. :)

three things (among many) I love about this season

via google

via google

1. Music

One of the best things about the holiday season is the music. I have a Spotify Christmas music playlist of almost 500 songs. And there are even more on my iPad! So that would be the first totally non-secular thing I love about this time of year: music. Everything from hammered dulcimer playing very old English carols to the Barenaked Ladies blaring out “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” How can we celebrate w/out music??

2. Food

It should come as noooo surprise to anyone who knows me that food figures in this list. :) I spent the past week cooking — for my girlfriends holiday tea.  My sisters & nieces join women from my writing classes, from my former job, from all parts of my life. And I cook like the crazy person I can be: quiche, panna cotta (tried eggnog this year — success!), hummus (not always — it was a pass this year), four kinds of tea. All the fun accoutrements: the family silver, including the tea service; the ironstone w/ birds & flowers; runners embroidered w/ gold thread. So maybe instead of ‘food’ I should say: ritual sharing of food…?

the author's

the author’s

3. Thinking of my friends & family

Wrapping, for instance: we found pirate ribbon! A perfect ribbon for my nephew (and for my younger son, were he joining us instead of traipsing across the Philippines!). How fun! Trying to find a gift for nieces & nephews I don’t see often, but love dearly. What are their interests? What would they enjoy? We’re not always big on gift cards, although we do those as well. Mostly, I love the excuse to buy presents for people I love, to cook for them, to show them in tangible ways how very dear they are.

I used to feel guilty, as a Buddhist, celebrating Christmas. Not so much while the children were small — I did it for them, and my family, I told myself. But who doesn’t love a riotously pagan tree, lit up against the winter darkness, floating on a tidal wave of gifts? Glittering foil, bright curls of ribbon, stockings bulging with trinkets… Who could resist?? But as I thought about it, the ways in which this time of year has come to be a giving back, a giving to, have won me over from my usual self-doubt.

So as you go about the hectic craziness that is American holiday season, remember that even if you’re not a Christian, and don’t celebrate Hannukah, there are other blessings to the season. Warm, wonderful reasons to rejoice. What are yours?

Previous Posts

Warm wishes for a wonderful holiday celebration, and peace on earth, good will to ALL!

posted 3:54:16pm Dec. 25, 2014 | read full post »

parenting as practice, or, mother as social justice warrior
As a child, I watched the monks come to the house each morning, as the sun rose in the sky. Sometimes the clouds were the same saffron color as the monks' robes. The monks would pass their wooden begging bowls throu

posted 1:41:38pm Dec. 22, 2014 | read full post »

taking joy in others' joy (or, how did you escape acrophobia??)
Our younger son phoned home! Since he's halfway around the world (literally -- 14 hours ahead of us here), this reassures his mother, who -- as he notes) worries... Please understand that I underst

posted 7:31:51pm Dec. 21, 2014 | read full post »

three things (among many) I love about this season
1. Music One of the best things about the holiday season is the music. I have a Spotify Christmas music playlist of almost 500 songs. And there are even more on my iPad! So that would be the first totally non-sec

posted 3:20:02pm Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

the other side
You will notice, if you look at the picture, a dearth of men. There are the outlaws, w/ the exception of grandchildren, and a cousin. That's it. Mine is a family of women, mostly. We talk about 'the aunts' -- my mother and her three sisters -- and 'the sisters' -- my three sisters & me. My grand

posted 6:41:49pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.