Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Kind Heart

Zane, my first grandchild, has a way of leaving me chagrined. Several months ago, he wanted me to get up early to make him waffles. I pretended I was snoring, and then we would both giggle. Later, when we were at the kiddie park, he started throwing a rock around, and there were other toddlers nearby. Whenever he does stuff like this at the park. I make a point of being very direct with him, asking him to look at me. Of course he doesn't want to. Throwing rocks is fun. So I got down on my knees, to be level with him, said his name, and then said, "look at me, please." He turned away closed his eyes, and started snoring. My playful behavior with him, had just backfired, but I couldn't help but feel a proud of my little perceptive mockingbird. Zane has always had a little trouble finding his words, but not his humor.

Just a few weeks ago, this kind of shadowing happened again. At first it started with him repeating things that I said. He would even have my intonations down to a tee. But then he took it to a new level, and started imitating behaviors. One night, after coming home from work, I was a little stiff from being on my feet all day. Slowly moving around, doing my usual evening routine, I suddenly noticed something out of the corner of my eye. My grandson was mirroring me. I had to laugh, thinking perhaps he will actually learn tai chi from imitating his arthritic grandmother.

Observing this kind of behavior in both of my grandchildren has made me very aware of my presentation. It's not about what I say; it's about what I do. I see that they are watching the adults around them very closely to see how they negotiate in the world. After all, like the old adage says, "actions do speak louder than words." I'm not saying that words don't have power, but it is the understanding behind them that informs the wisdom, or lack thereof.

Loving my dear grandchildren makes me want to be a more thoughtful person, a more awake person. After all, the quality of their lives will be greatly influenced by the lessons they learn from the adults around them. I want my grandchildren to see me joyful, and to see me, behaving with clarity and compassion. I found a quote today in a book written by Pema Chodron. She was quoting a prominent teacher and author of Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism named Patrul Rinpoche:

"To make things as easy as possible to understand, we can summarize the four boundless qualities* in a single phrase "a kind heart". Just train yourself to have a kind heart always in all situations."

I realize that I will not do this perfectly. Having a kind heart is a lifetime vocation. I will still come across people that will be difficult to practice this with. When I see my grandchildren mirroring my behaviors I become more sensitive to the reality of my influence. I can choose to be a light out suffering for them by demonstrating, to the best of my ability, equanimity, and tolerance in all situations. Humor, as my dear grandchild so brightly showed me with his gentle mocking is key. Yes, he is my light too. I'm obliged to return the favor.

* Four Boundless Qualities
May all sentient beings enjoy happiness
and the root of happiness.

May we be free from suffering
and the root of suffering.

May we not be separated from
the great happiness devoid of suffering.

May we dwell in the great equanimity
free from passion, aggression, and prejudice.


Alan said...

You write from a heart as big as the sky and you draw your readers into your experience transforming it into theirs. I I know you to be true and am a great fan of your prose/poetry.


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