Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It Doesn't Matter What You Do

My daughter, who is in her late '20's is trying to decide what to do next with her life.  (Aren't we all in some way?)  And I have come to realize that my role as a parent doesn't lie in telling her what to do, but in helping her find new and helpful ways to think about her life.  Sometimes when it seems appropriate I make a little offering.  

The other day I was reading some material from an online Buddhist course I took last year called "Awakening Joy".  A little piece made me think of her.  It was written by the Spirit Rock Buddhist teacher, James Baraz and went like this "When I was younger I faced a crossroads in my life... I didn't know what to do and was afraid of making the wrong decision.  I went to a wise psychic, Reverend Miller...($5 a reading!).  He said that although he wouldn't tell me what to do he did have one piece of advice: it doesn't matter.  My initial response was, "What do you mean it doesn't matter?!   That's my life you're talking about!"  He told me that as long as I was paralyzed with fear over making the wrong decision the benevolent forces of life... couldn't help me along in my journey."  

The full quote I sent my daughter was a bit longer than this but basically it speaks to the issues of faith and movement. We do the best we can and then have faith.  We can't, with our little minds figure it out, no matter how hard we try.  At some point we have to give up that sense of control and take the leap.  It is so easy to be paralyzed by fear and indecision.  I have spent many years living in that little dark house myself so I am well acquainted with it's cobwebbed corners.  And yet only we can open that door and walk out.  I can only knock on her proverbial door and suggest that the weather outside is really quite nice.  

At some point we must draw on our courage.  And I have come to realize that a big part of practice is having courage, to take a step, to say something in a situation where I might normally opt for comfort and quiet.  There is such momentum and energy (chi as traditional Chinese medicine calls it) in taking a step, moving out of the stagnation, the sleepy comfort of inaction that many of us spend our lives in.  We can do it in small ways or big ways and as we do we build new and wholesome habitual tendencies.  We eek out new neural pathways in our brain and ultimately we become a little bit more alive.  We experience the richness of life.  So as I sent off my email I realized as I so often do, that what I was thinking about and saying were things that I needed to hear myself.

In December in the spirit of doing something different and moving the energy, I hosted my first open house/art sale.  I got to see, first hand, how moving a little energy  built on itself.  I found that things that had formerly seemed like a big deal could be done with a light touch and  a "let's see what happens" attitude.  As a result several  pieces of my art work found their way to the e Art Gallery of Greater Victoria's  Christmas show and another few pieces made the trip to another small gallery.  So here's to moving some energy.  And with the beginning of the lunar new year, what better time to rededicate ourselves to this task!


  1. I wish my mother was a bit more like you. Instead of supporting me in my own endeavors, she wants me to do the things she didn't get a chance to in life. I understand her regrets and wanting to make my life better, but I am not her. And I do not have the same yearnings she does. Our relationship is strained because of her overbearing, no matter how I try to let her in. She thinks telling me what to do is the answer. I am trying to convince her I want to make my own mistakes.

  2. You know one of my greatest teachers in my life is my daughter. As a wee babe she had her own ideas. She wanted to wear a baseball hat and I wanted to dress her up like a dolly! I learned from her that she had her own life and ideas, as you are expressing here.

    I have also done a lot of work with my mother, my other great teacher in this life and have found that by saying the difficult thing kindly (making sure I am not coming from a place of anger, which sometimes meant waiting for a long time to say something) But by repeatedly making the effort to let my mother know how it was for me that opened our relationship in a wonderful way.

    I think you have lots to offer your mom and even by showing her how painful her expectations are for you could be helpful. Because the truth in the end is, that as parents we love our children (probably more than anything else in this world) and want the best for them. Sometimes we just get a little confused.