If you've read this blog before you will know that my relationship with my mother is not an easy one. I find her prickly and difficult. So here is the challenge. Of course I want to be compassionate and helpful to my mother through her process of leaving this world, at least some part of me does. But to be very truthful a part of me doesn't want to do the work, feel the pain, or just be with her. In many ways it would be easier to feel angry toward her and push her away, to grumble and blame. And there in lies my work, to do the best I can, to try to be helpful, yet to acknowledge my own humanness. So it will be an interesting ride. Part of me eyes her suspiciously, what will she get up to now? Part of me feels exhausted before I even start. Couldn't I buy a ticket to somewhere else? (also today a friend sent me an email that said "Discover the Buddha by Indian Rail") Doesn't that sound more interesting? But here I am and I will muddle along this leg of the journey as best I can, sometimes with a flat tire, sometimes on my bike, with the wind in my hair.
My mother knows how to push my buttons, that's for sure. I used to think it was intentional but I have come to see recently (as I peel off the layers of projection) that in truth she doesn't know how to be anything but prickly. She is like a little porcupine trapped inside that shell of quills, firing them off in all directions. She doesn't even know that she can take this little costume off any time she likes, in fact she believes the zipper is stuck and she can't possibly get out.
I have picked an old book from the shelf this evening, Sogyal Rinpoche's "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying". It will be good to read this, although at this point I can feel the hard knot of resistance in me, this feeling of my mother making me do this, of wanting something from me. We have a long history of this. In the book, Rinpoche says "the dying need our unconditional love, but in some situations this may be far from easy. We may have a long history of suffering with this person ...." And then he suggest two ways of working with this "first, look at the dying person in front of you and think of that person as just like you, with the same needs, the same fundamental desire to be happy and avoid suffering, the same loneliness, the same fear of the unknown .... The second way, and I have found this even more powerful, is to put yourself directly and unflinchingly in the dying person's place. ... What would you most need? like?" Not bad advice for being with the living either, don't you think? So if my mother is the porcupine, I am the furtive little ground squirrel, peeking my head out of it's hole, hoping not to get my furry little self ripped or torn. Wish me luck and courage.