by Karin Harris
I don’t need to go to a Shaolin Temple, like Kwai Chang Cain of the TV show Kung Fu. My monk training happens here at home, with the three children. Let me explain.
For starters, there is: Lesson A: How to Focus and Concentrate with Severe Distractions. Trying to change a hungry baby’s diaper and sleeper while he is screaming at the top of his lungs is a challenge, that I am just starting to be able to do well. For some reason that loud piercing noise makes it hard for me to fit the snaps into their proper slots. I suppose I could nurse the baby with a wet, poopy diaper, but I want him to eat in comfort. As quick as I can, I get his diaper changed. In the beginning the faster I went the more mistakes I’d make and the longer the whole event took. As of late I am concentrating on counting and breathing, counting and breathing, as I quickly do up the snaps.
Now add to this high pitched piercing noise the fact that Mother Nature has done something to my hormones to make this noise even more intense in my body. I think it was Her idea of making sure that I would tend to the baby’s needs, as soon as he opens his mouth. A problem occurs, however, when the baby has colic. Somewhere there is an error in the program , because even when I am tending to the baby with hugs, kisses, and rocking, he is still screaming. By the time the evening is over and the baby is asleep, I no longer know my name. Of course, there is nothing a weekend in Hawaii wouldn’t cure, or even an hour long hot bath with soothing music. But there is no such luck because there are two other children now who need to be helped to bed, there are lunches to make, dishes to do, and diapers to wash. And then there is sleeping.
Now the sleeping thing is quite the adventure. At any point in my sleep cycle, alpha, beta, rem, deep sleep, whatever, I can be woken. An I’m not talking about being woken to the sound of soothing music. It’s either going to be a crying hungry baby, a child who’s wet his/her bed, or another child who has had a bad dream. On many nights it’s all three. Anyway, it’s kind of like Kato in the Pink Panther movies, ready to pounce on Detective Kluso, at any time. I remember long ago going to a spiritual growth workshop where we were told that by getting a lack of sleep it would help break down our defences, so we could then work on our “issues.” Their definition of lack of sleep was four, full, straight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Now what I wouldn’t do for those four hours.
So now comes the training in B) Multi-tasking. Do I: 1) nurse the baby, and then run down the hall to help the pre-schooler with his bathroom duties, or do I: 2) carry the baby with me on my breast, down the hall and try to juggle toilet paper and nursing, or do I 3) stop nursing, go down the hall with milk from my breast spraying all over, wipe the bum, then run back to the now screaming baby?
I now move on the C) Humility and Compassion Training. How is it that I do one of the world’s hardest jobs, get paid the least, and get the least amount of prestige? After being up all night, woken to loud, piercing noises, having gotten children to their various schools in -24 degree weather (which means concentrating and multitasking enough to co-ordinate three sets of assorted winter wear), carrying a heavy baby with my post partum back to the bus, a friend asks, “What could possibly be so difficult about meditating for ten minutes a day?” I’ve gotten to two minutes a day and figure this is a small miracle. Then there are the condescending “innocent” comments about my Motherhood career, or the unwanted, unsolicited advice. I finally figured out that what I really want is compassion. Perhaps an encouraging word or a pat on the back would help me with that extra bit of strength that I need to go on with my day. I decided that: A) I want to learn to be even more compassionate toward others because it sure hurts when they aren’t compassionate towards me. The next time a friend tells me her troubles I’m going to bite my tongue before offering advice, and instead I will offer empathy; and B) The deep compassion that I long for will mostly need to come from myself and from God (or the Great Mother, as I call her).
D) Self Discipline: Take a difficult life, and add to it an intense craving for sugar, chocolate, and coffee. Also add to this equation the consequences of these indulgences to be a decrease in an already low energy and an increase in an already feeling of being overwhelmed. Make the cravings come at the exact moment that the student is working on all of the above: concentration and focus, multitasking, and humility and compassion.
E) Inner Strength: Now for the Super Intense two week Spiritual Course on inner strength. Take the above difficult life where I am just barely hanging on with my fingertips and give three children a violent flu for ten days. Multiply the loud piercing noises, quadruple the amount of laundry, and add a whole lot of projectile body fluids. Finally, add a lot of fear, especially for the child who has had twelve months of undiagnosed gastro-intestinal difficulties.
The Super Intense Training almost broke me. I remember lying on my bed wishing I knew the mahasamadhi technique (a yogi’s final exit) for leaving my body for good, because I couldn’t bear the other option in my mind at the time, which was to put the three little darlings up for adoption. But somewhere in there a bit switched (from 0 to 1) and a deep inner strength took over. I decided I was going to cope.
I am ending my writing about my Spiritual Training, for now, because I have to go. The little one needs to nurse.
Beautiful Stories, page 1
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