I kind of knew and I kind of didn’t. I kind of wanted to know and I kind of didn’t, so I kept going and carrying out daily responsibilities between family and work. And yet, I knew that this nagging sensation around my heart was growing. There were certain things about myself that I noticed were either missing, not present or I was avoiding.
I noticed that I was a having a difficult time writing my newsletter-blog. I couldn’t get the words out and when something started percolating, I froze and convinced myself that I didn’t have it together “enough” to write something public.
I noticed that tears didn’t come as easily. Not that I cry over everything, but my heart can get touched pretty easily. The ancients believe that tears are a way of cleansing the soul and I wholeheartedly believe in that.
I also noticed that I was more on edge both on the inside and out. There was a degree of hardness and tension that was more present in my body.
It was true that in the past 18 months, a primary relationship went from bad to worse to a total collapse. Good hearted community efforts were met with a lot of resistance and hostility that were exhausting. Various events in our country and world have caused me great concern.
It was also true that it was the first time my husband and I had entered the phase of parenting an adolescent into the teenage years. With this new phase of parenting came a host of unpredictable developments that we weren’t totally prepared for and yet common and normal for middle schoolers.
As these life circumstances started unfolding in a way that was not in accordance with my preferences or liking, the resistance in relation to these situations started accumulating around my heart to form a protective shield.
For years I wanted to attend a specific meditation retreat that focused on Metta or loving kindness in the Buddhist tradition. However, it always falls on my son’s birthday and so I’ve waited. This year the timing worked!
It was a seven-day silent meditation retreat. Everyday we would alternate between a 45-minute sitting meditation practice and a 45-minute walking meditation from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Meals were silent and you took a vow to leave all electronics in your car. Each day, there was a Dharma talk about the teachings of the Buddha and Metta (loving-kindness) practice, which extends loving qualities to other beings.
At the beginning of every retreat most people arrive and ask themselves why they signed up. The first couple of days can be hard. The speed of which we are living at home is still very much in the mind and body. It can be especially difficult to sit still, stay awake and focus on anything besides discursive thoughts.
From the beginning, I started noticing the tightness around my heart. I was frustrated it was there and I wanted it to go away. It lingered and then intensified the more frustrated I became. My thoughts became more frequent and focused on blame, guilt, loneliness and a host of other feeling/thought combinations that revolved around my son.
“How many more days did I have left?” I asked myself on day two of the retreat.
A lot can happen from day-to-day when you are in quiet, nature and contemplation.
What started happening for me was that the defense structures around my heart started softening. Underneath the tangle of thoughts and feelings was a well of love and vulnerability and the simple truth that I have loved being a mother to my son and I wasn’t ready for him to grow up and for it all to change. There in the silence as tears streamed down my face into my lap, my resistance began to melt little-by-little.
I prefer life challenges to be packaged and wrapped up with a big red bow. I like to learn the lesson and then move on.
I realize that this isn’t the case in life, not only with parenting, but also with relationships and life circumstances.
I had been busier then usual this past year and with that came less quiet time in my personal life. I started to resist the uncomfortable feelings, the hurt heart, the vulnerability in not having the answers and the uncertainty about what comes next. All these feeling that accompanied the collapse of the relationship, the frustration and anger that arose in the face of trying to do good, the sadness for people around the world and of course adjusting to my son growing up. I was living life more withdrawn, protective, and hardened in an attempt to stay “in control” and put ground under my feet.
I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t want for others to know that I didn’t have the answer. I was humbled to not have my life’s challenges wrapped up in a box with a bow.
I still don’t have the answers and I still don’t have the box with the bow, but I have my heart back at the moment. The box with the bow doesn’t matter anymore.
That’s why I could write again today.