We’re heading into the Christmas / Chanukah Holiday “Silly” Season. It’s also the time of the summer solstice, when the southern hemisphere has turned its belly up towards the Sun. It’s a holiday time, a time of celebration.
When I think of celebration, I think of gratitude – the warm feeling in my belly of goodness, health, abundance, even luck, as if I’ve narrowly avoided some disaster (that’s perhaps befallen someone else). I used to believe that gratitude was reserved for good, happy, events, when things were going “my way.” Thanks to Buddhism and Pema Chodron’s teachings, I’m beginning to internalise an understanding of gratitude that simply means accepting what is, in an open, generous way, which allows for all of life’s occurrences and people’s actions.
I had this tested earlier this week when my son’s rabbi had a road accident; then yesterday when I heard bad health news concerning a friend and then a client. I noticed my forehead tighten, my stomach clench, fearing for my loved ones. Just noticing my body’s tightening allowed my mind to ease, to remember that pain, illness, and death are part of life, and that my clenching will not magically help them disappear. I found ease and could rest in my affection for these people, knowing that the tightening was my way of trying to protect them, even though I have no way to stop their pain.
My son is in puberty and experiencing what are common, wild mood swings. He’s most disturbed by what feels like uncontrollable, unpredictable rage, sometimes aimed at himself, sometimes at fate, but always about things that don’t go “his way.” This has posed a parenting challenge: do I sympathise with and validate his experience, or simply say, “you wish things were different right now.” But while he’s in the throes of rage, I’m the furthest from serenity myself! I calm myself first, then try a balance between validation and Buddhism. When he comes home from school he tells me how he’s rated his day and asks me how I’ve rated mine. I always say “10”. Incredulously, he asks, “how can it be a 10 everyday?” I tell him because I am happy that I am accepting whatever happens, even if it hasn’t gone “my way.” This is something to celebrate.