newsletter logo: Sangha Reflections

Big Teachers in Little Packages
by Jindra Cekan

Mothering is the greatest challenge and, paradoxically, the greatest support of my practice that I have encountered. As many of you know, a year ago October I was a single, unattached woman living in DC with her beagle. In November 2001 I moved to the Czech Republic, adopted
The 3 Cekans (Photo: Jindra Cekan)
my son Karel, and (joyously) found out I was pregnant. In July of this year, my son Erik was born. Thus my home is composed of a 41 year old, a 6 year old (beagle), a 2 year old and a newborn.

I am challenged, on a daily basis (sometimes hourly) by the seeds of suffering sown by my ancestors. I have found myself quick to anger, to be ungenerous with my time, and impatient with my new, much slower, pace of life. These, as you will guess, manifest in many, many present moments. Examples include my yelling at Karel’s imperfect toilet-training, my choosing to go swim alone over taking the boys with me (even though I have a daytime au-pair), my impatience at Karel taking a long time to leave his bike-riding and head for home despite my repeated urgings. I hear my parents’ voices as a backdrop when I yell, I try to forgive myself and them (that is, when I calm down, when I realize what I am doing!). When I describe Karel as "having been bad" because he peed on the rug, I perpetuate the suffering of so many Czechs – blanket judgmentalism. I am often aware of my deep imperfections as a parent.

I am also blessed, more and more often by the deep sense of how I can transform some of these sufferings. Not only how powerful mental formations can be but also how literally we "inter-are." When Karel and Erik each wake me twice at night (at different times, naturally), I think "these little beasts, don’t they know I have to sleep sometime too?!" – but this causes me terrible mental formations. Much more peaceful and mindful is to choose to move from that kind of thought to "this poor little one, is he wet or hungry or had a bad dream? How can I help him here at night?" So too are the moments when I realize that Karel’s 100th "no" of the day is as much playing at being ‘ornery’ as actually being it – and I can transform my almost-angry thoughts by laughing and saying "just say yes once, just for Mama!", and then tossing him on the couch for tickling.

Breastfeeding is another clear example of inter-being for me – what I eat is Erik’s meal as well (including early on, the day I had 3 coffees, completely forgetting this, and rueing it). Being mindful of my consumption is easier when its results are so clear on the little being in front of me. Or when I yell at my beagle stealing her umpteenth meal (which was supposed to be one of our meals), I affect my sons with my harsh voice and lack of compassion for her addiction/ mania for food. So she is, as always, a bell of mindfulness which I am grateful for.

So while I admit to scant time sitting these days, I am deeply grateful to my 3 junior Buddhas. I now try to take more time to "breathe" during the difficult minutes, to use my ever-present opportunities at practicing mindful compassion for my sons, dog and myself. The practice is there, thanks to the fertile soil of my WMC sangha that traveled here to the Czech Republic with me. It is enriched by ongoing contact with dear sangha mentors and friends as well as by my (temporary) new sangha – a vipassana group I sit with once a week inPrague.

So, dear sangha, know that you are in my heart often. Deep bows to you, and our great teacher, Thay and his monks and nuns and all our teachers . . . Metta.

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