I was inspired to write this post after teaching a workshop on lovingkindness meditation and smashing one of my daughter’s popsicle molds in anger (in the same week).
Lovingkindness meditation is a thousand-year-old tool for dealing with hard-heartedness and isolation. Research continues to emerge about the positive effects of lovingkindness, including decreasing migraines and chronic pain, and activating empathy. Recently, at one of my Your Body Is Your Practice workshops, we offered ourselves the traditional phrases:
May I be safe,
May I be happy,
May I be healthy,
May I live with ease.
One might think that these phrases are unnecessary; aren’t we already laboring every minute of the day to be happy and live with ease? Why else would I be obsessively browsing Zappos if not to deliver lasting happiness?[Insert skeptical emoji face]
Alas, my subconscious wishes for myself are not those golden ones above. They are more along the lines of:
May I be perfect,
May I not acknowledge my uncomfortable emotions,
May I never disappoint…
* * *
I started to self-reflect on these subconscious expectations when my daughter, in the span of a few hours, broke eggs, spilled my coffee, and scattered a container of black peppercorns (it’s hard to explain). My annoyance level surged. In a moment of spiritual maturity, I walked into the kitchen and broke a plastic popsicle mold against our countertop.
While getting annoyed at your kids is to be expected, it also became clear that my subconscious intentions for Ruby were something along the lines of:
May she not get in my way,
May she not upset me,
May she be the world’s first self-sufficient 5-year-old…
Of course, this is a delusional view of parenting and a recipe for suffering. She wasn’t trying to break anything (unlike my popsicle rampage); she was acting like a five-year-old. She wanted to try her hand at cooking. Expecting her experiments to be problem-free creates unnecessary friction. It also obscures my deeper parenting goals, beyond not having to clean up stuff: I want to open my heart to my children and teach them how to live.
So, if we don’t consciously articulate our intentions, our habits dominate (i.e. may I never make a mistake, instead of let me take risks and grow).
This is what I would like to cultivate with Ruby:
May she be happy,
May I be happy,
May we both learn about life together.
The next day, she forgot her sneakers for a field trip and I had to walk them over to her school. Having practiced these intentions above, I delivered her shoes with a spirit of generosity and love rather than begrudging annoyance.
What are you subconsciously wishing? What’s the intention you set out every day with – May I not be challenged? May I not have unstructured time?
What intention would you like to add to the mix?
While they may seem flimsy, awareness and intention are our strongest tools for living the life we want.