December 4, 2006

'Momma Zen'

Walking the
Crooked Path of Motherhood"
by Karen Maezen Miller

I was able to hear Karen Maezen Miller give a talk entitled "Dharma Life As Practice" about recognizing the practice opportunities in the everyday upheavals of family life. Maezen is a mother, wife, writer and Zen Buddhist priest at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. I was touched by her words, so much so that I bought the book. When I told her that I was not married and had no children, she wrote inside the cover, "Everyone can be a new mother!"

From the book jacket:
Drawing on her experience as a first-time mother, and on her years of Zen meditation and study, Karen Maezen Miller explores how the daily challenges of parenthood can become the most profound spiritual journey of our lives.

This compelling and wise memoir follows the timeline of early motherhood from pregnancy through toddlerhood. Miller takes readers on a transformative journey, charting a mother's growth beyond naive expectations and disorientation to finding fulfillment in ordinary tasks, developing greater self-awareness and self-acceptance - to the gradual discovery of 'maternal bliss', a state abiding happiness and ease that, she explains, is available to us all.

Quotes I found meaningful:
Yes, this crying-out-loud life is your crooked path, whose bumps and bends cannot be negotiated through mere reasoning. Time and again, you'll be stripped of your preconceptions, judgments, ideas, theories, and opinions...and left to go straight on through the inexplicable experience itself. These gulfs of incomprehension bring the opportunity for spiritual growth and self-acceptance.

"Kind speech has the power to turn the destiny of a nation." Dogen Zenji

Life keeps going. It keeps going within us. When we're not attentive, it keeps on going without us.

"My life is one continuous mistake." Dogen Zenji

"Don't push the river. Let the future come to you." unknown

...thinking is not at all the same as being.

...for the light to reach any depth at all, you have to stop thinking so much.

"Nevery hurt yourself with the thought that you will fail." unknown

You don't have to work so hard at this. You don't have to do so much. You don't have to endeavor to be natural, normal, and good. It happens by itself when you least expect it. If you are confused about what you should be doing, try this. Stop what you are doing. Take care of what is in front of you, when it is in front of you, and the confusion will pass. This is called the effort of no effort. No effort is what powers the universe.
    With time, your roots grow deep and your branches long. You lean a little less backward in fear and a little less forward in doubt, resting solidly right where you are. When the wind blows, you bend. When it stop, you straighten. Your boughs provide shelter and shade. Your strength supports the sky. Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.

Your life is a garden. And you are the only gardener.

My practice is to see that nothing ever gets in the way of anything else. More to the point, my practice is to recognize that no one else is ever pushing me forward, and no one is ever holding me back.

Happy now? Yes, I would snap awake, realizing in that moment, that I could choose and change. And by changing my attitude, change everything.

And yet there is such a thing as happiness. There is such a place as bliss when you drop your expectations, lose your selfishness, forget your grievances, give up your worries, abandon the plan, stop your striving, let it out, let it go, let things pass, take a breath, take a break, quiet down, be still, empty your mind, open your heart, and come alive. What else is there to be but happy?

This is your new spiritual practice: cracking a smile.

Momma Zen available at Powells and Amazon

Hazy Moon Zen Buddhist Center