Last month I hung out with this planet’s most famous refugee, his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (along with 18,000 other people) at the O2 in London.
His Holiness said many wise things, which is to be expected from the face of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. He was funny, quick-witted and came straight to the point about the huge responsibility parents have in raising children who will save humanity from itself.
He requested that we do three things:
1. Take responsibility
He basically said, and I paraphrase, that his generation has royally messed up the planet and it is now our responsibility, with all of the information we have at hand, to put things right. He giggled mischievously as he metaphorically handed over the baton and pointed to people in the audience to take up the challenge.
2. Practice compassion and loving kindness
According to the Dalai Lama, the most basic seed of compassion is the healthy and positive bond between a child and its parent. He cited that his own mother was always compassionate and kind which made him the man he is today. “A child cannot survive without the care of others; love is its most important nourishment. The allaying of the child’s many fears and the healthy development of its self-confidence depend directly upon love,” he said.
And then it dawned on me why he was appealing to parents as his audience for change. After I had my twins I was reading Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism for Mothers, when a point she makes about unconditional love struck home. I realized that most of the love I had experienced in the past—in relationships and with family—was pretty selfish. Consciously or sub-consciously there was an agenda: What’s in it for me? The minute things were not going my way I got angry, fearful, resentful and wanted out.
But, not with these two bundles of yummy goodness. The love is unconditional, patient, kind, compassionate, tolerant and there is no need for a ripcord to get out—I am in it all the way. A mother’s love is how love should be and we get to practice it every day. So I suppose we should get pretty good at it.
To be clear, I am only speaking for myself, and have a whole community of loving and kind child-free friends and sisters.
3. Do not pass our own fears and anxieties on to our children
My first reaction was: Easier said than done. On top of the regular run of the mill human fears and anxieties I’ve been carrying around for 40 years—waiting to pass on to my offspring—frontload that with the fears and anxieties of actually being a parent!
Dealing with anxieties that turn into fear and anger is an ongoing process in our house. In the moment it is hard to see the impermanence of rising negative emotions. I’m always looking for a quick fix solution to this problem, but end up back at the same place, which involves practicing meditation regularly. However short—20 minutes, sometimes even 20 seconds—helps to bring awareness to a situation.
That magic word is awareness. Awareness is the key to unlock the advice from the Dalai Lama.
Self awareness is the first step to taking responsibility. Self awareness puts us in another’s shoes which opens us up to practice compassion and loving-kindness.
And self awareness helps us with the biggest challenge of all, not allowing our fears and anxieties to take over. It gives us restraint of tongue, allows us to listen to others and to apologise and forgive quickly. All while our children are watching and learning.
Author: Simone Drewry
Editor: Travis May