I have completed the third week-long immersive training in Self-Inquiry, just this past week. I was aware of thoughts that I couldn't possibly go a third time: If you thought twice was indulgent try THREE times, are you really going to abandon your children and husband again? during spring break?? Isn't this more than a little self-indulgent? what are you even going to do with all this training anyway? What's the return on this investment? Fortunately I have had enough of being dictated to by these thoughts, and I use inquiry to restore peace. Thoughts come, thoughts go, and it snows sideways in April. Thoughts come, thoughts go, and reality still does what it does. I'm currently aware that I am more resilient than I'd imagined and can sit with pain without having to experience suffering. For the moment.
The first time I enrolled in self-inquiry training, the major accomplishment was arriving for the week-long retreat. I had not left my children for more than a day since they were born and had committed myself to a week, 400 miles away from home. I collapsed into tears when I arrived but I arrived. I heartily recommend a retreat for all parents. I was living like a tangled ball of yarn, a basket of unfolded laundry, together but not in any recognizable order. What I could find in the jumble I gave away- to the children, to my husband, to my colleagues, to keep functioning. The time away in conscious retreat gave me time for a little mise en place, noticing who I am and am not.
My son recently turned 7. He loves Stevie Wonder and Star Wars and being in underwear, exclusively, for as long as possible. I am in awe of his ability to build models of all kinds and am in love with his instinct for what's funny. We also share a hot temper, which has caused me shame. I love this boy dearly and have written many a JYN worksheet on our relationship. On his birthday we invited dear friends over for special dinner, spaghetti and meatballs, and cake-with-Star-Wars-guys-on-it. It was a fun time and it got loud, and the birthday boy reached an introvert's limit. He handled it with the grace of a 7-yr-old, which is to say that he pitched a fit and had to be carried off to his room. I sat with him in his room and asked him what he thought this was all about. He told me that he wished we were back in the old house, having the birthday party in that dining room, that the dining room there was bigger. "Oh, buddy, " I said, "I'll bet it did feel bigger when we were in that house- you were much smaller then and things seemed bigger." He said, "when I was smaller I was cuter and you loved me!" If I had been watching this scene on TV I would have been reduced to tears. In the moment I instead took a deep breath, let it out, and said, "oh honey, I am so glad you told me that thought." and gave him a hug. Through his tears he asked me why I'd be so happy about something like this. I told him since he was able to speak it out loud I could help him handle the thought, that he didn't have to manage it alone in his head. I didn't explain his feelings to him, I didn't monologue, I just sat in it with him and let him know he was on solid ground. It was a relief for him. It was a relief for me, as his parent and as a person who could completely relate to what he was feeling. We had another big hug and I told him how much I love, love, love him and we went back to the party.
I met someone this past week with grown kids who asked me, "Have you done this week-long retreat before? Isn't it a long time to be away from your babies?" It felt like a graduation to be able to listen to what she was saying without whipping myself into a frenzy of guilt and shame. Without the willingness to go away from my children, my husband, take time off work, I wouldn't have the perspective I have today, like how all these arenas are not actually dependent on me and how much healthier that is. I think the family I'm part of is better for the presence of mind I am cultivating, for the experiences of observing my thoughts and rooting myself in reality, for the growing ability to sit in the middle of something uncomfortable and find out I'm resilient and resourceful.