Just a short post today with some reflections on family life. I'm currently on parental leave, and we're very happy to be expecting our third child in April.
A few days ago, a friend of mine said that he was so grateful to his children because, he said, "they have raised me."
I'm not sure if that translates well from Swedish into English, but the point is that we usually think that grown-ups raise kids, right? But my friend added the perspective that, in many ways, he had been raised by them.
He and I grew up together, dreaming about monastic life, spiritual life, perhaps as Buddhist monks somewhere in Asia. We went to Taizé and Plum Village in France together, and we have spent many hours on meditation cushions in the same room. Then we went off on our own, to different meditation centers in Asia. I'm truly grateful for all of it, but also, at the same time, as my friend put it, "it was the ultimate ego trip."
Now we are both married with children, and we both became priests in the Lutheran Church of Sweden. Kind of funny how things turn out sometimes...
When we talked the other day, we both agreed that in several ways, the lives we are living now are actually close to the lives we sought when we were in our teens and early twenties.
The days, and sometimes nights, are full of quite strict discipline and routines. Just like at Zen retreats, I need to harbour my energy to find a flow that works, and enjoy when there is a little bit of free space, perhaps for some exercise, siting meditation or maybe just watching TV or calling a friend. There are loads of daily challenges to my patience and emotional balance, and I get to see sides of myself that I'm not very proud of. I have to be completely focused in the present moment, as others' lives depend on it, while also planning ahead. I need to put my ego aside and be there for someone else, while in order to do that well, I also need to take good care of my own very basic needs.
Much of it is about the body - food and changing diapers - while it's also connection in the deepest, most soulful sense. To me, family life is a fantastic practice to see through my selfishness, to see the roots and branches of both happiness and suffering in myself, and to be pushed to continue practicing every day. And in that sense, our kids have truly raised me, too.
Tonight, after dinner, when I saw our children play, my eyes filled with tears because it was so beautiful to me. It's absolutely attachment, yes, but not really the "owning" or "gaining" kind. I think there are different kinds, somehow. And this attachment, I think, is best described as love. Difficult, yes, sometimes more difficult than I can handle. And beautiful beyond words.
Ok, this post turned out longer than I first thought. Now everyone is asleep and there is a little space for sitting meditation and a short evening prayer. Then sleep.
May peace be with you, right where you are. Amen.