The Sitting Frog

The Sitting Frog

About the blog

This blog is a place where I talk about a book I wrote, called My Christian Journey with Zen, and other meditation related topics. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment sections below.

Family life

2016Posted by Gustav 15 Mar, 2016 00:10
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.

Fill in only if you are not real

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Posted by Ran 17 Mar, 2016 11:53

Thanks Gustav.

I wouldn’t comment if it said “it was somewhat of an ego trip” or something of the sort, but it said “it was the ultimate ego trip”.

Else the fact positive emotions exist in your heart does not mean negative ones could not reside there too at the same time. I referred to that in my first comment. Further, - even if a parent would give up his or hers own life this does not mean this is as far as true spiritual love. It is not for nothing David Bowie sings (or sang) “Loving the Alien”. Jesus too said evil ones too know how to give good gifts to their sons. Animals too could or might sometimes do that, I believe. More clearly or significantly, - a person who might sacrifice as you say, might sometimes act in a terrible way in revenge on seeing his child injured or offended. I believe such phenomenon speaks for those who can see it through. Different thing can exist together and one does not necessarily tells of the other, plus they change themselves too and develop with time.

Posted by Gustav 16 Mar, 2016 22:59

Thank you Ran for commenting and letting me know what you think. Of course, it was not only an ego trip. We were sincere, and I think we still are, and we hold that sincerity dearly. But even if what he said was not literally, exactly true, I still believe he had a point. Our practice when we were teens and in our early twenties was quite self centered, in ways that I find difficult to explain. And even though we certainly have a lot of selfishness and ego still in us, there is also something that has changed. I believe that was what we found in our conversation the other day.

And, I agree with you that attachment and love is not the same thing. Sorry if I was unclear about that. I think many parents would give up their own lives for their children. Wherever that kind of love manifests, I wonder, is there also something that can be called attachment? My spontaneous feeling is that I don't care, and I guess it depends a lot on how we use the words.

I find your fundamental division between self pity and love interesting, and I will think more about those words.

Now it's getting late. Time for some zazen and then sleep.

Peace and best wishes.

Posted by Ran Kennedy 16 Mar, 2016 11:28

Didn’t like “it was the ultimate ego trip” .

People often just say things like that, Christianity does not emphasize sincerity, I don’t know why, but I don’t like the sound of it, though I don’t know the concrete facts of course.

More important, - attachment is never love. I don’t have kids, and I don’t want any, but anyway you can’t call attachment love. I guess all we have in our heart could be divided into two: self pity and love. We are not black and white but fundamentally these two can not be confused, though they could and do live side by side. Is this good or bad? I don’t think we need to define. It depends where you are looking from and what (therefore) you naturally consider an alternative.