A friend's daughter died of cancer this morning. She was 14.
Suddenly everything comes into perspective. Suddenly all our words evaporate into thin air, our loving, caring, educating, teaching, scolding, directing , organizing words just go poof! All those moments ...
And still... I have a post to write.
Since Carina asked me to write this post, I have been walking around with a flashlight even bigger than usual - looking at myself, my kids, the people around me, but mostly at myself, with a critical eye. How present am I? In all daily activities, eating, getting dressed, doing the dishes.
It's such a powerful word for me.
I've been playing, thinking, meditating, guilt-ing, learning about it since my kids were young, and still now, when they are 11, wondering how to live with it in peace, and better still, how to do/be it. I have noticed that no matter what I'm doing, if I take a little moment and breath in and out mindfully, I can be present, right here right now. It’s that simple. So what keeps me from being in that state more often?
I have twins, a boy and a girl. From the start it was clear to me that I wanted to give them a different quality of parenting than I received. I put my artwork on hold, I breast-fed them until they were three, didn't send them to school or kindergarten till they were 6.5. I believed in child-led learning (still do). I joined attachment parenting groups on the net, learned Nonviolent Communication. To better understand their needs, I read books on child development, The Continuum Concept, homeschooling, you name it. I was convinced I knew the "right" way of bringing them up, and I was sure that since I gave them my physical presence, I was also there mentally, emotionally...
When they were younger, I remember reading that if you give your child 5-10 minutes focused attention ( I'm talking between 2-5 years old) their cup fills up and you "earn" yourself 20 minutes of time to yourself, chores etc. Sometimes, just the fact that they know you're there is enough for them to continue playing peacefully. When they say: "Look at me" - it doesn't mean look at me now for the next hour - it's the energy...
So far, I've been talking about what or how I did my best to give to my kids. But what about me? How present could I really be when my own unmet needs were shouting out to be acknowledged, met, understood? Is this what keeps me from being here more?
When they were six, I seperated from their father and moved with them to another town. Now, my time with them is divided up. Now, when I'm with them, I'm more pre-occupied with everyday matters. And when they're not here, when they go to their father's, there's a void that's incomprehensible.
In Nonviolent Communication, the concept of Empathy is based first and foremost on being present when listening. It's a certain quality of connection in which you are empty of your own agenda, and therefore able to BE completely with another in their situation.
My kids can't be fooled (and I bet your kids too). They know when I am with them completely, or not. Yasmin will say to me: Ema (Mom in Hebrew), when I talk to you and you say mm-hhhmmm to me, I know you're not there. I always acknowledge the fact, because hey, I can't deny it, can I? (-:
As I'm writing this, my daughter suddenly says: Ema, what are you doing? I'm writing a post. Maybe you can write something about life and death, I mean from your perspective? She's thinking about the child that died.
Here I get stuck. What's my message?
The other day, my brother came to see us. He lives in the States and is a CEO of a software company. Yuval is also a follower of Tich Naht Hanh. Normally, when he arrives, we go see him at my Mother's, and yet he's almost always busy. This time he came to us. He didn't bring his laptop, we don't have cable TV. There were no distractions...(well almost) we just sat around the living room, eating talking. Suddenly he saw our book on Origami and started folding papers with my son. The kids played piano for him. It was a sweet evening. We connected in a way we hadn't done for ages - what simple happiness!
What comes up for me as I write these words is that despite the world we live in, and our continuous self scrutiny, we haven't lost the capacity for being with each other. And when we do, however imperfect and not completely mindful we are, ultimately, nothing feels better.
What do you think?
Yael Brisker is a mother of twins, artist, metalsmith, Nonviolent Communication and Empathy skills teacher, a student of Biosynthesis - a body oriented psycoptherapy. A big chunk of her childhood was spent in the States, during the 60’s which must have influenced her somewhat idealistic outlook on life! She currently lives with her kids in Israel. You can find her at www.yaelbrisker.com .She also has a page devoted to Empathic Connections on Facebook