The Very Human Need for Experience

Good and Evil

Good and Evil


I wanted to shelter my son from the world. I prayed away my foul mouth, hid my tears and played happy family with gusto. I wanted his world to be flowery, fun and fantastically clean. I didn’t tell him about my childhood unless I was telling a funny anecdote about a pet or a friend. I socialized him, took art classes with him and enrolled him in a co-op preschool where I could play perfect with other perfect mothers. Right out of preschool we enrolled in a perfect private school where I was sure he would bloom into the perfect prep school boy. In my search for perfection I lost something integrally important to the development of a well-rounded human. That important missing element was a well-developed sense of reality.

As time passed I began to see the holes in the world I’d worked so hard to create. I wasn’t being myself, my friends were drearily superficial and my son was unhappy in his school. Desperate for answers I turned to a book I stole from my high school, an ancient, dog eared copy of Herman Hesse’s, Siddhartha. I love this book for so many reasons. Like many other great inspirational books I can just open it to any page and find a piece of wisdom that will help me with whatever it is I’m facing. That day I opened the book at the beginning. I read of Siddhartha’s mother, her love for her child and her tragic early death. I read about the prophesy, proclaiming Siddhartha to be the greatest teacher of the age. Then I read his father’s reaction to this prophesy. Having just lost his wife and then faced with the loss of his son to a religious life, Siddhartha’s father created a perfect world in which pain, suffering and old age had no place. He imprisoned Siddhartha in a false utopia and robbed him of reality in order to keep him safe. How did Siddhartha react? He ran away in search of answers to the questions his father could neither pose nor answer.

Child in the Garden of Good and Evil

Child in the Garden of Good and Evil

Setting down the book I began to see the holes I’d identified in my parenting open into rather worrying chasms. I remembered the perfect children I’d known growing up, the ones who’d summered at the country club, vacationed in the tropics with their perfect families only to go slumming as drug using collage kids. I started remembering other sheltered kids who’d gone wild with sex and drugs the moment they’d found freedom from the suffocating control of their perfect worlds. Slowly I began to think that maybe by keeping our children in ignorance of pain and suffering we create a vacuum in their experience which will only propel them into a deeper need to experience the very things we try to protect them from. We cannot limit our children’s experience on this earth by sheltering them from a world they will someday have to live in.

So what is a frightened conscientious parent to do? I still only have a vague idea. In my heart I think a parent’s job is to guide a child through the world but not to shelter them from it. I feel that we must discuss even the small details of their day and how their different interactions made them feel. Most importantly we must validate their emotions with empathy, compassion and a willingness to hear while we admit our own feelings, failings and frustrations within the discourse. In other words it is very important that our children see us as loving, fallible humans whom they can trust with their secrets. We live in a tumultuous world of opposites. As much as we hate to admit it good lives in balance with evil and both must be experienced in order to be understood. We cannot end suffering any more then Siddhartha the Buddha did because suffering is a necessary part of experience and experience is the only true teacher. No matter how hard we try, we cannot recreate heaven on earth because that isn’t why we’re here.

Making Peace with Experience

Making Peace with Experience

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The Death of the Guru

prayer

We’re all searching for something. We’re all looking for the divine answer that leads to the divine escape from chaos, fear, heartache and loneliness. Whether we look for it in relationship, a bottle or a church we are seeking to be more, to be better, to but understood and accepted. When I was twelve I turned to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. as my examples of peace. I desperately needed peace in my life, the kind of peace they seemed to embody. At twelve I realized how fully capable I was of violence. At fourteen I became a pacifist in theory if not in reality and I began my slow arduous journey towards a sustainable, compassion based existence. I began identifying and rooting out the evils in my life. First I moved away from home, taking my horse and staying with friends for months on end. At 22 I escaped completely and hardly looked back. By 23 I was married and safe but the hell in my head made a hell of my life. I continued my search for escape until the day I realized that wherever I went…there I was…with all my chaos in tow. I could not escape my problems because I never let them go.

Throughout my many years of searching for truth and forgivness I’ve come to one solid understanding: There is no single person who can fix me. There are thousands of people who insisted that if I just read their books, take their supplements, follow their philosophy or join their ashram I will find the inner peace I am searching for. I’ve had Christians tell me to placed my faith in Jesus and be free of darkness. I’ve had yoga masters promise me that through daily practice with their “Masters” I’ll be liberated, transformed and healed. Doctors have prescribed drugs, supplements and diets to clear my energy body, detox my cells and raise my energy vibrations. Acupuncturists have pocked me with needles, read my auras and told me that with a few more treatments my Chakras would come into balance.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on healing, thousands of hours drinking bitter health teas, popping pills, stretching, praying, meditating only to rise the next morning the same angry person I’d been the night before. So what was the answer? On the eve of my 38th birthday the only thing I am certain of is that I am the only one who can fix me. My belief in the abilities of sage healers is dead. I will never again look to a “healer” for guidance. I have killed the idea of the guru because the wise man is just another person getting through the day. I recently watched the documentary Kumare’ by Vikram Gandhi which verified everything I have come to believe. Only through daily practice of that which feels good, feels right, and serves my highest good will I ever find peace. The ability to heal is within all of us; it’s just a matter of taking time away from social chaos, duty and convention in order to find the small simplicities that lead us into peace. So I meditate, I walk my dog, I stretch, I self-medicate when hell rains down and I pray to God to remove my anger, to help me forgive and to make me a better person. I practice everyday gratitude and I live and love as if each day were my last. If I tell you I love you I mean it. If I love you it’s because I see the light in you, the sparkle God put there and I’m grateful you’re in my life. We are our own wise men, our own holy men, and we hold the keys to our own salvation through love of God and love of each other, tranquility of sprit and the solemn acceptance that we are human: flawed, beautiful, unique and fragile.

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