mother-daughter relationship

The Death Penalty

By Lorena Monda

Two years ago, my dear friend Darcie Silver was murdered. She was twenty-seven years old. Darcie was very close to my family, especially my daughter Lisa, who was twelve when Darcie was killed. She was a beautiful, gentle, vibrant woman-the kind of woman I want Lisa to become.

Darcie was found strangled in her apartment. She had been raped and her body mutilated. Imagine how hard this was to explain to a twelve-year-old.

More than a year later, a 27-year-old man was arrested for Darcie's murder. He was her co-worker, wanted also for the murder of another woman the month before Darcie's death.

Words cannot convey the depth of my feelings. I grieved for Darcie, and for my daughter who experienced such horror at a young age. I felt rage at the person who could murder in cold blood, and at the world that could create such a person. I feared for my daughter's safety growing up in such a world, and felt frantic for ways to prevent this from happening to her. In my most anguished moments, I wondered how I could go on living in a world that contained such violence.

Lisa wrote these words, which were read at Darcie's memorial service:

I love Darcie because she was very nice and kind and gentle. We always had fun together. I miss her. If I could change one thing about the world I would bring her back. If I could change another thing in the world I would make it that there was no violence and that no one would ever die like Darcie did. 

We're going to make a special flower garden in our yard for her.

Every night we have been praying for Darcie. We have a candle burning for her. I pray she is safe and happy wherever she is, and 1 tell her that we all miss her and 1 tell her some of the things that have been going on, and that there are a lot of people who are very sad. We imagine that her spirit turns into light. On the second night, my mom drew an angel card for her. The card she drew was "LIGHT."

At night we have been looking at the comet in the Northern sky that came when Darcie died. We decided that was Darcie's comet, and that she could ride it whenever she wants.

Needless to way, the issue of the death penalty came very close to home. Ironically, before Darcie's death, I had mixed feelings about it. Philosophically, I felt it was wrong- because killing was wrong-but I also felt if anyone could murder someone else in cold blood, perhaps they deserved to die. As a parent, I have felt I could kill someone who hurt my child. But after Darcie died, despite my anguish, I began to see that the death penalty, revenge on this 27-year-old man who brutally murdered at least two women, would not bring Darcie back. Even more, it would be a dishonor to all that Darcie was when she was alive. And even more, I recognized that I am part of the society that created this, by participation or by neglect.

Now, I grieve also for a 27-year-old man so lost that he murdered our beautiful friend. And my despair has become a commitment to help create a world where no one would be murdered- by an individual or by the State.

Lorena Monda, True Perfect Way, and Lisa Monda, now 14, live and practice in Placitas, New Mexico.

Drawing at top of page courtesy of Beth Redwood.

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The Smile or Freedom

By Shalom

About seven years ago, I was caught up in some frustration with my then seven-year-old daughter. She was sitting on the bed, and I was standing in the doorway of her room. I was very cross about something she had done and pouring forth a great torrent of words. My view of the world at this moment was probably as wide as a pinhead! As I went to take a breath to pour forth more of my parental wisdom, the seed of mindfulness that I had been cultivating for some years on my cushion suddenly sprouted a wonderful new green shoot! Instead of a further outpouring of words, there was the realisation that I had just breathed in. Awareness bloomed—I was suddenly and absolutely in the present moment. I simply breathed out... and in and out... no more words, just breathing and looking deeply.

In that moment the blindness of my habitual responding simply fell away. I was at home in myself, no longer lost in some story I was creating. As I stood there, simply breathing with awareness, I began to also really see this other small person in front of me—no longer the image daughter of my mind but a vibrant full colour live other human being! It was very quiet for a few moments, quiet in the room and quiet inside me. Can you understand it when I say that in that moment there was a new me looking at a new daughter? In the spacious and quiet mind there was an awareness of this fragile young girl sitting with head lowered, not speaking, not looking, not being seen and not being heard.

A new and softer voice arose from within me as I told my daughter that I could see now that something was wrong for her and that she didn't seem able to look at me. I said that I wished I had been calm enough to notice that earlier and I was sorry that I had not. Gently, I invited her to take her time and when she felt ready and able, to lift her eyes and take a peek at me ... to just see that I am her mother and that I loved her. In such a space, the truth can reveal itself safely.

My daughter raised her eyes, and without blame or anger she simply said, "Mummy, I am afraid of you." This, my friends, was a most painful and shocking revelation to me—and yet I also recognised it as a liberating truth. Breathing in and embracing my grief I heard this truth—without self-hatred or blame—simply breathing with compassion and gratitude. My daughter was finally safe enough to let me in to her world, and I was awake enough to accept that it was a different world than the one I had been living in.

I had always been so proud of the fact that I didn't hit my child, and I worked very hard at being a good mother, which of course I had been. However in the busyness and in the conceptualising of "good mother" I had quite lost the ability to simply be and see her and myself as we really were. In the following moments there were no more words. My daughter saw my tears and felt recognised. She came into my arms, and as I looked down into her shining and miraculous, tear-stained face, I remembered the baby I had held to my breast seven years earlier. A baby who had looked up into my eyes with this same tender and trusting love. How long it had been since I had seen her! The space had opened for the healing of a habitual way of responding that had been the mark of many generations of women in my family. A seed of mindfulness had set us, and future generations, free.

My daughter is now a teenager. We have our challenges, but the seed of mindfulness has grown steadily. It stands now as a strong and stable tree, blossoming and yielding much sweet and nourishing fruit.

The cultivation of mindfulness and learning to look deeply into ourselves and into the hearts of others can bring a lot of relief within us and in the world around us. Let us practice conscious breathing together and nourish the seeds of awareness in each other. When we see with clarity and spaciousness, we have the experience of waking up, a smile is born in the garden of our hearts, and manifests in our speech and in our actions. It is a true smile from a mind clear and spacious. It is the smile of freedom.

Shalom, True Auspicious Land, is a parent, therapist, and teacher. She leads Mindfulness Retreats in New Zealand, and has taught in Europe and the United States.

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The Practice of Letting Others Be Themselves

By Lorena Monda mb29-ThePractice1My greatest teacher of letting others be themselves has been my daughter, Lisa. Watching her become herself has been a delight to me over the years. I have approached each stage of her development, even the difficult ones, with curiosity. When I have faltered in this, she has always let me know. Even in our conflicts, I have seldom assigned devious, undeserved motives to her behavior. My deep love for her has allowed me to practice letting her be herself more easily than with anyone else.

Somehow, I had different expectations for a partner. When I entered into my relationship with my partner, John, I discovered I had to practice letting him be himself. I was pretty good at letting myself be myself; I had practiced that for years. But I was inept at letting John be himself, despite the fact that I knew how to let others be themselves through my experiences with my clients and students. I knew I had it in me, yet seemed to have difficulty practicing this with John.

Early in our relationship, we had terrible fights because I felt that he was not in touch with his feelings, or not dealing with something I thought important. Instead ofletting him know what I needed, I became angry with him for doing things differently than I did.

Over time, I learned that he is sincere in his commitment to our relationship, but that he is not like me. His way of dealing with things is different; his timing is different; his methods are different. For example, when I brooded over some difficulty between us, he often asked me to take a walk. I discovered that if, instead of accusing him of not dealing with the problem, I went with him, I felt much better afterward and was more able to clearly see what was bothering me. I now trust John's values and realize him to be a good person. I know he wants many of the same important things I do from life. I know we are in this together.

Our ability to be true to ourselves and different from someone else while still remaining connected creates a paradox, one that generates great freedom. Many of us believe that to have connection with someone else we have to be the same. This attitude limits us in relationships, because each person is unique: We are not the same as anyone else.

Many relationship fights are about the struggle for each member of the couple to be themselves. In these struggles, we often look at the other person as the enemy. Many of the worst struggles take place when we have similar longings but different methods. In my own relationship, I have had to learn to give John the space to experience his feelings; while many of mine are immediately available, his take time to percolate up through his  consciousness. I have learned to observe his steadfastness and solidity. He has learned to not be so overwhelmed by my reactivity - which had helped me calm down, and call on other resources. John has learned to appreciate my passion, and I have learned to love his patience.

When we first meet someone we like, or when we fall in love, we are willing and able to let the other person be themselves. We are curious about the other person and we want to get to know him or her. We may see some limitations but are willing to overlook them, because we see the appealing characteristics.

Later in the relationship, we may become more critical of the other person's limitations. We see these flaws as harmful to us. While some characteristics really are harmful, here I refer to how we surrender ourselves to the other person's limitations, blaming our unhappiness on him or her. This creates conflict because we expect the other person to change to make us happy. Because he or she can't or won't change, especially without our compassion, we make the other person the enemy.

When we see the limitations of others, we can then offer them our compassion instead of our fury. When we see another person clearly, we are more able to decide what kind of relationship to have with him or her, and make better relationship choices. Had I known how to let others be themselves in the past, I could have saved myself from some heartbreaking relationships. My partners were telling me, through their actions, that they could not give me what I wanted. Yet, I did not believe them because I was fixated on my relationship dream rather than on the person who was actually before me. If I had been able to see them clearly as themselves, I would never have asked them to give me what they could not.

When our habit is to make the other person the enemy during conflicts, we miss what is really going on; we miss the gifts of our differences. Ifwe practice letting others be themselves, we can see them as they truly are-with their gifts and limitations. The practice of letting others be themselves while being true to ourselves helps us expand into compassion and true love.

Excerpted from Lorena's book, The Practice of Wholeness: Spiritual Transformation in Everyday Life.

Lorena Monda, True Perfect Way, practices with the Mindful Heart Sangha in Placitas, New Mexico.

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Lamp Transmission of Shalom

at the Great Ordination Ceremony
Deer Park, California
February 13, 2004

Respected Thay, respected Venerables, brothers and sisters and friends, I offer Greeting to this House, greetings to the people and to the ancestors of this House. Greetings to the land, the mountains, the rivers, and the sea. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa (translation:  Greetings, greetings, greetings to you all).  In New Zealand, this is a traditional and respectful way to begin to speak as a guest of another community.

I have a sense that if I were to turn and look behind me I would see the New Zealand Sangha sitting, supporting me, and see my beloved daughter, who ten years ago insisted that we sell our house and go to Plum Village. She was eight, and she was very wise.

About fifteen years ago somebody put a book of Thay’s in my hand. I read one page, and that page was the beginning of the lamp transmission. I didn’t know anything about Buddhism, but I knew that this man knew what I wanted to know. For me, it is very beautiful to see this physical manifestation of the lamp, but the lamp of the Dharma, the lamp of Thay is in here, in my heart.

With my mother behind me and my daughter in front of me, there is a hardness in our family line. The practice gave me a lot of courage to transform that hardness so my daughter wouldn’t have to suffer so much. In the early days at home I would literally stop when there were difficulties between me and my child, and I would turn to Thay and I would say, “And what am I supposed to do now?” Many of you will probably know what he answered. He said, “Shalom, do the dishes.” Because that was what was in front of me. And I would do the dishes, very mindfully, and the difficulty between us would calm down.

A few years ago I was very sick. I’m not quite sure how this will sound to you, but it was a wonderful experience! It was very difficult and there was pain, and for many days I felt as if someone had pulled the plug out, because there was no energy, and this body suffered a lot. But something wonderful happened. I could experience for myself the softening of that hardness. I felt a lot of compassion and a lot of love for this body. I could feel the energy of the teaching from Thay, of the mother holding the baby.

Some mornings I would wake up and walk from my bed to the kitchen, and I would get halfway through cutting an apple, and there would be no energy left, so I would have to put the knife down and leave the apple half cut, and walk mindfully back to bed.  My body was very ill, but my mind was very clear.  So I lay in my bed and I breathed in, and I breathed out, and I could do that quite easily.  I could look out at the hills and the sky, and I was very happy.

It’s very wonderful to sit together and receive the Dharma lamp, all of us. I’d like to say to my lay friends: Don’t wait for the Dharma lamp that looks like this. It is a great good fortune for us to be able to be here. I wish you all well. I wish you well in body, heart, and mind, and I thank you for supporting me and teaching me.

Shalom lives in a community of mindfulness practitioners called Dharma Gaia Garden. They welcome guests throughout the year, for organized retreats and for informal visits. Some scholarships are available

The Path of Emancipation, a twenty-one day retreat, July 10–31, will follow Thay’s teachings from the book of the same name. Cost: $400 plus dana for the teachings.

Write to Dharma Gaia Garden, RD1 Coromandel, New Zealand; phone (+ 64  7) 8667995

Shalom’s Insight Gatha

The deep purple delphinium drops her petals one by one. Magnificent! And my countless faces appear and disappear, bubbles on the ocean’s surface. Beauty and pain quiver my ripening heart. The earth trembles. I step gently, this foot anointed by the bodhisattva’s hand.

Thay’s Gatha to Shalom

The seed that has been planted in the Precious Land now has a chance to be penetrated by the spring rain. Day and night, let us dwell peacefully in the position of touching the earth so that everywhere flowers will bloom and reveal our true mind.

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Hugging with True Love

Thay’s Presence in a  Mother-Daughter Relationship By Bobbie Bosworth

mb56-Hugging1

As many of us know, things can get pretty tense between teens and parents. That was the case with me (the mom) and our daughter when she was a teen. For various reasons, she became very unhappy and directed her unhappiness at those she loved the most. Our relationship became strained, and for a few years, I felt deep confusion about how to help her. It became hard to show love when I was getting messages like “stay away” or “leave me alone” from her. She also needed her parents so much at that time. How to build bridges and yet honor her wish for independence and separation? How to let her find her own way and yet support her when she was so depressed by the huge problems of this world?

One of our answers came from Thay in a very simple practice: hugging meditation. In hugging meditation, when my daughter and I were able to hold each other and breathe, as Thay recommended, there seemed to be an immediate lessening of tension and a recognition of our shared love. When we could drop out of conflict and allow ourselves to just hold each other, it always seemed to help. At times, she didn’t want to do it and neither did I. But if we just held each other, sometimes for a few moments, sometimes for quite a long time, something started to happen. We would relax and feel the warmth of each other. We would remember our basic deep love. We would sometimes cry. We often got to a deeper place with each other, to “big mind” or that to which we all belong. We would get beyond our little lives for a moment.

Happily, my daughter is now in her mid-twenties and is a wonderful mother. Our relationship has gotten much easier. We share so much now that she is raising a child. My daughter and I agree that most humans are starving for true love and connection. We both cannot get enough hugs from her son. We’ve also found that this practice, hugging meditation, is deeper than most people realize.

For me, hugging does not come easily, but I often think back on my daughter’s hard teen years and remember the simple connection we made through hugging with real love. I hug more now, as an expression of true feeling. To hug with intention, to hold another human (or animal) with love and best wishes, is a way to realize our true interbeing. It can be profound, and it certainly helped my daughter and me through a difficult time. We cannot thank Thay enough for his teachings, his writings, and his love for his Sangha and the world.

Editors’ note: To practice hugging meditation, you ask the other person if she would like a hug. If she agrees, following your breathing, take her in your arms and continue to be aware of your breathing as you hold her. You are 100% there for her and contemplate how wonderful it is that she is warm and alive. A hug should last for at least three long inand out-breaths.

Bobbie Bosworth, True Capacity of the Earth, and her husband live in a remote town in southern Utah. The natural environment is their Sangha. Bobbie was the first Buddhist chaplain in Salt Lake City.

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