Thursday, January 29, 2009

On not writing about Grandmother's Heart

[Monet's Sunflowers]
It was my intention today to begin exploring the subject of "Grandmother's heart." It is a Zen concept there is very little written about, though, clearly, realized teachers manifest it. I've been inspired by women's reaction to my daughter Cassie's post on Tuesday about Kay Smart ("Small Woman Leaves a Large Shadow"); Kay was a living example of that heart, which is why her life story touches a chord in people who never met her.

But as I sat down to write I got a call from a friend who is working through the frustrations of sickness and unpredictable limitation, and we shared a lot. Now it's noon, and I haven't done any part of my morning practice.

But this moment's experience gives me a beginning on defining Grandmother's Heart: it is the heart that connects with other people and wishes to serve, that sees when their needs are greater than your private goals. Maybe one reason this compassion is described as "Grandmother's" is that we seem to need to experience sickness and aging and loss before we know how hard these things can be, and how much a little kindness means.

When I recall my own earlier experiences with sickness and loss, I remember feeling like I was alone on a raft in a dark sea. Then a card would arrive in the mail, or a friend at the door with sunflowers, and it was as though a sturdy rope had dropped down in front of me. Not a very poetic idea, being rescued by a helicopter, but it will have to do.

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