I sometimes fantasize about running away to a sanctuary somewhere to become a nun or priestess. I would find a monk or Guru willing to teach me the ancient ways of spiritual wisdom and enlightenment. I would live in a cave. Eat only plants. And I would know peace.
And then I wake up from my daydream to the beautiful chaos in front of me and realize that the greater challenge, for me, is to be present amidst this moment of discomfort and find my own peace here and now.
As for a guru, I have found Lao Tzu’s famous quote to be quite true in my own life, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear”. What I didn’t realize, at first, is that the teacher doesn’t always appear as you might expect (like a short, bald man emerging from an ancient cave wearing a white robe). More often, the teacher is disguised as something else… like your energetic two year old son, for example.
Our children have a way of seeing us. Really seeing us. Past the masks we wear and beyond what we say (or do not) say. They have a way of forcing us to face parts of ourselves that we have otherwise been able to overlook, stifle or ignore.
It may not always be as obvious as the story I am about to share, but I guarantee you, the lessons are always there.
My Spiritual Guru is a Toddler
It was time to come inside the house for lunch. My body was trembling, trying to get my attention to tell me that it needed food. I was hell-bent on getting both children to the bathroom to get cleaned up. They were tired, hungry, dirty, yelling and peeing on my floor. Desperately trying to ‘keep my cool’, I told my two year old to come by me to get a new diaper on. It may shock you, but he refused.
I spoke a bit louder this time..." Milan, come here, you need a diaper.” Still nothing. As I stood up to get closer to him, the color left my face and I started to see black and white spots. “Malory, go eat a banana”. I pushed the thought down, took a breath and angrily hissed through my pale, tightened lips, “Milan, you need a diaper.” He looked at me with a playful grin and stepped away.
My jaw clenched. The blood that was rushing out of my face was pulsing loudly. Now hot with anger, tears started to burn behind my eyes, about to boil over. “Milan, please come here”, I said in a voice I barely recognized. He looked away, unimpressed.
A rush of panic and heat washed over me. "Malory, go eat a banana" my body yelled at me. Ignoring myself, I stepped forward, scooped him up and laid him on the ground in front of me. Shakily, I ripped open the fresh diaper, put it on his body, and lifted him up onto his feet abruptly. His face, now directly in front of mine, was smiling a wide, forced and cheesy like grin. He locked eyes with me, and said through his staged, toothy smile, “Mommy… you happy?” I looked back at him sternly, said nothing, and looked back down to pull up his pants.
He gently grabbed my cheeks so that I was looking back up at him and said again, “Mommy… you happy?” I let out a sigh, and smirked in reply, “yes, Mommy is happy”. ("actually Mommy is about to pass out and needs to go eat a banana", I thought.)
Apparently, that wasn’t what he was looking for. As if he didn’t hear me, he said again, “Mommy, you happy” smiling even bigger and cheesier… before I could stop it, a single laugh slipped out. “HA” I heard myself say, and as I did I felt my face soften. My eyes relaxed and a smile crept onto my face. I finally looked right at him, and saw the most beautiful smile fill his face and eyes.
Time slowed for a few beats. A sense of love and empathy poured out of him. With tenderness and playfulness, he cracked through my hardened angry shell opening my heart back up to the life that was right in front of me.
On his face was the most beautifully satisfied, and proud smile looking back at me. He wrapped his pudgy arms around me for a quick hug, and ran off to the living room to find his toy car. I sat for a moment. Speechless. With my hand over my heart, I took a few deep breaths. The tears came.
I stood up slowly, and walked to the kitchen to get a banana.