I found out about this lovely book by Jack Kornfield in the list of resources that was provided to us after my retreat. I got a library copy, then ended up getting a copy to keep because the book was so good. I gave it to the Chaplain to read and kept reading my library copy, which meant I couldn’t mark up the pages like I wanted to. This is another book I want to read more than once, so I will mark up our copy on the second read.
What made this book so good?
We’ve all experienced this phenomenon in large and small parts of our lives. We know it’s unreasonable, but we expect things to keep getting better. We want the stock market to keep trending up. We want to keep earning interest on our bank account. We want to keep getting better at our jobs. We want to improve our weaknesses, hone our parenting skills. We want to stay connected to friends. We want them to stay connected to us. We want our romantic relationships to flourish. We want our spiritual lives to be rich and rewarding.
Yet sometimes we won’t be measuring up in a category or two. And the people who care about us will ask, “How are you doing?” But what it feels like they want to hear is that you are doing great, things are getting better, everything is OK.
I’ve been hearing about gong baths for nearly a year now, and I finally got to go to one this past weekend.
I wasn’t sure what they were really about, other than that there was no soap and water involved.
After the retreat, we were given a list of resources to help with “re-entry.” One of the suggestions was to try to find ways to come back into the space we’d accessed through psychedelics in different ways – through mindfulness, meditation, dance, and other practices. One of the “other practices” listed was gong baths.
I knew there was one happening near me and so I signed myself and the Chaplain up.
Life is this simple: We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the Divine is shining through it all the time. That is not just a nice story of a fable. It is true. -Thomas Merton, quoted in After the Ecstasy, The Laundry, by Jack Kornfield
When I was in counseling last year, my counselor would give me homework.
One of my assignments was to stop all the Doing in my faith walk – the Reading, Praying, all the activity, and just rest in God’s presence.
I couldn’t do it.
I did try.
I would sit, but moments later I would be up again, to write something down, put something away, fix something that was crooked, to trim my nails, anything so that I didn’t have to be alone with my thoughts.
Today, we’re celebrating 16 years of life with our oldest. As the firstborn, he’s suffered the insult of having to Be Helpful and Responsible when none of his siblings were old enough to chip in. He has probably borne the brunt of our parenting mistakes.He’s the one who’s welcomed all the additional siblings into his life, sometimes grudgingly, sometimes with happy pride. It never failed that any pregnancy he complained his way through (“We don’t need any more kids!”), he warmed right up to the baby once it arrived.He is confident, has a high emotional IQ, and is kind and magnanimous with his younger siblings when we least expect it. His interests differ from mine almost as much as they possibly could – he listens to heavy metal and his eyes light up talking about bikes and outdoor activities that carry a high risk of death.There is a steady march of packages to the door, full of bike parts and tech accessories. There is a steady march of friends to the back yard to hang out, repair broken bikes, or gather before leaving for a ride.Every time he leaves the house, I pray for his safety. Every time he comes home, I breathe a sigh of relief.We have a bit of an awkward relationship these days. He doesn’t want to be accountable to his parents, (or have his mom give him goodnight hugs), but he still has two years left before he is legally an adult. So we do a sometimes rewarding, sometimes uncomfortable dance of giving those last few lessons about maturity and life skills while he’s still with us.In just a few years, the hands-on parenting will be finished, and we’ll just need to be open and supportive to the direction One takes as an adult. It’s enough to make you start questioning if you made enough of the right parenting moves.But tonight, it will be take-out pizza and wings, celebrating a milestone birthday for our tallest kid. He said he didn’t want cake, so I made two batches of my favorite cookies. I hope he doesn’t mind.
Happy Birthday, Tall One. We love you.