Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice
After a slightly bumpy start to my travels in Thailand I’m now in Chiang Mai, living out one of my own non-motherhood dreams. I’ve been working on my current writing project in the mornings on a balcony looking out over still water and shaded by very tall palm trees. I spent most of yesterday winding up and down mountains on a motorbike with H, visiting beautiful Buddhist temples. You can swim late into the evenings here and the heat and humidity make it a gorgeous way to end the day.
Buddhism infiltrates everything in this place, not just the temples but all over town, with saffron robed monks wandering around, shrines full of incense and flowers, and at least one peaceful, golden face looking down at you, serenely and reassuringly, almost everywhere you go.
So further to yesterday’s post about non-motherhood and finding the courage to befriend the snake and drift with the current, I’ve been thinking a good deal about my very favourite Buddhist story. This is how it is told by Pema Chodron in her beautiful book, Start Where You Are:
“One evening Milarepa returned to his cave after gathering firewood, only to find it filled with demons. They were cooking his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed. They had taken over the joint. He knew about nonduality of self and other, but he still didn’t quite know how to get these guys out of his cave. Even though he had the sense that they were just a projection of his own mind — all the unwanted parts of himself — he didn’t know how to get rid of them.
So first he taught them the dharma. He sat on this seat that was higher than they were and said things to them about how we are all one. He talked about compassion and shunyata and how poison is medicine. Nothing happened. The demons were still there. Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him. Finally, he gave up and just sat down on the floor, saying, “I’m not going away and it looks like you’re not either, so let’s just live here together.”
And at that point, all of them left except one. Milarepa said, “Oh, this one is particularly vicious.“ (We all know that one. Sometimes we have lots of them like that. Sometimes we feel that’s all we‘ve got.) He didn’t know what to do, so he surrendered himself even further. He walked over and put himself right into the mouth of the demon and said, “Just eat me up, if you want to.”
Then that demon left too.”
I’ve found this story incredibly helpful in thinking through my various anxieties about non-motherhood over the past couple of years, but also in thinking through all kinds of other anxieties too.
But in the meantime, how about you? Does the story of Milarepa and the demons ring true with any of your own experiences of anxiety? Are there other stories or ideas that you’ve found helpful?