Just You and Me

January 21, 2017   |   Leave a reply

Since the presidential election, I have felt called to do more. To get involved with organizations that stand for the values I hold dear, to call my elected officials to give them a piece of my mind (or at least read one of the suggested scripts from Facebook), to march and rail and educate myself about my own ignorance and privilege. And then I remember: I have a 17-month-old.

Between filling and refilling small cups of water, coming up with Plan A and Plan B for 3 meals and 2 snacks, and being fully with my child as he moves virtually nonstop throughout his day, I don’t have a lot of discretionary time to change the world. Recently this has left me feeling somewhat constrained in my ability to, at the very least, not be part of the problem and ideally to be part of a solution to the world’s many real problems.

While looking for a reading for an upcoming Mommy Sangha gathering, I was drawn to The Shambhala Principle. Written by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the book is about creating an enlightened society. The reading I settled on that day included these good words:

“Beginning with the relationship between mother and child, the dynamic between two individuals is the source of secret and invisible power. Even though relationships between parents and children, or between romantic partners, can become confused, nonetheless the lineage of humanity stems from this caring feeling, the radiant hum of life. Society is based on the relationship between male and female, parent and child, friend and friend, customer and waitperson, boss and employee. Good human society comes about through strength in our interchanges with others.”

The idea that enlightened society begins in pairs – my son and me, my partner and me, a stranger on First Avenue and me – has elevated my role in helping to create it, while also making this daunting idea of enlightened society seem simpler and more attainable.

While I might not be able to take a leadership role in my local ACLU chapter, there are countless small acts I can do to contribute. I can treat each and every human being in my surroundings with dignity, respect, and compassion. I can look people in the eye and in so doing let them know I see them, care about them, wish for an end to their suffering.

Even the manner in which I fill those small cups, sit through mealtimes listening to Raffi singing “Down by the Bay,” and play wingman as my child explores his world, I can convey to him how important he is, how essential his connection with his own basic goodness is, and how treating ourselves and one another with kindness and compassion is pretty much the only thing that matters. I can see now how this is, in fact, the only way we all – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, individuals – create enlightened society.

by Jenna Hollenstein

Jenna Hollenstein is a non-diet dietitian at her private practice Eat to Love. She’s also a Meditation Guide with the Open Heart Project where she leads the Mommy Sangha, a live weekly online meditation gathering for moms. Jenna lives in New York City with her partner Andrea, son Mimmo, and cat Darwin.

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