my time?

From stories that have been passed down through the Buddhist tradition, we know that the Buddha had to face many threats and hardships during his lifetime: his experimentation with extreme asceticism during his quest for enlightenment, assassination attempts, charging elephants, accusations of fathering an illegitimate child, unruly and undisciplined monks, and encounters with thieves and murderers along the roads he traveled during his ministry, just to name a few. But nowhere in the Buddhist canon have I found an example of the Buddha having to deal with a screaming five-year-old child who isn’t getting his way. Trying to be a Buddhist and a parent at the same time seems irreconcilable most days. One trick I use is to divide the day up into little chunks of time that for simplicity’s sake I’ll call my time and everyone else’s time. I keep an imaginary balance sheet in my head. When my inner accountant informs me that I haven’t had enough me time for one day, I immediately get grumpy. But what if all time could be viewed the same way? I have been rereading The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, a book I haven’t looked at in many, many years, and probably the book that comes the closest, in my opinion, to The Only Book on Buddhism That You’ll Ever Need. Listen to this passage from a student of Hanh’s who is also a parent:  “I’ve discovered a way to have a lot more time. In the past, I used to look at my time as if it were divided into several parts. One part I reserved for my son, another part was for my wife, another part to help with my new baby girl, another part for household work. The time left over I considered my own. I could read, write, do research, go for walks. But now I try not to divide time into parts anymore. I consider my time with my son and my wife my own time. When I help my son with his homework, I try to find ways of seeing his time as my own time. I go through his lesson with him, sharing his presence and finding ways to be interested in what we do during that time. The remarkable thing is that now I have unlimited time for myself!” I noticed this feeling last night when I spent time with my five-year-old son as he practiced writing his letters. Bathed in the light coming from the desk lamp, my head was bowed towards him as we both worked together, at one with the letters and sentences we were creating on the page. And my time became his time became our time became just time.

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