The teachings I receive often come from the great, and humble responsibility of being a mother; in my case, being a mother to a precious child, Ruka Sage, a brilliant teacher who imparts her wisdom with no words, yet fierce energy and remarkable patience.
During the summer months, one of my daily meditations is taking my daughter to and from camp. This requires getting her, her stuff, and her wheelchair in and out of the car, both on the trips there and back. It is hard to lift her wheelchair and hard to carry a ten year old girl, even though she is smaller than most. It is hard to hold onto a person who does not hold back, who likes to dance around and sometimes to even give you a punch or a kick. While sometimes these kicks make me laugh, other times they bring me to my knees in tears or, requiring even greater practice, they bring me to anger before tears. While I certainly feel great guilt at being angry at my own pookie for moving her body in its natural way, I am learning that physiologically, my mind is not creating anger from dust; instead, it has been shown that when the mind must hold back a bodily reaction such as the instinct to protect oneself upon potentially being harmed, anger can occur. Therefore, by caring for my daughter, and training myself to stay aware, I am simultaneously working with the whole of my brain, (the reptilian level/brain stem, responsible for sensation, arousal-regulation, and initiation of movement impulses, the limbic/ mammalian level which is responsible for feelings, motivation interactions and relationship and the primate level/neocortex, responsible for thinking, conscious memory, symbols, planning and inhibition of impulses), recognizing that my highest intelligences can support me in parenting my girl from love, always– which is human practice! This is genuinely a practice at the levels of the body, heart, and mind, in which I can suspend unnecessary suffering, and connect to my belief that cosmically, I signed up for these great practices in this karmic cycle.
So, in the zen of this practice this very morning, this awe-some question arose for me: Why do people ask me about Ruka’s disabilities? Why do they not just ask me about her greatness and her expression in the world in this lifetime? I recognize that this is a regular human reaction– but it is one I think I would like to take on. I mean, I do not typically ask parents about the disabilities that their children have, labelled as not having any, have; but truthfully, we ALL have disabilities! Nor do I say, What are your child’s special needs? But we ALL have them, no matter what labels society gives us.
I intellectually understand the questions, of course, and often the heart and sincerity behind them. I even understand (when I am in the center of my practice), the staring, the ignorance, the fear, and the unconscious ways in which people can behave when triggered by meeting or just being around my child.
So maybe it is just the semantics and the energy that surround words, conversations, descriptions, images, such as what it means to be “dis-abled” in our society, that make this contemplation so interesting to me.
I have many pet names for my sweet girl. Politically, some might offend, while others may endear. They are all expressions from my heart. I recall feeling a little bit of shame when in graduate school, a teacher, had to correct my description of my child. He explained to me that she is not “disabled”, but rather that she “has disabilities”. He was totally right. And I felt touched by my A-ha!, as I noticed how it is we describe people from our programming and experiences of hearing words, labels and conversations. His comment was an important event in my continuing pondering of self and other.
Ruka is indeed seemingly different. She can be quite drooly, she is unable to sit or to walk on her own, she creates her own language of clicks and clucks, and she eats all pureed foods from a bottle. She happens to have Kermit the Frog legs, and her beauty shines so unique!!!! She will teach anyone who wants to learn about compassion, about unconditional love, and about deep deep gratitude from many angles.
So….. maybe if we meet someone different, we could take a pause to remember their wholeness before asking what is “wrong” or before asking about someone’s “dis-abilities”. As for Ruka, she IS special, but isn’t your baby too???? When we meet someone different than we are–and yes, we are all unique, some in more obvious ways than others– can we remember our practices, and our commitments to staying open? In my experiences with Ruka, some folks have stepped into my family’s lives and our abilities and disabilities with a Hallelujah!, some have shyed away, others mistakenly have put me and my family on a pedestal, and still others can’t see past their own fear to get too close. This is all righteously okay. It all goes back to How are you, and Who are you, and What makes you YOU? Are you someone who needs sameness? Are you someone that can stay open to difference? Are you okay with your own exceptional capabilities and the things that you still have not come to know, or do? We all have limitations, and we all have greatness; this is what makes the world go round, and it is that which continually balances the light and the dark.
As a mother, happy in her meditation–in this moment anyway- I share with you from the depths of my authenticity: Next time you see something obviously different from you, maybe be curious about WHO that being or situation is rather than wondering first about their dis- abilities. May we all reflect on our own light and dark, our own abilities, and disabilities, the gifts we all can offer, and when we can say thank you for another’s exceptional qualities, as at the base, we are all human. No less.