One of the realities I’ve found about writing a regular, public blog is finding interesting topics to write about. Truthfully, it sometimes feels like a burden, those weeks when all I’ve done is found another way sleep training doesn’t work for my son and slept in sanity saving snatches. But the fear of reaching publication time and having nothing written forces me into positions of saying ‘yes’ to experiences I would usually eschew in favour of duvet sanctity.
With that in mind this week, when my sleep deprivation feels at an all time high, I agreed to go to a meditation class with some friends on Monday night.
I genuinely hoped I would have some profound, wise experience to pontificate on, and not only impress you with my astounding spiritual prowess, but could pretend that all was glowing in my world, at least to those readers who don’t see me in real life…
When we turned up, the class was being taught by a girl in her mid-twenties who proudly told us that she had been following a Buddhist guru for 5 years.
Immediately my ego vibrated with frustration. And my head readily chimed in,
“5 YEARS? Is that all?! Eurgh, I’m not going to learn anything. Look at her, all silly and smiley. She’s so annoying and naive…”
My frustration grew at what I felt were overly simplistic views of her religion and meditation. I rapidly descended into irritated shuffling and sighing to myself at the parts I found particularly unimpressive.
I had stopped listening completely to her Buddhist teaching, except to scoff at her shallow and brattishly childish descriptions of attachment creating soap operas in our lives and how boys really liked girls who weren’t attached to them emotionally. My self-righteousness really enjoyed that last one,
“Oh. My. God. She’s using Buddhism to get her boyfriends not to dump her. What a vapid, shallow loser. I think I might hate her.”
Towards the end of the class, as I was mid-loud-internal pompous dialogue about how this was such a waste of the precious time I get away from motherhood, she suggested we use the last fifteen minutes to meditate on someone who triggered our attachment or anger.
I fleetingly contemplated meditating on her, but decided I definitely wasn’t ready to forgive her for wasting my extra-special time, so settled on meditating about my son’s sleeplessness, increasingly cheeky toddler behaviour and the frustration that rises up in me, sometimes to the point that I scare myself by sympathising for the first time in my life with those that snap and hurt their children.
As I meditated, and awkwardly fit myself into his toddler-sized shoes, I realised that he’s brand new to a world in which he’s wholly reliant on others to do things for him. He can’t fix himself a sandwich if hungry, he can’t choose to go to bed a little later if in the mood. At the same time, he isn’t allowed to constantly eat food with sugar, even though it tastes the best. And has to sleep, even though his train set is so much more fun. And has to share Mum and Dad with other people, even though to him there was no world before him and his whole world is Mum and Dad so why wouldn’t theirs be him?
I realised at this point the insanity of expecting my young child to behave in a way that’s acceptable to me. Not that he shouldn’t have clear boundaries and solid parenting, but that by becoming angry with him for not behaving, I’m attaching my peace and joy in life to a small child whose current chosen purpose in life is building and destroying a wooden train track.
A paragraph from The Seven Storey Mountain came to my meditating mind,
“Mother must have been a person full of insatiable dreams and of great ambition after perfection: perfection in art, in interior decoration, in dancing, in housekeeping, in raising children. May be that is why I remember her mostly as worried: since the imperfections of myself, her first son, had been a great deception.”
When I think about how I would like my son to remember me, ‘worried’ and ‘perfectionist’ wouldn’t make the list. And yet, by my painful search for perfection in my life and by unintentional extension, in him, I am at risk of being remembered in just this way.
We finished the meditation and I resolved to mindfully focus on detaching my peace from my son’s behaviour. It’s been about a week and so far so good. I’m feeling less affected when he throws a temper tantrum because I’m not doing something he wants. I’m less frustrated by his naughtiness and as a result, the boundaries I’m setting seem to be born more out of his needs rather than my exasperation. I’m still finding his sleep training difficult, but I figure that we’re all at our least at 3am… And it’s definite progress.
As for the meditation teacher? I reflected after the evening that I should probably call one of my wise women to talk about it.
She laughed loudly before firmly pointing out my ferocious spiritual arrogance. She asked me how I would feel in that girl’s shoes – a brand new teacher with a relatively new subject, trying desperately to connect with a room full of fidgety people, hoping she’s doing it right and fearing she’s not. And pointed out how lucky I was that there was anyone at all teaching meditation near me. And how especially blessed that this girl, with her measly five years of meditation experience, had gifted me a breakthrough with my son that I’d been unable to reach anywhere else. I had a chance of being an improved and happier parent, thanks to her.
By the end of the conversation, I saw my total lack of compassion. That the teacher didn’t need my forgiveness, she needed my gratitude for helping me to see a little clearer, and a humble and sincere apology for my arrogant behaviour during her class.
Vegan banana & coconut cake today. I have a friend whose newborn can’t take any dairy and I wanted to make a cake she could eat. But, as always on The Imperfect Kitchen, health alone is never a good enough reason to make something, it has to taste absolutely delicious as well. Banana loaf is one of my staple cake recipes and I’ve made it very badly at times as I often play with the ingredients beyond all sanity. This vegan version was a happy accident during one of those experiments and I’ve been contentedly making it alongside the non-vegan version ever since.
- Coconut cream from two 400ml cans of coconut milk (recipe at the bottom of this post)
- 250g caster sugar
- 450g flour
- 2 large bananas, peeled and mashed
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ cup finely desiccated coconut
- 1½ tbl sp pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 50g pure icing sugar
Pre-heat oven to 180˚C / 350˚F
Grease a 9 x 19cm (3.5 x 7.5 inch) loaf tin and line with baking paper
On a high speed, blend half the coconut cream and the caster sugar in a large mixing bowl for 5-7 minutes, until soft peaks form
Slowly mix in the flour and baking powder, blending all the time
Add the banana and desiccated coconut and blend for another full minute
Pour into the loaf tin and bake for about 45 minutes, until the loaf is golden, well risen and springs back when pressed with a finger
Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire tray until cool
Meanwhile, put the remaining 250g of coconut cream into a bowl with the maple syrup, vanilla extract and icing sugar
Whip for about 5 minutes until soft peaks form
Spread onto the cooled banana loaf
Coconut Whipped Cream
- 400ml can full-fat coconut milk
Chill the coconut milk in the coldest part of the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight, taking care not to disturb or shake the container, the coconut milk will separate with the white liquid on top and the clear on the bottom
Once cold, gently turn over the can, open it, and carefully pour the clear liquid into a small container to save for another purpose, such as smoothie making (if you get too much of the clear liquid mixed with the white cream, the cream will not whip properly. Put the coconut milk back in the refrigerator and wait until it separates to try again). You are left with beautiful, thick coconut cream to use in this recipe.