shared by Guest Teacher: Janet Curry
When my son was 5, he came home from preschool one day and asked if Emily could come over to play. “Emily?” I inquired, surprised. I had heard about Emily before—how she intruded on his games at recess, ran through forts he’d made in trees, insisted too soon that his time on swings was up. “I didn’t know you and Emily were friends, “ I said.
“Oh, we’re not,” he responded matter-of-factly. “We’re best enemies.”
Fifteen years later, my son’s creativity in relating to difficulty is still a teaching for me. “Enemy” is a strong word, but his 5-year old use of it captured the intensity of not wanting, not liking what’s undeniably here. “Best” enemy flipped it around: Emily became the challenge that he chose to meet as an adventure.
I am sitting today with much that I don’t like and didn’t ask for— annoyances, pain in the body, grief. My family celebrates Christmas, and this year the couch in front of our tree is full of the absence of loved ones—an experience shared by countless others around the world, of all faiths and creeds. The ‘wish list’ of things I’d prefer be otherwise—personally, societally, nationally, globally—is long.
Our mindfulness practice teaches us that wanting things to be different than they actually are is a root source of suffering. How not to get entangled in the argument that things should be otherwise? Or immobilized by overwhelm at the challenges we face?
My son’s playful wisdom offers a way of dancing with the unwanted, transforming the ‘enemy’ into an ally for growth. No problem that the mind wanders 1001 times during any period of practice. No problem that tears of grief fall so often during this time of loss, separation, divisiveness. We practice in order to remember that the heart’s breaking is in service of breaking open, enabling us to reach out to one another with the warmth, care, and kindness we each deserve. This may just be enough to see us through our season of darkness and out again into the light. 2020: my ‘Best Enemy.’