3 Rules for Life

Three Rules for Life: 

1) Be kind to yourself 
2) Do not harm others 
3) Purify your mind 

I tried writing about my 10-day silent retreat at the NW Vipassana Center yesterday, but I couldn't do it justice. I got bogged down in the details and the essence somehow went missing. So instead of spitting it all out in one L-O-N-G post, I think I'll just share a few of the juicy tidbits over the next few weeks. 

This quote is the first thing I "wrote down" at the retreat. Mind, I use the term "wrote down" loosely here. One of the precepts you agree to live by while at the retreat is "no sensual entertainments." This includes music, television, computers, cell phones, and, yes, pencils, pens and journals.

Woah, talk about hard. Everyone thought the silence was going to be the tricky part. Being silent is easy because no one else is talking. No one else is even looking at you so the temptation to talk is really quite rare. (The few "slips" I did hear were inevitably the result of accidents - bumping into someone, stepping on a toe or letting a door fall in someone's way. Most people just can't resist a quick "sorry" under those circumstances.)

But writing. Now THAT was hard.

One particularly desperate night found me scouring my bags for a rogue pen I didn't turn in. No luck. Another evening I went for a "walk" after dinner, hoping to find a small stick I could use to carve words into my Vipassana handbook - the only paper I had in my possession. I found one, but soon realized this also broke the precept against lying, so I dropped it and went back to my room.

What I did instead was start a page of notes in my head. Each time I wanted to remember something I would repeat it to myself a few times then add it to my page of notes with a number.

Each day I would repeat the whole page in my head a few times to be sure I was retaining all of my notes. It was like memorizing a long poem and kept my brain active in a way it hasn't been since college.

So I have twelve little gems to share with you over the next few weeks. I may not share them all, some - upon further reflection - may turn out to be not all that earth-shattering after all, but those that hold up will be shared here.

Which brings us to this first quote.

I believe this comes from the first day's evening discourse and was the first major realization of the ten days for me.

Being kind to yourself comes first. Not last. Not when you have time later. Not if you get around to it. First.

Because if you are kind to yourself, you do not need to do harm to others. The reason we do harm to others is because of how we feel inside of ourselves. If we use kindness on ourselves first there is no reason to do harm.

This is a revolutionary idea where I come from (the mid-west). You are not kind to yourself first. You put yourself last. You take care of everyone else's needs and then if there is anything left over that's what you get.

This is how I've been living. It's how I've been parenting. It's how I've been in my relationships. No wonder I'm pissed off.

Whenever things are going badly around home, my older son becomes fixated on the idea that I hate him. No matter how much I tell him I love him or show him I love him, he always comes back with, "You said you hated me. Remember? In the car? On the way to Idaho?" Sometimes he just can't let it go.

Sometimes makes me very sad, sometimes sympathetic, and sometimes it just makes me madder and madder. Madder at him, madder at myself. But every time he said it I denied it vehemently with many hugs, kisses and I love yous.

What I realized this weekend is that it's true. I didn't love him in those moments, if you are using the word love as an active verb. I didn't love him because I didn't always show him love and I didn't always show him love because I never showed myself love by being kind to myself.

I gave and I gave and I gave and I gave until I had absolutely nothing more to give and then, when they inevitable asked for that one more thing (because that's what kids do :) I exploded, screaming inside, "WHAT ABOUT ME!?!??!?!"

I wanted someone to notice that I was tired or frustrated or upset and do something about it. I wanted someone to help me for a change. Take care of me. Love me.

What I realized at the retreat is: that person has to be me.

I am the only one who knows when the frustration is starting to build. When the anger is stirring. When I am approaching my wits end.

And that is the time to enact Rule #1. Go lie down. Meditate. Breathe. Take a walk. Take a break. Get out of the house. Anything but the status quo. Anything but continuing to give. Anything but not being kind to myself.

Because if I do #1, # 2 is in the bag.

And #3? #3 is for another day. Until then, be kind to yourselves out there. DO IT FIRST.


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