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Lions Roar : November 2018
ADVICE FOR DIFFICULT TIMES The Emptiness of the Empty Nest When your children leave home, says MELISSA BLACKER ROSHI, there’s sadness but also new possibilities. Question: Ever since my youngest child left home to go to college, I’ve felt lonely and like life doesn’t have much pur- pose. How can I come to peace with having an empty nest? Answer: When a child comes into our lives, we devote so much of our energy to their care and well-being. We transform into a family, a place for shared love, learning, joy, and sorrow. Then, one day, this fledgling bird we have raised finds its wings strong enough to fly away, leaving its parents in a place that now feels much too big. The “empty nest” metaphor is so apt for this normal and often painful stage in the lives of parents and children. It can feel lonely, and the sense of purpose connected with parenting can disappear. How can dharma teachings help us work with this? First, by remembering that being mindful involves being awake to everything we experience. We have to give ourselves space and time to feel all of our emotions, thoughts, and sensations. And even though the reason for the leave- taking is healthy and to be celebrated, we may feel many conflicting feelings. Yes, there can be loneliness and sadness. But also there is a sense of exhilaration, of new possibilities, of freedom. All of the energy we gave to tending to our little fledgling is ready to transform into something new. So what we have to do, in coping with this enormous transition in our family life, is to simply be open to everything that arises. After a while, we may realize that the empty nest contains seeds of possibility, for both us and them. We have to make a new relationship with the brave little bird who has flown away, and perhaps even more, with ourselves. This transitional time becomes an opportunity to get to know ourselves in a new way. Suddenly there is more space for giving loving attention to our partners and to our own health and needs in ways that weren’t possible when our main preoccupation was parenting. Of course, we never really stop parent- ing. Our new task is to learn to encour- age from afar and to be a steady presence whenever the need arises. We welcome the fledgling when she temporarily returns to the nest, and then lovingly bid farewell when she flies away once again. ♦ PETROPERUTSKYI/ALAMYSTOCKPHOTO MELISSA MYOZEN BLACKER, ROSHI is the abbot of Boundless Way Zen and co- editor of The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen’s Most Important Koan. Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org NUNS IN THE HIMALAYAS The Pema Chödrön Foundation’s support helps ensure that nuns in Nepal, Bhutan and India have the same equal opportunities for deep practice and study as monks have always had. AT rISk popULATIoNS Pema is committed to supporting organizations that work to protect and nurture at-risk populations, particularly women and youth who are in challenging circumstances. THE Book INITIATIVE Pema’s books and recorded teachings are offered to underserved individuals and the organizations that support them, around the world, free of charge. THE BUDDHIST MoNASTIC TrADITIoN Pema is dedicated to help guide and support her home monastery, Gampo Abbey, as well as monastic settings in Asia and the West. OUR ONLINE BOOKSTORE: You can purchase Pema’s books, CDs and DVDs along with her archived teachings at our online bookstore. Free Shipping in the USA. THE pEMA CHöDröN FoUNDATIoN SUpporTS: pEMACHoDroNFoUNDATIoN.org LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 15 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE