Zen in the Face of Aggression

15 Aug

Life’s not always a day at the beach. Sometimes we’re at the pool.

It was there, in the shallow end, that I watched a woman get slapped across the face.

“We don’t hit!” she snapped at her toddler while simultaneously smacking him to send home the message that she meant business.

The contradiction here is clear, obviously we don’t hit our kids while admonishing them for hitting us. It just doesn’t work that way. The message gets lost and all that is remembered is the jolt.

So what do we do? That has been the question I’ve been asking myself all week as I too get pummeled by my toddler’s flingly fists, biting teeth and swift kicks.

Everyone is an equal target for my toddler’s aggression right now. As he struggles for words and I struggle to help him find a way around his urge to hit, I am reminded of Heart of a Toddler Lesson: 27 Hitting isn’t always meant to hurt.

It’s one of those slow-motion experiences.  A moment in time that is slowed down by your senses to let you know that you’re in danger and that it’s decision time. What you do with this moment determines if Zen can be found or if it’s lost.

There’s a zen story of a man who is startled by a thief who has just broken into this house. He pities the man and offers him the dingy robe from off of his back. The robber takes it and runs. The man feels bad because he did not have anything else to offer the man.

No where in this story is there anger or malice. The man is not angry with the thief because he knows that he should not judge him or his actions. He should only try to help. He does not threaten him or scold him. He should only try to help.

Taking such an enlightened view and expressing it in our daily lives and at these stressful moments is an immense challenge.

So as that moment right before my toddler hits is slowed down for me, I try to keep this story in mind. I try to do more than shield my face, close my eyes or hold back his flinging limbs in an effort to lessen the impact of the impending pounding and stomping. I try to do more than think about how I’m going to remedy the situation or prevent it in the future.

I take that moment and try to connect with him and whatever overpowering emotion he happens to be feeling: whether it be his pain, or his playfulness (whichever the case may be at the time) and to replace it with a calm confidence. A feeling that I most clearly connect to feeling Zen. By doing this, I can more completely connect back to my own sense of stillness.

In the moment, search for the stillness, especially when it’s the hardest to find. If you can capture it at these toughest of times, carrying it throughout the rest of the day will seem all that much easier in comparison.


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