Wednesday, April 27, 2011

tonglen and the tree

Hanen asked me a question from my last post.

Have you talked to Bea about tonglen? Is it something you'd try with her?

It is a really great question, because tonglen became an important part of my meditations and a very healing part of my grief journey. I have not specifically talked to her about tonglen, mainly because the concepts and ideas are a little complicated for me to grasp, and conversely, I think I would have a really difficult time translating it for a four-year old. BUT, and it is a huge but, like my own huge butt, we do meditations for compassion and suffering. My daughter visited my father, who is in a nursing home and sick with MS, since she was born. And so we are around sick people, old people, lonely people, people squarely in the dementia stage of life fairly often, so she understands suffering. When we meditate, I sometimes say, "We are breathing out our love for the suffering today." Or sometimes I ask her to think about my father, or other sick people we know, before our meditation, then I guide a meditation like this:

Imagine that you have warmth and light in your belly and heart, now the light comes out of your fingertips, all of your hair, your nose, the tips of your toes. We are going to watch the light dance around us. It is filled with love and happiness and compassion. Now, let's see Grandpa in our mind, and send the light to him, like we are giving him a big hug with the light, and wrapping it around his wheelchair and his hair, and watch him smile.
It is simple, but hopefully, I am opening the doors to compassionate thinking and healing thoughts.

Thank you for asking your question, Hanen. And if anyone else has questions, I'd be happy to answer them. You can read my thoughts about teaching meditation to toddlers here.


I always envisioned Lucy's space, her tree and the surrounding area, to be some kind of meditation space or garden. But now the dog craps there, and I don't know, that reeking smell ruins the ambiance, even if Sam is an amazingly thoughtful poop-picker-upper. It all feels like not enough, and when it feels that way, I get a strong case of the effits. But still, it is there nagging, especially as Mother's Day approaches and the tree is two years in the ground, and I still haven't even quite managed to weed the surrounding area. I think I should just do it up, channel my energy, this weird sober/grief/creative block energy into the yard.

If my yard was a glorious yard, I would make a rock garden, plant a jizo and some hummingbird bushes and flowers, a bench and meditation spot, maybe a water feature. But as it is, it is feeble yard, all rectangular and barren, filled with oddly random plant successes surrounded by brittle skeletons of landscaping past. My black thumb of death leaving its mark in every nook and cranny of my swamp-like swatch of land. Sometimes I fantasize about ripping out all the grass and covering the entire yard in moss, but if I killed the moss, I couldn't live with myself.

I think I want a bench. I think I want a marker for Lucy's tree, but it is in our backyard. We all know why the tree is there, and what it is for. But then, I want to see her name there. I searched for memorial markers on Etsy, but there are two kinds--pet markers and park markers. As much as I could ask someone who makes pet markers to make something for Lucy, I also will always have this idea that it is for a dog, really, and my daughter was not the pet buried in the backyard.  And the park tree marker, while that isn't bad, I am convinced the dog peeing on it will make me burst into tears. He's a cute dog, but absolutely no manners in regards to his bodily fluids and sacred items. The yard is his domain, but it pisses me off irrationally when he craps under her tree. If there were pee pee stains on her marker, I possibly maybe could perhaps go ballistic.
Lucy's tree from my office. Yeah.

Then I kept thinking about when we planted the tree, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, and thinking maybe I should make some stepping stones towards her tree, or in front of it, like an actual place where the sidewalk ends, with mosaics and her name and date, or something. And so a few days ago, we bought concrete and glass mosaic to make stepping stones for each child for the backyard. I don't know. Could be cheesy, in which case, I will just use it somewhere that can handle cheesy. If it is special and cool, then I will use it by Lucy's tree. I asked this question in the Facebook and got some amazing answers, but I was curious what you have done if you planted a tree to mark it as a memorial tree, and especially if it is in your yard.

Here is the tree from my office. It does look a little Charlie Brown, I know, but it is getting there, hopefully. If anyone has any brilliant ideas. The wood pile is right next to her tree now, which is weird, and the area in front of that is wood mulch and connects with our front yard. Any ideas?


  1. This is a very timely post for me as we're planning on moving R's tree to our house this weekend. I'm all in a dither about its survival.

    Regarding Lucy's tree, you could maybe put up a little bit of fencing to keep the dog out. He's pretty long-legged but it might at least slow him down.

    I have no concrete suggestions for the marker. I'm a big fan of waiting for just the right 'found' object for all things related to R. I'm certain that I'll be walking around in the woods someday and I'll find a goodly sized stone with an R-shaped fossil imprint. I'll be on the lookout for similar L-shaped markings.

  2. Our backyard belongs to the dogs, so much so that we don't even go out there. And I think that is fair because the dogs don't get the run of the house and I feel like they ought to have somewhere. But I dream of someday putting a fence down the middle of our backyard, half for them and half for us. Then I could put in a garden and a sandbox. I just can't grow strawberries where a dog pees.

  3. We have a stone in our garden with Florence's name. It was carved especially for us, and was a gift from a beautiful friend.
    I have it in a little bed with a rag taggle mess of plants all around it.
    I really want a beautiful garden, but I'm not very good at the whole gardening thing, sadly.
    There is a pic of it here

  4. I am wondering if you can do some plantings under the tree that will discourage the dog. My dog hates to 'go' where the grass or plants tickle her toushie. So, maybe you could plant some stuff under the tree... and plan for blooms season 'round

  5. I think what you say to Bea is beautiful. She is lucky to have such an amazing mother; all of your children are. I like the idea of the stepping stones. I am sure they will be wonderful and not cheesy at all. xx


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