Essay Eight: Taking Refuge in Grandchildren
Taking refuge can provide delightful surprises. It is not always a Zen teacher, wise sister or high monk who is there to provide guidance and insight. My grandson Callun has provided quite a few for me. His home is the town Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. One summer holiday Carolyn and I spent a sea kayaking adventure with Callun and his father Iain, exploring the fascinating coastline of Vancouver Island. On one occasion when Iain and Carolyn went shopping, I stayed at the house to meditate. Callun was playing outside. He came in crying after a while and tapped me on the shoulder. “Grand Pooh Bear,” that is what he called me when he was a little boy. “Grand Pooh Bear, sorry to disturb your practice but I’ve been stung by a bee on my neck and it hurts.” I opened my eyes and took Callun into my arms and said, “My dear Callun, you are my practice.” I gently took the stinger out of his neck, put some ice on it and cuddled him for a while before he happily went outside again to play. He had brought home to me that all of life is my practice. To my grandson Callun I bow in gratitude for being such a mindfulness bell for me.
When I take refuge in this manner, I am aware of Buddha nature being graciously presented to me. Another grandchild, Millie, sent me some drawings for my birthday quite a few years ago. With her five year old determination she endeavored to draw a picture of me with no feet, only one arm, with a fuzzy beard, jug handle ears and much slimmer than in reality! Over my head she had drawn a yellow halo, which is totally undeserving, yet I learned that this is how Millie thinks of me. She was revealing her Buddha nature to her grandfather and I joyfully took refuge in her love and kindness.
Several years ago, after leading a meditation retreat on the British Columbia mainland I arranged to take a ferry across to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island to visit with my son and grandson Callun. It was a beautiful calm sea voyage with the sunset dancing in the wake of the ferry. Although I was tired from the retreat, this was a delightful respite. Both Iain and Callun were there as the boat docked in Nanaimo. As it was almost Callun’s bedtime, he asked if I would read him a story once we got to their home. I was happy to do this. Callun quickly changed into his pyjamas and chose a story for me to read. I lay down on his bed beside him and started to read. In only a few minutes I was fast asleep! My son, Iain, on hearing the silence, came into the bedroom and saw that Callun had pulled the bedcovers up over me and was sitting up in bed with one hand resting lightly on my shoulder, a beautiful smile on his face as he took care of his grandfather. My son was moved to tears by this. He drew a chair into the bedroom and sat there with us all night. He did not want to miss the magic. Three generations taking refuge in one another. Totally present, hearts wide open. Only one snoring, but gently!