Meditation upon my daughter

Sydney, 1996

I wrote this 26 years ago when my daughter, Ella was 9 weeks old. As her birthday approaches, I thought it a fitting tribute to her. It also is a fitting tribute to Thich Nhat Hanh, the revered Zen Buddhist monk, who passed away today, aged 95. I wrote this piece to read at the Lotus Bud Sangha in Sydney all those years ago.

There is nothing like having a little baby to look after to bring you back to the present. Her thoughts and actions are fixed in the present moment; this moment and this moment alone is all that matters. Show her a new object and she will delight in it, seeing it with a freshness we cannot conceive. Shot it to her the next day and the freshness remains – she is able to look at it as if for the first time, even the twentieth time. She delights in the small things in life. A breeze on her cheek can make her face light up and smile. It is a fleeting moment, but she enjoys it fully, unencumbered by ‘rational’ thought. She does not have to think ‘present moment, wonderful moment’ to meditate upon it. She does it automatically – without words, without thought coming between herself and the here and now.

She is not aware that she is a separate entity. The notion of ‘I’ and ‘me’ are alien to her. She is part of me and part of the rest of the world around her. She is part of space and knows no boundaries. Where she ‘stops’ and otherness ‘begins’ is something she will learn over a long period of time. At this moment, she truly ‘inter-is’. As she grows, she will have to learn other ways of seeing herself and the world. She will move from being a creature who fully feels connected with her surroundings to one who becomes increasingly egocentric. She will recognise familiar objects and no longer see them as if for the first time and she will develop a sense of a past and the knowledge of a future. Her ability to stay in the present will diminish accordingly. In the meantime, however, she is teaching me to look deeper at everything around me. As for my part, I hope someday to encourage her to see things with that same freshness she now takes for granted.

My daughter has taught me very quickly to be mindful of breath. In the past when I have tried the mindfulness of breathing meditation, I knew intellectually that breath equals life, but I never felt it the way I do now. My daughter was born limp and blue, her heartbeat the only sign of life. She was quickly suctioned and given oxygen. With that first breath her existence in the outside world started. Her life will go on as long as she keeps breathing. Is it any wonder that I regularly check her breath? I now see that meditating upon the breath is not simply a device to concentrate on something that is common to us all. Nor is it just a physiological phenomenon which can usefully be employed for relaxation. Meditating upon the breath is nothing short of meditating upon the sanctity of life itself. I now not only understand but feel why it is such a powerful meditation.

These past nine weeks have flown. Every day brings something brand new. While with adults we feel that there is a constant, that people ‘don’t change’ at least outwardly, with my daughter I realise that all of us grow and are forever changing. The baby I held in my arms three weeks ago isn’t the same baby I am holding now and yet clearly, she is! I am learning to enjoy paradox and I am learning to keep my mind open so that I can observe the world with the freshness she has brought into my life.

8 thoughts on “Meditation upon my daughter”

  1. Love this reflection. Just beautiful – as are you and Ella and that wonderful moment when she came into being. Honoured to have been there. Arohanui XX

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Annie. Wish I could say I remember but I was out of it. I did love the crazy stories you and Peter told afterwards like the one about the nurse asking whether she was being named after Ella Fitzgerald. Peter’s answer, ‘no Presley’, was such a typical droll response. I laughed and laughed when I heard the story.


  2. Wonderful memories captured in your lovely writing. I bet you have other Ella stories you could share! I have many about my two daughters, but there are some stories one just does not write about. Lol

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: