I was raised in the Mormon religion, which I’m grateful for. They really emphasize kindness. It’s a very loving religion.
I met and married my husband Ross in 1970 and moved to Canada where we bought some property. He got in touch with his old friend Glenn Mullin, who told him that two jewels were coming to the West. These jewels were Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa. We went to see them with our oldest daughter Lara, who was one year old at the time – it must have been 1975.
Ross stayed at the teachings and I went up to Boulder Creek and took care of Lara. We really connected with the teachings, so we sold our land in Canada and bought property with some friends out by Vajrapani Institute. In 1977 I was pregnant with Arwen, and Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa came again. We went to their Vajrapani course and that’s where I met most of the people who are my Dharma family.
We ended up buying a parcel of land and donated 30 acres of it. This acreage became Vajrapani Institute. Most of the people who came up to that retreat helped build the center. That was twenty years ago and we’re still building!
Arwen was born at Vajrapani and she had about 30 of Lama Yeshe’s students at her birth to welcome her into the world. After her I had Lise, who I named after Lise-Lotte Kolb, and then I had Chana. Lama Yeshe gave all the girls Tibetan names: Lara is Wisdom Goddess, Yeshe Lhamo, which is very much like her. Arwen is Yeshe Osel, Wisdom Clear Light; Lise is Yeshe Dawa, Wisdom Moon. When I was pregnant with Chana, Lama Yeshe said, “His name shall be Vajrapani!” We couldn’t think of an American name for her so we kept her as Chana Dorje (Tibetan for Vajrapani).
My kids are my light, they really are. The way I’ve watched them grow: I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The way they are so loving and trusting, and how easy it is to connect with them, and the way they believe in people. They recognize when someone is being real. I think growing up in the Dharma community has been really precious for them in terms of getting examples of respecting life and teachings of loving-kindness. They felt love from everywhere and have gone out into the world really hopeful.
I certainly don’t feel like Ross and I raised them alone. They were in a really loving structure with a lot of purpose – watching them turn into loving human beings is such a joy. Ross has been a really good father to them.
I can’t really talk about my experience as a mother without going into my addictions. You don’t really feel grateful while you’re in the middle of it, but going through alcoholism and growing out of it, I can see that an addiction is clinging to our delusions. It’s totally not being in control; my delusions were totally driving me. I’m really grateful because I’ve seen the thing that got me through is love and compassion. People tell me it took a lot of courage to do what I did but courage took on a new meaning for me – it means doing what I have to do and there’s no choice. Everything that I learned about Dharma was called upon at that time to pull me out.
When I was in my addiction I hurt other people and I hurt myself; the people I probably hurt the most are the people I care about the most and care about me the most. One thing about my children is that they knew when I was back quicker – they forgave me and could see when I was truly back, and they were glad. That gave me a lot of strength because it validated me. I didn’t have to stay away too long in their eyes.
The first time I went into the addiction was in 1991 and after that I was sober for five years. I didn’t stay plugged into the program, though, because I felt the Dharma teachings were enough and I had wonderful friends. A lot of people didn’t even know I had a problem because I only drank in the evenings. The kids were smaller, Ross was away working and my father was ill. There were a lot of pressures and I drank in the evening like a lot of other people just to loosen up and relax.
After a while I felt like I had a bit of a problem with it and that I should cut back. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have any control. I felt like I was less of a mother, less of a wife, less of a friend.
The five years that I didn’t drink were good, but due to other circumstances surrounding me I was in a situation that I didn’t know how to deal with so I ended up drinking again. For a while our family fell apart.
The biggest thing [my lama] helped with is with regards to all the things I wanted to do, thought I should do, but felt I had failed, and he put it a nutshell: “The best thing you can do for anybody else is be an example.” I think it’s like the serenity prayer they use in the twelve-step programs: “God, grant me to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I think a lot of us spend a lot of time trying to fix the things we can’t and ignoring the things that are right in front of us that we need to fix.
I look back and remember thinking that being an example is so on-going. What can I do now, today? It’s not like that; I think that’s the one that hit home the most. Being an example is what gets the most results. Now my kids are proud of me, and my Dharma community has welcomed me back. I’ve inspired people.
In reality, though, I’m not doing anything. I feel in my heart that I’m trying to follow the teachings the best I can; I’m trying not to beat myself up for what I don’t do. Recovery programs say, “One day at a time,” which totally correlates with the Dharma. I feel like when you suffer and hit a real bottom you have to develop compassion because you have to love yourself.
I think my kids were the ones who welcomed me back the fastest. When I was in LA for His Holiness’ teachings, I told my daughter Lara that while she has said she learned a lot from me and my mistakes and that I’ve been a role model for her, the thing that amazes me now is that my daughters are becoming role models for me.
I’ve seen them come through a different childhood than I did where they were surrounded by lamas, and I see how much they have benefited from that exposure.
I think they benefited more from seeing Lama Yeshe’s example than from things he said. When mothers go to a puja and their baby fusses, they think it’s the loudest noise, and all everyone hears is their baby crying. Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa seemed to carry on without ever getting ruffled. They were always kind and giving and accepted children as they are. I’ve also watched my kids get really still and peaceful when they’ve been fussy. All Lama had to do was touch them and look at them and they recognized it.
Now I see them giving back and helping others, and they seem to have a foothold. I feel grateful for the foothold I had when I was growing up, and I see them with an even better foothold and more capability to benefit people.Tags: parenting