Listen to their words
100-word story on how I'm still listening to my mother
Listen to their words
When we reached the top of the hill we saw an ascetic in simple robes meditating there. Curious, we approached him. He told us he’d lived there for two years. He’d given up his materialistic life for sanyas, Hinduism’s fourth stage* of life where humans are urged to focus on detachment from the material world. Soon, the sanyasi started reminiscing about the big house, three Mercedes cars and the lavish lifestyle he’d renunciated. We all listened agape, impressed. But on the way back, my mother perspicaciously remarked, “He’s here but his mind and heart are still held by material things.”
-reena | 11-20-23
*The four stages of life in Hinduism aka ashramas are: Brahmacharya: The student stage, marked by self-discovery and education, Grihastha: The householder stage, working, providing for a family, Vanaprastha: The hermit stage, of withdrawal introspection, and finally Sanyas: The wandering ascetic stage, or renunciation.
That story is from a true incident that occurred when I was a teenager. In these days of claimed virtues, signaling for status and the fake personas curated and amplified on social media, it’s even more important and difficult to discern what’s authentic and what’s not. It takes a concerted effort and mindset but it’s never been more important to have a sense and caution for it.
Thankfully, a lot of what I’ve learned to value, and the attendant heuristics came from my parents, in particular my mother. As is told in Hinduism, mother is the first guru. I miss mine greatly, especially her perspective on the world, her perspicacity in pointing out things the rest of us missed.
Not just first gurus, but mothers are also our sharpest mirrors1. Sometimes that’s not convenient or welcome but they’re often able to tell us what we can’t or don’t want to know about ourselves.
Recently I found myself thinking wish I’d told her all this more frequently. And then I recalled a couple of old letters I’d written to her in my 20’s where (who knew I even had a cent of wisdom then!) I’d somehow found the presence of mind to tell her how much I valued her perspective. It made me happy.
If you’re lucky enough to have parents around who taught you something you value, tell them. It’s never enough.
Of course there are unfortunate instances of parental estrangement, due to abuse manipulation or downright neglect, in which cases my sentiments can be safely ignored. I’m not naive enough to believe my words are universally applicable.