Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
These lines from the Metta Sutta are fraught with meaning for me. I am the noncustodial mother of a 16-year-old boy, my only child. Not only does he not live with me, he lives half way around the world from me--I'm in England he lives with his dad in America. No, I didn't lose him in a custody battle. No, he wasn't taken away from me. I had sole custody of him for a year after the divorce, but decided to let him go live with his dad because that's what he wanted. It's been five years. It seems to have been the best choice (maybe the only choice) for us. I don't know how it feels to be a noncustodial father, but for me, being separated has been a kind of wound that never completely heals. A little death that dies over and over, sometimes it rolls over and goes quietly, sometimes not. When I chant these words, I feel pangs of all sorts of emotions: hypocrisy, guilt, regret, dull sorrow. I haven't 'protected my child with my life' in the conventional sense. There are small-minded people who could never understand how complicated such a decision was for me. I've tried very hard to let go of worrying about what those people think of me, but it's always there, just a little. I know, though, that I protected my child by saving my life.
If I could take my love for my child, my child who I only see once a year if that, and radiate it over the entire world, all living beings would feel cherished. I know that much.
Nothing is ever as simple as people would like it to be.
The image above is Kuan Yin, the female version of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara. She's looking serene in the tempest, buoyed up by the most unexpected of life's creations, ministered to by it, ministering to it. She's part of it.
May all beings be at ease.