Erin and Chelsea explore Ayya Khema, a modern-day Buddhist nun. From a Western world, great tragedy in her life led her on a spiritual journey that took decades to finally formulate. Her practical view of spirituality is a lesson for all of us that hope to grasp a contemplative journey for ourselves. Amma Ayya has so much to explore that her story is broken up in two episodes. The second episode will explore the practical wisdom she departs to all of us mothers and caretakers as we journey through life. We will learn about meditation, how to be present, what freedom from worry can help us to experience more joy and learning to let go. Amma Ayya's life experience gives us practical lessons that will stick with us no matter what we face. Listen to her beautiful ways to live an extraordinarily ordinary life.
Chelsea Whipple 0:03
You're listening to the contemplative motherhood podcast. My name is Chelsea. I'm a teacher, practitioner, spiritual director and pilgrim.
Erin Thomas 0:11
And I'm Erin, a creative homeschool educator, counselor and spiritual seeker. listen in as we dive deeper into the contemplative lifestyle through hearing about each of our lives,
Chelsea Whipple 0:24
you'll hear our triumphs, failures, practices and mistakes as we journey together. You might even hear a kid or two in the background.
Erin Thomas 0:33
So grab some coffee, tea crawl up and take off your shoes. You are welcome here. Now let's get started.
Chelsea Whipple 0:39
welcome back to our continuing story on Amma Ayya. I'm so glad that you are back here with us to learn more about what she has for us. So if you did not listen to the previous episode on part one of Amma Ayya's story, I would say to go and listen to that first. And we are going to go right back in where we left off with Erin, who posed a wonderful question for us. You know, talking about minimalist meditation, and how could that be offered to something where our lives are busy enough already. But but knowing the key of Amma Ayya's story and how important meditation was in her own life. So I'm going to rewind us just a bit back so we can kind of see where we were in her story. And then we can reconnect with Amma Ayya store story. So Erin, please take it away.
Chelsea Whipple 0:43
Amma Ayya, She was like the mama of meditation. That's what I feel like um, but much of the work she shared was specifically focused on meditation, but in her characteristic fashion, a very practical way of meditation initially. And so, Chels, I know you do such a great job of this. Will you break this down a bit for us like is there such thing as minimalist meditation? And I mean, just like how many of us can resound with the fact that like, I need just the minimalist version. Yo, what does this look like?
Chelsea Whipple 2:16
Yeah, it let's do that because I'm the kind of person where if you learn like a new practice or something like a new card game, let's say, if I don't know how to do it, I get so overwhelmed. I don't even want to start. So my goal is to not make this overwhelming. And meditation is done in many ways. And most religious traditions kind of have their own way of practicing it. They might call it something different, but it's a little bit of the same thing in terms of it's really about your mind. So, the simplistic way is resting the mind to focus on something other than your worries.
Chelsea Whipple 2:58
You even hear the word monkey brain. So the little thoughts that pop in, they go everywhere and they lead us down rabbit holes and whatever kind of trains and floating boats and all of that. Meditation is to go beyond the initial thought processes. That flood our mind. And their suggested ways to do this. And this is more individualized. It could be simply focusing on your breathing. Focusing on one word, a mantra that can be repeated over and over and over. You can think about an intention you have or just letting go of anything and pushing it all out of your mind. You can practice this daily. You can practice it more. And usually just about 10 to 30 minutes at a time. I really recommend even just five minutes when you begin because it takes a while to get used to. some days it's easier some days. It's you know, those days.
Chelsea Whipple 4:11
And in a synopsis really meditation if practice regularly can evolve our thought processes and cognitive limitations. It can take us from those two dimensional thinkings of good versus bad. me versus you. I like it or I don't like it to open up other dimensions of thought. Meditation is not easy, but it kind of also sets aside what we describe as our ego self kind of being centered just on problems or actions or kind of those fight or flight instinct. Those kinds of things are our own wants, wants and desires. And the practice allows us to look at the world not from my point of view, but of us a collective whole a connected point of view. And as mothers and caretakers it can change our structure of viewing the day not as what to do, you know, what do I have to get done? But what opportunities await me in this present moment?
Erin Thomas 5:25
This, this is huge, and I love that you highlight this because for several reasons really. But primarily this mindset shift often can permit just a huge latitude of growth in our spiritual lives as well as our emotional well beings. And so I wanted to give a little bit of feedback about this before I went on, and I don't know if any of you have read a body keep score. It's still super trendy popular book right now but for very good reasons. She has a lot of the neuroscience that many of us might not find entertaining or three but if you're into neuro science, understanding a bit more about the brain and about the mind. The premises that our experiences, our traumas, our events affect our bodies, and our bodies affect our mind. And so, I wanted to point this out because the most fascinating part to me, in this book, and connecting this to all my idea is that even in scientific data, we are often presented regarding mindset that is crucial.
Erin Thomas 6:36
Our minds are crucial in our own healing and our own resilience. And this is important because I'm I described this in some language that was different for me, and we'll hear about that, but her viewpoint was that the mind is central to our growth. And so some of you may have heard the growth mindset versus fixed mindset, if you will. This may come up highlighted a little bit in her work explained a little bit differently in some language, but it really determines the level of freedom she experienced. And there was a freedom of the mind that my experience and I think many of us can really connect with that. And so I'm going on with just who she is in general and applying that. Chelsea What is this characteristic that Amma Ayya displays and why is this important for us as contemplative mothers like how does this where do we find this? How does this apply?
Chelsea Whipple 7:35
Okay, you have set me up so good here. I give one word and I would say freedom. Amma Ayya spends so much of her time in her writings about freedom. And for her this is where she eventually saw her role as a mother. And when I first read her book, this was before I had kids. her autobiography, and I was a bit shocked at how she talked about her kids. And now as a mother and rereading it. I understand much more where she is coming from. She centers her life around the idea of freedom, not physical freedom. But emotional and spiritual freedom. So to her life was fleeting. It has no permanent fixture because it's unpredictable. And she had learned this early on in her life if we remember her story, in a very traumatic way. So life comes and goes, we come and go. We can't control anything of what happens in our surroundings. But in her characteristic fashion, she gives practical examples. So she gives an example of how we tend to grieve when our bodies no longer function the way they used to.
Chelsea Whipple 9:03
So for me, I am currently struggling struggling with I used to run half marathons, and I enjoyed them very much. But for the last year I cannot muster the energy to run that much anymore. I mean, if I'm getting five miles that expends all the energy I have. So for that for the last year, it has been a huge struggle for me to let go of that so instead of grieving that loss, you know, she teaches us to learn where's your body right now and appreciate the moment that you're in. So I can't run, but I can walk. And when I walk, I can notice more. So it's appreciating that that's where I'm at right now. And we can't change some aspects of our bodies. In those we need to understand and let go of for no matter how much we grieve, and it's okay to grieve it. But no matter how much it's not going to come back as it once was. And she spent her life and this is a life long lesson that you know, takes us to understand is learning to love impermanence and I want to focus on how she did that as a mother.
Erin Thomas 10:30
I love this so loving impermanence, right? And so I'm interested if possible. How did she get to this place? And like how would you describe in a summary form of how she got to this place in her journey?
Chelsea Whipple 10:54
Yeah, so in her early adventures, so when she was traveling around with her husband and young son, I mean, they were backpacking through all these places. You know, and in those days, they did not quite have the safety features that we have. And so she felt in a constant state of panic and worry over what may or may not happen to her son. And she started to realize and this is to quote being free from what is not clear is not clean, not trying to direct and determine everything that occurs. It means that acknowledging that dear things and dear people also exist without me and that I also exist without them.
Erin Thomas 11:46
Okay, so this this was huge. This is an important concept and I I want to interject for a second and say this is a really important point. It was almost like I feel like she had some element of surrender. And just an acknowledgement of the fact that things can entangle us just spiritually and emotionally and so there's a lot more to this concept and I so when Chelsea shared this and when I did some reading on her one of the words that she uses the attachments which she'll explain to us. And I found that this language very much mirrored for me something that might entangle or inhibit my spiritual journey. Or may enable entangle or inhibit the way we live our lives even practically every day as a mother so can you tell us a little bit more about this freedom concept?
Chelsea Whipple 12:39
Yeah. So she teaches that part of freedom is being free of attachments. So in the case of motherhood, one attachment she had and I think we all have I will admit that I do is worry. So she constantly felt worried for her son, and her daughter whom she left behind with her family when she went her daughter was older and did not want to travel. So she let leaves her daughter behind. And so she found that being attached to worry, made her feel less joy. She could not be present in the moment or joyful because she'd worry about what would happen next. So when worry is always present in our mind, it can be harder to feel the joy of this child you know, there's always something that might happen might not happen, something that's outside of our control. And she goes on to say that her attachment to worry and fear had a negative influence on love.
Chelsea Whipple 13:45
She says my children do not belong to me. They belong to themselves. I am not their keeper any more than they are my keepers. We are linked to each other but not bound to each other. And that is a huge difference. So not linked. We are linked to each other not bound to each other. And you can kind of disagree. I mean, I would use different language than how she describes it. So you can use whatever language fits with you. But she has a point. When worry is our attachment. We can get too hung up on what possibly could go wrong instead of living in the freedom of the moment with our kids. We can't control outcomes or environments anymore that we can control the weather. But we don't spend our time worrying about the weather as much as we worry about outcomes and environments
Erin Thomas 14:41
is sets that's incredibly incredibly insightful. To bring this home a bit. There's a level of freedom, I think and I want to contribute to this conversation by saying that like when we realize we can't control others or outcomes and our environments. There's a huge shift and our responses right? All we can really do is change our response for therapists. This is like therapy one to one not control others, but we can control our response. It's very true and essence. So, you know to give some language to that our minds and their training for lack of a better word, really greatly reflects our ability to respond. It reflects our ability to be present in our lives with our children. If we're mothers with ourselves, in our communities and our significant connection to the divine. And so further on in this conversation. Amma Ayya has one profound lesson to teach us and Chels I would you share a bit about this. And through this, I think there's a way that we can really bring this to a beautiful centering.
Chelsea Whipple 16:02
Yeah, so she also of course, and this is kind of the same concept and that's why she's so practical. It all runs together. She talks about letting go. And life is a life long journey of letting go. we have opportunities to let go every single day. An example of how she teaches us comes from her teachings about letting go centered around motherhood. so her son had a bad accident with a pony. And there was a moment she talks about she had no idea at that moment if her son was alive or not. And she just stood there staring at her son and he did live and through that experience she talked about letting go of the worry and learning to love them without fear that this was kind of her climat climactic experience in in regards to this experience, she says in her writings. I became capable of loving them without fear right from the heart. Without that love being conditional on any requirement or demand. My love for them did not depend on their being alive. On they're living the way I wanted them to. Or from their side they're feeling connected to me, or they're being grateful to me or on they're being well behaved. All of that no longer mattered.
Erin Thomas 17:33
Wow. That's a huge experience to have. And the lesson that she learned through that experience. Tell us a little bit more Chels bring this home for us.
Chelsea Whipple 17:46
Yeah. And so all of these teachings being present, you know living in freedom without worry without attachments. Letting go is worthless without love. And that four letter word is often over simplified, and undervalued in love is much more than an actual action. Love is much more than a feeling love is much more than just a saying. Love is the core of us. You know we are love. We Spill it out. We soak it in. And so how can we cultivate love in our being, you know, not the idea of living as if this day is our last but I think Amma Ayya would say to live as if it is worthy of the moment. You know she can sometimes be referred to as the Wind Whisperer and she draws this image as everything we do or say rushes away like the wind as soon as it's out of our bodies out of our minds. It just goes away. It's not permanent, but it's important. We say words and they mean something. We do actions and they mean something, we meditate and that means something we love and that means something. so what is so great about Amma Ayya Khema is the fact that she is so ordinary. Maybe because she's modern day maybe because we understand her writings. But what's extraordinary about Amma Ayya is is that she is so ordinary. She opens herself up for us to realize how beautiful being ordinary is. Her writings in her life dictate everyday life for us. That ordinary is extraordinary. Her practical nature teaches us to live in a way that you matter to everyone. Hence why she gained gained the name we call her, the practical contemplative. You know, she teaches us to be open to what life has for you in this very day and this very moment and that nothing is as beautiful as it is right now. And connecting back again to Maya Angelou. Her great untold story is the same story inside of us. And what's beautiful is it is probably so ordinary that nothing compares and everything compares.
Erin Thomas 20:49
And that's a beautiful way to bring it home my friend and I think so much we can learn from her life experience and from her response to her life experience. I know many of us on the frontlines of motherhood can really feel like everything we do is so ordinary or mundane and just even the daily tasks we complete right? But this shift this mindful freedom that was so beautifully displayed and Amma Ayya here is an invitation and a challenge. And so Chelsea is going to read us quickly a discourse of loving kindness
Chelsea Whipple 21:33
What should be done by one who's skilled and wholesomeness to gain the state of peacefulness is this. One must be able, upright, straight and not proud. Easy to speak to mild and well content easily satisfied and not caught up in too much bustle and frugal in one's ways. With since calm, intelligent not bold, not being co various when the other folk abstaining from the ways that wise ones blame and this the thought that one should always hold. May beings all live happily and safely made that their hearts rejoice within themselves. Whatever there may be with breath of life, whether they be frail or very strong, without exception, be they lat long or short, or middle sized, or they be big or small or thick or visible or invisible, or whether they dwell far or they dwell near those that are here. Those seeking to exist. May beings all rejoice within themselves. Let no one bring about another's ruin, and not despise in any way or place. Let them not wish each other any ill from provocation or from enmity just as a mother at the risk of life, loves and protects her child, her only child. So one should cultivate this boundless love to all that live in the whole universe, extending from a consciousness sublime, upward and downward. And across the world, and troubled free from hate in enmity. And while one stands and while one walks and sits or one lies down still free from drowsiness. One should be intent on this mindfulness. This is divine. Abiding here they say. But when one lives quite free from any view, is virtuous with perfect insight one angry for sensual desires expelled one surely comes no more to any room.
Chelsea Whipple 24:02
Well, Erin, let's celebrate today being ordinary.
Erin Thomas 24:07
Absolutely. Let's be ordinary. And thank you for joining us on the ordinary contemplative motherhood podcast.
Erin Thomas 24:14
We want to thank you again for joining us today. On the contemplative motherhood podcast with us your host Erin Thomas and Chelsea Whipple
Chelsea Whipple 24:23
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Erin Thomas 24:37
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai