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setting the birds of your consciousness free

2015 March 17
by Rachel Turiel

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It’s 7am and I’m rallying around a cup of coffee; oh how we’re made for each other precisely at sunrise. Col and Rose are awaiting, goggled-eyed, for the arrival of breakfast: exotic, pricey organic muesli. Dan puts steaming bowls in front of them—studded with dried fruit and almond butter—and they sling creamy bites into unusually quiet mouths. Rose licks her lips and announces, “There’s just one thing I don’t like about this breakfast.”

A thick fog of silence rolls across the table. Dan and I find each others eyes and exchange weary “here comes the inevitable” smiles. Rose has what we call an evaluative mind. Every experience, event or mental state goes into the hopper of examination and out clunks an opinion. These opinions become her GPS system, guiding her passionately towards what she wants (a sip of my coffee, endless playdates, mega-carbs, an expanse of sand on which to cartwheel forever), and away from what she doesn’t want (cooked vegetables, long family hikes, a speck of boredom).

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Her desires are the very forest through which she walks, thick and familiar. I’ve even, in a snarky moment, pictured a human bark collar engineered to give a small shock every time she utters the phrase, “I want…” Dan and I have instituted a new policy to protect ourselves from being rushed upon returning home: We’re allowed the amnesty of a pause to integrate (i.e. pee, put down our stuff, greet family) before Rose unleashes a request. Her restraint, during this moment, is visible.

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Rose and I are out walking one of her regular clients, Jack the Scottie. She’s holding his leash in one hand, swinging my hand in her other. It’s bright and warm and Rose bounces down the sidewalk with a levity that’s endemic to people who’ve never had to balance a checkbook or wrestle internally with whether it’s appropriate to do semi-nude cartwheels in front of your windows.

It feels like a green light moment, in which to unleash a little philosophical mom-ologue.

“You know, Rose, I’ve been thinking about how some people have a lot of desires, you know, things they want or don’t want. They have strong ideas about how they want things to be.” I pause to let this idea settle in the fresh space of her mind. Melted snow drips from conifer boughs and rooftops, plinking out a spring tune.

“Are you talking about me, Mama?”

“Well, yeah, you and me. And also, I’ve noticed that some people don’t have very strong preferences about how they want things to be,”

“You mean like Daddy and Col.”

“Right!”

“Well, yeah…but it’s not good or bad,” Rose says, skipping forward to position herself under the corner of a roof, opening her mouth to catch the leaping water.

Hmm. I was about to deliver the dharmic punchline, the truth of how when we cling to our preferences, they bring suffering. How these desires, these expectations are at the heart of our human pain.

But I pause, understanding that Rose is right. Having a storehouse of desires is neither good nor bad, it’s how we relate to them, whether we buy into them. And to be fair, while Rose will broadcast the changing weather of her wantings, she is simply reporting. It may sound like complaining (The one thing I didn’t like about the pricey, organic muesli…) but it’s actually just her finely-tuned mind filtering through waves of sensory information. She’s often not actually asking for anything to change, but simply setting the chittering birds of her consciousness free.

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Here’s what Rose has taught me: The forest of desire, it’s intense and wild, full of beckoning turquoise pony necklaces and parents instigating hikes with wolfy smiles, and you can walk through it all feeling your muscles of greed and aversion flexing and still it’s not good or bad. My job is to click the safety on my own future anxieties (Imelda Marcos!), to remember to breathe while Rose is telling me how she Doesn’t Like This Hike We’re On, to not create more pushback by trying to convince Rose her opinions are wrong. Because she’ll need a lot of clearance to take off, running under the blue sky, which she always inevitably does.

Rose drops Jack’s leash, issues a few grimy sidewalk cartwheels and comes up beaming. Watching her unbridled enthusiasm is like beholding a classical artwork, the kind that lodges in your heart and tells you something about the indomitable human spirit.

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19 Responses leave one →
  1. Mollie permalink
    March 17, 2015

    This whole story makes me love Rose and the way you love her even more.

  2. March 17, 2015

    really beautiful…Buddhist tenets interwoven throughout this sharing like multi-colored threads on prayer flags…head bowed at thy Lotus Feet, you (and your Clan) are amazing!

  3. March 17, 2015

    I made the “mmm” sound several times while reading this post; you’ve given me a little insight into my own daughter. Thanks!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 17, 2015

      I figured I wasn’t alone. :)

  4. March 17, 2015

    awesome! so beautiful Rachel!!!

  5. Michelle permalink
    March 17, 2015

    Beautiful introspection!

  6. Carly permalink
    March 17, 2015

    An “evaluative mind” – classic! Your perspective is fantastic, we’ll see if I can apply it in practice to my own 8 year old who prefers not to experience any specks of boredom :)

    I wish I had read this post BEFORE I got to hear a 30 minute dialogue about how tragic it was – that time we chartered a private boat off the coast of South Carolina and saw dolphins playing in the wild – that our little “evaluative mind” didn’t get to PET the dolphins.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 17, 2015

      It’s never too late! I seem to forget and remember this perspective all the time.

  7. nan permalink
    March 17, 2015

    Rose is beyond adorable.This post was like one of those television shows that leave you hanging. What didn’t she like about her breakfast ?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 17, 2015

      Ha! She didn’t like that the crispy rice was made soggy by cooking. She was really looking forward to that crispy rice! :)

  8. Dan permalink
    March 17, 2015

    How do you do it? This was so rocking, so perceptive and inviting and right on track, I was right there with you and as always came out feeling like you’ve illuminated suchness in such a fine and delicate way! I especially like the “fine-tuned mind filtering through waves of sensory information,” and how we don’t always have to jump to react to her “birds”. Thank you SOOO much, Love, Dan

  9. March 17, 2015

    Rachel, this is fantastic. All of it.

    I sort of did a cartwheel inside my head when I read Rose’s own punchline : “Yeah, but it’s not good or bad.”

    Such wisdom in this insight! And she’s able to put it into words at the drop of a hat. (You can tell she’s being raised by you and Dan ;o)

    In fact, this is what I have been telling myself about many situations that I felt either uncomfortable, or doubtful, or sad, or worried about: “sweetie, it’s neither good or bad. It just is. The problem is in fact your reaction to it, or your need to evaluate this situation somehow. Your own peace of mind is rooted in the present, remember? Not in your mind.”

    And just like Dan says, thank you for such a warm, subtle account of the whole story :o)

    Hugs and love
    xo

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 18, 2015

      Emmanuelle,
      Lovely reflection. As someone on my Facebook page said about this post, the things we want to teach our children, we have to learn first. I like to think that Rose, me and you are all working on this together.

      • March 18, 2015

        Yes! In fact both yours and Rose’s insights here have been some of my best allies out there (and in there :o)

        Also, I love the way she is simply telling you: “It’s okay to be the way we are, Mama” :o)

        • Rachel Turiel permalink*
          March 19, 2015

          I know, right? What a wise one she is. Thanks for putting it in those words.

  10. Susan S permalink
    March 23, 2015

    Hi Rachel! I was just reading some back blog posts, and I found something you posted on June 21, 2013, regarding Rose of the Evaluative Mind:

    “At the pizza party, slicing up a gorgeous pizza wth creek water still drying in her hair, Rose looked up at me and said, with awe in her voice, “There’s a lot of fun things in my life. Just one after another.”

    You and Dan are marvelous parents. :-)

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 24, 2015

      Susan,
      Yes, luckily the evaluations often come out on the positive side.
      You are lovely to remind me.
      xo

  11. Lesley permalink
    March 26, 2015

    I really enjoyed this post Rachel, been reading your blog for some time now and really appreciate the way you understand/endeavour to understand your children. I saw so many parallels with Rose and my own daughter – so much so that I made my partner read this post! We often wrestle with the way her desires impact on our family life – me, her dad and brother are very laid back, quiet easy going types – and the way she voices all her desires sets her apart at times and can be very wearing. Your post really made me sit back and think – her perspective on things and her constant filtering will no doubt be very helpful during her life and who am I to dismiss it because it makes life more difficult sometimes? Hard to express myself right – I hope you get my drift! Thanks!!!!!

  12. Amy permalink
    March 26, 2015

    Rachel, this was such a perfect read for me this morning. Thank you. Again.

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