From the Publisher
“Here at last is what we mothers have been waiting for: momma-hood held in equal respect to monk-hood.”—Shambhala Sun
“Wrestling oneself free from the need for control is a constant struggle. This book realizes it with warmth, engagement, and winning honesty.”—Publishers Weekly
"Eloquently frames the everyday experiences of parenting as opportunities for spiritual growth."—Mothering
"Miller has written a powerful synthesis of the insights she has attained, both through the experience of motherhood and as a Zen Buddhist priest."—Literary Mama
“Miller’s book offers guidance, insight, and wisdom. She shows us how to embrace not only the ups and downs of our own mothering, but also helps us open our heart to those who have mothered us. I recommend her book to anyone who wants to really learn something about spiritual practice in everyday life.”—Diane Eshin Rizzetto, author of Waking Up to What You Do: A Zen Practice for Meeting Every Situation with Intelligence and Compassion
“Miller's practice has seeped deeply into her life and the result is an extraordinary book of practical wisdom. She avoids the preaching and moralizing so common in parenting books, and instead offers the reader a way of peace and freedom in the midst of fatigue and doubt. A truly valuable book.”—William Martin, author of The Parent's Tao Te Ching
“Momma Zen, filled with honest tales of the bedlam of motherhood, beckons us to an oasis of silence and acceptance. Miller deftly leads us to the realization that, rather than searching outwardly, this oasis can be located in the center of the life we are living right now.”—Vivian Glyck, author of The Tao of Poop
"Honest, revealing, funny, and poignantly accurate, Momma Zen unfolds the powerful path of raising a child, as well as the opportunities for deeper spiritual understanding. An important contribution."—Nicolee Jikyo McMahon Roshi, Three Treasures Zen Community, San Diego
Read an Excerpt
Avoid it as long as possible, then when you're ready, stop and look at yourself in the mirror. Staring back at you is your new best friend, your steady companion. Say hello to fatigue. It has come to stay.
I was not a wife or a mother when I attended my twentieth high school reunion. I wafted into the Marriott ballroom that night, bright, shining, and weightless by the choices that had left me unencumbered at the age of thirty-eight. I looked fantastic, and more so by comparison to my classmates, I thought. Most of them were, naturally, raising families and toughing out difficult marriages. They wore every hard day's night on their faces, hair, and everywhere. An exuberant ex approached, sizing up my full effect. "What's your secret?" he gushed. I demurred. I was so deluded. I thought (a) there was a secret, and (b) I knew it.
Whatever I thought it was, I must have forgotten it between the 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. feedings. I must have misplaced it on one of those ten thousand nights when the fever goes up, the coughing gets worse, or the crying won't quit. I must have washed it with the whites or swept it up with the mud, crud, and cracker crumbs.
More so than the endless tasks and deprivations, it is something else that ultimately wears you down and out. It is the monumental responsibility of parenthood in general and motherhood in particular. It renders you so very tired that you begin to look and even sound like your own mother. I am too tired to pick you up. I am too tired to play. I am too tired to laugh. I am sick and tired.
A Zen teacher might exhort, "When you're tired, be tired." In other words, don't exaggerate, contemplate, bemoan, or otherwise involve yourself with it. Don't reject it; don't despise it. Don't inflate it with meaning or difficulty. Be what you are: be tired.
Exhaustion is not a strategic spot from which to defend your turf. It's not the best place to start drawing lines and setting limits. It's not a power position. And therein lies the extreme benevolence of it. Be tired. Be so tired that you will let the troubles and turmoil wash over you. Be so tired that you will stop measuring the length of your hardship and stop looking for an end. You will forego some things for a time—bouncy hair, brilliant eyes, clear skin, incalculable dress sizes, good cheer, the intoxication of looking your best—but you will lose nothing that is worth fighting for.
Fatigue is a gift. Like many of the gifts that come to mothers, it is not one you would choose, like a spa vacation, but one you can use, like a humidifier. It is a cure and a balm. Fatigue helps you forget. When you are tired, you let go. You drop what you no longer need and you do not pick it up again.