Parenting and the Zen Koan

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Parenting and the Zen Koan

A few years ago, children’s books started to pour out of me during meditation. For about eight weeks in a row, at least once a week, a sweet and slightly rhyming story would appear. I have been a writer since I was eight, so I am happy whenever poetry arrives, fresh off the universe, minimal editing required.

Of those stories, I have self-published two. I have a few other favorites, but they are for another time.  Right now, I want to tell you about “Why a Fly.”

In this book, Chibi keeps asking the Big People, “Why?” Why are we here? Why algebra? Why a fly? The Big Ones do not have answers, so Chibi takes the Why to the teacher at school, Jizo. Jizo is the Buddhist protector of women, children and travelers and thus the perfect character to teach Chibi about how to face unanswerable questions, which Buddhists call koans.

The most famous American koan is likely, “What is the sound of one hand clapping.” We are not supposed to have an answer; we are supposed to be slowly transformed by meditating upon the unanswerable quality of the big AND small questions that resist answers.

From the time we can speak, we ask “What?” Then, with a bit of development, we ask “Why?” In my book, Chibi is plagued by Why. It hides under the bed, it follows Chibi to school. You may remember the grown-ups’ frustration with you when you kept asking Why?

Jizo is familiar with the question. Jizo opens a cupboard in the classroom, showing the two Chibis all the Whys and Koans he has collected so that they may deposit them and go out to play at recess.

The art of letting go is one that is helpful to learn from our first steps. I hope this book helps parents give their children the words for those things that have no answers. My parents usually responded, “Because I said so.”  But that did not tell me Why. In Dylan Thomas’ “A Children’s Christmas in Wales,” the poet says he received a book “telling me everything about the wasp… except why.” The line struck me in high school and remains with me today.

It is that child for whom this book was written.

And it’s written for the child within us all, who still struggles with the unanswerable mysteries. Sometimes just putting a name on it helps. Can you say: Ko-an? It helps to smile after saying the word. Really, it does.



“Why a Fly?” is available in print here and on Amazon Kindle (and Kindle for iPad) — and will likely be on Nook, iTunes, and countless other sites within a week!  (I love iBooks! It feels like a for-real book!)

By | 2019-01-23T15:32:28-07:30 August 9th, 2013|Books, Meditation, Uncategorized|0 Comments

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