Many friends have laughed about their “poo stories,” saying that by the time your child is in kindergarten, you will surely have some great ones! But as I hurried out of the shower, shampoo suds running into my eyes, dripping wet, cold, and naked, I was far from laughing or thinking how funny the whole situation was. In fact, I wanted to cry. Taking heed of the third piece of advice, “Reveal your hidden faults,” I have to confess to loving my showers, and particularly hot ones, the longer and more drawn out the better. I don’t really feel I can go out and face the world unless I’ve had a morning shower. Even as a nun in Burma, I showered every morning, albeit from a bucket of water in a plastic washing tub, but it felt like a shower and it made my days more bearable.
Now, there she was, my beautiful baby girl, sitting in a tepid bath of her own poo, and I wanted to cry and run and have a few minutes to myself to finish my shower—MY shower! As I bent down and started to drain the mess, I thought: What if all this poo blocks up the pipes? What if it gets in her eyes? What if she ate some when I wasn’t looking? What if it makes her sick? What if, what if, what if . . . And then my mind flashed on the inevitable: I had to touch her and the poo and get the mess cleaned up. She looked up at me with eyes of wonder and complete innocence as I struggled to embrace the fourth and fifth pieces of advice, “Help those you think you cannot help” and “Go to places that scare you,” and realized there was no way out, no escape plan. But I did have a choice: either I could let my mind spin out with all kinds of thoughts about the grossness of it all, or I could choose to stay present, to let go of the idea of having my own peaceful shower and instead, be a mother and lovingly wash the smelly mess from Adelaide and the bathroom.
The last, and most direct, piece of advice is, “If you do not cling to your mind, you will find a fresh state of being.” Well, after cleaning up Adelaide’s poopy bath I didn’t feel very fresh, and I spent the day trying to forget the image of Adi’s beautiful little hands eagerly grasping and offering up her poo with a smile of neither delight nor repulsion—just a simple smile—on her bright face. I had been clinging to one of my biggest vices, a hot shower, and here again was an opportunity to return from attachment and self-clinging to discover a fresh opportunity to be present. And what more could I ask for as someone aspiring to follow in the footsteps of the great yoginis of the past? They lived in the charnel grounds of their times, and who’s to say that a bathtub full of poo isn’t a charnel ground of sorts in this day and age? I might no longer be off searching for situations that will evoke a sense of revulsion, but I am confident that my day-to-day domestic situation will itself offer many opportunities to apply the six pieces of advice.