A few weeks ago me and my kiddo went to visit a friend I’ve had since I was under a year old.

She’s got a kid same age as mine so they like to play together, while we sit and talk shit, just like our mothers did before us.

And last time, like every time, my friend L was really particular about the house being neat. And I’m talking Monica from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. particular.

Okay, she was going to have a photographer over to take some sales shots the next day, since she’s thinking about selling.

But this wasn’t out of character for her on any other given day.

As she got on with her ironing, our conversation turned to partners and keeping the house in order (or not, which is often the case with men).

And as she was telling me how annoying she finds it when her boyfriend comes over and strews socks all over her neat space, and said that she’s not in a hurry to move in with him because she likes things her way, I realised something.

That’s one of those single parent things.

Growing up as the child of a single parent with a miniscule support network, meant I spent a lot of time alone.

It was mostly just me and my mum, and we lived in a two-bedroom flat which meant we had enough space to get away from each other and to make spaces work the way we wanted them to be.

This also means that I learned how to take care of things and not ask for help.

Though I’ve learned to ask for help now, my go-to response is still to handle things on my own.

This is an obvious consequence of being raised by a single mum.

The less evident consequence, which I didn’t realise until I visited my friend a few weeks ago, is that you get so used to having things the way you like them.

And being unwilling to compromise.

My mum dated after her divorce until one boyfriend got overly pushy and wanted to start dictating how she should raise her child.

Mum, being the fiercely independent post-war child and ironclad feminist that she is, decided Not Today, Not My Child, and cut any of her dates out my life entirely.

Because she wasn’t going to have anyone else dictate how she raised her child.

It was enough that there was already one moron who was incapable of taking responsibility for his offspring in a reasonable manner that she had to co-parent with.

And let’s not forget, we’re talking early 90s here.

The general social consciousness wasn’t anywhere near as used to single parents as it is today.

But because she took that stand, for her own happiness and for the well-being of her child, she instilled that sense in me of “do no harm, but take no shit”.

And no matter how contentious our relationship is, I will always be grateful that I was raised by a strong woman who backed up her words with action.

Fast forward a generous decade or so, and I was starting to be at that age where I was looking for guidance.

But because of the examples I’d been shown as a young child, I was finding a lot of the people around me very lacking.

Let me explain.

Or maybe, the card “The Master” from the Osho Zen Tarot deck can do it better.

(And yes, I’m aware of him being a shit person, but this deck has been with me since I was a tween and has never let me down, so while I agree with none of Osho’s nonsense, this deck is my ride or die.)

Here’s the gist of the card (I’m paraphrasing):

The Master is not a teacher for others, but she is a teacher for herself. Every single word and act she makes, reflects enlightenment. She neither has any personal purpose nor desire for anything, but always lets thing happens as they do – there is nothing to strive for. Even though her surrounding students are not always beside her, yet they feel her presence and are inspired by her actions. 

In her eyes, students could find their truth reflected, and in her silence, they could easily immerse themself in their own silence. The master welcomes her students which is not because she wants to lead them, but because she has so much to share. Together, they create a great source of energy that could support each individual in search of their own light.

It goes on to say that if you could find such a great teacher, you are very blessed indeed.

And if you haven’t yet found such a teacher, you should keep searching. You should learn from those you meet along the way, and keep searching.

Like Buddha said, “Charaiveti, charaiveti!” – keep on moving, keep on moving.

Apart from your mind, there is an intrinsic awareness.

It’s not something the external world can give you. It’s not an idea.

The aim of meditation is to remind you to stay alert to your “mind” and get rid of identifying with it.

And that distance, ceasing to identify yourself with your mind, is the greatest revolution that can take place in a human.

Once you do that, you can perform and act based on what makes you happy, satisfied, pleased, what makes your life become a work of art.

This state only happens when the master inside of you is awake.

Right now, she’s still asleep. And your mind, as a servant, is playing the part of the teacher.

When your awareness becomes a fire, it burns down that whole regime of slavery that your mind has created.

Because your monkey mind is beholden to the external world and the rules and expectations placed upon you by others.

No happiness is more precious than the freedom of becoming a teacher of your own destiny.

And once you do that, finding a teacher to be your master becomes increasingly difficult.

I remember there was a point when I was younger, around fourteen.

I pulled this card, The Master, which didn’t come up for me very often despite using the deck a lot.

And that’s when I made the choice that I’d be grateful for every teacher I’d find along the way, and that I’d begin by becoming master to myself in the absence of having one who could guide me.

I’m still looking for my master.

I know I’ve been a teacher to many, but in terms of finding a master for myself, the best I’ve managed is to find those masters in art – both historical and contemporary – and I have a profound love and respect for what they have shared with me.

I have yet to find a master IRL.

Well, not a human one anyway.

Animals have always been those masters to me, imparting profound wisdom and allowing me to sink into my own silence in the presence of their silence.

“A Zen Master’s life is one continuous mistake.” – Dōgen

All the love, all the power,
Starsheep


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