Dear Catherine, My husband and I are the parents of a three-year-old girl who has brought us amazing joy. She was a “surprise baby”, and we would like for her to have a sibling sooner rather than later. We know we would be thrilled if I happened to become pregnant. Our reasons for being hesitant are mostly selfish (i.e., money, stress, lack of sleep, etc.), but we also feel the huge responsibility of bringing a life into this turbulent and sometimes harsh world. What peace and advice can you give to us about whether to conceive a child or not? SNGS, Keizer, Oregon
Dear SNGS, No doubt prospective parents have had these feelings in other tough times of history, but I agree that these times seem especially turbulent given the vast array of threats that we face and their power of destruction. Nevertheless, there is a great beauty in life continuing to assert itself and in my own heart, I come to the question, if I were to have been given the choice to be or not, even in a difficult life (which I had in childhood), I would want to be.
Having said that, I would like to make a case for adoption. The parents I have known who have adopted children love those children just as much as their biological ones in the cases where there are both. We are in a worldwide population explosion in which millions of children are unwanted or live in the most desperate of circumstances. Giving one of them a loving home would bring you the joys of having a second child and would relieve a bit of the suffering in this troubled world. Catherine
Dear Catherine, In your Dharma Dialogues, I have tasted the freedom that you call “resting in pure presence.” However, the trauma of a divorce last year has overwhelmed that taste in favor of obsessive thoughts about my marriage and divorce. How can I stop obsessing? GJ, Portland, Oregon
Dear GJ, What we call obsessive thoughts are actually thoughts that swirl around a subject that is of interest to us. All thoughts dissolve as soon as they arise but due to our interest in a particular subject, similar thoughts on the subject will arise again and can seem to form a steady stream. A traumatic event, such as a divorce, will naturally be a subject of interest for some time—and this is normal. But if the obsessive thoughts are going on for what seems an unnaturally long time and well beyond any reasonable insight ensuing from all that rumination, then look more deeply at why this subject is holding your interest. Sometimes we stay focused on a relationship that has ended as a misguided way of keeping the relationship alive—if not in reality, then at least in our minds. Letting go of the interest in those thoughts can induce a sense of finality to the relationship itself. Yet, holding on to that interest dims one’s life and makes one unavailable for other relationships. You must begin to deconstruct your interest in the subject itself. Catherine
Dear Catherine, I was alone for the past three years but was uncomfortable going to bars and clubs and trying occasional blind dates in hopes of finding a new partner. One of my friends who was tired of my complaints about my situation encouraged me to try an internet dating service, which I have recently done with some success in meeting a couple interesting women, one of whom I have now seen several times. However, I am embarrassed by how we met and am hesitant to tell people about it because having to resort to meeting someone through the internet makes me feel like such a loser. Any advice would be appreciated. HL, Seattle, WA
Dear HL, One of the most liberating perspectives in life is to realize that other people are not thinking about us as much as we are wondering what they think about us. Mostly they are busy going about their own lives and wondering what people are thinking about them! And in the few cases where someone is particularly judgmental or unduly focused on you and your business, you just have to shrug and go on your own way, understanding that no matter what you do, you will never please everyone. Walk in the dignity of your own life choices. No one knows what it is like to be you—and, mostly, they’re not thinking about it. Catherine
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Catherine Ingram is an international dharma teacher and author of Passionate Presence and In the Footsteps of Gandhi. She leads retreats and public events called Dharma Dialogues, which remind us that love is the only power that lasts. See her forthcoming schedule for Portland and other events at www.DharmaDialogues.org.