Michael Mendizza

Writer, Filmmaker

Reincarnate Happiness


Parenting, Playful Advice

Like every new life Carly Elizabeth is a miracle unfolding at astonishing speed, from almost seven pounds to twelve point six in ninety days. Hallelujah. A week ago I mimicked the sounds she was making. Her eyes grew bigger and she mimicked me. Today I call it baby singing. She sings, I sing, we all sing and do it again. She knows when I am paying complete attention and, of course, when I am not. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake studied the phenomenon of knowing when we are being watched. You know, when you have this inner feeling, turn and the driver in the car next to you is looking, telepathic.

I know at some deep level that Carly knows who I really am from this moment to the next. Joseph Chilton Pearce speaks of Bruno Bettelheim, the child psychologist and writer well known for his work on Freud, psychoanalysis, and emotionally disturbed children. ‘We can’t lie to children,’ he said. ‘They always know who we really are.’ Knowing at some level Carly ‘knows’ is a game changer. I become responsible for who I am, what I think and feel, moment by moment. Nothing doesn’t matter. I am challenged, out of deep affection, to play at the very top of my game. The future of humanity depends on it.

There is a lovely absence of body tension when she is melting in my arms. After some trial we discovered that the early morning is our time, after her feeding, shortly after dawn. Mom is ready for another nap. Carly is ready to sing, a nice balance of my wife’s female and my male energy. I light two candles. Carly and I lay beside the fireplace as the room fills with morning light.

Basic trust, that’s the lesson we are sharing.  The world is safe, full of beauty and wonder. Our singing, first me, then she, is a reciprocal dynamic. She knows that I am paying attention to her expressions. At times she looks so intently, studying, watching ever so carefully. There is a pause followed by a new sound, a new phrase for me to copy and return. We share the pattern and then I change. La,la,la, becomes da, da,da. She looks; smiles; listens and pauses. Da, da, da.

This time, to my complete surprise, Carly grinned big and laughed, not a little laugh, this was full belly laughter, ha, ha, ha, ho, ho.  I was stunned. Where did she get that? Not from me. There it was, deep, infectious primal laughter. A few minutes later she did it again. A milestone, spontaneous delight and a new challenge for us adulterated adults, to do the same.

Over the past few years I have had the distinct honor to read a number of books on Tibetan Buddhism in preparation for a series of dialogues in California, Britain and in Dharamsala, India, with Rinpoche Samdhong, the first prime minister of Tibet in exile. The basic idea is that ignorance of who and what we really are, a general and pervasive lack of appreciation and awareness of the nature of our own brain, its functions, realms of perceptions and consciousness results in various forms of dumb moves and that inevitably involves suffering. Buddhist practices are intended to dispel this ignorance and its implicit suffering, returning the body-heart-mind to its natural order which is happiness. As one learned Tibetan put it, ‘happiness is the ultimate wisdom.’ Indeed!

Not grand ideas, philosophical concepts, religious traditions, not what the boss says or the cops, school principal, those medical doctors, the evening news or our pathetic politicians; happiness is the ultimate wisdom.

A Navajo chant and prayer ‘walk in beauty’ sums it up nicely; live in, carry in you a state of spontaneous happiness. That is a good goal for any parent, to model happiness, joy, curiosity and intense playfulness, to model ‘growing young’ as Ashley Montagu put it, for one’s self and to vaccinate our children against cynicism, depression, addiction, rage and violence. Reincarnate now as happiness. Learning to belly laugh is a good place to start. Don’t you think?

 Michael Mendizza