But I'm finding for this time in my life, there's at least one practice that I understand from those small teachings to be particularly useful; to be mindful.
"Take the hand of a child," Master Hahn advices in one of his works to help understand mindfulness. I had always thought that Zen required solitude and quiet, so it was a real release to have a teacher remove this obstacle from my path - because my children are rarely quiet.
Of course, I'm paraphrasing Master Hahn liberally here (and a little out of my ignorance), but I've found this teaching so helpful in transitioning between the stresses of work and the challenges of home life that I think even my limited understanding has value.
"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy," my children can go on and on.
At the end of a day filled with problems and conflicts, the drumming of their needs can really grate against my angst and fears for what I did not accomplish that day.
I find at these moments I have two choices: to frustrate over what I can't do or to take their hand.
"Story time!" I say when I can muster the mindfulness to make the right choice. Sometimes it takes a while of me making the wrong choice before I can do this (tonight it took 45 minutes of muttering to myself before I said it), and sometimes the right choice does not come at all, but it's always a help when I get there.
"The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat, Mr. Pine's Purple House, In the Night Kitchen," it really doesn't matter what they want to hear that night.
I put my older child on one side and the smaller one in my lap and we read. We read and I listen to the sound of their little voices asking questions, or laughing, or just feel the rise and fall of their soft, unconstrained breathing.
We read I begin to feel the rise and fall of my own breath again, and I relax my face and shoulders, and I feel like a bird or a rabbit or a bear must feel when it's safely tucked into it's nest or warren or cave. I feel like I can let the world be for a while.
We read and the rest of the night seems to take care of itself. The kids calm down, stop clinging and go to bed. I calm down and stop clinging to the things that went wrong and relax - cherry blossoms on a soft breeze when I stop worrying and attend to those little souls.
I know next to nothing about Zen. I hope to learn more some day, but in the mean time, the little I know seems to help more than a little.
Thank you Master Hahn.