Holidays are touchstones in our lives which cause us to reflect and celebrate. As another Mother’s Day rolls around, I am doing my fair share of reflecting and feeling. Motherhood was my biggest aspiration in life. This aspiration was not fulfilled just by the act of giving birth. Childbirth is certainly an awesome miracle. However, my aspiration to become a mother was grounded in the anticipation of the mother-child relationship and how that connection was going to shape my life and give it meaning. Before I became a mother, I thought that connection was going to be easy breezy. Once I became a mother and experienced the exhaustion of being devoted to another person’s wellbeing 24/7, I realized how naive my expectations were. Still, I persevered as best I could with the tools I had. Today, my feelings consist of gratitude for being a mother, sorrow for missed opportunities, self-compassion for falling short at times, and immense love for my children. I am feeling deep compassion for all mothers. I have witnessed a lot of parental struggle and angst recently. As one woman stated this week “We are only as happy as our least happy child”, I pondered the truth contained in these words. I think there is something universal in this idea and at the same time, I think we can create space for a different possibility, the possibility that we can remain anchored even when our children are being tossed around in the waves of life. It is something I have been intentionally working on. My intention is to stay neutral so that I can be a container for whatever my children show up with. Mind you, I certainly have not arrived at this serene place where I stay completely calm and neutral when my children are struggling, at least not right away. I go to the familiar place of fear and then remember to BREATHE and then I remind myself that the UNIVERSE is always conspiring for our benefit and that includes my children. And then I sigh, the sigh of a mother, the sigh that lets go and doubts and hopes and lets go again, before arriving at a place of acceptance….a place of equanimity….before arriving home, anchored and knowing all is well.
The gift I wish to give all mothers again this year, including myself, is the gift of loving kindness. Loving kindness meditation is one of my favorite practices. It is a meditation where we send warmth and kindness to others and to one’s self. It is a beautiful way of cultivating compassion. It is also the antidote to fear. But, don’t take my word for it. Try if for yourself. In this meditation, I sit comfortably, close my eyes and place my hand over my heart. I first send loving kindness to myself, because first things first. Next, I bring a particular person or group of people to mind and send them loving kindness. If a child of mine is going through something difficult, I make sure I am sending them these wishes. I do this by repeating 5 phrases silently. Here are the set of phrases I mentally direct to the person(s) I am thinking about:
May you be well, healthy and strong.
May you be happy.
May you experience peace.
May you feel safe and secure.
May you feel loved and supported.
And at the end, I visualize all the loving kindness that I sent out to others as coming back to me and I repeat the 5 phrases for myself, once again. I do this part because I believe that whatever you send out in the world comes back to us. Yes, it is a kind of boomerang, the Law of Attraction in action.
This year for Mother’s Day, my loving kindness meditation is directed to ALL mothers…to mothers who try their best yet never feel good enough, to mothers who lost a child, to mothers who are estranged from a child, to mothers who have a child in prison or rehab, to mothers who have given their child up for adoption, to the mothers who have adopted those children, to mothers who never saw the face of their child, to mothers who are mothers and fathers, to mothers of four-legged children, to mothers who feel isolated, to mothers who wish they could have 5 minutes alone, to mothers who feel they messed up and still don’t know what the right thing would have been, to mothers who scream at their children and then feel guilty, to mothers who spoil their children and then feel guilty, to mothers of addicts, to mothers of children who are mentally ill, to mothers who work outside the home and wish they were home more, to stay-at-home mothers who have lost their identity, to mothers who are no longer with us physically, to mothers that drag their tired bodies out of bed to do the next right thing for their child, day after day after day, for ALL mothers…mothers who are joyous today and mothers who suffer today, and especially to MY mother, who loves me still with every beat of her heart.
There is no curriculum for being a mother. It is personal, between mother and child. Motherhood is sacred and tough and the biggest honor in the world. It is joyful and sorrowful and never carefree. If we allow it, our children can be our best teachers. They mirror what needs to be healed within us. They are not our trophies. They are our blessings, masterpieces to be discovered….together. I have been and continue to be taught well by the four amazing humans that carved out motherhood for me: John, Katie, Kevin and Sarah.
If you are a mother, send yourself some loving kindness today….and know I have already sent some your way.
Happy Mother’s Day!