Greetings friends! I can hardly believe it's August 2010! Last year at this time I was 2 weeks post-partem in the slightly unworldly euphoria of new motherhood. My daughter was born in late August 2009. At the age of thirty-eight I became a mother and almost a year later, it is a good time to reflect.
While contemplating the topic of what mothering has meant to me, I synchronistically learned of an opportunity to meet and hear Khen Rinpoche Geshe, a Tibetan Buddhist monk. He gave a talk at Sadhana Meditation Center in South Portland called "Real Compassion and Motherly Love". Although not a Buddhist, I resonate with many of the teachings, especially the practice of non-judgment. I was very excited to attend his talk.
The Rinpoche's very first message was that in order to express motherly love and be "mother beings", which he said we all have the capacity to be, first we must love ourselves. Unless we unconditionally love ourselves we do not have unconditional love to give away. His message, by no means new, was a central take home point we must love ourselves as if we are our own mothers!
He shared the following Buddhist teaching story to illustrate "motherly love": One day a young princess was enjoying a picnic on a summer afternoon. Accompanying her were her parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, all of whom loved her very much. After a time, when lunch had settled, she wandered off to explore and happened upon an open sewer not too far from the picnic. The sewer was stinky and "nasty" and guess what? She fell in! Everyone came running when they heard her screams. Her cousins and aunts and uncles arrived at the edge of the sewer and stopped short when they saw her predicament. They did not jump in to the sewer to save her. However, when her parents arrived they plunged in to her rescue without hesitation.
As a parent, even a new parent, I know the feeling that the parents of that princess demonstrated the love that is present for my child no matter what the circumstances. I know that I would not hesitate to navigate that "sewer" to ease the suffering of my child.
The question that arose for me was, "would I jump in to the sewer to save myself?"
The Rinpoche explained that the sewer is Samsara which is synonymous with suffering in Buddhism. His examples of Samsara included ignorance, anger, hatred, jealousy, depression and anxiety. I add shame, guilt and fear to the list. These are feelings and emotions we all experience, they are part of being human.
In the recent past I have experienced, intensely, forms of Samsara in myself. I have wanted to run from myself because what I was feeling was too hard, too ugly, or too messy. I have been asked to abide with myself offering myself the patience, love and compassion that I would automatically offer to my daughter, without question. I have received the help, support and nurturing from others that I needed to stay with myself, to rebuild trust, and avoid abandonment. I find it my new daily practice to offer myself "motherly love" whenever I can. By this I mean being kind to myself through my thoughts, moods, emotions, or feelings, allowing them to move and change as they will, withholding as much judgment as possible and offering firmness when it is needed. I have practiced this type of love for some time now, years before my daughter was born, but it has become essential and mandatory now that she is here. If I do not attend to my own needs, I cannot attend to hers in the way I want.
Listening to the Rinpoche's talk helped me interpret my own recent experience of "Motherly love": the state of being with myself (with lots of help) through all forms of suffering, and in that way being able to be there for my child and others. So I leave you with the question to ponder: would you and/or do you jump in to that sewer to save yourself? And if not the sewer, perhaps a storm drain"or maybe a small puddle?