Motherhood & the Spiritual Path -- a match made in heaven, or an oxymoron?
Born with heightened sensitivity, a wild imagination and an inquisitive mind, I was always asking why. I believe I was aware of (or at least deeply curious about) the spiritual at a relatively early age. My concepts weren’t all that sophisticated, but I had a sense that there was much more to life than what appeared on the surface.
I remember at the age of 5 or 6 thinking life was strange and surreal, and wondering about its purpose. I often speculated that my vivid dream life was the real reality, and my real life was just a dream. On occasion, my dreams were prophetic.
Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I had an intense fascination with the occult. I gobbled up books about extrasensory perception, UFO’s and reincarnation. My favorite movies and TV shows were always mystical or magical in nature. (I can’t even count how many times I watched, “On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever.”)
Over the years, I’ve been particularly attracted to expansive, transformative and boundary-less “spiritual” paths. I’ve practiced Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi meditation. I’ve vision-quested, shamanic- journeyed, Five-Rhythmed, visionary-painted, lucid-dreamed, trance-danced, re-birthed, breath-worked, primal-screamed, ‘sound-healed’, Kirtan-chanted, ‘astrolo-gied’, Tai-Chi’d, Hatha- yoga’d, Breema’d, Human-Designed, and Gene Key-d.
Whether dancing, singing, writing, or painting, my boundaries dissolved as I entered a joyous, powerful trancelike state. Time stopped. My superego took a nap, and my senses came alive. I became immersed in the process, the colors, the dance, the delicious unknown; I was no longer moving, or ‘the mover’, but moved.
I suppose you could also say that while my natural capacity for boundary-dissolving came in handy (especially in relation to my creative and spiritual life), my “general lack of personal boundaries” left me feeling equally & unhealthfully vulnerable in my relational life.
As a highly sensitive type, with a BIG heart and some equally BIG wounds, I spent many of my childhood and early adult years lost in selfless caretaking. When in the presence of anyone with a stronger feeing, desire or need, I easily drifted away from center.
Thus the paradox:
In order to healthfully experience my SPIRIT/Self, I needed to release boundaries.
In order to healthfully connect with others, I had to repair the “holes” in my boundary system, and learn how to close doors, without building walls.
Though this is my personal story, there are so many aspects of it that seem central or archetypal to the experience of being a Mother.
On the one hand, Motherhood requires that we loosen our boundaries. It doesn’t matter whether we’re biological mothers or not. When we take on the sacred role of “MOM,” we are basically signing up for a lifelong job of Surrender.
From the second we conceive or receive our children, we surrender to them… through constant attunement and unspoken empathy. We respond to their cries. We feel their emotions, their needs, and their physical longings as if they were our own. It’s visceral.
And we grow accustomed to their reaching for us, drinking from us, poking at us, crawling all over us. We just naturally absorb their impact, like fluid sponges. We go with their flow. We open our arms and hearts…
And we give, give, give…
And we hold, hold, hold…
And then, of course… (with increasing frequency as our kids grow up and show higher levels of independence), something SNAPS!
A sleeping part of us wakes up. The other side of the all-loving, all-giving Mom pops into the foreground. We realize that we’ve gone too far. (Usually after we’ve already “lost it!”)
And our “selves” -- (or perhaps the neglected children living inside of us) -- start to cry out for our attention too.
"Hey, what about me?! I'm hungry too. I'm sleepy too. I've got my own needs and wants and likes and dislikes.”
And so we find ourselves thinking -- consciously or unconsciously, “Maybe I don't feel like wiping that snot off your nose, or making one more snack, or having a bunch of tiny-pawed monsters crawling all over my body, tugging, drooling, demanding my constant, unconditional, ever-present attention and service! What do you say about that?!”
But it’s not just our deprived inner child who wakes up during these moments (or outbursts).
It’s SPIRIT calling out for our attention… in disguise.
While Mothering is undoubtedly one of the more profoundly spiritual paths around, that doesn’t mean we moms don’t also feel called by a different sort of SPIRIT.
Many of us are called by an aspect of the SACRED that is more “vertical” than “horizontal” -- more focused than fluid, more “self-actualizing” than “intimacy-building.”
As much as we love our children and are deeply fed by the practice of devotion, many of us also find ourselves thinking things like, “If only I could be meditating on some mountain top, or dancing my heart out, or painting like the wind. Maybe I need to spend some time alone, go away on retreat, or take a yoga class.”
“Or maybe I just feel like sitting on a big ol’ sofa, hanging out with a friend, and chatting the night away with a giant jug of hot chocolate!”
“Or maybe I don’t want to do any of that obviously spiritual stuff! Maybe I just want to sit here and do NOTHING for a long looooooooooong time without being interrupted. Not even once!”
“Or maybe I JUST WANT TIME AND SPACE.”
“Or maybe… just for a second, (or a week! Or a year!), I want to be the CENTER OF MY UNIVERSE!"
Given my background, it makes sense that I’ve always been attracted to teachers like Ram Dass who said, “You have to become a Somebody before you can be a Nobody.”
To the extent that we surrender to our children, becoming a Mom can feel a lot like “becoming a Nobody.”
Of course all of us are different.
Some of us knew we were a Somebody before we entered the Nobody Land of Motherhood. For us, it’s at times about experiencing the spiritual gifts of letting go, and at times about remembering and reclaiming a “Somebody-ness” that we once had.
Others of us never knew we were Somebody; we just hopped right from one form of Nobody into another form of Nobody. So we’ve got to find our “Somebody” nature… for the first time... while we're mothering.
Others (the rare ones!) are probably reading what I’m writing and wondering what the hell I’m talking about, because they’ve always felt like a Somebody! Somehow Motherhood never shook the foundation of their Somebody-ness.
But to those of you who do relate to this Nobody experience… and have suffered because of it...
To those of you who can see the beauty and relate to the danger of surrendering to another so deeply that your self dissolves entirely…
…I want to acknowledge you!
First, for courageously surrendering with such gusto. In this Western culture (need I say more?), that’s no small thing.
Second, for hearing the voice of your inner child… who is here to remind you that you are indeed a SOMEBODY.
And third, for heeding the call of your SPIRIT!
…And I want to ENCOURAGE YOU!!!!
To start listening…
Especially when you find yourself ‘losing it’, or blowing your top, or growling with frustration, or drowning in resentment.
During these moments, I want you to ask yourself…
“How might this be my inner child crying for help?”
“How can I show the little one inside of me that I love her, that I’m here for her too?”
“Is there something or someone I need to say ‘no’ to?
“Is there a relational risk I need to take, in order to reassure that little child inside of me that I won’t abandon her?”
And, I want you to ask yourself…
“Is SPIRIT knocking on my door?”
“What is SPIRIT asking for?
“What does SPIRIT need me to let go of?”
“What small thing can I do right now, or very soon, to re-connect with that which can HOLD ME, while I’m holding everything else?”
These are the questions I invite you to sit with…
And in the mean time, I…
Thank you for choosing such a profound path, or for allowing yourself to be chosen by it.
And I thank you for being gentle with yourself.
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Disclaimer: Rosy is an ordained minister of Designed to Blossom of AIWP and provide something more akin to spiritual counseling than psychotherapy. The work I do is with highly functional people, for whom ‘spirit’ plays a central role in their life. I do not give diagnoses, work with pathology, or claim to be an expert offering a treatment or cure.