Tuesday, August 30, 2011

giving yourself space to be

When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. - Pema Chodron

So, I have just been terribly lax at blogging this summer. Something about the warm, open ended days has made me want to just do anything but write in any depth about any thing. My apologies about that. If given my choice, I would probably spend every day in the summer either lying on my back in the middle of a country meadow or just being at the beach, my feet submerged in water, while my husband fed me watermelon and my children played happily by themselves with the local flora and fauna. And I have actually had a couple of days this summer when such a scenario materialized, more or less. How lucky!

I have been contemplating my difficulty in giving myself and my family the space to just be, whether in the summer, fall, winter or spring. As a society and world, we seem hell bent on keeping ourselves as busy and productive as possible. It is one of the very disorienting things about being a new mother in fact - the sudden surrender of activity, or at least activity that outwardly manifests as such. Nursing or feeding your baby, changing diapers, comforting, bonding - it is actually incredibly demanding work, but much of it looks sedentary, still, and monotonous. Even amongst all this work, there is a lot of just sitting, just being there with your baby as he or she rests or feeds. And of course, with a newborn, you are usually confined to your home for the first few weeks, depending on different circumstances. A new baby forces us to take a long, deep in breath, perhaps for the first time in many years. As in sitting meditation, we can react with a hot, itchy boredom to this, or we can begin to relax, surrender to the present moment, and breathe in deeper, allowing ourselves to just be. In this space, our heart can be touched, deeper perhaps than it has ever been touched before. We can begin to really get to know that bottomless gentleness and love that it contains, as Ani Pema mentions above.

We can do this no matter how old our children are, no matter if we work outside our home or in it. We can find periods each day to breathe in, deeply, and ground ourselves fully in the now, before breathing back out into our busy lives. This can be an internal breath. A letting go of our constant inner activity, our planning, story telling, criticism, gossip, complaining and so on. We can notice our thoughts and let them go, leave ourselves alone for a bit. It can manifest as an external letting go as well. Letting go of a project, an agenda, an activity, even for a moment or two. It can be getting outside, as I often advise - just getting outside, even for a short time, no matter what the weather. You don't have to do anything in particular outdoors. Just open. If you have young children, let them guide you. They will lead you to many important discoveries - a large slug, inching its way along the wet grass. A collection of choke cherries lying on the sidewalk. An interesting crack in the sidewalk. A broken street lamp. A new stray cat on the street, who is so friendly she allows them to rub her tummy and follows us to the old church yard where we like to play. Try not to hurry them along. Linger with them. Allow yourselves the space to be open, curious, attentive to the magic of the world.

We experienced a forced in breath just the other day, because of Hurricane Irene. We lost power for about 24 hours, and were unable to do the laundry, or use the computer, or stay up late doing chores. Instead, we lit our candles, gave the boys each a flashlight, and spent hours playing together in a large tent made up of sheets on our bed, exploring the play of light and shadow. It was a lovely pause, a gift. We could have chosen to be hassled by it, and there was some anxiety about the food warming up in the fridge, but what was there to do other than put it all (along with our ice trays) in the cooler and then let the anxiety go, so we could be with our littles? Hassle was replaced with warmth and laughter. Space.

Give yourself some space to be today. Engage in some aimless wandering outside with your children, or by yourself. Leave yourself alone. You don't always need to be so busy. We are always so afraid of things falling apart without our constant interference. I will let you in on a secret - they fall apart anyway, no matter what we do. So relax. Let go. Let your heart be touched. In that soft, tender spot of stillness, great power exists.

[NOTE: blogger is giving me lots of trouble in terms of formatting, so I apologize for the appearance of the blog, and if this posts appears as one big block of text. I will eventually figure it out when I don't have two nursing toddlers on my lap as I type.]

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