“May Day,” a poem by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933):
Oh I must pass nothing by
Without loving it much,
The grass with my touch;
For how can I be sure
I shall see again
The world on the first of May
Shining after the rain?
When the mother hears her baby crying, she puts down whatever she has in her hands, she goes into its room, and takes the baby in her arms. The moment the baby is lifted into the mother’s arms, the energy of wisdom already begins to penetrate into the baby’s body. The mother does not know yet what is the matter with the baby, but the fact that she has it in her arms already gives her child some relief. The baby stops crying. Then the mother continues to hold the baby in her arms, she continues to offer it the energy of tenderness, and during this time the mother practices deep looking. A mother is a very talented person. She only needs two or three minutes to figure out what is the matter with her baby. Maybe its diapers are a little bit too tight; maybe the baby has a touch of fever; maybe it needs a bottle? Then when the understanding comes, the mother can transform the situation immediately.
It is the same thing with meditation. When you have pain within you, the first thing to do is to bring the energy of mindfulness to embrace the pain. “I know that you are there, little anger, my old friend. Breathe—I am taking care of you now.”
-From True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart, Thich Nhat Hanh
I’ve been working with difficult emotions this past year. Several relationships have unfolded in ways I don’t like – and it has been a long road in accepting what is beyond my control. Over and over again I have been bidding myself to ‘let go.’ Wishing I could simply set aside the feelings I don’t like, I imagine myself over and over again relinquishing anger, hurt feelings, disappointment, bitterness, irritation. It isn’t that I diminish the feelings or try to push them away. It is just that holding on too tightly to disappointment or hurt feelings doesn’t serve my capacity for joy and presence. A constant trying to ‘let go’ of what I dislike has left me realizing that I’ve not been living with a full embrace of what just is.
Which leads me to reflect on the notion of ‘letting go.’ First, ‘letting go’ of difficult emotions is no small – or easy- task. Trying too hard to ‘let go’ may move us more in the direction of ‘pushing away’ instead of drawing close and becoming intimate with our feelings and experience. It doesn’t mean simply setting something aside like you set aside the cup of coffee you are finished with in the morning. It is more a gesture of being open to the often slow and mysterious process of transformation, through becoming intimate with whatever difficult emotions arise. Second, just “dropping” difficult feelings when we are done with them is only a temporary measure. (“Oh, I don’t need you anymore so to the rubbish bin you go!”) Instead, we can acknowledge we’d like to be done – and then practice patience, trusting that with attention and light shed on our experiences we will eventually metabolize what needs to be metabolized. Finally, when ready: full embrace. Contrary to the notion of ‘letting go of something,’ we can actually move in the opposite direction via the alchemy of loving and intimate embrace of our full range of experience. For me, this is when the true letting go (through transformation) can occur. I can let go of expectations, standards and story lines, and tune inwards with the spirit of unflinching acceptance. And – with full embrace of our own reactions and feelings, we can be led to also more authentically embrace those who we feel have let us down. We can enter the realm of forgiveness – which inherently (and etymologically) entails a “giving up” or giving over…
And why is this important? Holding on to anger and its recurring flare doesn’t serve the capacity to live from a full gesture of Love. Even with anger, as with other difficult emotions, we can hold what is real, what is happening and what has happened, in an embrace. This is life. There are things beyond our control. People don’t and won’t always act how we prefer. It hurts sometimes. And, we don’t have to hold on and fester as an ongoing habit. Instead, we can slowly turn away into something new when we are ready – as if turning away from an old, familiar friend. I may see you again – I may not. Regardless, let’s end well.
A Mother’s Body:
Giver of Life
Doorway to the next generation of family story-
her body a vessel,
she has become Whole:
When it is all said and done,
death calling her to another form
she will see that ‘perfect’ doesn’t matter.
Not “perfect” hips but Birthing hips.
Not dainty light spritely
but feet and legs sunk deep in Earth,
heavy with responsibility:
Vast with circle of Love.
Once again, I am blessed to have Rowan attending a school that offers inspiration and wisdom on my own path. His kindergarten teachers post a weekly slogan next to the sign in sheet where we parents sign our children in and out of the school day. This week: a slogan for the new year on ‘Windhorse’ – and a reminder to me to ring in this new year with a deepened commitment to upliftedness in the midst of the often myopic details of parenting and homemaking…
Of fine tuning
slow, steady attunement to another being.
Of recalibrating what bliss means-
with once singing joints now rickety,
tired and aching from carrying a little one –
but redefining ecstasy to encompass new reference points.
No, I am not presently a master of Yoga or the Intellect,
only having plumbed the depths of my own soul.
Master of this:
The Inner realm that is also the Outer:
reflection of divine light
also known as Love,
reverberating in all my cells
and in my slow beating heart-
quiet master of my own loving, aching soul’s journey
through time and space
Nothing more, nothing less.
Just Here, simple, in love in the face of small things.
I am not a master of words.
My particular realization concerns itself with Presence,
that act of grace filling body
coming together to form spine and stomach
and eyes flashing only glimpses of Divine reality within.
Ushering forth new life,
A mother becomes master of
Some say ‘mundane’
I say beating heart
full of love
resting in simple dance of Being.
Nothing more. Nothing less,
Like the great crucible of life that is
Right now I am a follower of
This nor that,
Here nor there
I weave between traditions and practices
like a mendicant in search of a holy light,
which is always
No separation: seamless living with what arises,
going with a flow,
acknowledging grace of present moment,
being in a state of love –
and not just in mind or heart
but full body
extending into an ether of oneness.
No separation: quiet gaze understanding
common heart of wisdom
swimming beneath all disputes and orthodoxies.
Soft wind blowing leaves,
reminder of cycle of life
which transcends words.
No separation: the space Beyond and Before.
The space steeped in silence
like hot cup of tea:
burns but delicious –
a drink to be savored,
a Holy Gift:
just like human life with all its complex flavors
(some call God).