The reality settles in that motherhood as a spiritual art and practice has simply not gotten the air time it deserves. I’ve been delving of late – looking for books, blogs, websites, wisdom traditions… And what of motherhood? I keep asking. Where is the plumbing the depths around the practice and act of mothering – which millions of us do and have done across time? Of course there are outposts of acknowledgement… And yet perhaps only those of us who have done it understand the depths we are taken to as we peak and fall, particularly as first time mothers – facing our own internal limitations, facing our pasts, feeling into the legacy passed down from our own mothers, and choosing (or not) to do the hard inner work of staying present with the often uncomfortable edges our children surface in our days. It is like being thrown into a great fire of internal cooking, with a constant temperature barometer present through my child.
Over and over again I am struck by the power I have as a mother. How many mothers have abused this power over time? And how could this be assuaged should we have the collective community and wisdom traditions acknowledging the feat it is to birth and raise a child? Even better than acknowledgement, where are the direct spiritual teachings and transmissions that speak to the challenges we face day and night? Something plucks at me around how so many great spiritual masters and teachers are and have been men, and I find myself wryly turning up my lip as I move through my days with so much responsibility and so many moments to practice everything that has been handed to me through spiritual teachings – but none of those lessons directly implying that mothers are the perfect, ever-present students of spiritual art.
For me motherhood has shown itself as viable and relevant a spiritual practice and path as any other. And what an amazing gift to have chosen this path and to have a constant responsibility to show up in the spirit of practice – a practice that does not rest, actually. There is no room for separation here. I cannot remove myself from being a mother. It is now a constant self-identity and and ever-present relationship.
Just as the word religion means to be bound to a path (from religiare) and the root word of ‘yoga’ comes from ‘yuj,’ to be yoked, as in yoked to a path as well as yoked to the Divine, I can also choose to live the path of motherhood as a sacred practice – a practice and path I am now solidly bound to and choose to walk with reverence, intention and mindfulness.
Too often daily responsibilities and particularly the responsibility of parenthood are perceptually divorced from the realm of ‘practice.’ Practice at its root is the practice of your most revered state. Too often there is the notion that a siritual practice is primarily a yoga practice or prayer pracice or meditation practice – an that it lives separate from the rest of our lives. Of course the invitation is for the wisdom arising in practice space to bleed into the rest of our lives… and so too with motherhood as a sacred practice. We’re invited to step into a realm of inner world and clarifying for ourselves what our most revered states are – and what we most want to embody in this lifetime – and then, rise to this calling through literal ‘practice’ throughout the ‘ordinary’ moment of rest and responsibility in any given day. So ‘practice’ becomes alive in every cell of our bodies and every moment in our days and in every interaction. This is the path of embodiment and authenticity, when we are truly living and breathing our values and our love. And when we understand that there is no separation between ‘life’ and ‘practice’ we can begin to walk into our days and relationships with more presence, more seamless awareness and a more clarified expression of what we most want to be radiating through our presence.
Too often our responsibility is taken too lightly (not to mention is undervalued in many instances as well). Rather, we can walk into the truly regal responsibility that is raising and caring for another human being with great integrity. This does not mean that we are perfect. It does mean we choose to do the work required of anyone on a critical spiritual path: to practice, to show up fully in any given moment, to come back again and again to our best intentions, and to embrace humility in the face of life’s greatest moments of challenge and testing.