The Language of Mothering

Every day I watch our now 10-week old daughter, Olive, learn a new skill. She is just on the cusp of rolling over and has mastered a pretty stealthy cobra pose from tummy time. She talks up a storm with a vocal range that is daily expanding. She is very expressive with her arms and legs and face. She loves nature and stares intently at the sky and trees when we hike. If she is with me when I practice yoga, she loves hearing the sanskrit names of poses. More times than I can count daily I am struck by her pure authentic expression of desire.

Olive is completely uninhibited. She tells us when she is hungry and when she is full. She lets us know if she is tired. She isn't shy to say "Hey! I'm over here! Pay attention." She cries when she feels the pain of separation. She smiles and receives us when we are reunited. She is interested and curious about her own body as she discovers that her limbs belong to her and and an ever evolving volition over her movement. She also expresses pure delight and honest frustration. Discovering her body, voice and emotions is watching the deepest of sadhanas. Olive is so completely pure in her explorations and her efforts are rewarded with clear skill in action. She is a buddha, as all babies are of course, because of her purity of devotion to life. 

As an apprentice to the path of embodiment, I am watching Olive for lessons in how to be in relationship to qualities like Curiosity, Frustration, Genuineness and Love. I am watching her for teachings in learning how to be in these bodies in free and new ways. I am her deepest student. She is teaching me all about being human--deeply human--connecting me to the other species and to the stars.

Occasionally I hear from people that babies, because they are preverbal, are difficult to understand. I have come to fully disagree. You see, in the small family system of baby and caregivers, ideally the caregivers are listening, looking and witnessing so that their own attunement to the baby is symbiotic to the babies needs. I think if you observed myself and Elliot with Olive you would see that the three of us actually speak a language together as a family. Most of it is in gesture and sound. The minutia of micro expression and the implicit feeling behind it. And so I do not find my daughter particularly hard to understand without words. Sometimes of course I am at a loss and stumped on how to meet a need I am unclear about. In these moments I tell her with my words that I am trying to understand her and I am listening and we can work it out. I couple this verbal behavior with a loving, present touch. What we might lack in verbal communication we are continuing with the communication of body to body, breath to breath, gaze to gaze. I usually find that in these moments, though we are decades apart, me as mama and she as baby, we can connect and unite in the sweetest of places. This place, you see is not one of words anyway. It is simply the feeling of, well,

Unconditional Love. 

More and more I want to reside in this place of unconditional love--in this field of contact without words. I am often too tired for the sharing of words these days. I wear my heart outside my body now in the form of this little creature we named Olive. And I of course, have her counting on me to show-up in ways I have never experienced and am growing into every moment of every day. You see, my heart is so full being a mama. For someone who prides herself on being articulate, I cannot even express in words my feelings for my daughter and for being a mother. Its complicated you know. Not only because there is joy and love. Also because there is so much confusion and pain. So many broad and complicated simultaneous emotions come along for the ride of mothering. Just as Olive is figuring out how to be in her body and on earth, I am figuring out how to be in this new body and on earth with a child. Sadly our common culture does not have a language to speak in the field of unconditional love for its mothers. So each of us, mother to mother, child to child, family to family must begin this new language. 

And so my heart is full of all of it. I experience the broadest spectrum of emotion each day just as she does. We are waking up together to our human nature as it unfolds every day. And it is indeed ecstatic. Not easy/ Always amazing. Out of this and part of this is my broken heart for all the motherless daughters and childless mothers. My heart aches for the children who grow up without a sense of unconditional ever-present love. I have said this before to countless students, and I'll share it with you now in the wake of Mothers Day and with Fathers Day approaching:

The wounds you have from your parents are not because of lack of love. Only ever because of lack of skill.

I know this must be true. I love Olive more than I thought I could love anything. But I do not always love the act of mothering. I do not always do the "right" thing. I make missteps daily and have felt tremendous anxiety at my mothering flailing already. Lack of skill you see. Not lack of love.

So I am learning how t best mother our precious Olive. I am learning again how to best mother myself. I am learning how to let my own mother, mother and grandmother. I'd like to think that our sadhanas as adults, whatever they may be, help us rediscover the love our parents have for us and make peace with the places love got lost and crumbled. I hope our sadhanas build skill sets within us so that we can give ourselves and ultimately our progeny the fullest forms of support possible. In a sense giving love both form and wings, which is essentially skill and action. 

I'm sure we all have someone in our lives to whom we could say this gentle blessing and prayer. Maybe it is even to a part of yourself.

I Love You
I See You
I Am Sorry
I Understand. 
I Forgive You. 

I know we have much work to do, practices to attend to, families to foster. I look out unto our world and to you with new eyes now--the eyes of a baby--from the field of Love--looking and longing to embody fully.

Bless this field of our own Becoming,

Livia ShapiroComment